Messed up chisels: Or how I learned to stop worrying and Love the grinder

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Blog entry by marcb posted 04-11-2009 09:39 PM 2285 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I picked up a couple old chisels recently and last weekend got off my butt and for the first time used the power grinder to get an initial angle on them.

I’m an old woodworking machine guy, but I have a newish little Craftsman grinder. I don’t have any fancy white wheels a nice stand with a cup for quenching or a super deluxe tool rest. I just plugged it in and got to work. This is the first time I ever ground an edge on a power tool of any kind. So if I can do it, anyone can do it.

First off, you set the angle and depth of the tool rest. I used a good chisel to do that quickly and easily Just put the angle on the wheel and made the tool rest line up with the rest of the chisel. Once thats done you leave it, i now understand why some guys I talk to have 6 grinders.

I used the fine side to blunt the edge prior to using the coarse side to grind the bevel. This made sure that I could tell how close I was, and gave me a couple test shots prior to getting thin (and being easy to burn)

Last hint is to use one of those star dressers to make sure the wheel is flat.

When grinding the bevel push the edge towards the wheel, don’t try to set it down near the wheel.

Grind for only a few seconds, then pull the tool away. I set the metal on my drill press table to act as a heat sink instead of quenching (I didn’t go into the shop expecting to do this, so I didn’t bring water). This worked really well and I didn’t have much in the way of burning issues (except the time that I did, and learned from that, 3 seconds or so max each push into the grinder.)

Now look at the edge. I also kept a little machinist square near by to check to make sure the edge was square to the sides, If not I lead in a little differently and just grind away what is too much. I managed to get my chisels nice and square so its doable, just think then act.

Keep evaluating the edge, as you get closer and closer to grinding a sharp edge you need to be more and more cautious about the amount of time spent on the wheel. This is where you can loose temper and need to start over.

Once a full bevel is created, and the edge is very thin you will move onto the actual sharpening steps. Do not move on until you create a wire burr across the entire cutting edge. If you do it will take a LOT longer at the stones or whatever you use.

It is really that easy, you don’t need special guides or anything to get a clean square cutting face ground to a good angle. I was personally amazed that I did it, and have done it more than a few times since. Each chisel I’ve done this too have been honed to a razors edge that take end grain shavings with little effort.

Have fun, and stop worrying.

4 comments so far

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4800 days

#1 posted 04-11-2009 11:06 PM

Get yourself Mike darlows dvd’s on sharpening tools it contains a lot more. Maybe from the library if you don’t want to purchase them but they can be had on ebay quite reasonably. They are fantastic for learning to sharpen chisels of all kinds hope this hel;ps Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 5030 days

#2 posted 04-12-2009 02:27 AM

That’s pretty timely. My wife recently bought me an Craftsman grinder. She overheard me talking about needing to grind lawn mower blades and spin polishing wheels and such. Maybe I’ll give it a try (on my old Craftsman chisels)

-- Scott - Chico California

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5615 days

#3 posted 04-12-2009 03:27 AM

Gotta get them sharp, so you can use them. A sharp chisel is a dream to use. You can cut end grain with only a light push.

A dull chisel is an unsafe tool.

-- 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]

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22126 posts in 4890 days

#4 posted 04-12-2009 05:55 AM

Karson hit the nail on the head. Ya gotta be a sharpener to be a wood worker :-)) sounds like you got the hang of it pretty quickly marcb. One of the things i was taught in Ag in high school is to hand sharpen drill bits. One of the greatest things I ever learned. Most people are quite amazed when they see how easy it is to do. They are very easy to burn, so bring lots of water :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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