Pro Woodworking Tips.com
Tool Sharpening doesn't have to be mysterious...
Many woodworkers are intimidated by the very idea of sharpening their tools.
There's often a fear of doing more harm than good. This task really isn't as difficult as it might seem.
Approached with some patience, and armed with some back round information, it's really a matter of
practicing. Knowing you really can't do irreversible harm makes it somewhat less intimidating.
With so many options available it becomes somewhat overwhelming trying to
decide which sharpening device will provide the best results, with the least amount of difficulty. Since
there are many different tools requiring a very sharp edge for woodworkers, the method chosen will need to be
adaptable, or at least have accessories to provide versatility.
Some of the sharpening equipment on the market have a pretty steep price tag and once
you start buying accessories for them, the cost can approach a thousand dollars or
more! The good news is there are many tools available, at reasonable prices that will
provide an edge that will cut as intended.
While I do have the more expensive sharpening equipment and the accessories, I rarely
use it unless I have a number of tools needing some serious work. More often, it's a matter of touching up an
edge, (unless someone used your finest chisel to open a paint can!). It happens.
Some of the least expensive methods can produce incredible results when used properly.
Very often I use a small piece of M.D.F. , "charged" with diamond paste. This paste is available from a
number of sources, and is sold in kits. These kits have several tubes of varying grits of the paste and small
pieces of M.D.F. included in the box. It's important to wrap them with wax paper after use so as not to
contaminate them with different grits.
In using this method, it's important not to push the chisel, as it will quickly
destroy the M.D.F. My method consists of placing the chisel on the block, rocking it until I find the proper
angle, and pulling it back across the block. Small circular or figure eight patterns are fine, provided vary
light pressure is applied to the chisel, forcing it to dig in. Surprisingly, this inexpensive method will put
a mirror finish on your edge, although it's not the fastest method available.
Another method of sharpening is using stones. I personally like waterstones, and have
a number of them as well. Again, it's important not to contaminate the grits from one stone to the next.
Water stones do require flattening, as they are prone to wear. With a stone flattener, this process is very
simple and quick.
Another very fast method of dressing an edge is to use a wood, leather, or cloth wheel
that has been charged with a honing or polishing compound. These wheels can be used in a drill press, on a
lathe or a grinder. Again, never have the edge in a position to dig into the wheel. Hold it so the spinning
wheel is rubbing towards the edge and at the existing angle that's already on the tool. This method will
bring back an edge very quickly.
I have wheels made from blanks of wood, usually Poplar, which have been charged with
polishing compound and are permanently mounted to face plates. These wheels are turned to include coves and
beads so I can polish the edge of turning tools. I've had some of these for close to twenty years, and used
with care will last
indefinitely. I also use these to dress or hone flat chisels as well with equally effective
Another inexpensive method is known as "Scary Sharp". This method is basically a piece
of plate glass sprinkled with water and a sheet of wet / dry sandpaper laid onto the glass. The reason for
the water on the glass is to "stick" the paper on so it doesn't slide around on you. Additional water is
sprinkled onto the sandpaper to lubricate the surface and prevent the chisel from sticking to the paper and
moving it. This system is also very good and will give you an edge that is hard to beat.
It's important to realize, you don't need to run out and buy the most expensive
sharpening equipment to keep your tools sharp. It's far more important to learn the proper use of the system
Written by: Lee A. Jesberger © 2006-2008
Inventor of Ezee-Feed systems ®
Video - Sharpening a plane iron freehand
Including the Tormek Sharpening systems and all kinds of other