View Full Version : Is it absolutely critical...

Jonathan Patrick
09-21-2003, 3:01 PM
that the bevel of chisels and plane irons be sharpened at precise angles. I ask this because I finally decided to sharpen some of my hand tools myself. Though initially time consuming, I have found out what "scary(sp) sharp" is. But in doing so I have also noticed that my new bevel, especially on chisels, does not match the manufactured one. I am doing it by hand with progressively finer grits on waterproof automotive sandpaper from 220 up to 3000 grit fixed to a 12 x 12 granite tile. The end results are incredible.

Jonathan Patrick

John Wadsworth
09-21-2003, 3:33 PM

Chisel bevels vary quite a bit--sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. It's often recommended to use a narrower angle (25 or even 20 degrees) for paring and softwoods; a blunter one (say, 30 degrees) for hardwoods, and a blunter one yet for chopping mortises, especially in hardwoods.

For most work, a bevel anywhere near this neighborhood seems to do just fine for me, as long as the edge is keen. Try it out and see!

John Wadsworth

Matt Woodworth
09-22-2003, 8:25 AM
No, it's not like cutting wood where you need the angle or size exactly correct. As the other poster mentioned, around 30 is tougher and around 20 is sharper. I usually shoot for about 25 but if I drift towards sharp or durable that's ok too.

David Rose
09-26-2003, 7:44 PM
A couple of other points that might be worth mentioning are that the back needs to be really flat to cut flush to a guiding surface, and if the bevelled face is rounded, it is much harder to repeat that "angle" for future sharpening. What I am saying is that if both edges are really flat it helps a lot. The angle is less critical IMHO. Some metals need different angles to do the jobs well too. For instance, my Marple Blue Labels (don't throw me out please :) ) bench chisels will roll an edge if cut at the factory angle. An extra 5 degrees and they are OK.


Dave Anderson NH
09-26-2003, 8:25 PM
There is no need to be apologetic about owning or using Marples blue chisels David. Over half of my chisels are of this ubiquitous variety. I own from 1/8" up to 1" with every size in between. I will admit however that most of them have had the bevel angle "adjusted" to at least 27 degrees and more often 30 degrees to increase the edge strength. While there are many better chisels out there and even some at reasonable prices, the Marples Blues are still a good buy and are quite servicable. Are they the best, of course not, but with care they work quite well and I've yet to find a task they can't handle. Having said that though, often they will need to be resharpened or reground when used hard. No one should ever feel the need to make an apology about what they use to accomplish a task. At some point I will buy a top of the line set of chisels, but I in no way feel handicapped by not having the best of everything. My cheapo Yankee upbringing says I need to use skill and cunning instead of spending money. A clear example of skill triumphing over dollars spent is available on the tools for woodworking website under the Vietnamese woodworking exhibit. What these folks produce with next to nothing is little short of amazing. Buying and having top of the line tools is fun, but skill always triuphs over good gear.

David Rose
09-26-2003, 10:19 PM
Very good point, Dave! I was kidding about the Blue Labels. I actually learned more from owning these than I would from a better set. I learned why the angle can be important with different uses and metals and learned to get a good edge on them. With a better set the need to do this would have been further down the line. A better set isn't on the want list since I found that a steeper angle will make them very servicable.

I think it is that way with any tool. The cheaper ones may have more quirks but definitely don't stop anyone from doing excellent work. I think it is easier for beginners to do better work with better tools, but probably because they don't realize that all tools have technique to their use. I was amazed to learn this about power tools. When I started I thought you just fed in the wood and out popped the job! :rolleyes: I don't think I own a tool that is that simple.

My best plane is a relatively recent Stanley Bailey 5. It does have a Hock iron and has been fettled. It will do all I can do with a 5 at my learning stage. My old no name block plane leaves some to be desired for me. But the Veritas will be further down the line.

David - grateful for some "no name" tools too

Jeff Kurtz
09-27-2003, 8:59 AM
A couple days ago I spent a rainy evening honing my Marples. (I bought them back when I didn't know some chisels were supposed to be better that others, and $10+ seemed a lot to pay for such a simple tool. My thinking, I might add, hasn't changed too much.) Digging through a drawer, I discovered a case with a set of 4 English Stanleys I'd bought quite a few years ago, and completely forgotten.

Haven't tried any of them yet, but I was surprised at how little flattening the backs needed. Have yet to see if they'll hold an edge, but the old cheap-skate in me is saying "they will"!