My New Cheaper-Faster-Stronger Sharpening System and Station

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Blog entry by Brad posted 08-23-2015 08:15 PM 3089 reads 3 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I first got into woodworking, I bought some Norton water stones. They were messy, required constant flattening and I never did get good results with them.

So I went with the Scary Sharp (SS) method. And very quickly, I got consistent, shave-hair-off-my-arm results. It’s true that SS isn’t as messy as the water stones. But, over time, it is more expensive to feed the sandpaper beast. Sandpaper on substrate doesn’t hold up well, tearing easily and requiring frequent replacement.

So after watching Paul Sellers’ How to sharpen chisels using diamond stones, I decided to switch to a cheaper—over time—sharpening system.

Besides saving money, I figured it would help me accomplish two more goals.

Goal #1: Eliminate sharpening system clutter.
Here was my previous setup.

So to create a more compact system I got four EZE-LAP diamond plates in 250 (81-C), 400 (81-M), 600 (81-F) and 1200 (81-SF) grits. And to keep my sharpening space tidy, I followed Seller’s lead to build a holder for the plates.

I tweaked his design a bit by adding two more “spaces”—one for an additional diamond plate and one for a strop. For the strop, I crafted a pine board 3” x 8” x 3/8”, and epoxied some leather to it. I also spray painted the surfaces with polyurethane to keep the MDF holder looking clean. Rubber bumpers on the bottom corners keep the holder fixed in use. Numbers mark the grits for ease of reference.

After routing out the recesses, I used clear silicon caulking to affix the plates. For the strop, I cut the recess to just fit the pine “plate” so that I could remove it if I wanted to. I find that I use the coarsest (250) and finest (1200) grits the most and wanted to have access to one, unobstructed side for each should I use them to flatten things like chisels.

Now while the overall linear space of my system is 3” longer than my SS setup, everything is in a compact, clutterless holder. And with the strop docked in the holder, I don’t waste time looking about for my hand-held model.

Goal #2: Reduce time spent sharpening.
Paul advocates a freehand sharpening system. For years I obsessed about angles, jigs and microbevels. For me, all that obsessing and jig setup took a lot of time. By adopting Paul’s sharpening method, I’ve significantly reduced the time I spend sharpening a chisel or plane iron. And that’s given me a few more benefits.

—Bonus Benefit #1: Because it takes less time to sharpen, I do it more often and no longer view sharpening as a chore.

—Bonus Benefit #2: As fast as sharpening is, “touching up” a bevel is even faster. So I can touch up a chisel and be working again in under a minute. That’s not something I ever did before.

—Bonus Benefit #3: My attention has been refocused on woodworking. Sharpening is an essential skill and we all have to do it. But my former methods consumed a lot of time—flattening stones, removing sandpaper, scraping off sandpaper adhesive, putting the tool in a sharpening jig and on and on. Now I have more time and mental focus to apply to my woodworking.

—Super-Bonus-Benefit: Sellers advocates the use of a convex bevel versus a micro bevel on chisels and irons. He argues that it’s both faster to sharpen and the edge lasts longer. My personal experience since adopting the convex bevel confirms this.

For years, I was disappointed in how quickly micro-bevels dulled. So much so that I abandoned it in favor of a full-faced bevel. However, sharpening a full-faced bevel takes a lot of time and effort, especially if there’s a nick to take out. So I tried the convex bevel and have found that the edge lasts longer for sure. And it’s faster to create in the first place.

Cheaper, faster, stronger, tidy. Just four good reasons that I like my new sharpening system.

© 2015, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.


-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

9 comments so far

View Grumpymike's profile


2497 posts in 3552 days

#1 posted 08-23-2015 09:23 PM

I have to agree with you that Paul Sellers is the GURU of sharpening, along with many other traits in wood working how to do’s.
If you watch any of the great wood artists they all free hand the chisels and blades.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View waho6o9's profile


9064 posts in 3814 days

#2 posted 08-23-2015 10:36 PM

That’s awesome Brad, good job!

View Brit's profile


8431 posts in 4080 days

#3 posted 08-24-2015 06:47 AM

Very nice Brad. I use the same stones. I opted not to put them in a holder though as sometimes I like to take the stone to the tool rather than the other way around.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brad's profile


1147 posts in 3977 days

#4 posted 08-24-2015 01:53 PM

Interesting Andy. I’ve never done that. By the way, how is your shop build coming along? I’m excited for you.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 2414 days

#5 posted 08-24-2015 02:45 PM

Looks like a nice improvement. I also switched from oil stones to diamond. I choosed the double sided stones to keep the number down.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 3199 days

#6 posted 08-24-2015 10:57 PM

That’s a nice idea including space for the strop. I also like to take the stone to the tool, particularly on drawknives, and I use the edges a fair amount for flattening. Adding the space for each stone and a spot to lift it out with your thumb should work fine without adhesive. I think it would hold well and still let it come out easily enough.

View Brit's profile


8431 posts in 4080 days

#7 posted 08-24-2015 11:03 PM

Shop is coming on slowly Brad. I was painting the inside of the windows at the weekend. I’ve got some DIY to do on the house though, so progress will be a bit slower this year I’m afraid.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4041 days

#8 posted 08-27-2015 12:10 AM

Try doing a final hone with some tripoli or something else that is a fine polish, on a piece of cardboard from a cereal box (the inside of course). You will not believe what just a few swipes will do to your newly sharpened edge.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Brad's profile


1147 posts in 3977 days

#9 posted 09-10-2015 01:21 AM

Roger, never tried that before. Currently, I’m getting shave-hair-off-my arm results. I’m thinking that your final hone would be nice on my smoothing planes.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

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