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Sharpening a hand plane blade

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Forum topic by webguy posted 07-24-2014 09:46 PM 1273 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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webguy

8 posts in 247 days


07-24-2014 09:46 PM

I am frustrated. I recently purchased a Buck Bros. hand plane. The blade was not real sharp, so I ordered Rockler’s sand paper sharpening kit with the honing guide. I have worn out my hands runing the blade in the honing guide over 600 grit to 2000 grit paper with no noticeable results.

Any advice?


38 replies so far

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12300 posts in 2822 days


#1 posted 07-24-2014 10:01 PM

What do you mean by “no noticeable results”? Not cutting better? Sand paper not cutting the blade?

Depending on how bad the blade is you might need to start with a lower grit.

Did you start by flattening the back of the blade?

Can you take photos of both sides of the blade?

Are you sure you have a sharpness issue and not a plane tuning issue?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Richard Hillius's profile

Richard Hillius

146 posts in 405 days


#2 posted 07-24-2014 10:05 PM

Run a sharpie line down the bevel side of the iron on the tip and run it over the sandpaper a few times to see if it’s disappearing. If you are hitting the bevel and the back is even mostly flat you should feel a burr on the back of the iron especially at 600 grit. If you are not hitting the tip increase the bevel angle a few degrees until you do.

With a Buck Bros. iron more likely than not the back of it is not flat. You can use the same sharpie trick on the back to see just how bad it is but if it’s terribly twisted or back beveled you might want to try the ruler trick where you take a thin ruler and lay the back of the iron on it so you are only flattening the very tip of the iron. I would never do that to good irons but that might be the best way to get a flat back on this guy. 600 Grit is a bit fine for major steel removal to. Maybe drop down to a rougher grit sandpaper to remove steel faster.

Also don’t forget to tune the chip breaker. They can be horribly out of flat.

View shampeon's profile

shampeon

1378 posts in 908 days


#3 posted 07-24-2014 10:22 PM

Ok, first off, you sound like you’re just getting into hand tools, so welcome! It’s very rewarding, but, like riding a bike, takes some time to get the hang of.

Sharpening is super important. But if you don’t have the technique and procedure down, it can be very frustrating.

I would start off by getting some lower grit sandpaper. Assuming the primary bevel of the blade is in decent shape, start off with 120 grit on a very flat surface. This could be a granite tile, a piece of glass, a table saw top, or even a flat piece of very flat plywood. Put the blade in the honing guide so that the bevel rests flat against the flat surface. Now, take a marker like a Sharpie and color the bevel. Your goal is to remove all the marker ink on the bevel with the 120 grit sandpaper. This is a very important step, and sets the stage for all the other grits.

Once that is done, put on some 220 grit paper and remove all the scratches on the bevel from the 120 grit paper. At this point the bevel is set, you are simply polishing the edge by removing scratch marks. Go from 220 to 400, removing the scratches.

At this point, you should move on to flattening the back of the blade. This is very, very important, as a flat back ensures that your bevel edge stays sharp. Take your marker and draw a line on the back at the edge of the blade, and then draw a couple cross lines down an inch below the edge. Go back to your 120 grit paper and, keeping only the inch or so of blade on the sandpaper, move the blade back and forth until the marker is removed. You have to keep an even, firm pressure on the blade as you do this, and don’t rock it. It should be flat against the sandpaper for the inch you are working on.

Once the marks are gone, move on to 220, 400, 600, 1000, and 2000 grit, removing the scratch marks from the previous grit at each stage. The inch you’re working on should be a mirror at this point. If you do this right, you won’t have to flatten the back again for years.

Put the honing guide back on the blade, set it to sit flat on the bevel, and go back to 400 grit paper, then 600, 1000, and 2000. Turn the blade over and lightly swipe the back of the blade on the 2000 grit to remove the wire edge you created when you sharpened the bevel. You should now have a very, very sharp blade all the way across.

You can rehone the blade on the 2000 grit paper periodically, with a quick swipe on the back to remove the wire edge. This will keep the blade sharp. If it gets very dull, go back to 400 grit paper and sharpen the bevel up to 2000 again. A nick in the blade will require resetting the bevel with 120 grit to completely remove the nick.

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

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

976 posts in 660 days


#4 posted 07-24-2014 10:41 PM

The guys above hit the nail on the head. But for sure you need to start at a lower grit.

Cheap plane blades are typically a HUGE pain to flatten the backs of. As in 2 or 3 hours with 100 grit. I might be out of line here, but my experience has been that more expensive blades such as IBC pinnacle, Lie Nielsen, and Hock all are very close to flat and don’t take long to flatten the backs of, so you could consider that, but it sounds like you are just getting into this and may not want to dish out all that cash. You could also try the ruler trick so that you don’t have to flatten acres of steel on the backside of the blade.

Now I will preach to you a little. The first few times I sharpened, I almost quit woodworking. It literally is a total freaking complete mystery the first month or two. Then you find your groove and figure out how to do it. From there, it should be easy. Stick with it. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it takes me less than 5% of the time to sharpen now as it used to. Literally. So don’t quit. Sharpness is as important as we all are saying.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

5202 posts in 1302 days


#5 posted 07-24-2014 10:44 PM

” It literally is a total freaking complete mystery the first month or two. Then you find your groove and figure out how to do it. From there, it should be easy. Stick with it. It is not an exaggeration when I say that it takes me less than 5% of the time to sharpen now as it used to. Literally. So don’t quit. Sharpness is as important as we all are saying.”

Well stated ^ and so true it’s almost Biblical.

View Don W's profile

Don W

15434 posts in 1292 days


#6 posted 07-24-2014 11:27 PM

All excellent advice so far, and its hard to know what sharp is until you find it, BUT, are you sure the problem is sharp? You bought a plane that’s going to need some tuning (ok, not some maybe a lot) beyond making the cutter sharp. I would never recommend a Buck Bros as a first plane. Its like handing someone who’s never shot a rifle before, one with a bent barrel and saying, site this in.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12300 posts in 2822 days


#7 posted 07-24-2014 11:39 PM

I agree with Don, you may want to try a vintage plane. Something different than what you have. Perhaps a pre-WW2 Stanley #4 or a 9 1/2 or a 60 1/2 block plane depending on what you already have.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View sweetwilliam's profile

sweetwilliam

3 posts in 127 days


#8 posted 07-25-2014 03:37 AM

The best thing you can do as a new woodworker is put that Buck Brothers on a shelf somewhere and move on to a better tool. The work it will take to get it usable will break you of the will to woodwork. If you’re going to pour that much time into a tool, at least it should be a nice vintage plane that you’ll be happy with and that will have a better chance of holding its settings.

The advice above on getting a sharp edge is spot on. Use the sharpie and see where you’re working. An edge isn’t the bevel (as I thought when I first started) but the microscopic meeting of the bevel angle and the back of the plane. That’s what you’re working. If those two planes don’t meet perfectly you don’t have a sharp edge. You’ll know it when you get it.

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

7334 posts in 1408 days


#9 posted 07-25-2014 03:55 AM

Have had that BB #5 Jack plane….not that great, but can be a good user, IF you have a weekend to tune it up.

There is a BB iron and chip breaker sitting on my bench, awaiting assignment. Parted out a Frankenplane, and the cutter part is still here. I flattened the back of that iron first. Then worked on the bevel. Back was flattened first to five a better idea of how the bevel would need work to be sharpened up. Placed into a tuned up #5, it did get see-through shavings. A $3 blade, and a spare chipbreaker…..

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

View webguy's profile

webguy

8 posts in 247 days


#10 posted 07-25-2014 01:51 PM

Thanks for all the advice. I went and got some lower grit paper.Let’s see what happens. Although it amazes me that a new blade would need to go to that length to sharpen.

View Don W's profile

Don W

15434 posts in 1292 days


#11 posted 07-25-2014 02:00 PM

IMHO going lower then 2000 grit isn’t going to buy you a lot. Maybe you could explain what’s happening a little better. Even some pictures would help.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Ripthorn's profile

Ripthorn

790 posts in 1710 days


#12 posted 07-25-2014 02:05 PM

A blade in a plane like that new is more of a kit piece. They form it at the factory, but that is it, they only mill or grind it in roughly because it is faster and cheaper than actually sharpening it. It’s all about saving a few cents here and there. It should not be all that amazing in our current economy, unfortunately.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

7334 posts in 1408 days


#13 posted 07-25-2014 05:11 PM

My Buck Brothers #5

Yep, it can be made to work, as a jack plane. I just didn’t care for that style of cap iron. On those BB irons, flatten the back FIRST, then check to see IF the bevel needs to be reground. Then sharpen the bevel up.

With the way the Dungeon Shop is set up: Grinder has a jig, set to 35 degrees to the wheel, with a cup of water near by. Mainly to re-do a badly ground edge, or get rid of chipouts. Next:

Belt sander set up in a vise with the belt on top, direction of rotation is away from me. Honing guide set to 25 degrees. Hold a couple fingertips down near the bevel’s edge. When fingertips say they are getting too hot, dunk the iron in that cup of water. Next

I have a 12×12 floor tile, as smooth as I can find. Sandpaper is glued down to it. First, an oilstone sits on the coarser of the papers. Mine is two grits. Honing guide still on the iron. Hone with both grits, with a few drops of 3in1 oil. Wipe off the iron before changing to the finer grit. Next

Sandpaper is wet&dry 1000 grit, 1500 grit and 2000 grit. I do not go past 2000 grit. Nothing fancy to this set up. Might take 20 minutes to do. One tip: The back of the iron can rest on the beltsander’s belt as it is turning. Polishes the back a bit. The same with the oil stone.

Belt is either a 100 or 120 grit. Helps a bit IF it is worn down a bit. I turn the sander “On”, and lock it on. Someone else might just leave the sander off. Just takes awhile longer that ways.

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

View ejvc's profile

ejvc

107 posts in 685 days


#14 posted 07-25-2014 05:46 PM

As someone who just properly sharpened her first hand plane – I totally agree with the above in terms of it just suddenly getting much easier, and for no apparent reason. You just suddenly “get it”. The sharpie trick helped me. But so did moving from sandpaper to sharpening stones.

-- Building stuff with my daughter (6). Pretty new to woodworking, I mostly sew...

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

5202 posts in 1302 days


#15 posted 07-25-2014 06:09 PM

Stropping after sharpening stones works well and makes

for a sharp edge.

MDF + green honing compound = a good strop set up

or

Leather + green honing compound = a good strop set up

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