Friday, March 25, 2016

Sharpening equipment

Continuing our series on my minimalist tool list.
All the tools you have been busy acquiring since I started this series would be quickly rendered useless unless you have a meant to keep them sharp.


First understand that it DOES NOT MATTER which system you use, oil stones, waterstones, diamond plates, scary sharp (sand papers) etc THEY  ALL WORKS.

If you already have some money invested into one of these system, keep it.
If you are starting from scratch, pick one any one and stick with it.

Understand also that there are three steps required to bring a tool cutting edge to be sharp.
1- Grinding
Could be done on your coarsest stones or sand paper or with a grinder, handcrank or power.
2- Honing
Must be done UNTIL a burr is formed on the other side. Most people stop before they achieve that burr across the WHOLE edge and as a result, will never achieve sharp.
That step is accomplished using your medium stone (roughly 1200 in waterstone, Black Arkansas in oil stone or roughly 320 to 600 in sandpaper)
3- Polishing
Were we cut the burr and refine the edge. Use your finest stone.  I stop at 6000 on my waterstones with a Nagura stone then I strop it.

This commercial strop has a shaped edge to handle my carving gouges

Shop made with a peel & stick micron sandpaper.
A good source is from Fiber optic technician, they never reuses their paper and there is a lot of life left in them after they just polish the end of the fiber.
Or... you can buy them :-)

In the above pic the polished ceramic tile is for using sandpaper, and setting the bevel flat on the plate.

The super flat surface (more than flat enough for our needs) is also great to set flat the bevel on our tools in the side clamping jig, if you do not have a setting jig or want to duplicate an existing odd ball angle. Spritz water put on a piece of sandpaper and go to town. I don't use spray glue.

The hand grinder is but one example and then there are my two most used waterstones, 1200 and 6000, which BTW you must use with a Nagura stone to achieve best results..

There is a lot of controversy and strong opinions when it comes to sharpening.
All I have to say about using a jig for holding your chisels and plane irons is that it will get your sharper, faster. Why? Because repeat ability and consistency wins the race...every time.
I don't see it as a crutch, and yes, I am proficient with free hand sharpening without training wheels, but I still used it to get me there faster, period!

And talking of sharpening jig, I much prefer the side clamping jigs like the Eclipse over any that clamp from the top of the blade such as the Veritas jigs.
The Lie-Nielsen appears very nice and etc. but it is way too pricey for my taste and needs, so save your money and get a cheap clone of the Eclipse, they are everywhere and all seems to come out of the same factory (?)
They are not perfect, what do you expect at that price point, but they are very serviceable and easy to tweak, see how I do it here

Such a side clamping guide benefit greatly from the use of a simple setting jig to get consistent angle set


Finally you NEED a place set up to be able to sharpen without having to clear everything to make room. The easier it is to stop and sharpen, the more often you will do it and your tools will stay sharper and your sanity will benefit also :-)
You do not need a full blown dedicated sharpening bench but make yourself as a minimum a board of some sort to hold your stones and etc.

My temporary set up on a re-purposed bedside table using 


You need a mill file and a burnisher. DO NOT skimp on the burnisher and forget stupid ideas about using a router bit shank, screwdriver shaft and whatever.
You NEED a proper burnisher. They come in various shape and profile, I use my Veritas ones, work great.

From T to B
Veritas small carbide burnisher
Veritas Tri-Burnisher
Home made burnisher made from an hardened rod inside a Xerox photocopier

Requirement of a good burnisher, a smooth and hard surface, harder than the steel used on the scrapers.

There are a few special holders to help you get a consistent burr angle, but I never used one, so cannot comment on their efficiency.

The mill file, about 8 in, is used to remove the old burr and dress the edge smooth and flat. A small guide either commercial or shop made (a chunk of 2X4 with a slot to hold the file) in order to hold the file at 90 degrees is a good help, but not necessarily required. You can use the same guide you use for jointing the teeth of your saws

If shop made (chunk of 2X4) you can also easily use your jig to help you hold the scraper straight while honing the edge at 90 degrees on your stones


You need a saw vice, either commercial or shop made, to hold your saw plate steady while filing, a good set of triangular files to sharpen them and a suitable saw set.

A few of my antique saw vises From L-R
Sargent No 103, Unmarked, Disston No 1

Some of my sawsets, as you can see they comes in a wide variety. 
I would recommend a pistol type such as 
the Stanley 42 or Eclipse (second from Left top)

A good set of triangular files, sized to your saws tooth line.
You want the file to be twice as big as the tooth depth in order to get to use both sides of the file, which would give you 6 sides versus only three.  

You can add, a black marker (much easier than the old timey method of using a candle smoke to darken the teeth) and a good light source, a magnifier glass is also very handy.


Other useful things to add would be some sort of angle checker, strong magnification and light (think those lighted magnifier bench lamp)

If you are starting with sand paper, and I highly recommend it before settling on a stones system, keep in mind that in the long run, it is not inexpensive since you are gonna go through lots of paper. Do the math and you will realize that it adds up quickly... But it is very convenient, portable and accessible anywhere you are, handy.
When rehabbing old cutters I always start with sandpapers before I finish with my stones, to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on my precious stones.

There are all kinds of jigs you can build such as Ralph's Molding iron jig

There are all kinds of specially shaped files, hones and etc to help you get into the nooks and cranny's of various moulding profile irons or carving tools.
Buy them as you have a need for them.

You can easily cut the profile of the cutters, using the actual tool, on a piece of wood then rub some honing compound into it to strop your profiled cutters.

Do not dred sharpening, it may be a necessary evil, but it is a crucial skill you need to develop early on in order to enjoy your woodworking. There is nothing more frustrating, and often dangerous, than using a dull tool! So buckle up and learn to sharpen your tools...

Bob, sharpening his mind with cold beverages :-)

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