Suggestions for a starter sharpening kit without wet mess

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 02-13-2014 05:19 PM 1957 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1900 days

02-13-2014 05:19 PM

I need to get my first sharpening set-up. I’m starting from zero – I don’t even have a grinder.

I want to be able to camber plane irons to an 8” radius, as suggested by Christopher Schwarz. I assume I need a grinder for this, but if it can be done with files and abrasives, please school me.

My space is going to be very small, so I want to keep it as tidy as possible to keep me from going nuts. And it does not have a sink. So I was originally thinking I would go with oilstones, because they don’t need a “pond” and because water on iron just seems like such a bad idea.

But it seems that most folks these days use waterstones. Is that because they do the job faster?

Incidentally, I’m not likely to be buying any fancy A2 steel tools.

Do waterstones and their “pond” have to me messy? Or can they be kept neat and tidy? I understand there is an alternative offered by the Shapton brand that doesn’t need soaking – just mist them and go. Is that a better alternative? Or should I stick with my original thought and get oil stones instead?

Can anyone make recommendations for a starter set? Extra bonus points for suggestions that don’t take up much space!

There is a Norton kit on Amazon for around $105 that includes:
100-grit silicon carbide stone for repairing
240-grit aluminum oxide stone for sharpening and maintaining, and
600-grit Arkansas (novaculite) stone for honing and polishing cutting edges


As you can see from these photos, all the stones on one holder, and are rotated.

21 replies so far

View 7Footer's profile


2569 posts in 2118 days

#1 posted 02-13-2014 05:31 PM

I’m still a total sharpening newb, but I bought this set and the footprint is pretty small, and you can contain any mess within the little box. This set was $75 when I bought them a few months ago and its $92 now, not sure why on the big increase. It has 325, 600 and 1200 mesh stones. Although I was also advised that I would need another even finer stone and a strop for a final edge (which I have since purchased, and made a homemade strop)...
It says you can use these either wet or dry, i prefer just a few drops of water though when I use them, but there is really not much mess at all.. Again I’m a newb but it seems like a pretty solid start set, that lasts a long time and you don’t have to flatten them.
DMT -Three 6-Inch Whetstone kit


View PurpLev's profile


8541 posts in 3818 days

#2 posted 02-13-2014 05:38 PM

get a grinder ;) will make those initial bevel settings, cambering, fixing nicks and such a less painful process.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18987 posts in 2737 days

#3 posted 02-13-2014 05:55 PM

All I use is a grinder and one hard Arkansas stone (and a strop) for almost all of my sharpening. You’ll want a stone in the 8000 range. 600 is not enough for real sharp.

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

View TraylorPark's profile


212 posts in 1768 days

#4 posted 02-13-2014 06:21 PM

I hollow my irons and blades on a bench grinder with a 100 grit blue wheel (Aluminum Oxide). Then I use wet/dry sandpaper on a pane of glass. I too am a newb, but it is working well for me and is stupid cheap until I get enough other tools to justify a sharpening purchase.

-- --Zach

View Don W's profile

Don W

18987 posts in 2737 days

#5 posted 02-13-2014 06:28 PM

Not a bad system TraylorPark. Stumble across a good fine stone and you’re all set.

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

View a1Jim's profile


117265 posts in 3747 days

#6 posted 02-13-2014 06:35 PM

The scary sharp method works fine with a low up front investment.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View lepelerin's profile


495 posts in 2494 days

#7 posted 02-13-2014 06:36 PM

You could use DMT “stones’, no mess, fast and will last a very long time. You might want to consider a sharpening guide

something like that

or something like that,43072,43078,51868

or you could use the scary sharp method. Do a search on this site and you will get a lot of ideas.

good luck.

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1900 days

#8 posted 02-13-2014 06:42 PM

Thanks all.

I don’t think I want to go with scary sharp. Would prefer stones.

View jordanp's profile


1086 posts in 2110 days

#9 posted 02-13-2014 06:47 PM

I’ve been using the scary sharp method for over a year now. it is cheap doesn’t create much of a mess either.

It is simply pieces of progressively finer grit wet/dry sand paper glued down to a piece of thick plate glass, with a small amount of oil or WD-40 applied to the sand paper.
Since i sharpen fairly regularly i start at around 600-1000 and go to 4k grit. I forced myself to do this freehand without a honing guide, to learn a skill and really get a tactile feel for the whole process. ( No regrets on that either )
I finish with a leather strop with some jewelers polish applied to it.

I know there are methods with better results, but when one of my blades comes off the strop i can shave hair with it.

As far as regrinding goes i would recommend getting a cheap grinder if your not going to be using it daily, then invest in some nice grinding wheels at a later date. There are lots of options on grinders for under $100

tip build a frame for your plate glass and hang it on the wall for storage. People will wonder if its strange modern art? or sharpening storage?

-- J. Palmer Woodworks - Rockwall TX -I woke up this morning thinking “man, I really hope someone posted some soul scarring sh*t on LJs today.” -- - Billy

View JayT's profile


5925 posts in 2380 days

#10 posted 02-13-2014 07:16 PM

Harvey, I use diamond plates for rough and fine and then finish on a waterstone. It works well and keeps mess to a minimum. The finer grit waterstones (6000 grit and higher) only need a spritz before using, so there is no soaking or water bath to worry about. Another alternative would be to use a strop. I strop to touch up a hone during use and use the waterstone when doing longer sharpening sessions.

But it seems that most folks these days use waterstones. Is that because they do the job faster?

Waterstones do cut fast and leave an excellent surface behind. They are a bit softer, so wear away to expose fresh grit as you use them. This means you have to flatten regularly, but my coarse diamond plate works well for flattening.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View waho6o9's profile


8473 posts in 2746 days

#11 posted 02-13-2014 07:40 PM

Enjoy a half hour of another way to sharpen blades and chisels…...

View mahdee's profile


4004 posts in 1937 days

#12 posted 02-13-2014 08:19 PM

Harvey, I am sure the picture is a group of stones for sharpening butcher knife. We had two of them in our restaurant and that is all we did with them. Too expensive for sharpening tools, IMHO.


View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2104 days

#13 posted 02-13-2014 08:34 PM

For about 75% of my sharpening, I don’t use traditional stones, I just go thru 325 and 1200 on my dmt daimond plate and then strop. Gives you a sharp edge, though some would argue it may not be quite as good of an edge as a traditional stone. A double sided dmt or the set that 7footer suggested above would be a decent starting point. Then you could make a strop for cheap, maybe $10 or $20. So you could have a pretty good setup for about $100, maybe a little more. The main time this setup wouldn’t be ideal would be when polishing backs of chisels. You’d need a high grit stone that was flat and hard (which is why a strop wouldn’t work).

These tips are by no means gospel truth, but that is my basic process. Also, I don’t have a grinder, and I have made it this far. I would put a grinder behind stones on the list of sharpening tools, though having one definitely wouldn’t hurt a bit.

If you are just getting into sharpening, watch Paul Sellers’ sharpening videos on youtube. He does a good job of demystifying the process. Just remember, sharpening isn’t about lighting incense and touching your nose and balancing on one leg while you hold the blade at 27.2 degrees and freehand a bevel. It is about two planes meeting at the smallest intersection possible, period. I think most LJs would agree that there are a million ways to sharpen and a lot of them work. There is no “best” way, there are lots of great ways, you just need to find the great way that works for you.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View ColonelTravis's profile


1907 posts in 2063 days

#14 posted 02-13-2014 08:53 PM

DMT Dia-Sharp coarse (only for primary bevel, it’s mostly for flattening)
Shapton Pro 1000
Kitayama 8000

Razors! Not messy.

Sharpening is an art and science and everyone has their favorite method. You really need to try them all to see which you prefer because there is no one perfect way.

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1900 days

#15 posted 02-13-2014 08:54 PM

waho6o9, at about 15:45 in that video he says don’t get a low angle block plane they are hard to sharpen. No explanation given. For me that rules this system out.

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