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Thread: Sharpening: hand or wheel

  1. #1
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    Sharpening: hand or wheel

    Hello, I'd love some opinions on this topic. I am fairly new to hand woodworking. I just purchased some diamond stones and flattening a set of cheap chisels. Wow it took a lot of time. I understand that flattening the back should be done with either method. I am considering getting a Tormek sharpening wheel, buy I wanted to get some professional opinions from folks that have done it both ways. If you have years of experience using both methods, which one do you prefer? What are the pros and cons of both methods? Of course, time is the big con of hand sharpening, but if you prefer hand sharpening, have you found some ways to minimize the time that it takes? I don't have lots of time to devote to sharpening, so I would like to make an informed choice. I have not purchased the wheel yet. It is a significant investment.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    Jake

  2. #2
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    I have a tormek, a high speed dry grinder and waterstones. I grind with the dry grinder and hone with the stones. The tormek really gets used for turning tools, as using it to regrind an edge takes a long, long time. Honing doesn't take a lot of time, it really should take less than a couple minutes start to finish. Flattening the back of chisels takes a whole lot of time, no matter how you do it, fortunately you really only do that once.

    Edit: Regarding grinder speeds. I've not seen enough benefit to warrant the extra cost of a low speed grinder.
    Last edited by mike stenson; 12-28-2021 at 12:50 PM.
    ~mike

    life in a mud hut

  3. #3
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    Couple thoughts. If you feel you can justify the expense of a Tormek, I’m doubtful you’d ever regret it.
    You could go a different route and just skip the cheap chisels. Quality tools will come flat and only need to be maintained, which is easy if done often and effectively.
    I happen to love refurbishing old tools. I’ll bring them in the house and flatten the backs at the kitchen sink while the dinner is cooking. Wife doesn’t mind as long as I’m taking care of dinner. Can usually get through at least one a night. Once the initial investment of time over, again maintaining is easy. I like the tuning/restoring because you really get to know a tool.
    For me, half of this is a love of the tools. I expect its the same for everyone in this forum. Skip the cheap crap unless cheap means a good deal on an old Witherby or something and you’ll have a much better time. No need for an 8pc set. Just a couple 2 or 3 nice ones and leave the cheap ones for scraping glue and the such.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Chavez View Post
    Hello, I'd love some opinions on this topic.

    Jake
    Well, you came to the right place. These threads typically go on at length. Look back through the Neanderthal archive for a sampling.

    Tormek works fine. Interminably slow for reshaping. Expensive.

    Pick one system and work with it until you can renew your edges as good as you need in a couple of minutes. Don't get too hung up on equipment. A coarse diamond stone for reshaping, a fine one for a secondary bevel and a strop with green buffing compound will get you to a working edge quickly. Refine the process as needed with experience.
    Last edited by Kevin Jenness; 12-28-2021 at 12:02 PM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Chavez View Post
    Hello, I'd love some opinions on this topic. I am fairly new to hand woodworking. I just purchased some diamond stones and flattening a set of cheap chisels. Wow it took a lot of time. I understand that flattening the back should be done with either method. I am considering getting a Tormek sharpening wheel, buy I wanted to get some professional opinions from folks that have done it both ways. If you have years of experience using both methods, which one do you prefer? What are the pros and cons of both methods? Of course, time is the big con of hand sharpening, but if you prefer hand sharpening, have you found some ways to minimize the time that it takes? I don't have lots of time to devote to sharpening, so I would like to make an informed choice. I have not purchased the wheel yet. It is a significant investment.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    Jake
    I think that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the function of a grinder and hollow grinding.

    When hollow grinding, grinding with a wheel, you do not grind all the way to the edge unless the edge is badly nicked. The point behind hollow grinding is to not have to remove metal from the entire bevel when honing, but only the tip of the tool and this is done at one's fine stone. Once you realize this, there is no reason to overspend on a grinder. You're just removing steel up to, but not at, the cutting edge 99% of the time. A really bad gash might require blunting the edge on the grinder past the gash, then putting the hollow back in to just behind what will be the edge, and then honing and shaping on your fine stone to produce the actual cutting edge. Hence, a grinder never shortens a tool (unless it's gashed) all it does is maintain the hollow. The tool is only shortened when honing on your stones.

    If you plan on badly gashing chisels and plane irons on a regular basis (it's been years since it's happened to me) then by all means get a water-cooled grinder. Otherwise, a dry grinder with a dash pot of water is all you need -- that, and an understanding of the process and what it is and isn't supposed to accomplish.

    And, you don't have to grind at all. You can maintain flat bevels on your chisels and plane irons if you wish. Ultimately, you'll be able to do this freehand. Early on, you might like to have a honing jig.
    Last edited by Charles Guest; 12-28-2021 at 12:07 PM.

  6. #6
    The only thing that I will add is to consider getting a CBN wheel for the grinder. They stay cooler than the stones, reducing the risk of burning the chisel, and cut quickly. I've upgraded to one and like it a lot.

  7. #7
    I think Charles said it better than I could - I agree with every word.

    That being said I would suggest looking into a low speed grinder instead of a Tormek .
    cheaper, you can use Tormek attachments if you want. and I don't speak from experience but I believe it is faster too. definitely less messy

  8. #8
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    One thing I haven't seen mentioned is how did you flatten the back?

    The entire back does not have to be a completely even flat surface on the back. The only part that needs to be evenly flat from side to side is the leading edge. Japanese chisels have an intentional hollow in the back.

    If you are flattening the backs so there is a consistent polish all the way across the back. This may not be necessary.

    With that point though, only hollows are acceptable. If your blade has a belly, or when you start to flatten and the only scratch marks are in the middle of the back, that will have to be taken down until there is a consistent scratch pattern at the edge. Bellied chisels are a sharpening nightmare sometimes.
    Always put the crappy side against the wall

  9. #9
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    I think you may also have a misunderstanding regarding hand sharpening. Honing a chisel or plane iron can be done in less than two minutes under normal circumstances.

  10. #10
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    I use a mix...disc/belt sander's disc....Oil stones....wet/dry sandpaper to 2500 grit....then the Unicorn..IF it is out on the bench...otherwise, just a leather strop...


    Also, rather than stand up from doing joinery at the bench ( I usually am sitting down on a stool) if the chisel I am using feel a bit dull....a few strops on the pants leg of my jeans for a quick refresh, and back to work...


    I'll go and pop the popcorn....
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    I'll go and pop the popcorn....
    I like popcorn. After using hickory a lot on my current project, I should have added frequent stropping.
    ~mike

    life in a mud hut

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike stenson View Post
    I like popcorn. After using hickory a lot on my current project, I should have added frequent stropping.
    +1 to frequent stropping. I keep my strop under the bench at arms reach, and a few swipes is usually enough to get back to work.
    Always put the crappy side against the wall

  13. #13
    I have had a tormek for over 25 years not. My wheel is now right around 8 inches in diameter. It is a grate knife sharpener. But it is very slow at reshaping tools, lathe tools which are M2 high speed tools are awful and slow re-sharpen let alone to reshape.

    I have switched over to a slow speed grinder with two CBN wheels on it. I have a wolverine grinding lets call it a jig. that I don't use much anymore. I installed a couple of Tormek bench grinder bars on it, pictured below. I use the the different tormek tool holders to hold the cutters. Lets say I am reshaping a plane blade or chisel I use the tormek tool holder, set the angle with the tormek gage and go to work. A plane blade fresh from a flea market my take about two minutes of actual reshaping. then I go to a 1000, grit water stone, a 3000grit stone, and a 8000 grit stone which can take up to 45 seconds and then to the leather strap on the tormek. I always finish by polishing on the leather wheel.

    It is said that CBN wheels will load up on less hard chisels and things but I haven't found it to be true. I grind right up to the cutting edge and move to the stoned. I am amassed at how cool the CBN wheels cut. I finish with stones because when I am working is is put the chisel in the holder set the angle and within 45 seconds you are back to work.

    I prefer a 180 and a 600 grit CBN wheels which is recommended for a wood turner more than a wood worker. I have 80-360 grit wheels over at my shop which is more woodworking but I strongly recommend the 180 -600 instead. Anyway they work the best for me. If yo get the 1 1/2 inch wide ones that have about 1 inch of CBN on the side. You will find that flattening the backs of chisels takes no time at all. You can grind on the side of a CBN wheel because they are aluminum wheels and not stone.

    The best place to get them is Woodturners Wonders. As well as a lot of sharpening jigs and fixtures. PM me if you have more questions. If you believe that Chisels are to soft because someone said they were soft and will load up CBN wheel, which they won't then there is also a product called Slick stick. ( at woodturners wonders)
    Tom

  14. #14
    Forgot the picture.
    .DSC03932.JPG
    Tom

  15. #15
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    I think the heart of the question was, “how do I make flattening the backs of chisels less of a chore?”… I stand by, buy chisels with flat backs. I spent like 2 weeks trying to rehab my first decent chisels. They were Ulmias I found at an estate sale. Was a good learning experience!
    Last edited by chuck van dyck; 12-28-2021 at 4:37 PM.

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