Sharpening Chisels

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Forum topic by Marcel T posted 04-13-2008 04:33 PM 1808 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Marcel T

146 posts in 3726 days

04-13-2008 04:33 PM

Simply put, what do I need and how?

20 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3822 days

#1 posted 04-13-2008 05:00 PM

Hi Marcel,

This is a complex question to answer. There are several reviews of sharpening systems in the reviews section and several blogs have been posted on this as well. One of the best is the “scary sharp” series. Just do a search and you will come up with a number of posts on this subject.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3784 days

#2 posted 04-13-2008 05:23 PM

I agree that there are countless methods for sharpening chisels. I personally prefer waterstones, just because that’s the way I was taught. I wrote a tutorial for that method on Instructables. It’s more geared for non-woodworkers, but check it out anyway…

-- Eric at

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3768 days

#3 posted 04-13-2008 05:51 PM

I like to use a grinder and then finish it up on a water/oil stone. i don’t have them yet but my friend up the street who is a woodworker helps me out. it might help to find another woodworker in your area who could help you to sharpen your chisels and pass on some of his/her knowledge to you.

View Harold's profile


310 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 04-13-2008 06:46 PM

On my bench I have a 3”x10” diamond stone, this is a dual surface stone, 600 on one side and 1200 on the other and a inexpensive bench mount for a 1/2” drill that attatches to the tool tray on the back of the bench, this drill has an arbor adapter with a 6” hard felt wheel charged with an agressive honing compound. For example when I’m doing lettering or fitting joints I will periodically touch up the edges thoughout the day. You do need to be careful to not put too much pressure on the tool when using the felt wheel, as it will roll the edges after time and you will have to spend more time on the stones to get the back flat again. If finding the money for a set of stones is tough right now, wet sand paper attatched to a glass or mirror pane works as well as anything I believe. Now I do hate cleaning those little mirror shards out of my tool tray when I break one, but it does work well.

If I do get a bad edge for whatever reason I will travel down the hill and visit a turner friend that has the jet system, which is a excellent system for roughing in an edge(such as turning tools) but I still have to dress and hone my carving and bench chisels afterwards..

-- If knowledge is not shared, it is forgotten.

View bobdurnell's profile


315 posts in 3897 days

#5 posted 04-13-2008 07:01 PM

Call me old fashioned but I use a pink wheel on a fast grinder and quench very often to get a good hollow ground grind on a 6in dia wheel. I have no Japanese chisels. Then I use oil on my fine diamond 2×6in plate, and I am very satisfied with the edge. I use to use a fine carborundum stone but they definitly wear out. It was hard to flaten them. Just rub them on any flat concrete surface, very hard on the knees. I believe that there are as many ways to sharpen tools as there are to cook shrimp. What ever works the best for the individual.

-- bobdurnell, Santa Ana California.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10100 posts in 4052 days

#6 posted 04-13-2008 07:59 PM

I personally like the Scary Sharp system… it is SO Simple… and Economical!
... and will even fix chisels that have been abused with huge divots in their edges!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 3708 days

#7 posted 04-13-2008 08:58 PM

Scary Sharp or even better is a Worksharp 3000. Takes me 1/5th of the time as doing them by hand.

-- Use the fence Luke

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3988 days

#8 posted 04-14-2008 01:06 AM

I use my Tormek, but there are cheaper clones you there. ie Jet, Grizzly.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Marcel T's profile

Marcel T

146 posts in 3726 days

#9 posted 04-14-2008 01:48 AM

What would be the cheapest option?
Thanks for the huge response guys :)

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3799 days

#10 posted 04-14-2008 02:05 AM

I suggest that you buy the Lie Neisen book on sharpening. It is written for all of us to understand it. I use a veritas guide and a wet stone myself

-- making sawdust....

View jcees's profile


1058 posts in 3799 days

#11 posted 04-14-2008 02:52 AM

Cheapest, while a legitimate concern shouldn’t be your only consideration. The ONLY system I haven’t used is waterstones. I’ve got diamond, washita, Scary Sharp, ceramic, India, Carborundum, hard, black hard and translucent arkansas stones and some I just can’t identify. I also establish a hollow grind on a 6 in. grinder with a friable white wheel and quench often.

What I’ve discovered about sharpening is this; it’s situational. What kind of work will this tool be asked to do? You don’t need a mirror polished micro bevel if you’re chopping mortises but you might want one if you’re flush trimming ebony pegs next to a show surface.

So what you have to determine is what system will facilitate your attaining and maintaining those needed edges. Obviously, ANY system you choose can and will work for you if you’ll dedicate the time and energy to adapt the system to your way of working. In other words, there is no perfect way other than your way.

You might be able to do all you need on a single double sided Medium/Fine India stone and a bottle of WD40. Or… you could do like I do and commit all rough work to a large 220 grit diamond stone, medium on a white washita, fine on 1500 grit wet/dry paper with water on a granite surface plate and final polish on a strop charged with chromium oxide. So there.

Good luck.


P.S. The 220 grit diamond stone does double duty as I use it to true my other stones.

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View flink's profile


94 posts in 3720 days

#12 posted 04-14-2008 01:47 PM

Hi Marcel,

Checkout the scary sharp system. I would necessarily purchase it, though. If you go to a glass store, you can score a piece of tempered glass for a “Jalousie” window and use it as the base. The sand paper, you can get from some box store and a auto store that caters to auto restorers to find the really fine wet/dry papers.

Then get yourself a Veritas Mark II honing guide. That’s the most expensive piece USD$50 or so? It IMHO is the best guide out there for a beginner.

There are a number of websites that have descriptions of how to use scary sharp.

So if you don’t want to invest in “hard” goods for sharpening, that’s the way to go for now. The Veritas guide is good for sharpening on stones, too, so if you later decide to move over to water stones you will not have wasted any money.

-- Made lots of sawdust and pounded some nails. Haven't finished anything, though.

View Marcel T's profile

Marcel T

146 posts in 3726 days

#13 posted 04-14-2008 09:09 PM

Would you think it would be possible to sharpen on, say, 1500 grit sandpaper?

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3787 days

#14 posted 04-15-2008 03:11 AM

To your last question: Yes, 1500 grit wet/dry will put an edge keen enough for most work. You do need a flat surface to put paper on.

I definitely recommend Leanard Lee’s book “The Complete Guide to Sharpening” (Taunton Press). You may find it at your local library. After you decide what profile/bevel you want, it will lead to the best method of obtaining it that works for you. Reworking a 30 degree bevel to a 15 degree bevel on a 1” chisel using a diamond stone and sandpaper is a couple hours of work. Likewise, flattening the back of an inexpensive chisel (that is otherwise good metal) can also take quite a while. A belt sander, wet wheel, bench grinder all make it faster, but may not meet your budget. Also realize faster is not always better if it leads to burning out the temper or mis-shaping the tool.

I would buy a guide of some sort. The Veritas guide is very good, especially for wide chisels, plane irons, and skew chisels. However, the $15 empire style also works, and is a bit easier for narrow chisels (at least for me). Some can sharpen superbly freehand, but that talent is gained through a lot of experience.

The scary sharp method (i.e. using wet/dry paper on a flat surface) is relatively inexpensive and can produce an excellent edge. (Altho buying wet/dry paper in 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 2000 grit adds up pretty fast in its own right, altho the finer grits will last quite a while if you rinse them well after each use). It can be time consuming and is not for the impatient, but it can provide you with sharp tools while you decide what other method(s) will best suit your needs.


PS I use the wet/dry paper, arkansas stones(as well as carborundum, ceramic, unknown identity), diamond “stones”, and also have a Delta belt/disc sander and a small friable wheel, not to mention files. As jcees said, you will accumulate a variety of ways/materials over time, and will use them as it best suits you. I sharpen my chisels, knives, plane irons, card scrapers, drawknives, saws, axes, chainsaws, etc, so use a variety of methods and materials. A good guide, whether store-bought or hand made will go a long way towards consistency.

-- Go

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Marcel T

146 posts in 3726 days

#15 posted 05-19-2008 04:44 PM

I missed your comment, Gofor! I’m sorry! But it is full of GREAT information, I will be sure to get that book if the library has it, but I think I will be going to scary sharp way.

Thanks again everybody!

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