Restoring Old Hand Tools

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Forum topic by Boodles posted 08-17-2013 12:54 AM 2933 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 1996 days

08-17-2013 12:54 AM

Hello Everyone!

I apologize for the amount of pictures which are to follow, but it’s the only way to explain exactly what I’ve done and seen.

I recently purchased a set of Marples Chisels made in Sheffield, England from a seller on eBay for $30 (I researched and read reviews that these Sheffield Marples are of good quality for a beginner.)

I then researched how to sharpen them, and found this helpful video from

Once I received the chisels, I purchased a 12” x 12” piece of marble tile, 60 grit to 600 grit sandpaper and a pack of 3m microabrasive paper instead of waterstones. After too many hours, too many sheets of sandpaper and several days, I was able to flatten the backs of the chisels up to 600 grit (I’m waiting to use the microabrasive paper until I grind the bevel and add the microbevel.)

Yesterday, I picked up a Ryobi 6” bench grinder in order to grind the new main bevel on the chisel. I found that a 25 degree angle is pretty much standard and well accepted (and match the bevel currently on the chisel), so I attempted to make a “jig” to help me keep a consistent angle.

As expected (in my opinion), it failed quite miserably. I would keep the top of the chisel flat against the jig and slowly bring the bevel into contact with the grind wheel for a few seconds, and then immediately dunk it in a glass of water to cool it down. Apparently, as I continued this process, I didn’t let it cool long enough and I believe I may have burned the chisel a tad.

I guess I’m kind of stuck as how to proceed. I have only attempted to grind a new bevel on the 1” chisel, and will leave the other three chisels alone until I get some feedback from you much more experienced woodworkers here!

Along with these chisels, I also picked up an old hand plane that used to be in pretty rough shape. I used the same process of flattening the backs of the chisels to flatten the sole of the hand plane.

I used the same sand paper, and I stopped “polishing” it at 600 grit (once again, I want to wait to use the microabrasive paper until all of the tools are ready for that final stage.) As you can see, the toe of the plane is a bit higher than the rest of it. Do I need to continue sanding and flattening the sole, or is it okay? The only thing I care about is getting it done correctly so I will not have any future issues with the tools.

As I just said, I don’t care if I have to redo everything, but I just want to do it correctly and be able to move on and start using my tools!

I look forward to hearing your feedback (no matter how, uh, “constructive” it may be); thank you!


10 replies so far

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1577 posts in 3802 days

#1 posted 08-17-2013 01:17 AM

You will need to grind bevel past the blue/burnt area being careful not to do the same thing. I would suggest switching to the course wheel (coarse grinding wheels actually generate less heat) and grind at 90 degrees to the wheel or with the tool pointed directly at the grinder’s arbor. When the blue/burnt area is gone then switch to establishing a bevel.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View JayT's profile


6008 posts in 2448 days

#2 posted 08-17-2013 01:22 AM

First, welcome to LJ and the wonderful interconnected worlds of woodworking and sharpening.

OK, did you flatten the full length of the backs of the chisels? It looks like it from your pics. You only need to flatten the last inch or so. The only reason to do more is to help you keep the chisel flat on your sharpening medium, it won’t help with performance. Same goes for the plane iron. If the last 1/4inch of my plane irons are flat, I’m happy.

Second, yes, you burned the chisel a bit, as told by the bluing of the steel. While you want to avoid that, it’s not the end of the world, or the chisel either. It just means those parts of the chisel won’t hold an edge as well until you have sharpened past that. You don’t have to get past it right away, just finish sharpening and use it. Future sharpenings will eventually take care of that.

I’m confused as to why you are grinding a new bevel on the chisels if the angle ”match(es) the bevel currently on the chisel” The chisels don’t appear so chewed up that they need reground. If not, sharpen them and go on, forget the grinder for now.

Of course, eventually you will need to grind a chisel or plane iron. Having a repeatable angle is good, but the 2x block seems a bit unwieldy. Also, make sure that the 25 degree angle is where the metal meets the wheel, not just the angle on your rest vs horizontal. Single speed grinders like that one really run too fast for sharpening, but it can be done. A very light touch and frequent cooling will help prevent burning. It appears that the biggest issue you ran into is either pushing down too hard or too long.

Additionally, you might look for a friable aluminum oxide wheel to use—many are white, but they come in other colors, too. They run much cooler than those stock gray ones, so help prevent burning, as well.

For a really sharp edge, 600 grit paper will not be enough. You will need to go to at least 1500 and possibly 2000 or a lot of work with a strop.

For the plane sole, 600 is overkill. I flatten mine to 240 and call it good, though others go farther. Make sure to wax the sole to prevent rust.

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Boodles's profile


31 posts in 1996 days

#3 posted 08-17-2013 01:33 AM

Tim & JayT.. thank you so much for your responses!!

I flattened/sanded as much of the chisel as possible because of the rust and markings on it from when I purchased them… I just wanted them to be clean and “new” to me. I only use the 600 grit paper on the last 1/2 inch of the chisel, and once I complete the bevel and microbevel, I will pull out the microabrasive sheets and get the mirror polish/finish (they are equivalent to a 8000 or 9000 grit waterstone.)

As with cleaning/flattening the backs, I wanted to to put a new bevel on the chisel (which I now see was probably not necessary); I am currently looking for a budget friendly honing jig that will allow me to add the microbevel onto the chisels. Do either of you have any suggestions?

Thanks again for the information!

View JayT's profile


6008 posts in 2448 days

#4 posted 08-17-2013 01:42 AM

OK, good info, and it looks like you are on the right track. For an inexpensive jig, try one like this one. They are manufactured under many brands and colors, but are relatively cheap and work well. I have a blue one purchased at Sears that was in an Irwin package (can’t say that Irwin made it, probably the same factory that made the Rockler one with a different paint job)

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17799 posts in 3244 days

#5 posted 08-17-2013 01:42 AM

Woodcraft, amazon have the eclipse honing jig or you can drop the coin on the veritas mkII. The eclipse may require a little tweaking.

What angle (rougjhly) were the chisels ground at originally? 5 degrees might not make a ton of difference for bench chisels.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Boodles's profile


31 posts in 1996 days

#6 posted 08-17-2013 01:47 AM

JayT: I was literally just looking at that jig.. I will go pick it up tomorrow after work and get to work!

chrisstef: I would love the veritas, but I don’t have $70+ (heck, even $50) to drop on more equipment.. but thanks for the suggestion!! As for the original angle, I’m not too sure. Comparing it to the 25 degree “jig” I made, it seemed to match almost perfectly. Like I said, I was simply trying to resurface the tool in order to remove the crud and junk from the steel; once I get the honing jig, I’m sure it will make this process MUCH easier (and I won’t have to worry about much other than the microbevel.)

Thanks guys!

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3596 days

#7 posted 08-17-2013 01:50 AM

Since we’re discussing chisels, I’d recommend the “Eclipse” style jig. I use that fro chisels and the MK II for plane irons. Pretty much all the large vendors (Rockler, Woodcraft, LN, etc) offer the jig or a variation of it.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


17799 posts in 3244 days

#8 posted 08-17-2013 01:56 AM

Here’s a quick tune up video for the eclipse jig from chris schwarz.

I couldnt drop the coins on the mk either, i totally understand. Another tip i can give ya is get a sharpie and black out the tip of the chisel so you can make sure youre hitting sll the spots on your bevel. It really helped me on my venture into hand tools and sharpening.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View shampeon's profile


1894 posts in 2421 days

#9 posted 08-17-2013 02:41 AM

Since you’ve already got the marble and grits set up, look into how Paul Sellers free-hands his chisels. It won’t be a hollow-grind, but it will give a good edge and doesn’t take very long. The Eclipse jig is also a good option, and it’s inexpensive.

And yeah, you must have been hating life flattening the entire back of each chisel, but hey, now it’s done and never needs to be done again.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Don W's profile

Don W

19045 posts in 2805 days

#10 posted 08-20-2013 07:31 PM

Well done.

I’ll agree with getting a friable aluminum oxide wheel to use, but even with that on a normal speed grinder you need to be careful. I’m not an extremely patient person, so I find it’s helpful to grind for a minute, the go do something else for a few. Even with water the constant repeated attack can over heat the steel.

The nice thing about the eclipse is it’s a reasonable step to free hand.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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