teach hand cut dovetails and the students use my
chisels to chop out the waste. So after each class,
I have to go through my chisels and sharpen the ones
the students used.
Over the years, I've tried
different techniques for sharpening and have settled
on a technique which I find to be fast and produces
an excellent edge.
I use certain equipment in the sharpening process,
and while some of it is expensive, it's generally a
once in a lifetime purchase.
Note that this is a way to keep your working chisels
sharp. If you purchase antique chisels there's
almost always a lot of additional work required to
flatten the backs. I do not cover any of that - this
is just a technique for keeping working chisels
Before I begin, let me first introduce the chisels
because I'm going to make some comments about
different brands of chisels as part of the
The first batch consists of a set of Lie Nielsen (LN)
chisels, a set of Lee Valley (LV) chisels, and a set
of no-name carbon steel chisels.
These are the ones most people gravitate towards. The LV chisels
(PM-V11) retain their edge the longest. The LN A2 are next, and
the carbon steel set gives up first.
The next batch is a set of Japanese laminated chisels. I've
replaced the handles on this set with handles that are more
"western" (no hoops) because I find traditional Japanese chisel
I encourage people to use the Japanese chisels so that they can
compare them to the western chisels. They retain their edge very
well, almost as well as the LV chisels, and probably as well as
the LN chisels.
Most of the time,
these are the two rolls of chisels I bring to class, because
I've found over time that the edges hold up best on these
I used to bring the
following antique chisels but rarely do so any more.
This roll consists of a complete set of Swan chisels, marked
either "Best Cast Steel" or "Best Tool Steel", and a set of
Witherby chisels. These chisels tend to be longer than modern
chisels and I found that students had problems working with
I also found that the edges on
these antique chisels did not hold up nearly as well as the
modern western chisels, or the Japanese chisels.
The steel tends
to be somewhat soft and the edges fail by rolling over, rather