honing using sand paper

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Forum topic by dmmflys posted 11-19-2011 08:08 AM 8304 views 3 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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43 posts in 2567 days

11-19-2011 08:08 AM

Topic tags/keywords: jig tip question trick chisel plane jointer planer sharpening

Stones are very expensive not to mention can be messy. Does anyone have experience honing using sandpaper to hone chisels, planes, jointer knives, and planer knives? There is what looks to be a pretty good artical from Woodsmith. I’m thinking bout putting together one if it get really good results. Looking for feed back and tips.

34 replies so far

View Mickey Cassiba's profile

Mickey Cassiba

312 posts in 3201 days

#1 posted 11-19-2011 08:19 AM

I’ve honed my turning tools (and still do from time to time) with paper and glass. Use the same process on the kitchen knives. No complaints from the cook :P

-- One of these hammers oughta fix that...

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2700 days

#2 posted 11-19-2011 08:26 AM

I’ve tried using sandpaper for sharpening, although not with a dedicated jig like in that article, just a honing guide and a flat surface. Have to say that it works quite well. Tons of info on the net – google “scary sharp”.

But… while it is less messy than water (or oil) stones, it doesn’t produce any better results, provided that you keep your stones flat. And in the long run, stones are way cheaper.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View Don's profile


12 posts in 2790 days

#3 posted 11-19-2011 08:30 AM

I have used this technique for the same reasons you mentioned, and was satisfied with the end result. However, the sandpaper doesn’t last very long, and you need a wide selection of grits to do the job right. My setup is similar to the Woodsmith information in your link.

The problem is I don’t have an endless supply of all the the sandpaper grits when a blade needs sharpened! It would be nice to have a sharpening system ready to use when you need it, but economically, the sandpaper system is still my only option.

-- Don

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 3973 days

#4 posted 11-19-2011 08:48 AM

I would not start using sandpaper to save money. It is probably the most expensive method of sharpening there is, it just has the lowest entry cost. If you have one chisel you want to sharpen, it is the cheapest. But you don’t need to sharpen that much before stones make way more sense.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3191 days

#5 posted 11-19-2011 09:39 AM

I’ve used sandpaper to sharpen plane irons and chisels and it works great (assuming you use up to the automotive paint grade wet/dry sand papers). But as Arminius points out, it is only cheaper initially. A pack of 3000 grit wet/dry sand paper will set you back around $6 and it will last you a month or two if you have a lot of tools and sharpen regularly. On the other hand, I have a Japanese water stone (5000 grit) that I paid about $40 for and have had for four years now and it still has a lot more life in it.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3167 days

#6 posted 11-19-2011 09:47 AM

Don’t over think it.

Abrasives are the same no matter the binding medium. Any abrasive will work. Anything that removes metal and doesn’t mess up the temper will do. Waterstones, diamond stones, oil stones, sandpaper, grit on glass, all have their advantages and drawbacks. About the only place that sandpaper shines (pun intended) is on the finest grits—1000 grit and finer and if you need a really big area for something especially large like a jointer blade. That or on a belt sander for really rough shaping. It really doesn’t make sense otherwise. You can pick up a cheap diamond stone for $15 that will handle most sharpening and outlast the equivalent in paper many times over. If I am doing one chisel, I just use the diamond stone and finish up with a strop or sandpaper. If I have a handful of stuff to do, I go get some water and fill up my electric wet grinder and spend some quality time with it.

The biggest problem most people have with sharpening is that they try to do everything with one grit that is too fine. The trick to sharpening effectively is to work through the grits. You can go through from coarse to fine in just a few minutes or you can beat your head against the wall and spend hours at it with a fine grit.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3655 days

#7 posted 11-19-2011 02:07 PM

I’ve been using sandpaper for sharpening for many years, with outstanding results.
Get yourself a good honing guide…I use the older Lee Valley guide.
6 grits of sandpaper on a piece of flat 1/4” glass.
80/120/220 psa backed on one side
600/1000/1500 wet/dry on the other

Here’s a link to an old discussion on LJ

-- Steve--

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3121 days

#8 posted 11-19-2011 03:44 PM

When I first started getting into hand tools and learning how to sharpen them, I used sandpaper. It wasn’t very long thereafter that I realized staying with that system was going to be very costly.

A set of japanese waterstones (800, 1000, 4000, and 8000) and a coarse/extra coarse diamond stone (to keep your stones flat and for some coarse work on edges) comes to $285.50 on particular website. You can do A LOT of sharpening with that set right there. You could leave out the 4000 stone and save $56.00. You could also get by with just a combination stone from Norton which has 1000 on one side and 8000 on the other which is very cost effective. But lets stick with the $285.50 above for arguments sake.

The cost of that package over a 20 year life span is $14.28 per year. An average home woodworker can reasonably expect a 20 year life out their waterstones. So the initial cost looks steep. But in the long run, the cost is very affordable. I did not use sandpaper for a long time, but I do know a package (one that includes a variety of grits) wears out quick. I see packages of sandpaper average about $6.99 to $9.99 for a package containing 8 – 10 sheets. I am sure there must be sources out there to purchase sandpaper in bulk to save some money, not sure what it would be. If three or four packs of sandpaper per year are necessary to meet sharpening needs, this adds up quickly. Assuming four packages, the cost per year would be $27.96 – $39.96. Over the course of twenty years, those numbers are $559.20 – $799.20. That is a lot of money.

I would like to know from the serious sandpaper sharpeners how much you spend annually on sandpaper. I think it would be interesting to compare your actual usage as I am doing a little spitballing here. To see some real numbers would be interesting for the people who are having a hard time determining which method is right for them. Cost is certainly a big factor for some people (it sure is for me).

I want to make one other point. I have read some comments from some remarking how they felt waterstone sharpening is messy. I am here to let you know that is just not so. When I first started with them, I guess I could say it was a little messy. However, after nailing a system with them and figuring out how to use them, they are not messy. I have a dedicated sharpening station that is mounted to the wall. Below that, I have a covered plastic container that I keep the stones in (always in water). Beside that container, I have a five gallon bucket that I use to rinse off the stones after I use them and clean my flattening plate (I flatten the stones after every use). The sharpening station has a rubber mat which catches any water that drips off and it is all very neat. And if anything spills or whatnot, it is water. Water is soooo easy to clean up. It also has no smell. So for all of you who think it is a messy system, I say with proper management, it is not messy.

-- Mike

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3655 days

#9 posted 11-19-2011 04:18 PM


I never crunched the numbers, as you have…but I can guesstimate that I’ve never, and will never (I’m 61) spend $559 on sandpaper to sharpen chisels and plane blades.

I’ve rehabbed a lot of old beater chisels that I got on ebay, and at yard sales…and turned them into useful, ultrasharp antique beauties. Once they are back to their original states, they just require a quick tuneup from time to time. I doubt that I change my 6 pieces of sandpaper more than twice a year. The cost is negligible.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Mileage may vary for other scary sharp practitioners.

-- Steve--

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3632 days

#10 posted 11-19-2011 04:27 PM

Started with the scary sharp method and soon realized it was more of a PITA than it was worth. I now use Norton waterstones and wont go back

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3121 days

#11 posted 11-19-2011 04:36 PM

Shopdog, the $559 is over the course of twenty years. Try to determine how much you have spent over the last twenty years on sandpaper. That was the whole point of my comment; cost over the long run. If you use 12 sheets of sandpaper per year, what is your cost? I ask because I have no idea what you pay for your sandpaper. Maybe someone gave it you and it had no cost.

Lastly, this isn’t about accusations and “I Think My System Is Better Than Yours”. I am trying to get some input from people who sharpen with sandpaper to show what their cost is. Cost is almost always why people choose the system they choose. And when you are looking at a system someone will use over a sustained period of time, the cost over that time should be a factor. Heck, maybe I have been misled and sandpaper sharpening really is more cost effective.

P.S. – I like your shopdog! Good looking Lab.

-- Mike

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3655 days

#12 posted 11-19-2011 06:19 PM


I know this isn’t a pissing contest. I didn’t take it that way at all.
I get my PSA backed paper from Lee Valley. It comes in long rolls, 2.5” wide, and that width is all I need for sharpening purposes. So, if I change paper even 3 times a year, it works out to pennies per year, or maybe even as much as a couple of dollars. Even if I were to use more than that, I wouldn’t spend $100 in 20 years.
Add to that the cost of the Veritas jig, and the plate glass (that I got for free), I’m still spending very little to get great results.
Add to that, it’s fairly clean…I blow off the dust with my compressor when I’m done, and I never have to flatten a stone. I’m not trying to convert anyone…Just relating my personal experience.

Your pup is a cutie too, and very fashionable with the hat. I had a chocolate before the black. He’s getting old now (10+), and I see a yellow lab in my future.

-- Steve--

View a1Jim's profile


117265 posts in 3746 days

#13 posted 11-19-2011 06:40 PM


Welcome to Ljs

This method called the Scary sharp method has been around for a long time. It was first introduced by Mike Dunbar
a famous Chair maker through an article in Finewoodworking. He developed the technique because of he traveled in a good number of woodworking shows and didn’t always have access to water for wet stones. Like many subjects on LJs everyone thinks their way is the best way. I used the scary sharp method for years and now I use a tool that still uses sand paper it’s made by Worksharp.

Sharping by hand ,with sand paper or with stones or some sort of machine will all give you good results.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View dmmflys's profile


43 posts in 2567 days

#14 posted 11-19-2011 09:21 PM

Wow didn’t know I would get sooo many posts so fast I guess this subject is a little like ‘should you use PVC or metal pipe for dust collection system’ lol Thank you all for the wealth of info though I’m going to look though the different links you all have posted and figure out what will work best for me. One more question though what is a good honing guide I saw this one at Rockler but someone also told me about one that you can change the pitch with a flip of a lever to create another small edge on at the top. Any suggestions?

View Byron's profile


92 posts in 2550 days

#15 posted 11-19-2011 09:22 PM

The First project I had was to sharpen and hone all of my chisel and plane irons so they could all shave hairs off your hand. It took an extremely long time to get this process down but once I took the time to get comfortable with it I can take a dull torn up chisel or plane iron with gnarly burs to sharp in a very reasonable amount of time. The initial investment of time and money is 100% worth it.

The nature of how sandpaper works leads to rounding things over. The abrasive is not true and flat as a stone is and the build up of lose particles and inconsistencies cause this. Also you need a hard very flat surface to reference off of. This would basically mean a surface plate or true and flat machine bed. Using a stone that can be re-flattened based on your need is a much better idea. Also with sand paper it is much harder to hold a reference angle so you don’t round over the tip. The points being made about cost is also a valid one. Sand paper, over time does not end up being any cheaper.

The process I currently use is using a grinding wheel to put a hollow grind on the bevel, never letting the wheel hit the edge, or burning the edge. Next I go to an 800 grit water stone. I stay on this until I get a consistent edge, which you can check by looking for any burs or any inconsistency in the edge by holding it up to a light. This can take a few tries to get used to seeing the edge. Next I remove all the scratches from the 800 with a 1200, never hitting the back of the chisel or iron on these, ONLY the bevel edge. The back should be honed in initially using these three stones progressively until it is uniformly flat. I would never recommend using sandpaper or lapping compound. It is extremely hard to flatten a domed or crowned surface, having a slightly concave surface ensures all points are being hit evenly, this is why a hollow grind is easier to sharpen then just a flat surface. Next I go to the back of the chisel on a 8000 water stone, a 6000 works too. After I get the burr off the back I re-hone the bevel and slowly go back and forth between these surfaces progressively lessening my time on each edge. This knocks the burr back and forth between each side of the edge until it is sharp for my liking.

Make sure to never round the edge. Every instant you are not on your reference edges you round the edge and inhibit the process of getting sharp surface. Also try not to touch the burr on the edge of the blade, breaking this burr off with something other then the surface of a stone will damage the edge, although this is not that imperative I seem to notice a small difference. Starting off though it might be good to feel the burr every once in a while to know.

If the edge gets really bad place the bevel side towards you and hold almost at 90 degrees with the more acute angle facing towards you and gently pull the blade over the surface towards yourself making sure the edge stays at 90 degrees to the edge of the blade or whatever angle desired. Then grind this on a wheel until the edge has a very small visible flat and hone the edge from there. Never let the grinding wheel hit the edge that will be your final edge, this will tear up the metal and getting past that damaged steel will take a long time.

Using a plastic surface of some kind makes sharpening much cleaner and keeping a paper towel or relatively clean rag near by helps, but try not to wipe off the side of the blade you are working the burr on. But again if your taking short cuts just to keep clean there may be other steps to do rather then make sacrifices.

Sorry about the long winded post, thanks for reading

-- Byron Conn, Woodworking/Furniture Design at Rochester Institute of Technology,

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