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Thread: Sharpening Mortise Chisels

  1. #1
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    Mar 2019
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    Sharpening Mortise Chisels

    In advance of a hand tool joinery class, I will be expected to use and sharpen chisels.

    No problem with bench chisels, I have taken a sharpening class and bench chisels fit nicely into my Veritas MKII honing guide.

    But to my surprise, a mortise chisel is too thick to fit into the MKII. So I got out my old school silver single wheel honing guide, you know the one with the notches for the sides of chisels. But those notches get in the way of the thick sides of a mortise chisel. I saw a video on how to file those sides down to accommodate a mortise chisel, but I am reluctant to do that, when a good commercial version might be out there.

    I have briefly looked at Richard Kell's honing guide and I think it is the number 3 that might work, but before I plop down $80 for this rascal which will not be used as much as the MKII guide, I wanted some opinions here.

    Oh, two last points--First, I am not terribly good at free handing chisels and planes edges. They often end up un-square, and the mortise chisel is so long and so heavy that free handing that monster on a water stone did not work very well. Second, I do not own mechanical sharpeners, like a Tormek, and $800-$1,200 for one seems a little much for me. So I think I need a honing guide.

    Thanks in advance for all who respond.
    Regards,

    Tom

  2. #2
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    They should fit all the way down inside the Eclipse type guide.

  3. #3
    Veritas makes a thick blade shim for the MK2 that allows you to sharpen a mortise chisel.

  4. #4
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    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
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    It isn't so much the "thickness" of the chisel.....Mortise chisels are a trapezoid Shape...to keep them from getting stuck in the mortise.....They are thicker along the "back" of the blade, than the bevel side "top" . Since a jig holds a chisel bevel down....it is like squeezing a wedge back out.
    Sharpen a chisel, one done.JPG
    And this type of guide will NOT securely hold such a chisel.....chisel shown was by freehand....guide was tossed away.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    Veritas makes a thick blade shim for the MK2 that allows you to sharpen a mortise chisel.

    It's for the Narrow Blade Honing Guide so he'll have to get this as well.
    "If you have all your fingers, you can convert to Metric"

  6. #6
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    Thomas, all honing guides suck at holding tapered mortice chisels. I have the Kell #2, which is likely the one you were thinking of, and I dislike it intensely. It has no where to grip to push and ends up being cumbersome.



    The best of the bunch is the Veritas Mk II with small blade accessory. I lined the jaws with sandpaper as non-slip, and this works.





    My preference is to freehand sharpen all my chisels, including the mortice chisels. Western chisels are hollow ground, Japanese chisels are honed on the flat, while mortice chisels receive a rounded secondary bevel. This is easy to do at 35 degrees (you get the feel for it after a while). When starting out, use this angle guide.





    The rounded bevel is from Paul Sellers....



    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Last edited by Derek Cohen; 02-24-2020 at 7:55 AM.

  7. #7
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    Not sure why the above picture shows the blade being dragged backwards. Barr Quarton’s method for his chisels is to push at the correct angle by hand then gradually drop the chisel to put a rounded bevel on it. Chisels, plane blades etc are all push sharpened.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  8. #8
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    William, one can push or pull. It works out the same. When Paul Sellers demos this method, he pulls ... hence the diagram.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    Not sure why the above picture shows the blade being dragged backwards. Barr Quarton’s method for his chisels is to push at the correct angle by hand then gradually drop the chisel to put a rounded bevel on it. Chisels, plane blades etc are all push sharpened.
    What do you use to sharpen? I almost never push sharpen on my water stones, strops, or sandpaper because I sometimes damage the media. I usually push sharpen on my Arkansas stones and diamond stones (because I do not damage the media if I mess up a bit).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Cohen View Post
    My preference is to freehand sharpen all my chisels, including the mortice chisels. Western chisels are hollow ground, Japanese chisels are honed on the flat, while mortice chisels receive a rounded secondary bevel. This is easy to do at 35 degrees (you get the feel for it after a while). When starting out, use this angle guide.

    If you have nothing else, it is amazing how much a simple angle guide will help you sharpen (as shown in the picture above). I have seen people actually slide the angle guide over the media as they sharpen. I recommend against that. Instead, use it to set your angle then free hand. I even do this with pocket knives using these angle guides

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  11. #11
    I would argue that if there is one kind of a chisel where a guide is absolutely not needed regardless of freehand sharpening experience or skill, it's the mortise chisel. The bevel is so absolutely enormous that getting registration in -20 degree weather with numb hands, a blindfold, and half drunk is a piece of cake. Just press down on the back of the bevel and drag (and a couple swipes on the back). And if for some reason you get slightly off, well a mortise chisel is not exactly a precision instrument. It truly is the ideal first tool to practice freehand sharpening with because it's virtually impossible to mess up.

  12. #12
    Hand joinery is about learning skills. I think it is a very small thing to learn to sharpen a mortise chisel freehand, compared to learning joinery. I cannot imagine wanting to teach someone joinery who throws up his hands at such a minor obstacle. Set aside a few minutes a day and work with your mortise chisel and work on your concentration. Hold the handle of the chisel in your right hand and apply pressure near the bevel with left hand fingers. Try not to wear a groove in the stone.

    It is a lot easier if you sharpen a full flat bevel rather than have a secondary bevel. This works better for mortising also.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    Chisels, plane blades etc are all push sharpened.
    Yours are, mine aren't. The steel does not care one iota.
    ~mike

    scope creep

  14. #14
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    I find setting the cutting angle much easier on the push stroke.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  15. #15
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    Not having a microscope I push on stones and pull on strops. Pulling on a stone can leave a burr which will be carried to the next stone, I prefer to leave it behind on the first stone.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

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