Work(shop) in Progress #17: Sharpening Station

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 10-28-2011 09:04 PM 10530 reads 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 16: Incra 998SE Miter Gauge Part 17 of Work(shop) in Progress series Part 18: Finally Took the Plunge (saw) »

When I started working with bladed tools (chisels/planes/etc) I wanted a sharpening system that was on the cheap, small and storable and versatile. I chose to start with the scary sharp, and used sand papers from 100grit (rough shaping and cleaning nicked blades) to 2500 for final honing and green compound for touch ups. I added the Veritas MK-II honing guide and was using it for reshaping/resestting blades and honing them through the grits.

While this method worked for the time I wanted something that was faster, and I wanted a system that would allow me to free myself from jigs and go freehand. Everything that I read suggested that hollow grinding was the way to accomplish that. A coincidence find on CL of a sheppach slow wet grinder some research to learn more about it and it’s acceptance among users and I followed along with a new setup. Since it’s a slow grinder I am not sure there is much benefit time wise as compared to scary-sharp or stones (difference between the later 2 is mostly the material of choice), but there is definitely an improvement in effort when running a batch of blades through it, and setup time is faster as well. The real benefit though is that it is creating a hollow grind on the bevel which when you then place the bevel on a flat surface simulates 2 feet (back of bevel, and front edge) that the bevel rests on which makes it easier to register the angle of the bevel on honing media and makes it more stable to run it across it for periodical honing and touch ups without the need to go back to the grinder AND you can do that freehand without much fuss.

I know some people like to touch up blades on extra fine stones (8000+) after using the wet sharpener, but I personally find that using the buffing wheel with the buffing paste leaves the best surface and mirror shine I could ever achieve – more so than using 12,000 sand paper on granite or green compound paste on MDF. I would like to try the diamond paste some suppliers offer at some point mostly for curiosity since my edges are as sharp as I could ask them to be.

I never had any issues with the scary sharp method and was getting good results with it, but I find that with the wet grinder I can get better results with less effort and then have a green compound block of MDF at the workbench I could touch them up with from time to time so it works very well for me.

The final setup (see picture):
1. Granite slab with sand papers and a set of diamond stones for lapping soles and backs of blades flat from rough to mirror finish

2. Variable Speed double grinder- to take off ALOT of material FAST. I use this mainly for 2 reasons. mainly for metal toolings, but also to dress up broken.chipped blades that would otherwise take forever on the wet grinder and also eat up too much of the wet grinder softer wheel

3. wet slow grinder for dressing up the bevels on cutting tools and honing/buffing them to a mirror finish (final)

I have it in the basement as this way I can work on it late nights as it has low noise levels, is warmer than the garage, and easier access to water and cleaning up afterwards, but this could just as well be done in the shop, as most of this can also be stored away and pulled out when needed (I mostly only do this when I get a new tool, or after a while when I need to reestablish an edge. not so much constant use)

Maybe this can give some folks ideas, or simplify the “sharpening scare” some might have. Bottom line and as many have said before me and many will say after – there are many methods to get sharp tools, and all are good. it all boils down to what works for each one. choose one, choose many and see which works best for you and stick to it.

Thanks for reading,

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

4 comments so far

View Cory's profile


760 posts in 4393 days

#1 posted 10-28-2011 09:25 PM

Thanks for posting this, Sharon. I have been using a Worksharp 3000 for all of my chisels and plane irons. It’s a really great tool for the standard bevel edge chisels and smaller plane irons. For the larger plane irons, mortise chisels, and skew chisels, though, I’ve been having some trouble getting the results I’m after.

Given that I keep all my stones and tools in an unheated garage, wet sharpening is out of the question. I’ve considered going to diamond stones and a Rob Cosman honing guide. I’ve read that after using that guide for a while you get used to the position of the blade in your fingers and you won’t need it. It’s like training wheels, I guess. Did you consider diamond stones?

-- The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

View b2rtch's profile


4921 posts in 4022 days

#2 posted 10-28-2011 09:32 PM

Sharon thank you for posting . I have a similar set up and it works well for me too.
I bought a Worksharp 3000 a while ago, I used it once and then never touched it again.

-- Bert

View PurpLev's profile


8642 posts in 4622 days

#3 posted 10-28-2011 09:37 PM

Cory, I didn’t think of blade thickness as an issue since my setup can handle anything of any size and shape, but this is something to consider as well. As for diamond stones if you’ll look at the pic and at #1 in my list I have a set of diamond stones. even the finest of them is still somewhat ‘rough’ and blades will still need to be honed on something with a finer grit. it does remove material pretty well though.

As for freehand sharpening – once you ‘get it’ you just get it. one thing that I found helpful was avoiding a back-and-forth motion as it tends to force you to rock you hand and not keeping a straight plane on the edge you are sharpening. instead just go movements towards you (or push away from you as long as you only go one way). and hole the bevel at an angle. after that – practice practice practice.

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

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 4169 days

#4 posted 10-29-2011 01:40 AM

Very nice setup Sharon.

I’d like to try wet stones some time, but for now my grinder and Worksharp 3000 will do.

I must say, even after going through all the grits I have on the WS3000, in order for the blades to easily shave hairs off my skin I have to use the leather wheel with buffing paste so I’d have to agree with you there on the buffing wheel getting the best finish. I really like the scary sharp method though for sharpening chisels and plane irons.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

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