10,000 Hours #7: Sharpening

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Blog entry by LucasWoods posted 03-24-2015 03:01 PM 1713 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: It's been awhile Part 7 of 10,000 Hours series Part 8: Bench vice Installation, Finally!! »

00,007.5 / 10,000

So I have a hard copy of a sharpening book then I also checked out a book on my kindle called Hand Tool Essentials: Refine your power tool projects with hand tool techniques written by the editors of Fine Woodworking. Now I own all of 3 power tools (Scroll saw, Circ. Saw, Jig Saw) but this book has a lot of great information about hand tools that applies perfectly for me as a beginner. I read through different parts last night and a little bit today. Some things that stood out to me was you had to flatten the entire face of the chisel not just near the cutting edge. I can’t remember if I have heard this about plane irons or chisels about only needing to flatten the inch or two near the cutting edge. Anyways, I learned something. There is a lot of information that I learned in this book so far but the other takeaway is that Christopher Schwarz does not use a medium grit stone? He says in the book that a British craftsmen by the name of David Charlesworth sharpened about 100 edges without the medium grit stone and observed the edges with a 30X jewelers loupe and then put them to work. Christopher Schwarz was convinced that the fine grit waterstone cuts fast enough to polish your edge and remove the scratches left by the course grit stone. This is interesting to me I will have to do some more digging around on this and it will most likely save me a decent amount of $$.

Another thing that I need to look into is sandpaper sharpening. I do not have the $$ in my tool budget yet to buy waterstones so I am thinking of getting some sandpaper and either a flat piece of 12” by 12” tile or a small piece of granite. When I went to the store the highest grit I saw at Lowes was 400. I am not sure on if this is fine enough to sharpen my chisels just fine enough to get by until I can purchase those water stones.

If anyone does or has used the sandpaper method please post your setup here.

That is it for today. When I get off work I am going to be flattening the underside of my bench so I can attach my bench vice so wish me luck!

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

8 comments so far

View rtbrmb's profile


833 posts in 3676 days

#1 posted 03-24-2015 03:40 PM

In the past I used the “scary sharp” method using 1/4” plate glass & sandpaper attached to the glass by”spritzing” water on it. After using this method for a few years I recently switched to Shapton ceramic stones.

I have a small basement workshop and have a fulltime job & 2 kids-so shop time & space is at a premium. It seems that it just became a little time consuming to get the glass out & go through multiple grits to sharpen one of my plane blades. But this system does work. I also went through quite a bit of sandpaper – but I have also refurbished several old planes/blades. If you are looking for finer grit paper to get the shiny finish try your local auto parts store & the have wet/dry sandpaper into the thousands of grit.

Using the ceramic stones is quicker & takes up less space-but I understand your $ limitations. I was really guided to this system by Rob Cosman & The Wood Whisperer-they have videos on-line you can watch. The methods they show will have a nice edge on a tool & back to work in a matter of minutes.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

View LucasWoods's profile


448 posts in 2620 days

#2 posted 03-24-2015 04:04 PM

I will thank you. I will look those videos of the first chance I get.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View visualj's profile


36 posts in 2838 days

#3 posted 03-24-2015 04:27 PM

I also currently use the ‘scary sharp’ method. I just have a large flat piece of 1/4” glass that I got out of an OLD tv. I have it set up with five or six grits glued on with spray contact cement. I just pull out the whole thing and work my way across.

I will tell you, that once you have a tool sharp and polished, they are so much easier to use. And the results make it worth it.

View JayT's profile


6439 posts in 3498 days

#4 posted 03-24-2015 04:33 PM

I’ve used sandpaper. It works fine and is inexpensive to start with, though over the long term costs are higher than waterstones or diamond plates. That’s OK, upgrade one grit/stone at a time as you can. I’d start with the finest, as it will be used the most.

For finer grit sandpaper, try an auto parts store. They usually have up to 2000 grit wet/dry for body work. For chisels and plane irons, you will want to go up to at least 1500. 1500 sandpaper is about the same grit as a 6000 waterstone, 2000 is similar to an 8000 waterstone.

I don’t use a medium stone, either. Coarse, Fine and Superfine EZE laps, plus a strop—same setup that Paul Sellers uses and it works great.

I don’t know why someone would need to flatten the complete back of a chisel. I do the last inch or so and so do most others I know. What is the argument for doing the whole thing? Just seems like a waste of time and effort.

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

View LucasWoods's profile


448 posts in 2620 days

#5 posted 03-24-2015 06:42 PM

JayT In the article Christopher Schwarz say that, “for a chisel to work correctly, this surface must be flat. If you polish only near the cutting edge the chisel won’t cut true. When you guide your chisel on one surface to pare a mating surface, the tool will wander up or down depending on whether the face is convex or concave.”

that’s just what it said in the book. If only polishing and flattening the first couple of inches on your face works and you have not had problems then cool. I will try to do some googling and maybe Christopher explains a little bit more on why you should flatten the entire back.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 3082 days

#6 posted 03-28-2015 10:24 PM

Are you looking at waterstones because you want the speed of cutting ? Or because they’ve been recommended by someone ?

I used to use water stones, but I’ve switched to oil stones. I’ve found them to be less messy and less maintenance. And it’s about $120 for a medium/fine combo india stone and a black arkansas. Those two will get you to a workable edge on almost any tool. I strop on MDF with green compound, but that’s just for final polish. You can cut right off the black arkansas if you want.

Something to think about.

View LucasWoods's profile


448 posts in 2620 days

#7 posted 03-28-2015 10:27 PM

Thanks mykos I will think about it and do some more research.

-- Colorado Springs, CO - USAF

View ERICsoBAD's profile


9 posts in 2504 days

#8 posted 03-31-2015 09:45 AM

I have seen it a couple of places not just by Chris Schwarz that its better to flatten the entire back of your chisels. You don’t have to go to a polished finish apparently but the woodworking game is all about being plane and square right. I did it about a week ago and I sleep better at night.

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