How to maintain razor sharpness?

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Forum topic by ColonelTravis posted 12-27-2013 01:14 AM 1616 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1768 posts in 1890 days

12-27-2013 01:14 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening diamond stone waterstone scary sharp

Had to buy a Hock blade and examining that I realized how bad I was at sharpening my other plane blades. Been getting better, it’s definitely art as much as science. Started with scary sharp, then added a combo waterstone but now I’m thinking it would be best to stop buying tons of sandpaper, plus if I need to get yet another stone to flatten the stones, why not just get all diamond stones and dump the waterstones? Never tried Arkansas stones. Ugh. The number of methods is ridiculous, I’m trying to simplify things.

So, for all the diamond stone people out there – after planing a while, do you always re-sharpen starting with, say, Course, Fine, Extra Fine? Or do you plane a little bit less and just go to the Extra Fine or Extra Extra Fine? Or something else?

20 replies so far

View MisterInquisitive's profile


32 posts in 2092 days

#1 posted 12-27-2013 01:40 AM

If you’ve already got a combo water stone, you may want to try a strop with a paste like chromium oxide. Once you’ve got it sharp it’s easier to keep it sharp with just the strop. Sandpaper’s still good for the rough stuff if you don’t have a grinder, and to get flat backs on any chisels or plane irons you may pick up.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2380 days

#2 posted 12-27-2013 01:54 AM

Many find it most time effective to hone a small micro bevel, and only touch up that with your fine stone, until so many sharpenings that it becomes large, then regrind the entire bevel through the grits again…although Conrad Sauer advocates sharpening the entire bevel every time, no microbevel.

I like microbevels.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View ColonelTravis's profile


1768 posts in 1890 days

#3 posted 12-27-2013 02:27 AM

That makes sense, fine tune until you can’t fine tune any more. Just got the Veritas honing guide so a dope like me can get proper angles. Are the ultra-high grit waterstones better for that fine tuning than diamond stones?

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2288 days

#4 posted 12-27-2013 02:44 AM

You might want to research and consider stropping after or during use to touch up the sharpness of your edges once the edge has been established. I’ve tried almost all methods, starting with Arkansas stones back in the 50s. My favorite is the Tormex system to get the initial edge and then strop at the start and end of each use—it’s been well over a year since I last used my Tormex, but thanks to stropping, my edges are still shaving sharp. Good luck.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Andre's profile


1829 posts in 1802 days

#5 posted 12-27-2013 02:49 AM

Hollow grind chisels and plane blades after backs are flat and polished, then hone on 1000 and mirror polish on 8000 water stones’, only need to touch up on 8000 stone until I get more polish than grind on blade. Actually very fast after awhile and some practice,some of the old hard steel is a bit tougher!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2282 days

#6 posted 12-27-2013 03:16 AM

Are you using a honing guide? For me, it’s the key to consistent results (as opposed to freehand).

I use DMT Diasharps and will start sharpening with the finest “grit” that’s suitable to the blade condition. Unless I am re-profiling a blade, that usually means starting with 600 (fine) or 1200 (extra fine). From there, I work my up to 4000 and 8000 if I am not feeling too lazy. I almost always add a 2 degree micro bevel as well.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Loren's profile


10381 posts in 3644 days

#7 posted 12-27-2013 03:27 AM

I use the Burns system now. I have 2 diamond stones
by EZE-Lap and a 8×3” 8000 grit water stone for finishing.
You could get by wit a 6000 or even 4000 grit finishing
stone. In terms of how the iron finished wood, the
difference is hard to figure. I do however feel that
the edge polished to a high grade holds up a bit

I sharpened freehand on water stones for many years
but honestly the burns system is both faster and less
hard on the stones.

View waho6o9's profile


8189 posts in 2573 days

#8 posted 12-27-2013 03:40 AM

Enjoy 1/2 hour of Brian Burns sharpening methods.

View ColonelTravis's profile


1768 posts in 1890 days

#9 posted 12-27-2013 04:52 AM

Seen the Burns video, thanks. I like his and Paul Sellers very much for the simplicity. Looks like an 8000 stone would be a good investment.

View Planeman40's profile


1175 posts in 2757 days

#10 posted 12-27-2013 05:14 PM

I view sharpening as divided into two categories – shaping and sharpening. Shaping is done with machines – belt grinders, etc. and coarse stones. Sharpening is done with fine stones and ends with stropping to get that razor edge as MisterInquisitive above states.

My usual method when starting from scratch is to shape on a 1” x 36” belt sander or a 6” x 48” belt sander, then continue final shaping with a relatively coarse diamond “stone”, then moving to a medium grit diamond “stone”. When I have the tool edge shaped the way I want it, I move to very fine diamond “stones” and “laps” that come in three progressive fine grits. After the very fine diamond stones and laps I continue with a very fine hard Arkansas oil stone and finish wit h a leather strop impregnated with chromium oxide powder. Sometimes I have to go back to the Arkansas stone for more work and then back to the strop. I don’t stop until I can shave the hair off my arm. Once you have the proper razor edge, a few swipes on a strop is all that is needed to bring an edge back to a razor edge if you haven’t let it wear too much. If so, use the Arkansas stone some and then back to the strop.

You can make your own leather strops easily by gluing leather down to some wood and then rubbing in the chromium oxide powder (available at most good woodworking stores) into the surface of the leather. I have made leather strops in various sizes, some flat and narrow (for knives), some flat and wide (for plane blades), some curved (for carving and turning gouges).

I have a number of water stones of different sizes and types and they are good, but I find the diamond stones to cut faster, last longer, and not need periodic re-surfacing. I have yet to find a diamond “stone” or lap fine enough to prepare for stropping. This is why I finish up with a hard fine Arkansas stone before stropping. Arkansas stones last a long time, are not prone to wear, and stay flat. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes for sharpening small tools like carving gouges.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18710 posts in 2563 days

#11 posted 12-27-2013 05:48 PM

the amazing part about sharpening, once you figure it out, is how easy it really is. Forget everything you’ve heard, read and been thinking and just try this.

The back must be flat and polished for the first 1/4” or so. Do it once for each cutter.

—Hollow grind on a wheel. I like an 8” but any size will work. A medium grit works best.
—Go to a fine stone. I use a hard Arkansas, but anything about 8000+ grit will work. I’ve heard waterstones give the finest, but I like my oil.
—Set the cutter on the stone. Rock it back and forth. You can “feel” flat. (if this doesn’t work for you may want to start with an eclipse type jig.)
—move the cutter forward and back until you get a fine edge. An edge of a consistent 1/32 is good for the first sharpening. This will get bigger (wider) with subsequent sharpenings.
—drag it across a strop on the back only. Keep it flat.
—Hit the stone with 2 or 3 more strokes. (I find ending on the back doesn’t give the best results)

If there is a cheaper or better approach, you’ll need to prove it to me.

So you need 1-wheel, 1-stone and an old leather belt. I’ve sharpened quit a few irons for others here and elsewhere. I’ve never heard “geez Don, not very sharp”

The rest is just marketing noise.
Note I’ve been through the market hype. I’ve bought grinders, waterstones, a full set of diamond stone etc, etc, etc. I’m just trying to save any one else from the frustration.

Edit: I should have noted, even fine sandpaper instead of a stone will work. I haven’t tried it, but its all the same.

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

View Planeman40's profile


1175 posts in 2757 days

#12 posted 12-27-2013 06:45 PM

One thing I have found that works wonders for sharpening router cutters and small items like pocket knives is a 1” dia. diamond-coated disc that fits a Dremel tool. Works fast and leaves a beautiful edge. Not quite a razor edge, but close. If you must have a razor edge, its back to the Arkansas stone & strop to finish out. Reduce the speed to do delicate sharpening. Harbor Freight often has them on sale and I occasionally buy some. They last a very long time but they do eventually wear out. I couldn’t do without them!


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View ColonelTravis's profile


1768 posts in 1890 days

#13 posted 12-27-2013 10:18 PM

Just got a hunk of leather to make a strop, thanks for the advice everyone.

Planeman – I’ve got some of those little diamond discs. Never thought about using them for router bits. Will that not change the cutting diameter?

View Planeman40's profile


1175 posts in 2757 days

#14 posted 12-27-2013 11:08 PM

No, not if you sharpen them on the INSIDE face of the bit. All router bits can be sharpened on the inside face and retain proper dimension. Also, the diamond discs will sharpen carbide bits and do a nice job of it.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1931 days

#15 posted 12-28-2013 12:43 AM

I might get burnt at the stake for saying this, but about 90% of my sharpening is just 20 strokes on the 325 DMT, 20 strokes on the 1200 DMT, 20 strokes on the strop. That method matches 20 minutes going from 1200 DMT to 4000 waterstone to 8000 waterstone. Stones are still necessary sometimes, but minor touch ups and resharpening can be done with the 325, 1200, strop method. And it takes about 2 minutes. You can watch Paul Sellers do it on youtube if you want to see a video.

Looks like you got the memo on the strop. A strop is the best sharpening tool you could ever have when paired with a $5 stick of green compound.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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