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How sharp is sharp enough?

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Forum topic by George_SA posted 522 days ago 1146 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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George_SA

192 posts in 809 days


522 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening question

I came across this article from FWW about a planing competition. A comment below states: “You may not be able to do that, but its ok. No one needs to sharpen to that level unless the goal is to win a planing competition.” I tend to agree with this, or is it just sour grapes on my part? I don’t think I will ever be able to sharpen a plane blade to produce 9 micron shavings! Also I am wondering what type of wood is used in these competitions. I am quite sure 9 micron shavings is only possible on a limited types of wood. Just wondering :-)

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity


24 replies so far

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2854 posts in 1083 days


#1 posted 522 days ago

I am the first to admit that I am not big into sharpening at this time.
I do want to say though that to begin with when I get any new or used tool that has a sharp edge that I can resharpen I do.
I don’t profess to being able to pull 9 micron shavings, but I can use my planes on end grain walnut or maple and not take sawdust but real shavings.

I use the Scary sharp method but only go to 1500g wet/dry sand paper and then use a piece of brown paper bag as the last step.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6114 posts in 1396 days


#2 posted 522 days ago

It’s sharp enough if it does the job.

What I mean is, if you want to hog out a lot of wood, like with a jack plane or scrub plane, on straight grained wood, you can get buy with a moderately sharp blade.

If you want to joint an edge on a soft wood, a well sharpened blade is needed.

If you want to get a silky smooth surface with a #4 on figured grain, you need a crazy level of sharpness.

And if you want to win a Japanese planing competition making toilet paper out of a piece of soft wood- you need to spend a lifetime in a dojo learning the mysterious art of sharpening.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

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Loren

7223 posts in 2243 days


#3 posted 522 days ago

They are using Japanese style planes. Duh, right? The
planes are not as simple as they look on casual examination
and of course they are using exquisite (probably old growth)
creamy soft woods.

-- http://lawoodworking.com

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BTimmons

2076 posts in 1081 days


#4 posted 522 days ago

Stumpy covered it pretty well regarding how sharp something needs to be for different applications.

As for the wood being planed, I think I read that it was Japanese white cedar.

-- Brian Timmons, Big T Woodworks - https://www.etsy.com/shop/BigTWW - http://vimeo.com/98821147

View pendledad's profile

pendledad

186 posts in 685 days


#5 posted 522 days ago

I recently watched a clip from Ask This Old House and Tom Silva said this:

I take the blade (from a plane) and let it hang by its own weight. I then let the blade rest on my thumbnail by its own weight … if it slides off, it needs a sharpening. If it sticks and won’t slide off, it is sharp enough.

I like his take on being a direct measure kind of guy. This way, he has a “feeler gauge” to see if it sharp enough for his standards.

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StumpyNubs

6114 posts in 1396 days


#6 posted 522 days ago

I take the blade and slide the edge across my forehead. -If it leaves a scratch, it’s too dull. -If it leaves a cut. it needs some sharpening. -If I need stitches, It’s ready for planing. -If my brains spill out… what’s that bright light?...

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2854 posts in 1083 days


#7 posted 522 days ago

Stumpy, my brain can’t spill out. My wife constantly reminds me that I have none.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View George_SA's profile

George_SA

192 posts in 809 days


#8 posted 522 days ago

  1. And if you want to win a Japanese planing competition making toilet paper out of a piece of soft wood- you need to spend a lifetime in a dojo learning the mysterious art of sharpening. ####

Smile :-)

Stumpy, thanks for a good summation. As with most things in life, circumstances determine the standard that needs to be obtained.

-- There are some things that money can't buy - Manners, morals and integrity

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3340 posts in 2556 days


#9 posted 522 days ago

Stumpy is NOT WELL. BWAHAHAHA!
I also use the fingernail test. I’m cuttin’ wood, not doin’ surgery (unless I’m careless).
I guess that I’m in the school of “form follows function”. Honing to a .000005 micron edge is fine for some but, if the plane does the job well, I’m a happy camper.
Kinda like havin’ the TS top and plane sole flat within an unobtainable thousandth of an inch.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View TravisH's profile

TravisH

211 posts in 531 days


#10 posted 522 days ago

Definitely excessive for most tasks but if my shavings were like that I would have a shop floor full of them. If I had to err I would prefer to err on the wispy toilet paper shaving side. While definitely sharper than needed many are so often to take “close enough” as an acceptable standard when doing things. Few things I built over the years that I look at and shake my head in shame.

I am a fairly new woodworker, with respect to many, and was amazed between my “sharp” planes and chisels before and after a project last year. In the past I used a some bargain stones and Smith’s diamond sharpener, a few passes and I was good (so I thought).

I purchased Hock’s book and bought a few kits to put together. I had some various sand paper in the shop and plate glass and grabbed a piece of 3 micron paper from work along with some 0.5 micron alumina slurry to play with. Once I placed the iron and set the wedge I made a few passes on some cherry. Within seconds the sound and sight of the thin lustrous shavings, dancing off the iron, were a clear indicator I was using a rasp in my other planes. I went to work sharpening all my “sharp” blades later that week. In the market for some nice stones and need to work on technique still but dont’ think I will have tools again to use.

After seeing that planning competition I really would like to make a pass or two with one of those planes but fear I might end up spending time meditating in a garden somewhere or contemplating the ripples from the stone thrown into a pond.

View pmd73's profile

pmd73

13 posts in 537 days


#11 posted 519 days ago

I’m new to this myself and am finding out that sharpening my blades can be tough,really tough.I worked last weekend on the planes themselfs,Got them to a mirror finish with the sandpaper method,but tried the sandpaper method on the blade and liked to wore my shoulder out.The hardest thing for me was holding the angle just right by hand and even from side to side.After work today,i’m going to rockler for some stones and a holder/guide.

View seriousturtle's profile

seriousturtle

93 posts in 1926 days


#12 posted 519 days ago

Like stumpy, I also use the forehead test, except I give the iron a light tap with a mallet. If I see skull, it is sharp enough…

-- ~the turtle

View Michigander's profile

Michigander

133 posts in 1015 days


#13 posted 519 days ago

pmd73, I’m new to sharpening too, just a few steps ahead of you. Don’t waste your money on anything but a Veritus Mk II holder. The cheap one sold at Woodcraft would only clamp about half of my chisels as it swueezes from the fide. The Veritas squeezes the blade across the flat. I currently sharpen using the scary sharp sandpaper method to 800 grit. Sharp enough for my skill level.
Good Luck
Michigander

View pmd73's profile

pmd73

13 posts in 537 days


#14 posted 519 days ago

Can’t put to much into a holder,is the veritus pricey.The plane bases i went to 1200 grit.The stanley looks really smooth,the other,a buck bros. looks like it has a place filled in and pitted but looks smoother.Still can’t cut with ether without a lot of effort.What’s the scary sandpaper method.Also the stanley has two adj. screws to adj. the blade and ones i see here have a lever.What difference does thet make.

View TimberFramerBob's profile

TimberFramerBob

68 posts in 519 days


#15 posted 519 days ago

In my shop we hand sharpen all our blades with wet stones starting at 1000g, then 1200, ...up to 6000g. It has a mirror finish…..scalpel sharp. We sharpen everything once a week (unless it wasn’t used). This might be a little over kill but it took me a while to understand the importance of sharp tools…...and what SHARP really was. I worked for a long tie with tools that were “sharp” to me…..then I used a truly sharp tool…..theres no such thing as too sharp IMHO.

-- ..........a man who works with his hands, his brains, and his heart.....is an artist.

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