Just how sharp is sharp????

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Forum topic by Bill White posted 01-10-2012 12:28 AM 1430 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bill White

4947 posts in 3982 days

01-10-2012 12:28 AM

I keep seeing more and more options to buy stones and stuff that will allow me to sharpen my planes/chisels to an almost impossible edge with a gazzilion micron edge. I sharpen with my Makita 9820 and waterstones with great results, and just don’t understand the need to end up with honing on 8000+ grit stones so that I will be able to take epidermal offerings to the local skin transplant dermatologist.
Am I missing something? Seems that if tools are working well with edges that take good cuts, why is there such a karma inducing need to further the art.
Grandpa didn’t have this stuff, and he was a pretty darned good woodworker.


6 replies so far

View jmos's profile


838 posts in 2391 days

#1 posted 01-10-2012 12:55 AM

Bill, whatever works for you is great.

When I started I bought the David Charlesworth DVD; teaches using 1000/8000 grit stones and micro bevels for sharpening. that’s what I’ve gotten used to. Once the initial flattening is done, it’s quick and sharp. Some swear by scary sharp, looks like that works well too. I have a Jet wet sharpener, but hardly ever use it. I like water stones better.

As long as your happy with the results, that’s what matters.

-- John

View a1Jim's profile


117114 posts in 3599 days

#2 posted 01-10-2012 01:03 AM

I have used the Scary sharp technique and work sharp 3000 ,they both work. A master woodworker who pretty much was the cause of Finewoodworking magizine’s success Named “Tage Frid” use to grab a belt sander and sharpen his chisels with it and go back to work, that was it as far as his sharpening went for him. I think what’s sharp enough is what works for you and the project your working on.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3137 days

#3 posted 01-10-2012 01:15 AM

you ask how sharp is sharp …..... dooh
but I know what we attemp to do
and that is to let the flat side and the beveled side meet each other in point zero…. theoreticly
if you can reach that point …. you can´t get it sharper than that :-)

if you find 4000 grit sharp and its work for you fine
but may I surgest if you get the chance to work with or to hone a cheisel to 8000 or 12000 grit take it
you will see you work more time before you have to sharpen again (and possibly even more precise)
since you can hone many times before you have to step down in grits to sharpen
again lesser time on the stones and more working with wood :-)


View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3764 days

#4 posted 01-10-2012 01:29 AM

If you are hammering mortises it is not that necessary.
if you are paring the tails on you dovetailed drawer then sharp comes into play.

I use the sandpaper method then touch the edge on a felt wheel with rubbing compound. Have used the Tage Frid method with the belt sander, followed by lapping on a buffing wheel.

Others use some form of a strop, be it leather like the old straight razor days, or diamond paste on a piece of MDF.

Use whatever works for the task at hand.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3265 days

#5 posted 01-10-2012 01:56 AM

I think the 8000 grit stones may be necessary if you are trying to put an edge on a $3000 Japanese knife with 300 layers of steel, but for our ordinary crucible steel used in cutting tools, sandpaper and 1000 grit stones is enough. If you were to put the edge of a cutting tool under a very high powered microscope, you would see a jagged edge. To remove that jagged edge, you have to go to the 8000+ grit water stones which are fine for razor blades, but totaly un-necessary for hand tools. Sharper is better is not always true. A very sharp edge is weak and won’t stand up to hand tool use. OK for shaving or surgery. As long as he tool cuts well, it’s sharp enough.

View Gibbs's profile


22 posts in 2351 days

#6 posted 01-10-2012 02:51 AM

Ron is right. I sharpen straight razors with my hones and have shaved with them..all 26 or so of them. But I am cutting soft whiskers, and soft compared to what one cuts in woodworking. The reason for the leather strop and felts, etc for razors is that you need to true up a VERY delicate edge. Even a leather strop not used properly will bend over the edge and defeat what you are trying to acomplish. You need “chisel” sharp for wood and it has to come to a fine sharp edge, yes, but toughness and hardness of the steel is more vital than hair splitting sharp. In all honesty, when I worked at Boeing and they did a lot of machining of metals, nothing beats carbide inserts for necessary sharpness and long life.

-- Vern in SW Michigan look me up at my website at sometime

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