A Sharpening Quandary

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Forum topic by TheWoodenOyster posted 04-27-2013 03:11 PM 1432 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1902 days

04-27-2013 03:11 PM

I am having some trouble getting the “mirror polish” on the back side of my tools during my sharpening sessions. I don’t think it is my form or anything like that, because though I do lack skill in lots of woodworking categories, I can actually sharpen pretty well. I have been working on a set of chisels that my parents got me for my birthday. I go through 100, 150, and 220 glued to a granite slab. Then I go through 325 and 1200 on my diamond stone. Then I go to my 4000 and 8000 water stones. Things go well until I have been at the 8000 stone for about 30 minutes and I am making no progress. I am a pretty patient and persistent person, but it seems like I come to a screeching halt somewhere between 4000 and 8000. I can see the scratch marks from to 4000 stone disappear, and I start to get a “mirrorish” finish, but it stays a hazy color instead of clearing up to the perfect mirror finish I have seen guys attain. The blade is still very sharp, but I guess it is just the perfectionist in me that wants to get to the perfect mirror finish. It makes me wonder what the heck I bought this $100 8000 grit stone for. Anybody have any idea why this would be happening?


-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

20 replies so far

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3634 days

#1 posted 04-27-2013 03:31 PM

You need a leather strop.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1860 days

#2 posted 04-27-2013 03:39 PM

I envy your available time in trying to achieve a mirror finish. Good topic title.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View MrRon's profile


4718 posts in 3210 days

#3 posted 04-27-2013 03:40 PM

My guess would be the steel in the tool.. Try some other tool and see if it makes a difference. I finish my tools on a polishing wheel with rouge.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15282 posts in 2585 days

#4 posted 04-27-2013 04:25 PM

Strop is the answer. See Paul Sellers’ video on the subject; 30 strokes on a charged strop… You’re almost there!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View HorizontalMike's profile


7749 posts in 2881 days

#5 posted 04-27-2013 04:54 PM

I am with Ron on the use of a buffing wheel for honing. That said, I had been doing the traditional scary sharp method on all my chisels and HPs, UNTIL I got into turning and converted a $79 HF 4×36 belt sander into a sharpening station. For me that was a game changer. Not only could I sharpen all of my turning tools, but all others as well. This belt sharpening system can use grits from 36g to as high as 600g, and the buffing wheel with “green” polish (~10,000g I think) is just icing on the cake. All said and done, I have maybe $110 in the thing.

Something to consider…

Harbor Freight 4x36 Belt Sander DIY CONVERSION To Belt Sharpening System

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1902 days

#6 posted 04-27-2013 05:13 PM

Awesome replies everyone. I have been out in the garage working on it more and I apparently was summoning you all because I had the idea to skip the 8000 stone and just hit it with my strop (which I saw on Paul Sellers video- good call smitty). It did put the mirror finish on it, but I am a little worried that at the very end of my chisels, there is going to be a very slight bow upwards because of the leather on my strop deflecting down as I push the back of my chisel down onto it. I think I can live with that though. I am starting to split thousandths and I think I need to just get to work on my projects. No doubt more skill and epiphanies will come with time.

Some other comments:

Mr Ron- the tools steel that I have encountered this problem with is all Stanley tool steel – you might be onto something there

Horizontal Mike- That converted belt sander idea is pretty tempting. That might be something to try out once I get addicted to turning, which is only a matter of time

Thanks again for the responses. Isn’t it just a wonderful thing how all the problems we have to solve make us stretch our minds and creativity to its limits. Awesome!!!

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3544 days

#7 posted 04-27-2013 05:28 PM

I sharpen on a “Work sharp” that uses sand paper. I go through all the grits starting at 120(depending on the condition of the chisel) without skipping any of the grits in between up to 1200 and then 2000 I always get a Mirror finish. I have a leather wheel but I have a mirror finish before I use it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View bandit571's profile


19742 posts in 2650 days

#8 posted 04-27-2013 05:49 PM

Very simple set up in my shop

The two power tools i use. Grinder for those really bad edges first. The belt sander is used with a honing guide to get rid of the grinder marks

Then the vise can hold the oil stones i use

After both faces of the stones, I wrap some sandpaper around the stone, as tight as i can. Using both 1000 grit and 2000 grit paper, with a dab of 3in1 oil. Does all this work?

I recently picked up a piece of tile, and have been trying it out as a stone. Leather strop? MIGHT have something i could use in this old thing

There is a nice wide leather belt in there, somewhere….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8165 posts in 2544 days

#9 posted 04-27-2013 06:02 PM

A nagura stone is recommended for use on stones 8000 grit and higher.

It produces a slurry and achieves the mirror look you want.


View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2498 days

#10 posted 04-27-2013 06:38 PM

Is your 8000 stone dead flat?

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1902 days

#11 posted 04-27-2013 07:36 PM

I wasn’t aware that was what the nagura stone is for… I’ll give that a whirl

Yes it is flat. I flatten it on a granite slab after every use

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2938 days

#12 posted 04-27-2013 08:18 PM

I don’t spend 30 minutes on all grits combined. What are you sharpening, Carbide?

View Paul C.'s profile

Paul C.

154 posts in 3212 days

#13 posted 04-27-2013 08:34 PM

Bear in mind many of us do not have a mirror polish on the backs of our tools, and we still get them very very sharp. For some of my tools, I doubt that would be attainable anyways. That said, a leather strop will give you that little extra for sharpening. its great for refreshing an edge as well.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2454 days

#14 posted 04-28-2013 12:19 AM

Isn’t a quandary a cross between the place they dig up rocks and gravel and the place they pour metal into forms for tools?

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

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 1960 days

#15 posted 04-28-2013 01:47 AM

Not all 8000 stones are the same. In the Lee Valley catalogue there is a chart that compares several.

I use lapping paper finishing off with 0.1μ or 0.3μ. As the chart shows, some 8000 grit stones are as big as 3.0μ

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