I just purchased an assortment of chisels, need sharpening advice

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Forum topic by Michael posted 04-30-2018 11:32 PM 2664 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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48 posts in 672 days

04-30-2018 11:32 PM

I just got into woodworking in the last year, and have found using hand tools much more enjoyable. Most of my hand tools are cheap intro pieces from Harbor Freight. As I replace them I’ll buy better ones.

I picked up a lot of chisels and planer blades at a flea market a couple of weeks ago. They can be seen here:

They’ve been cleaned off, however I need to get them sharpened. There is a Makita 9820-2 sharpener on Craigslist for $100. However most of the videos I have watched on sharpening chisels involve doing it by hand.

Is there a suggested route for beginners? A slow grinder vs. a wet stone?

Thanks for any advice.

9 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


5605 posts in 2957 days

#1 posted 05-01-2018 01:21 AM

The three stages to sharpening are; grinding, honing and polishing. Grinding is done on the wheel, honing is generally done by hand with stones or sand paper, polishing is done with a leather strop of some sort. There are many different systems for sharpening, pick one and stick with it until you’ve mastered it.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4253 days

#2 posted 05-01-2018 02:07 AM

Makitas are terrific sharpeners. They work
really well on planer and jointer blades. On
hand tools they work well too but they throw
dirty water around so be prepared for a mess.

Various users have concocted shields to limit
the mess. Look around online and you may
find some pictures of setups.

The standard red wheel is about 1000 grit, which
is sharp enough for chisels and plane irons but
the edges hold up better if they are honed or
stropped with a finer grit, imo.

You’ll carve up the stone on the Makita sharpening
curved edge tools like gouges on it.

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2567 days

#3 posted 05-01-2018 12:55 PM

The only thing I would add to Bondo’s post is the flattening stage. You need the side that’s not the bevel to be flat so that the bevel and the flat meet at as perfect an edge as possible. Only the last inch or less needs to be flattened so it’s usually done by hand on sandpaper or a stone. Also I agree you’ll see lots of different sharpening methods. Sandpaper, waterstones, oil stones, diamond, ceramic, etc. All of them can be made to work very well so stick with one until you master it.

View jonah's profile


2092 posts in 3904 days

#4 posted 05-01-2018 01:47 PM

When it comes to grinding a damaged chisel to set the bevel, there are really two options: a grinder (preferably slow speed and/or wet) or coarse sandpaper attached to a flat surface (plate glass, granite tile, cutoff from a stone countertop, etc). Grinders are faster but risk ruining the steel with too much heat. Sandpaper is cheaper but more labor intensive.

After setting the bevel, hone and flatten the chisel with waterstones, oil stones, or diamond plates. All work well.

Finally, do your final polish with a leather strop and some green polishing compound.

View Michael's profile


48 posts in 672 days

#5 posted 05-01-2018 02:17 PM

Thanks guys, that was really helpful.

For the time being I’m going to pick up some coarse sand paper and sharpen them by hand. The wet stone grinder I was looking at sold (damn!), but I’m going to keep an eye out in the future.

I think my shopping list currently consists of a leather strop & polishing compound.

Is there a lubricating medium to use when repairing damaged chisels on coarse sand paper? Or is it even needed?

Thanks again!

View Robert's profile


3600 posts in 2086 days

#6 posted 05-01-2018 02:47 PM


You can certainly use sandpaper just be sure you have a perfectly flat surface to work against. I always urge beginners to learn to sharpen freehand and just have a bench grinder for hollow grinding, regrinding angles or fixing the worst of damages that can occur.

I use a combination of diamond and water stones. I use the diamond plates in the coarser grits (up to 1250) and the water stones for polishing (up to 12,000)

Keep in mind the grits for sandpaper, diamond and water stones do not equate ie, 4000 grit sandpaper is not the same as a water stone.

That being said, I really have to recommend against starting out with chisels like this because very likely they will require tons of work getting the backs flattened, and if this is the case, I can guarantee your level of frustration will peak after spending 2 hours on one chisel. You’ve also got handles to deal with. I think the first group are proabably for wood planes.

My suggestion is start out with a decent quality set like Narex or Irwin Marples. For $50-70 price range you really can’t go wrong. Yes, they will still require some work getting the backs flat, but they will get you to ww’ing a whole lot faster than rehabbing old tools like this.

If that’s what you want to do fine, just be prepared for a lot of work getting them ready.

Just my opinion…..

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View OSU55's profile


2503 posts in 2595 days

#7 posted 05-01-2018 03:58 PM

For chisels and plane blades, flatten the back, grind the bevel, hone the bevel, hone the back. Many ways to do it. Here is mine, using fiber optic polishing film.

View Planeman40's profile


1472 posts in 3366 days

#8 posted 05-01-2018 07:35 PM

Let me give you some advice from an old codger who has been at this for 60+ years.

1. I view sharpening as divided into two parts, (1) shaping the edge, (2) sharpening the edge.

2. Shaping the edge is rough work that can be done on a grinder as long as you don’t over heat the edge (it begins to turn blue). Constantly dip it into a jar of water to keep it cool.

3. The actual sharpening begins with hand-sharpening using a coarse grit (around 200 to 300 grit) You want to refine the grinding, finish any needed small shaping, and remove all of the coarse scratches from the grinding wheel.

4. You now want to move through two or three sharpening stones of increasing fineness until you get to around 600 to 1000 grit. The object is to remove all of the scratches from the preceding stone. I favor diamond “stones” for this. I use the ones from Harbor Freight which work very well. Periodic viewing of the sharpened surface under magnification as you work is very helpful, particularly if you are new at this. Watch your progress and learn.

5. At this point you move to the very finest stone. Personalty, I favor Arkansas stones as they are hard and stay flat unlike water stones which are messy and wear relatively quickly and need periodic flattening.

6. Now its time to check to see if you really have sharpened your edge enough. This is hard to determine for beginners. The best way and the one I use is to use a 2X (two power) magnifying visor. Walmart has one for $13 that is probably as good as the $40 ones. A jeweler’s loupe would work too. Shine a strong light directly on to the sharp edge and view the edge through the magnifier. If you see the edge as a streak of white light, the light is reflecting off the edge. You are not sharp enough. Go back a step or two and work some more on the edge until when you view the edge as above you see NO light! That means the edge is so sharp as to not reflect the light!

7. Now you need to final polish the edge by honing. These hones all use an ultra-fine abrasive like jeweler’s rouge (an abrasive in wax) worked into the surface to do the polishing. Keep “stropping’ the edge like a barber strops a straight razor until you can easily shave the hair off your forearm !!! THAT’s the final test.

A good source of sharpening supplies can be had here:

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View Woodknack's profile


13011 posts in 2985 days

#9 posted 05-02-2018 04:25 PM

Grit is different for different abrasives. 1000 grit sandpaper is finer than 1000 grit stones, every different type of stone has its own grit meaning and is different from everything else. There are equivalency charts you can Google. Other than that, I can’t add anything to the excellent advice above.

-- Rick M,

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