Brought to you by How + Print

Winsted Tools


Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser


Basic Sharpening by Bob Smalser

1 of 4  


Could you post a tutorial on how you sharpen?  I use waterstones but hate the hassle of trying to keep them flat.  I have my grandfather’s oil stones some maybe 50 or 75 years old (just guessing) I …would love to see your thoughts in pictures.

Glad to help.  I don’t use waterstones, but I did spend years using composite stones that also hollowed badly.  There are a couple basic techniques you can use to minimize the hollowing.  The first is to use the entire surface of both sides of the stone wherever you can….  not just the center… and the other is to do more on the grinder and less on the stone when completely redoing a bevel.

Using the entire stone sometimes means you have to forego some jigs, but it’s always good to develop your ability to sharpen freehand as I can think of dozens of situations in even hobby woodworking where your bench and jig won’t be available.  All the grandiose words written in the last couple decades on honing, all the expensive gizmos for sale to help you do it, and all the trouble folks seem to have with it puzzle me some. 

Grind that blade correctly, and the difference in cutting speeds and technique between oil, water or composite stones is meaningless because there isn’t enough honing to be done to measure a difference.

So I’ll go you one better on your question.  I’ll convert an old abused, 2-dollar half-inch firmer chisel to a small skew for lathe work.  Lotsa grinding required here…and on burnable 19th-Century carbon, not burn proof High Speed Steel.  Get good enough freehanding on your stones, and it takes no longer to put your best edge on that carbon skew using stones as it does to put an inferior edge on an HSS skew using a grinder.  I mark the bevel I want on the chisel using a bevel gage and carbide scriber…

…and grind off the old edge square to the line.  Looking at the squared-up flat I made, the chisel’s old bevel largely remains on the bottom side in the pic, but the flat penetrates to at least the center of the bevel at the point of the skew to leave enough steel there to grind a perfect bevel and edge next.  The objective in all sharpening is razor-sharp… but also consuming minimum steel in the process.

I’m using the coarsest grinding material I have… both my coarsest grinding stone and 26-grit sanding disks for the roughing work.  The coarser the abrasive, the cooler it cuts and the faster you can do the job without stopping to cool the steel with every stroke.  Remember that if you turn that steel blue with the 600 degrees it takes to do it, you’ve ruined its temper and all that blue must be ground off for that steel to hold an edge.  Takes two minutes to grind.

Next I grind the 20-degree bevel on both sides of the skew.  I use the tool rest and the side of the coarse wheel in the 8”, 1750-rpm buffer-grinder.  No jigs, no Tormeks, just that angle gage sitting handy on the grinder stand to show me what 20 degrees looks like when grinding either side… working all that out with the wheel stopped, of course. 

Takes 5 minutes, taking a little bit off at a time then dipping the tool in water and examining the cut for any adjustments in my hold required.  The closer I get to forming an edge, the easier it is to burn the edge.

Learn how. Discover why. Build better.
1 of 4  

Atkins Saws

Simonds Saws


Copyright © 2005-2018, and Wiktor Kuc.  All Rights Reserved.  Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
No part of the content from this website can be reproduced by any means without specific permission of the publisher.
Valid CSS!