I seem to lack the sharpening mojo

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Forum topic by JohnnyBoy1981 posted 04-29-2017 08:20 PM 1983 views 1 time favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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235 posts in 1353 days

04-29-2017 08:20 PM

Topic tags/keywords: oil stones sharpening india stone

I’m trying​ to settle into a good plane iron and chisel sharpening technique without much luck. I’ve read in a few places that when you’re new, pick a method and stick with it so you learn its nuances.

I have an ACE hardware combo corborundum stone, a combo India stone, and a combo soft/hard Arkansas stone.

I’m trying to reestablish the primary bevels on several irons using the corborundum coarse stone to start (because I think it’s the coarsest of all my stones) and a Veritas Mk II jig. The process has been frustratingly slow. Several of my irons are A2, which is quite resistant to sharpening on my stones. The others are old irons from ‘40’s-’60’s, made of thinner metal, and even those take a long time to sharpen. Several of them have nicks at the edge, and after grinding down most of the bevel, I can’t touch those knicks (using my jig). Using a permanent marker, I color in the bevel, and the nicked areas always retain the marker color.

I know oilstones are slow to sharpen but am I doing something wrong? The corundum stone wasn’t pre-oiled so I soaked it in Smith’s honing oil. The Norton India came presoaked (I still apply a light coat of honing oil while sharpening). Do you push down hard while sharpening with oil stones?

38 replies so far

View curliejones's profile


188 posts in 3182 days

#1 posted 04-29-2017 09:20 PM

JB, I started with hand tools just recently and after reading volumes on sharpening I chose the “scary sharp method”. I’m very conservative with my moola and although the long term economy is suspect, it is cheap to get started. I have interests other than woodworking and I’m not sure how much “hand work” I’m up for. Most of my woodworking experience is with power tools and I feel the attraction of hand work, but I’m of the school where you put your toe in first. I built a hand tool jointer’s bench and have not really started anything big since (a few months). It is not a lack of interest, but spring brings on many chores that must be done to maintain the old house, garden, and several acres of landscaping that I choose to also make a part of my life. Summers in the Gulf South are a beast for any heavy work outside.
Over the last 24 months I completed a new workshop and “found” a good array of hand tools at good prices. Just planning my way, taking my time. I’ve refurbished about 7 planes and a few chisels and I’m very happy with Scary Sharp. I use a piece of plate glass, a honing guide, a mechanical angle finder (compass), and a variety of grits from 60 to 1200. I mostly use 150, 400, 800, 1200 black auto paper by 3M. I subscribe to the Paul Sellers school of thought that anything further than 1200 is simply unnecessary. I think the main attributes of scary sharp is that, as a beginner, you referencing to a very flat surface (plate glass or marble tile). The honing guide helps the novice to keep square across the plane iron or chisel width. I did invest in some green honing compound that I use on leather for finishing off the process. I have been very happy with touching up a few of the plane irons after a fair amount of use building my jointer’s bench. Once you get them good and sharp, returning them to that state after some use is easy. Good luck with the stones, but I’ll wait and see if I spend a lot of time in the shop; at that point my choice would probably be two diamond plates.
You may get thousands of replies with a variety of methods to this query. Sharpening is a major attraction, it seems. I like the simplicity and low initial investment of scary sharp. Others have different tastes and circumstances that led them down their individual path.

-- Like Guy Clark sez - "Sometimes I use my head, Sometimes I get a bigger hammer"

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile


235 posts in 1353 days

#2 posted 04-29-2017 09:38 PM

Thanks Curlie!

I had started with the scary sharp method too, and it works great. I began looking into alternatives when I realized how fast I was going through sandpaper (I was also using it to flatten old plane soles, so that likely contributed to me going through so much of it). I started looking at bench stones for what would (hopefully) less of a monetary commitment outside of the initial cost and periodically buying honing oil.

View diverlloyd's profile


4029 posts in 2773 days

#3 posted 04-29-2017 10:34 PM

I use 60 grit on a piece of marble to flatten the backs and establish a new angle. Then on to the stones.

View them700project's profile


272 posts in 1934 days

#4 posted 04-30-2017 12:33 AM

I started with dmt duosharps out to 1200 and scary sharp after that but the transition didn’t work to my liking. It was possible that it was my shortcomings. I switched to using the duosharps for major changes and Stones (1000,3000,5000) then films (3, 1, 0.3 micron). I like this setup much better.

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2911 days

#5 posted 04-30-2017 01:34 AM

Re-establishing a bevel is a ton of work. I was doing it with 80grip paper, because even an extra coarse diamond stone was taking too long. I broke down and bought the grizzly Tormek knock off when it was on sale. It is much faster for this purpose, though I still use stones for actual sharpening.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Loren's profile


10788 posts in 4563 days

#6 posted 04-30-2017 01:47 AM

View Loren's profile


10788 posts in 4563 days

#7 posted 04-30-2017 01:49 AM

I don’t have a coarse stone. I use a white wheel
on a bench grinder to hollow grind the bevels
after squaring-up the iron or chisel. With a
hollow grind there’s somewhat less material
needing removal to get the edge to the point
where you’re actually sharpening.

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile


235 posts in 1353 days

#8 posted 04-30-2017 02:22 AM

That 220 grit SunTiger stone looks like it would do the job.

No love for oilstones or Arkansas stones?

View Loren's profile


10788 posts in 4563 days

#9 posted 04-30-2017 02:36 AM

I have waterstones. It’s what I know. I have
a silicone carbide oilstone but I don’t use it
much. Even though it’s fairly coarse it’s just
not very aggressive. You can get to sharp
enough with water or oil obviously. In my dry
climate I don’t have a problem with tool rust
and the water doesn’t bother me for that reason
I suppose. Japan is pretty humid though, they
must have ways to work around the flash rust

The thing about waterstones is the abrasives
are suspended in a soft clay binder and it wears
away a lot quicker than oil stones wear but also
exposes a lot of fresh abrasive. The coarse Japan
stones may be silicone carbide just like a cheap
combo oil stone but I imagine they cut a lot

All stones seem to me prone to glazing and clogging
with metal swarf. With the water stones it’s fairly
easy to clean it off but with oil stones I don’t
know how.

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2402 days

#10 posted 04-30-2017 02:49 AM

I’ve used a metal brush to clean the oil stone I had before I got into paper and then water stones.

I helped a friend set up his new veritas plane with his new shapton pro water stones. They remove some metal. I was sold.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Kelly's profile (online now)


3161 posts in 3860 days

#11 posted 04-30-2017 05:17 AM

I was doing “Scary Sharp” before the Net made it known. So were thousands of others, because it makes sense (most of us have a flat surface and a lot of sandpaper), and it works. It removes metal and that’s all we need to get the job done.

With a good jig, how can the problem be a change in angle? Could it be the stones have not been ground flat, after significant use? I have water stones out the ying yang and have to make them flat again, on occasion. If you can’t be sure EACH of the stones are the same, maybe you need to change stones (back to the scary sharp shtuff).

Now days, I have an array of methods that get me to Rome, as it were. Still, a few things remain fact: If you move your edge a degree or two in the course of sharpening it, you just set yourself back to go, or near it. As such, using your jig is a must. But, double check everything, to make sure you aren’t undoing what you just did by shifting or allowing a shifting of the angle even a degree.

All this said, work through the grits, just like you were sanding a piece of rough wood. Don’t skimp. It will, actually, be quicker.
RANT: People can spout the muscle memory stuff all day long. If you do only one thing, that might work, if that is your [one or two] talent. However, if you sharpen chisels, mower blades, planer blades, pocket or kitchen (different angles) knives, lathe knives or planer blades, I challenge you to claim you are the muscle memory king. Said another way, we are back to the jig.

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1664 days

#12 posted 04-30-2017 09:28 PM

If I was going to put an edge on several plane irons, I’d use a slow speed grinder (white 120 grit wheel) and the Veritas grinder tool rest (which is great to have). Once I had the nice hollow ground edge that the tool rest helps provide, then I go to diamond plates and my Veritas honing guide and finalize with a black hard Arkansas stone and leather strop with yellow compound. It sounds more complicated than it really is.

View JohnnyBoy1981's profile


235 posts in 1353 days

#13 posted 05-01-2017 12:43 AM

With the exception of staying flat longer, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot going for oilstones. All the other options are faster and not as messy (except waterstones). Oil stones and Arkansas stones seem kind of antiquated. No offense if you use them, of course.

View JayT's profile


6414 posts in 3127 days

#14 posted 05-01-2017 01:37 AM

My take is that all sharpening systems work and all have pros and cons. The trick is to match those pros and cons to your tools, environment and workflow. Oil stones can work well, but are not the best choice for harder to sharpen steel, such as A2, which you have found out.

Sharpening is just like any other woodworking skill—it takes time and practice to become proficient. Is there any way you can get some sharpening help/advice from another woodworker in your area or at a clinic at a woodworking store. Once you get the basics down, you’ll at least be able to use your tools and then things will improve even more as your sharpening skills get better.

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

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1664 days

#15 posted 05-01-2017 01:41 AM

Years ago I bought some high dollar oil stones off of a woodworking buddy that had gone on to water stones. I used them for a while and then moved on to diamond plates. A couple of months ago I pulled the hard black Arkansas off the shelf and tried it for a final polish. It made a difference, so I stuck with it. Other than that, I have little use for Oil stones any more.

showing 1 through 15 of 38 replies

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