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Thread: Sharpening: what am I doing wrong

  1. #16
    Hi Dan - I'm going to give you the perspective of someone who has just left the "discouraged stage." I tried free hand and jigs on different media all the while feeling discouraged. I found that trying to sharpen in a vacuum and not as part of some woodworking project didn't work for me. I became fixed on some abstract ideal of sharpness rather than sharp enough to use the tool for the job at hand. I found that using a simple method that didn't stress me out meant I would sharpen/touch up often which lead to better results. And I got better with the frequent, short sharpening sessions. Here's what I do with no claim other than it helped me. I try to sharpen everything free-hand to 30 degrees. After using an angle indicator to practice at 30 degrees, it's become almost my automatic. I don't put a micro-bevel because the full bevel helps me register the correct angle I'm honing. I use a soft washita, then a black hard Ark, and then I use a buffer. Check out David Weaver's youtube channel for the buffer. It's actually simple, quick and I've yet to get a blade as sharpe freehand with a strop as I do with the buffer. Unless the blade is chipped or I've put the bevel out of whack, I can get a blade back working well w/ maybe 15 strokes per stone and two full passes on the buffer. So all together less than 3 minutes. Another thing I learned that I don't see people mention much is the importance paying attention to feeling the blade contacting the stone. Now I found I can feel right away when I've got the right angle and stroke and when I'm messing up. I also found I had to learn to feel the correct burr. In the beginning I tried to get a large burr, almost like a moraine. Now I swipe until I feel a very small burr that's even across the back of the edge.

    This is just my journey, and even if you find something else more helpful, I want you to know that you'll get past being discouraged and then wonder why you worried so much.

    Eric

  2. #17
    Thank you! I’m fairly new to wood working and very new to planes and I’m chasing ‘scary sharp’…which now sounds unnecessary.

  3. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Tolbert View Post
    Thank you! I’m fairly new to wood working and very new to planes and I’m chasing ‘scary sharp’…which now sounds unnecessary.
    With all the internet videos and companies hawking their wares and people hawking their DVDs and people promoting their classes so you can buy their books and jigs, it's easy to get caught up in sharpening as an end in and of itself, and forget that you are sharpening your tools to do woodworking with them.

    Videos are great, but in some ways it was easier for folks like me who learned back in the pre-internet-dark-ages out of books and magazines from people who did woodworking for a living (Frid, Klausz, etc). They tended to sharpen using as few tools as possible and as quickly as possible so they could get back to work. For them, time was money; they got paid to make stuff, not sharpen their tools endlessly.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Rathhaus View Post
    Hi Dan - I'm going to give you the perspective of someone who has just left the "discouraged stage." I tried free hand and jigs on different media all the while feeling discouraged. I found that trying to sharpen in a vacuum and not as part of some woodworking project didn't work for me. I became fixed on some abstract ideal of sharpness rather than sharp enough to use the tool for the job at hand. I found that using a simple method that didn't stress me out meant I would sharpen/touch up often which lead to better results. And I got better with the frequent, short sharpening sessions. Here's what I do with no claim other than it helped me. I try to sharpen everything free-hand to 30 degrees. After using an angle indicator to practice at 30 degrees, it's become almost my automatic. I don't put a micro-bevel because the full bevel helps me register the correct angle I'm honing. I use a soft washita, then a black hard Ark, and then I use a buffer. Check out David Weaver's youtube channel for the buffer. It's actually simple, quick and I've yet to get a blade as sharpe freehand with a strop as I do with the buffer. Unless the blade is chipped or I've put the bevel out of whack, I can get a blade back working well w/ maybe 15 strokes per stone and two full passes on the buffer. So all together less than 3 minutes. Another thing I learned that I don't see people mention much is the importance paying attention to feeling the blade contacting the stone. Now I found I can feel right away when I've got the right angle and stroke and when I'm messing up. I also found I had to learn to feel the correct burr. In the beginning I tried to get a large burr, almost like a moraine. Now I swipe until I feel a very small burr that's even across the back of the edge.

    This is just my journey, and even if you find something else more helpful, I want you to know that you'll get past being discouraged and then wonder why you worried so much.

    Eric

    I second pretty much everything here, including the recommendation to look at David W.'s stuff on youtube. I learned a lot about oilstones and sharpening from his channel.

    And I totally agree with practicing sharpening as a means to an end, rather than an end of itself. I never had a problem with this rabbit hole at the time I learned because I just wanted to get my tools "sharp enough" to do the job and pretty quickly realized how unnecessary a lot of the really intricate methods are. Separating the wheat from the chaff and finding a simple and efficient method that works is what it's all about, and that goes for pretty much any skill.

  5. #20
    If you want to learn to sharpen freehand perhaps the easiest way is to maintain a hollow grind, which allows you to establish the correct angle by locating the toe and heel of the bevel on the stone. You don't need to grind up to the edge, in fact that's the best way to overheat the blade, but grind often and deep enough to keep the toe and heel distinct and set the grinding platform to produce a consistent bevel angle. The finer the stones used the sharper and longer lasting the edge will be, but you can get a useable edge with a 1,000 grit stone and a shaving edge with 4,000 grit plus buffing or stropping. It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes to resharpen. Keep it simple until you can get a sharp edge consistently.

    Jigs are fine if they give you a truly consistent angle, otherwise you will be fighting every time. It is easy to get a blade out of square on that Veritas jig if you are not meticulous about tightening down the clamp evenly, and care has to be taken in setting the blade projection and making sure the roller cam is set where you want it.

    There are as many sharpening techniques as woodworkers, as evidenced by this and myriad other threads. Pick one, the simpler the better, and stick with it until you can get consistent results quickly.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 10-19-2021 at 8:10 AM.

  6. #21
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    I dont use hand tools as often as Id like but. I started with the Diasharp stuff and found it to be too aggressive even at the fine level. I rarely go lower than 1000 on a stone. Once the bevel is established I found a dull chisel or blade can go down to 1000 and quickly sharpen up. I usualy set up and drop to 3000 then up to 10k on all chisels and plane blades in one go every 6 months or so unless unused then I just oil it.

    I had less than satisfactory results with film.
    The sharpening guide teaches me the angles once everything is established it is waste of time except for maybe super thin chisels(1/8-1/4).

  7. #22
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    Apr 2019
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    Another point I didn’t see mentioned above is something often called “chasing the burr.” I had previously underestimated how tenacious the burr can be on a number of different steels, and had issues with edge sharpness that turned out to be remnants of the burr.

    To “chase the burr,” after working the bevel on your finest stone, flip back and forth between the bevel and back, lightly working each. At first, it may take a number of flips, but after you get more practiced at it, you’ll be able to chase the burr quickly. I have seen people suggest chasing the burr on every stone, but what works best for me is to establish the burr on the coarsest stone (which will be a hard ark or 3000 grit waterstone unless there are chips in the edge), hit the back briefly on the finest stone to move the burr to the bevel side, then move up to a finer grit on the bevel until the burr is felt on the back again, and so on. I only actually “chase the burr” after working the bevel on the finest stone.

    If I’ve done everything right (which is happening more often these days, but still not even half the time) the burr will fall off as a solid wire with the first stroke on the back after working the bevel on the finest stone.

  8. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    All,

    This is all so helpful, and encouraging, and I greatly appreciate it. Lots of great tips here and A LOT to think about. But I think the key message is clear: don't get too complicated, remember that ultimately sharpening is about being able to work wood (although it's fine to see it as something to be passionate about), find the things that work for you, and then practice, practice, practice.

    I am happy to report that my results last night were definitely way better. Instead of "unsatisfactory" I would say "good". I sharpened 4 plane blades in about an hour freehand. In every case I had a consistent burr, a shiny bevel, and ended up with a sharp tool. The results on wood were much better with each blade -- consistent, clean, smooth, and able to dial in the amount of material I want to remove. I should also note that I am still very much a beginner when it comes to using hand planes so the blade sharpness is only one important variable.

    I am interested in trying waterstones, oilstones, and stropping. (and the unicorn method at some point). Should I stick with the Diasharp plates for now and get my technique better and faster, or should I try to experiment with some of the other approaches...? That is the question for me right now. Seems like trying a strop is kind of obvious since it's cheap and straightforward.

    Thanks everyone!
    Last edited by Dan Gaylin; 10-19-2021 at 11:33 AM.

  9. #24
    Join Date
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    In my opinion, each sharpening media has it's own learning curve so jumping form one to another may slow your overall progress so i suggest you work with what you have for now. I've tried most every medium, both powered and manual but have used DMT and Eze-Laps plates for the last 10+ years with a Spyderco in the mix. Everything gets stropped. Chisels get stropped constantly during long use times without going to a stone.

    I've been using the LV honing guide since it was first launched and get repeatable results but usually touch up an edge freehand and strop.

    I'm about an hour north of you if you want to make the trip. I've also got 20-30 planes, many specialized, if you want to give them a push

    Brian
    The significant problems we encounter cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

    The penalty for inaccuracy is more work

  10. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gaylin View Post
    All,


    I am interested in trying waterstones, oilstones, and stropping. (and the unicorn method at some point). Should I stick with the Diasharp plates for now and get my technique better and faster, or should I try to experiment with some of the other approaches...? That is the question for me right now. Seems like trying a strop is kind of obvious since it's cheap and straightforward.

    Thanks everyone!
    I would recommend sticking with what you have for the moment. A strop and honing compound are an inexpensive upgrade. There is no end to getting and spending on sharpening gear if you are determined to find the "best".

    If you have an uncontrollable urge to buy more stones, Lee Valley has a useful comparison chart that will help you choose the needful https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/tools/grit-charts

    For reference I have two grinders, one with 180# and 600# cbn wheels and the other with an 80# aluminum oxide wheel for reshaping plus a felt buffing wheel. I have Duo sharp diamond stones from black(220#) to green (1200#) similar to what you have, plus an "extra-extra fine" (nominal 8000#) DMT stone and a leather faced strop with green honing compound. I used to use waterstones but got tired of maintaining them. The cbn wheels I bought for turning but they do well with my bench tools as well.

    For normal resharpening I start with the 1200# stone, go to the 8000# and finish by buffing the bevel on the wheel (for speed) and stropping the back (to keep the blade flat). Sometimes I may need to drop back to the 600# if I ground up to the edge and didn't get it perfectly straight. For carving or other work that requires a really keen edge I will strop frequently and sharpen rarely. This works for me. Someone else will have a more exotic or more minimal kit.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 10-19-2021 at 12:41 PM.

  11. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Gaylin View Post
    I am interested in trying waterstones, oilstones, and stropping. (and the unicorn method at some point). Should I stick with the Diasharp plates for now and get my technique better and faster, or should I try to experiment with some of the other approaches...? That is the question for me right now. Seems like trying a strop is kind of obvious since it's cheap and straightforward.

    Thanks everyone!
    You already have a wider variety of sharpening stones than virtually all woodworkers in the history of the human species – do you really want to spend your money on even more, or would you rather buy more wood to work with? Diamond plates are (IMHO) the best sharpening media you can get. They stay flat, cut fast, and have very low maintenance requirements. If I were you, I'd go sharpen up a tool and use it until it needs to be sharpened, and repeat until I ran out of lumber. Nothing I've bought has improved my sharpening performance more than simply doing it a lot.
    Last edited by Tyler Bancroft; 10-19-2021 at 8:18 PM.

  12. #27
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    I would recommend sticking with what you have for the moment. A strop and honing compound are an inexpensive upgrade. There is no end to getting and spending on sharpening gear if you are determined to find the "best".
    You already have a wider variety of sharpening stones than virtually all woodworkers in the history of the human species – do you really want to spend your money on even more, or would you rather buy more wood to work with?
    There is some wisdom in the above words. For some reason my sharpening was mediocre in the beginning on Arkansas stones. As my woodworking enthusiasm built up, some water stones were purchased and used. It was amazing how much better they worked for me.

    After a few years of using water stones for some reason my Arkansas stones were given another try. Turns out there was nothing wrong with the stones. It was me, the user, having learned the technique required to keep the bevel on the stone to properly sharpen. Now most of my sharpening is done using Arkansas oilstones.

    So my suggestion is work with what you have until you can get your blades sharp consistently before you venture into something different.

    When you get your sharpening down pat, you my want to try a translucent Arkansas or an 8000 grit water stone to take your blade a step above what the diamond plate can achieve.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-20-2021 at 12:56 PM. Reason: added punctuation
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  13. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Bancroft View Post
    You already have a wider variety of sharpening stones than virtually all woodworkers in the history of the human species
    It sounds like you have no idea what we were using in historic times. The Romans had novaculite oil stones (Turkey stones), and coticules (Belgian water stones) either of which does a nice job with a razor. Barbers were still using coticules in my memory, but they are expensive. Woodworkers were still using Turkey stones into the 19th century before being replaced with Arkansas stones. My guess is you haven't tried to shave with diamond sharpened razors, which makes for ragged edges.

    I could use either of these historic stones, but not diamond for my work.

  14. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    It sounds like you have no idea what we were using in historic times. The Romans had novaculite oil stones (Turkey stones), and coticules (Belgian water stones) either of which does a nice job with a razor. Barbers were still using coticules in my memory, but they are expensive. Woodworkers were still using Turkey stones into the 19th century before being replaced with Arkansas stones. My guess is you haven't tried to shave with diamond sharpened razors, which makes for ragged edges.

    I could use either of these historic stones, but not diamond for my work.
    If he has extra-extra-coarse through to extra-fine in DMT diamond plates, that's five grit levels – plus at least two types of lapping films. I don't think many woodworkers throughout history have had daily access to seven distinct levels of sharpening media. The historical documents I've read have generally been more along the lines of one or two stones and a grinding wheel. If you have a source to the contrary, I'd be happy to hear about it.
    Last edited by Tyler Bancroft; 10-19-2021 at 9:45 PM.

  15. #30
    You can have all the grit levels you want, but if they all are harsh abrasives, then they will not polish to a fine edge.

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