The Scary Sharp Method

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Blog entry by CXD posted 04-02-2009 08:35 PM 1630 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I know its been beaten like a dead horse, but the scary sharp method sure is quick, easy, and cheap, especially for a beginner.

I got my first set of chisels today and, or course, they need to be sharpened. No fancy chisels here. The $30 set of 4 Irwin bench chisels. I set up my sandpaper 150, 320, 400, 600, 1000, and 1500 grit. The 400 through 1500 is wet/dry. I started flattening the back of the first chisel and was pretty skeptical. By the time I got done with the 1500 it was like a mirror, at least about a 1/2” of it was. I was pretty impressed to say the least. I flattened the backs of the rest of the chisels and switched out all the sandpaper. I don’t know if I really needed to do that the sandpaper didn’t feel all that bad, but I did anyway.

I used a honing guide for the 1/4”-3/4” chisels and went all the way through the grits and they are nice and sharp, I guess. I don’t have much to compare them too since I have never owned chisels before let alone sharpened any. I thought I would give free hand a try on the 1” chisel. It seemed to work just fine and feels just as sharp as the rest. There is no hair shaving going on, I think I need a little more practice before that happens. But, for a first time EVER sharpening ANYTHING the scary sharp method worked great. It took me about an hour and half to sharpen all 4 chisels. Should be considerably faster in the future.

I dug out a scrap of maple and just tried paring away a little with each size and it was pretty effortless. Now I just need to find out how long they keep their edge. I am going to try hand cutting some mortise and tenons to practice and get the feel for the chisels.

Wish me luck.


-- Oregon

7 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8551 posts in 4127 days

#1 posted 04-02-2009 09:09 PM

sounds like a winner!

initial shaping of the chisels does take longer, but with practice even that will take you much faster to accomplish (on future new chisels).

now that you have your chisels shaped properly – each time you want to hone them , you can go straight to the 1500+ grits since you do not need to sharpen them unless they chip/lose bevel for a while. should take you less than a minute per chisel.

To test your blade sharpness try this: pare the end grain of hard maple. if the chisels are sharp – you’ll end up with the cut grains having smooth glass surface – no tears/splinters/dull look – it’ll be shiny!

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

View Chris 's profile


1880 posts in 4470 days

#2 posted 04-02-2009 10:44 PM

It will definitely be quicker in the future… You should only have to flatten the backs once and unless you chip them or let them get really, really dull it’s just a touch up. I usually touch them up couple of times during use and right before i put them away

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View degoose's profile


7255 posts in 3833 days

#3 posted 04-02-2009 10:52 PM

I invested in the Veritas Mark II honing guide because it has a cam adjustment to change the angle by 1% to achieve the micro bevel. Works like a dream with the SSM


-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4240 days

#4 posted 04-02-2009 10:53 PM

Good work Dan. When I took the sharpening class at Highland Woodworking, our instructor, Jim Dillon, said that the sandpaper on glass was the least expensive and easiest way to get into sharpening – but was the most expensive method in the long run due to the cost of the sandpaper.

A good next step for you would be to invest in a set of water stones up through #8000 plus a nagura stone to create a slurry. This is how I keep chisels and plane irons sharp.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Frankie Talarico Jr.'s profile

Frankie Talarico Jr.

353 posts in 3835 days

#5 posted 04-03-2009 12:53 AM

As far as how often depends on how much you use them. Good practice is doing it a couple swipes everytime before you do something. This way will only take a few seconds and you can be sure they are always sharp. I havw those irwins and the steel is’nt as good as some name brand chisels. They do run dull rather quickly. If your not in a shop 24/7 those will be fine. Just give them a quick zip each use!

By the way I used the scary sharp method for a long time. I have had no problems…..ever

-- Live by what you believe, not what they want you to believe.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

968 posts in 3872 days

#6 posted 04-03-2009 01:35 AM

I have been using a set of Marples Blue handle for some time (same Irwin thing) , and I agree with getneds, the steel is not so good….. So, no matter how good the sharpening method is, the chisels do not hold the sharp edge as other high quality chisels.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Karson's profile


35197 posts in 4879 days

#7 posted 04-03-2009 02:40 AM

Welcome to the slippery slope of sandpaper.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

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