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Thread: best way to sharpen plane irons?

  1. #1
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    best way to sharpen plane irons?

    So i'm a poor college student and I have decided to splurge and buy a good hand plane when the weather starts to get warmer. I'm going to get the wood river 5 1/2 from wood craft. I have watched a million videos on you tube on how to sharpen. Every one has a their favorite way to sharpen. i'm looking for suggestions on the best way to sharpen not only that but specific products. I'm looking for something that is quick, easy, cost efficient, and long lasting. thanks for all the suggestions.

  2. #2
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    You’re asking for a lot there. Scary sharp, work sharp, Makita 9820-2, water stones, grizzly Tormek copy.... they all satisfy at least 2 of your criteria.

    You should have posted in the Neander Forum by the way.

  3. #3
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    It’s like the old saying about sports cars...

    ”Fast, cheap, reliable. Pick two.”

    Getting edge tools as sharp as they need to be to just let the tool do the work takes a combination of money, time/sweat, skills, and practice.

    Any method that’s going to be “easy” for a beginner isn’t likely to yield an edge that’s truly sharp or long lasting. Obviously my opinion, but I think many will agree with it.

    If you’re new to sharpening, or don’t have a system in place already for getting edge tools properly sharp, I would recommend working on developing a system that works for your budget and disposition and practicing it until it works and is repeatable time and again. Honing guides are great. Don’t be ashamed to use one or think you need to tough it out and freehand everything bc that’s takes a bit of experience, practice and skill to do successfully.

    I don’t know if anyone can really tell you what the best approach is for you. Lots of variables in that equation.

  4. #4
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    Pick a method that make sense to you and keep at it.
    There's a zillion different ways but they all take perseverance.
    Aj

  5. #5
    I found one of these useful when I started out sharpening chisels and plane irons -- you can use it with different kinds of stones, and it will maintain the angle (using the initial angle might not be a bad place to start out).
    http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/pag...=1,43072,43078

    And at less than $15, it will have earned its keep by the time (if ever) you move on to a more sophisticated solution.
    Life is too short for dull sandpaper.

  6. #6
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    Since you’re only dealing with one iron for the moment, I’ll suggest what might be the lowest cost of entry, but not necessarily the most cost effective long term.

    Start with the sandpaper method (referred to as “scary sharp method”). Get the honing guide suggested by Warren. Buy a few sheets of 220, 400, 600 grit sandpaper at the big box store. Then go to an auto parts store and buy a few sheets of 1000, 2000, and 3000 wet/dry paper. Get a piece of plate glass about 8” x 20”. Get a can of 3M spray mount, a putty knife and a bottle of goo be gone. Also, spray water bottle is helpful.

    Use the spray mount to stick down a 3” wide piece of each grit from coarse to fine in a line down the plate glass. Start with the flat side of the iron on the 400 grit paper. See if you get even scratch marks in the area that’s about 1/2” from the bevel end. If you don’t get an even scratch pattern, you may need to go to a coarser grit. Once you do, progress through the grits until the previous scratch marks are removed and only the smaller scratch marks are left. Keep going until you get a nice shiny surface.

    Then take the guide and set your iron for a few degrees greater than the primary bevel that exists on the iron. The idea is that you are only trying to put a very small shiny edge on about the last 1/16” (or even less) of the bevel. You don’t want to have to grind the entire bevel, just a tiny amount at the edge. Start at 400 and proceed down the line until it’s nice and shiney. You’ll now have a burr on the back flat side. Carefully place the backside on the 3000 grit and pull it towards you to remove the burr.

    Courser grit sandpaper (80, 100, 150) should only be needed it you nick the iron and need to do a major honing of the primary bevel to get past the nicks.

    If you need to change sandpaper, scrape it off the glass with the putty knife and clean up the adhesive with the goo be gone.

    This isn’t necessarily the “best” method, but I think it gets you sharpening with a small investment.

    You can certainly search “sharpening” here on SMC and you’ll get about a million threads on the subject with lots of opinions...all work, just beware, it can lead to a never ending, costly search for the perfect solution.

    Good luck!

  7. #7
    Hi Adam,

    Since you asked for it, and because I remember being a poor college student while trying to be a woodworker myself, I am going to give you much more specific advice than I normally would to this kind of question. Feel free to ignore most or all of it.

    "Sharpening" for planes and chisels is really two different operations, setting the main bevel and honing. They do different things and are easier done with different equipment.

    Setting the bevel involves removing the most material and is most pleasant to do with something motorized. You can use sandpaper or stones, but it isn't fun. For a recommendation I would say get a slow speed grinder, unless you have a stationary belt sander, in which you can use that. The main thing is that you don't want to overheat the steel and burn the temper out of the blade (rainbow colored discolorations in the steel). Woodcraft sells a 1750 RPM Rikon for $139. You could also look for a used normal speed (3450RPM) grinder and get a friable wheel. You can use stones or sandpaper if you want, they just take a lot of time and effort. Fortunately you don't need to set the main bevel often, so going the sandpaper route isn't too bad if you want to save the $ now.

    Honing is what you will do the most. That is where you take a little bit off the edge with a fine grit at a slightly steeper angle. This strengthens the edge a little and more importantly it removes only a small amount of material. Fine grit is slow to use and you will rehone frequently. This is simplest and cheapest long term to do on a waterstone. Woodcraft sells a King 1000/6000 waterstone for $42 that will serve you perfectly well for years. I have had a similar one for years myself. You hone whenever the blade starts to get dull. You only need to reset the main bevel once it starts taking too long too hone or the blade gets nicked badly.

    Yes I know I am omitting the whole flattening the back part, but you don't do that often, so how you do it is less relevant.

    As a poor college student, the last bit of advice I would give you is to skip the 5 1/2 and pick up a decent used #4 Stanley and a decent used #5 (any good brand). #4 and #5 are the easiest bench planes to find used, because they were the most common, because, get this, they were also the most useful. 5 1/2 planes are uncommon used because they aren't a particularly popular or useful size. They are too long and heavy to be a good smoother (#4) and too wide to be a good jack plane (#5) and too short to be a good jointer (#6 or #7). They could do all of those things, but they won't do any of them well. Having two planes that do their job well is normally better than one that does both jobs poorly. You should be able to get a used #4 and #5 for less than half the cost of the new #5 1/2 and still have money left to get some sharpening equipment.

    One you find your used #4 and #5, you just need to find someone to help you set them up. I'd show you, but you are 1500 miles away from me. In NY there should be plenty of people within an hour or two that could teach you to set up an old plane, just ask around. It makes us old geezers feel important and relevant when we pass on the trade to young pups like yourself
    Last edited by Andrew Seemann; 04-05-2018 at 11:15 AM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Herd View Post
    So i'm a poor college student and I have decided to splurge and buy a good hand plane when the weather starts to get warmer. I'm going to get the wood river 5 1/2 from wood craft. I have watched a million videos on you tube on how to sharpen. Every one has a their favorite way to sharpen. i'm looking for suggestions on the best way to sharpen not only that but specific products. I'm looking for something that is quick, easy, cost efficient, and long lasting. thanks for all the suggestions.
    Hi Adam

    I will offer you two systems. The first is the "10 cent" system. This is a serious system that will cost next-to-nothing: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Woodwor...%20System.html

    The second system is "the ultimate" grinding and sharpening system - one to aim for: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Woodwor...ningSetUp.html

    Regards from Auckland (for another week)

    Derek

  9. #9
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    Andrew makes a very good point. Especially if you’re a poor college student, buy an old used 4 or 5. Should cost no more than $25 for one that needs work at a flea market or garage sale. There’s a few guys over on Woodnet who regularly sell rehabbed (and sharpened) old planes which cost more like $50-60. Like admiral and tablesawtom (though I think he’s stopping soon).

  10. #10
    +2 on buying old planes. The classified on this site is a good place to start.

  11. #11
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    I would recommend forgetting about the WR plane, and buy yourself an old Stanley #4, #5, and a low angle block plane. For under $100, you'll have a good starter set, and after you graduate from college, and start making millions, () you can invest in a real quality North American made plane like Lie Nielsen or Veritas.

    In learning to tune up a vintage Stanley, you'll learn a lot about how planes work, and what makes them work well.

    My .02.
    Jeff

  12. #12
    I agree that you would be better served by getting a few vintage planes, but that wasn't your question. The sandpaper method will be the least expensive for now. Once you start adding planes to your arsenal, it becomes a pretty expensive method. Whether you use a honing guide depends on how much time and patience you have to practice. I'm someone that uses a honing guide because I want consistency. If you want to take a drive to Albany, you're welcome to come by and try some planes.

  13. #13
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    central new york
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    hi adam, you are welcome to stop by and i can walk you through a couple options for sharpening. i live just south of syracuse ,about 1/2 hour away. thomas

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Herd View Post
    So i'm a poor college student and I have decided to splurge and buy a good hand plane when the weather starts to get warmer. I'm going to get the wood river 5 1/2 from wood craft. I have watched a million videos on you tube on how to sharpen. Every one has a their favorite way to sharpen. i'm looking for suggestions on the best way to sharpen not only that but specific products. I'm looking for something that is quick, easy, cost efficient, and long lasting. thanks for all the suggestions.
    Norton combo India stone (new) from Amazon $28 (seen them as low as $22)
    https://www.amazon.com/Norton-614636...rton+oil+stone

    Kerosene for honing oil (you can probably ask around and get a small quantity for free from somebody that uses it in heaters, don't get it from the gas station)

    $1 Store to get small bottle of baby oil, no-slip liner mat for drawer and maybe a small container to mix the baby oil and kerosene. 50/50 mix but don't obsess over getting the ratio perfect.

    Something for a strop, can be as simple as a piece of MDF or you can cast about for some butt leather to glue down to the MDF.

    Autosol polish (again, Amazon) or one of its competitors. Skip the "green crayon". The tootpaste sized tube of polish will last you a LONG time.

    Keep your eyes open for a manufacturer's second Hard Arkansas stone but for the time, just the fine side of the India stone and the strop will get you a long way down the road. No jig, might as well learn how to sharpen without one. The coarse side of the stone can be used for restoring primary bevels. The fine side for the secondary bevel and the strop for polishing. Might take a bit longer on the strop without an intermediate stone but this two piece "system" should be under $50 all-in and last a very long time.

    First project can be building a wooden box for the Norton stone.
    Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Herd View Post
    So i'm a poor college student and I have decided to splurge and buy a good hand plane when the weather starts to get warmer. I'm going to get the wood river 5 1/2 from wood craft. I have watched a million videos on you tube on how to sharpen. Every one has a their favorite way to sharpen. i'm looking for suggestions on the best way to sharpen not only that but specific products. I'm looking for something that is quick, easy, cost efficient, and long lasting. thanks for all the suggestions.
    Adam,

    A couple responses to your post have offered you help via a visit to their shops. If at all possible you would be well advised to take up one or both of those offers. Many years ago it was advice and guidance from others that helped me to overcome sharpening hassles and other woodworking road blocks.

    Your post brings up many other questions. Will the #5-1/2 be your first plane? What other tools do you have? Do you have a shop space? What is the purpose of buying the plane, i.e. is it to supplement power equipment or are you going to go full hand tool? Looking at your posting history tells me a little, but others may not have looked there. For touching up machined surfaces a #4 and a #5 may better suit your needs than a #5-1/2.

    My sharpening set up is spread out over a few benches in my shop and a couple of diamond stones are kept in the kitchen. My shop is unheated so in the winter months my water stones do not work with solid water. It is also not a good idea to leave the stone wet if it is going to freeze overnight. My abilities with oilstones was not very good until after my being able to get a decent edge with water stones. Water stones are often in need of flattening and are easy to gouge if one presses too hard on the blade.

    Andrew's suggestion of the King water stone at Woodcraft may be the best beginner solution for the cost.

    In the long run, the best system is going to be what works best for your needs.

    Also consider where you start your with sharpening will not necessarily be where you finish your sharpening equipment. This is where having a bit of hands on in another person's shop can go a long way in helping to make your choices.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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