Final Polishing of Blades - Old Wives Tales??

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 05-11-2013 11:32 PM 4219 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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148 posts in 1954 days

05-11-2013 11:32 PM

So for a newbie getting into the hand tool world, the mantra seems to be

``you can get away with not using the world’s finest tools, but you cannot work wood without razor sharp blades``

which can be intimidating seeing as an 8000 water stone retails at £80+, scarey sharp as a system is a three figure number and XXfine DMT plates are well over a hundred quid.

So seeing as the angle of the blade can be easily set with sandpaper on mdf, I was wondering what you guys had heard of as `old wives tales` for final polishing of the bevel.

I’ve heard that metal polish rubbed onto cardboard can used for stropping

Also plain old brown paper can be used for final polishing

So fact or fiction? Or what else have you chaps used in the past that side-steps the conventional stones?


-- Ben, England.

16 replies so far

View Airframer's profile


3043 posts in 1976 days

#1 posted 05-11-2013 11:40 PM

I use Brasso on a leather strop I made. Right now I am still using sandpaper on a marble tile from HD to sharpen my blades but eventually will be looking to get some real sharpening gear. This works well it just gets expensive over time.

A strop is easy to make if you can get a hold of some leather. Have a look at some thrift stores for cheap leather clothing. I was able to score about 4 yards of leather for $5 from one near me in the form of a hideous leather dress lol. Here is my strop I made from some tooling leather I had knocking about my shop.

It has a rough side and a smooth side..

-- Eric - "I'm getting proficient with these hand jobbers. - BigRedKnothead"

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1954 days

#2 posted 05-12-2013 12:27 AM

when you say rough side and smooth side, do you mean the `inside` of the cow and the `outside`? or are there two grades of fuzzy side??

-- Ben, England.

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2520 days

#3 posted 05-12-2013 12:31 AM

Young wives remark that a 1000/4000 stone will do you just fine at nowhere near the price mentioned, and will last at least until the divorce.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1954 days

#4 posted 05-12-2013 12:32 AM

4000 is where I’m at right now. Doesn’t feel sharp enough. Contemplating whether to take the plunge on that final stone or cheat using other methods…

-- Ben, England.

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2600 days

#5 posted 05-12-2013 12:41 AM

Leather + Plywood + green honing compound = polishing strop
I use 3M adhesive to put the smooth side up and then hone and polish
my blades and chisels when needed. Some folks use the rough side of the

Quite effective as is MDF and green honing compound.

Brian Burns has a great video on blade sharpening also.

View bandit571's profile (online now)


20212 posts in 2706 days

#6 posted 05-12-2013 02:15 AM

My simple little set-up

and a honing guide I use

but as a holder on a beltsander, and to work over bevels

Seems to work

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

View realcowtown_eric's profile


609 posts in 1960 days

#7 posted 05-12-2013 03:01 AM

Ah, ben, the commercial world works in wonderful ways! all designed to liberate the cash from yer wallet.

As far as I can determine, the original roots of the scarey sharp system date back to an article a few decades ago in Fine home building, about a fella who had invested the hundreds of quid in the “best” sharpening only to find that a mexican carpenter had sharper planes. All dine wth sandpaper!.

Piece of MDF is as flat as anything else. Works fine for plane blades. Even the sorby—-what was it- the ULTIMATE lathe tool sharpening jig was just a turned piece of MDF charged with olishing compounds. And idiot with a thate could make one or 4 themselves.

Go back to the basics!

Most commerical plane offerings are finished with abrasive finishing, maybe the higher end stuff gets a few finer grits and a polish,

Grasshopper…it’s only abrasive, so pay either 1 or pay 100 quid, The end result is functionally no different. Baisics can never be eclipsed!

Watch the boot sales too….All of my diamond hones have come from that avenue, they are so uncommon that folks don’t know what they are.

Same for deburring wheels for the grinder!. Rubbery feeling, they don’t ring like an intact grinding wheel , but they look iddentical. Only difference is here in Canada, you can pick up a ringing grinding wheel for 1 to 3 euros, but a deburring wheel new will set you back 100.

They work real good to clean up chisels planes and blades to bring them back to serviceabilty.

regards, Eric

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2281 days

#8 posted 05-12-2013 03:22 AM

I have use all the above methods and I prefer to do the final finishing with a real green compound on a leather belt on a belt sander. That means buying a quality green compound you can tell the difference because the cheap stuff almost looks gray “harbor freight” and a dark almost forest green “woodcraft” and the price difference is a few bucks. The belt put me back about 20 and the sander is a 1×30” I got of craigslist for 20. Put all that together and I can touch up all my planes in about 10 min and be ready to go to work. The stuff is really aggressive on a leather belt. I use it to hit the corners down on my smoothing blades made of A2 and it only takes a few seconds.

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2600 days

#9 posted 05-12-2013 03:47 AM

Thanks Deycart!

I didn’t know leather belts were made for belt sanders.,43072

The belt is “E”

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 1954 days

#10 posted 05-13-2013 12:30 AM

wow – some great tips here, chaps

think I’ll try the brasso on one of my old wife’s wide leather belts next


  • as in the belt is wide – not she.
  • as in the belt is old. Not she.

-- Ben, England.

View NDGraham's profile


23 posts in 2671 days

#11 posted 06-07-2013 03:31 PM

It is quite amazing what some folks have been able to do with paper and glass as sharpening systems.

There is, however, something to say for more refined systems. While I do own a handstrop, I am much
happier using a 1 inch leather belt on my upright sander for quick and dirty kitchen knife honing after sharpening on a belt sander with four inch 400 grit aluminum oxide belts. This one-two system lets me sharpen many kitchen knives, cleavers, hatchets and pen knives very quickly with a minimum of work and time. I guess I spent about $100 on my ordinary Craftsman 4×36 belt sander about 15 years ago and last year $75 on the upright 1 inch belt sander. The 1 inch leather belt came from Lee Valley in Ottawa (as shown in the photo above). A couple of years ago, I sent away to the Industrial Abrasives Co. in the U.S. for a package of 24 400-grit AO belts ($41) which should last me indefinitely for knife blade sharpening.

Sharpening my carving chisels, gouges and plane blades is where I use my expensive Veritas MKII circular sharpener. It gives me crazy sharp results that I could never get using a grinding wheel and cloth wheel buffer with compound as I was taught 30 years ago in a wood sculpture course I took. It seems to me half that course was on how to sharpen the wide variety of gouges and chisels used in wood carving!

But when I go camping, I just take a ceramic sharpener for pen and hunting blades and small stone for the hatchet.

-- Neill

View gko's profile


83 posts in 3267 days

#12 posted 06-07-2013 07:08 PM

When I bought my King G1 8000 grit 30 years ago it was so expensive I thought I was buying a Mercedes Benz. But after approximately 5000 sharpenings I still have a good portion left over. I flatten it about once every other week before sharpening my best wide plane blades. With 2000 grit sandpaper at about a $1 a sheet and splitting it in three for each sharpening I would have spent about $1,600+! So even at today’s price of about $80 for the King I’ve saved about $1,500! Well, you probably could buy it bulk at a sale for $.50, split it in 5 at about 1.5” doing chisels but even if you did that it still works out to about $250. So at a savings somewhere between $200 and $1,500 my Mercedes Benz has actually saved me a lot of money.

Now I do work my way through several grits ending on either a 3000 or 6000 before the King so I don’t have to hone a lot on the 8000. Unless I have bend over on my plane blade or a chip, I usually touch up starting on either my 1,000 or 3,000 and then going to the 8000. I also have a 15,000 grit Shapton but I find very little difference between the two and I have a lot more control on the King. The King must be used with the nagura stone. The nagura gives the King an added sharpening effect breaking the grit down to about 15,000, flattens the stone a bit (especially good for between flattenings), gives you much more control, prevents loading of the stone with metal and cuts faster. I notice some of the King 6000 and 8000 don’t come with the nagura stone. At around $10 it’s worth it.

30 years ago the King was the only super fine stone I could find around my place. Since then there have been a lot of them around and I think they are worth looking into. Some that I tried seem to cut a bit faster. Some seem to give a better edge so I’m not pushing the King stone but just the justification for paying what seems like an expensive item.

For getting rid of chips or flattening the back on a new plane or chisel I used to use three diamonds stone, extra extra course, extra course and course. But after about 2 years of use the diamonds seem to become rounded over and began cutting much slower. So at about $100 each every two or three years it was getting expensive. I now use a 120/180 Green Carbide stone from Hida. It doesn’t cut as quickly as the extra extra course diamond stone when it is new but it’s faster after using the diamongs a year or two. I just flatten the stone and new sharp grit get exposed which cuts faster than worn down diamonds. The 180 grit side is somewhat in between my extra course and course diamonds and that also seems to cut faster after using the diamonds a year. It does wear much faster than the finer stones and require flattening a lot but at about $30 for the combination stone and I think it will last me at least 10 years I think it’s a steal. Also it doesn’t tear up my skin nearly as badly as the diamond stone.

Ok, I’m rambling so I better stop. The savings on the courser stones is not as much as the 8000 stones but there still is a savings in the long run.

-- Wood Menehune, Honolulu

View mpounders's profile


875 posts in 2918 days

#13 posted 06-07-2013 08:45 PM

I know several people who swear by stropping on cardboard. But they are talking about the thin stuff on the back of a notepad, not a cardboard box. Part of the reasoning for that is to use something that will hold the compound and it will not have a lot of give when glued to a board. Strops that are too soft can round over edges when used. For that reason, some people also prefer thinner pigskin over leather.

-- Mike P., Arkansas,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4241 days

#14 posted 06-07-2013 09:22 PM

I wonder if anyone has done scientific research on how much better a plane cuts if the iron is honed to 8000 vs. 4000, and how long that difference in edge quality actually lasts in use? After two or three strokes, are you no better off going to 8k than you were at 4k, or even 2k?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2281 days

#15 posted 06-07-2013 09:25 PM

Well all that would depend on MANY factors, blade composition, how it was hardened, how it wa tempered, What the shape of the abrasives are in your stone and what is holding them together, what fluid you’re using if any. This does not even consider the geometry of the bade. I’m sure there are many factors I am leaving out. You should read “The complete guide to sharpening” by leonard lee.

I have found it is WAY more important to have the proper shape to your blade than to get it to any particular degree of “sharpness”. I’m not saying that it’s not important because it is, however the shape is the more important thing to focus on first, a poorly shaped blade sharpened razor sharp wont do squat or even worse help destroy your work. After you have found what you shape it should be then you can then quest on to find out how much time you want to spend sharpening.

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