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Thread: Sharpening Japanese Chisels in 2023

  1. #1

    Sharpening Japanese Chisels in 2023

    I am newly motivated to sharpen my hand tools, something I neglected. Many years ago, I purchased Japanese chisels from Japan Woodworker. Not Tasai etc. I just purchased a sharpening book last week, and today attended a sharpening class at Woodcraft. I brought one of my chisels in. The method was to use a Shapton 500 vs 1000 waterstone, flattened with a Shapton lapping plate on the back. That did not work out so well as my tool back was so far from flat. Therefore, a diamond stone was suggested, then back to the 500 then 1,000 waterstones. As a slurry would build up, I was told to spray it off. After an incredible amount of time, it seemed to be evenly flat. Then on to 8,000 as the instructor said no need for anything in between, different than what my gook suggested and now I sand wood. It became fairly shiny but I would not call it a mirror. Then on to the bevel with. It suggested no jig to use to maintain the proper angle. A microbevel was suggested as a good option but not for sure needed.

    After class, I was looking up some videos.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdCW3_9c_Jg&t=603s

    In this one, a metal plate called a Kanaban is used, and the waterstones are rubbed on the flat metal plate to transfer some of the material from the waterstone. Then the back of the chisel is rubbed on the Kanaban because you use the slurry to sharpen.'

    Then in this video, it is suggested that you buy surface compound to apply the abrasive material to the Kanaban.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVmVaNHbSrQ


    No idea what method is best. There seems to be a lack of clarity on how to get a nice kanna ban AKA kanaban. Maybe this:

    https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/shop...e?item=05M4001

    I purchased a Lap-Sharp a long time ago. Not a lot of info on it's use, and the company Wood Artistry is not all that responsive.

    https://www.woodmagazine.com/tool-re...power-of-sharp

    Not sure if this is better for my Japanese chisels. Sure would be nice to get that dialed in as my lap-sharp has not yet been used, if I can get an equally great finish and save time with the lap sharp, great. Or maybe the lap sharp for the major work and the waterstones for final finish. Not sure.

    Any thoughts? I titled it for 2023 thinking maybe with newer products, things have changed since prior threads on this subject form years ago. Thanks.
    Last edited by Joel Gelman; 01-15-2023 at 11:52 PM.

  2. #2
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    One of the problems with asking about methods of sharpening is ten people may give you thirty opinions.

    When it comes to Japanese chisels my tendency would be to look to Japanese methods. Traditionally Japanese woodworkers have used water stones. That may be a good place to start.

    Another free source I would look to is Derek Cohen > http://www.inthewoodshop.com/Woodwor...ues/index.html

    My best advice is to find a method that works and stay with it. Sometimes the best way is to find your own way instead of trying to follow the path of another. If it works for you, then that may be the best way.

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

  3. #3
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    Start using your chisels and whatever sharpening method you have now. Don’t read any sharpening threads. Don’t try a different sharpening method for at least six months.

  4. #4
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    You can get a kanaban from Lee Valley. I like the method of adding slurry to the plate with a water stone, but it can take a while. When it comes to flattening, just get it done whether its diamonds, sandpaper, carborundum, etc.
    The combo of hard and soft steel acts as a microbevel so no reason to add one. The soft steel is easily ground away on a water stone.
    I use 800 and 6000 grit kings. I step up to a 8k shapton glass if needed but usually I am happy at 6k.
    Donít worry about not having a perfect mirror on the back. As you rehone and polish the burr off the back it will get better and better.
    One thing to look out for are the super sharp edges of the lands. They will slice you up so maybe consider hitting quickly with a file or sandpaper.
    I really like the videos by the Aussies, but like stated above, try not to have too many influences. Just find someone you trust and follow their instructions.

    Edit: just noticed lee valley is sold out of the steel plates. I havenít looked, but you may be able to get precision ground steel from McMaster-Carr.
    Last edited by chuck van dyck; 01-16-2023 at 7:56 AM. Reason: Lee valley sold out

  5. #5
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    Hi Joel

    First of all, the smoother the surfaces, the sharper the edge. 8000 grit should get you there, but somehow it is not.

    Secondly, with Japanese bench chisels the traditional bevel angle is 30 degrees. How are you doing this? The traditional method is to free hand a flat bevel, and not use a honing guide. The danger with a honing guide is, if you are not an experienced sharpener, you can create a much higher bevel angle. If so, that will create a dull edge.

    Thirdly, the most important technique in sharpening is the creation of a wire edge when you hone the bevel face. If you cannot feel a wire, then you have not honed across the full length of the bevel to the edge of the blade. No wire = dull edge.

    Each stone needs to create a wire. Also, each stone must remove the scratches of the last stone. Scratches = serrated edge = a weak edge that dulls quickly.

    Now stay away from the 500 stone. It is a grinding stone, not a sharpening stone. It will create deep scratches and the 1000 will struggle to remove them. The 8000 will not remove the scratches from the 1000, especially if there are still scratches from the 500.

    I would work with the 1000 until there is an even scratch pattern with a wire to the back of the blade. Then I would get a 4000 grit stone and use it before the 8000. Again, even scratch pattern and a wire. The back of the chisel must only be smoothed on the 8000 grit at the end.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  6. #6
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    Derek, I have it somewhere in my notes but can’t find it now. I seem to recall that you don’t hollow ground your Japanese chisels? (Using your ultimate CBN system for solely Sheffield type steels?)

    Jon

  7. #7
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    I think Derek means the danger Ďwithoutí a honing guide.

    Iíve used a lot of methods, the method Iíve ended up with is exactly the same as Derekís. My final stone is a 10,000 now just for plane blades.
    I use a high quality stereoscope to view my edges. 15 to 90 times power. Seeing what you are doing in immense detail is wonderful. Up close there are no mirror surfaces, just smaller scratches. The final edge viewed from both sides can be inspirational. A superb edge actually feels less Ďsharpí.

    Up to 6000 grit for chisels is just fine, a 10,000 grit edge will last only a few mallet strokes longer. Plane blades do benefit from the extra effort to Ďpolishí the wood. In use, the plane edge acquires micro chips, I do mean microns. It continues to work very well for a long time, the micro chips still cut. I just strop the blade on leather and stropping compound to remove any small burr around the edge of the micro chips, then back to work.

    Seems the people running your class would benefit from a class. My classic scientific training makes me investigate and verify.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post



    In use, the plane edge acquires micro chips, I do mean microns. It continues to work very well for a long time, the micro chips still cut. I just strop the blade on leather and stropping compound to remove any small burr around the edge of the micro chips, then back to work.

    Seems the people running your class would benefit from a class. My classic scientific training makes me investigate and verify.
    If you are getting "micro chips" something is very wrong. Poor steel or poor sharpening media or something. Stuff like that makes the edge harder to sharpen.

    I watched the videos in your post, Joel. They all seem to have new equipment. I don't think any have much experience or are even woodworkers.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Snider View Post
    Derek, I have it somewhere in my notes but can’t find it now. I seem to recall that you don’t hollow ground your Japanese chisels? (Using your ultimate CBN system for solely Sheffield type steels?)

    Jon
    Jon, all my Japanese chisels have flat bevels and are honed free hand.

    Some may hollow grind theirs. It is fine to do so, and does not weaken the edge, but it is not traditional and loses its attractiveness.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    I think Derek means the danger ‘without’ a honing guide....
    What I was saying is that someone using a honing guide, creating a secondary bevel, may unwittingly hone a higher secondary bevel than intended. If you go above 35 degrees, the blade will feel duller.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  11. #11
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    Unfortunately Warren the edge doesnít last forever! The micro chips are incredibly small, nothing wrong with the steel. Itís just the normal wear of the edge.

    They donít make the edge harder to sharpen, it is simple and quick to hone the edge back to remove them. You canít see them with the naked eye or even a loupe. Itís not as fanatical as it sounds! Just what is going on at the edge. You donít need optical equipment to achieve this kind of edge, it just helps you understand the process.

    What it does show you is what is NOT there. No deep scratches, no micro curled edge to break off, no chips, just a lovely union of two planes.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  12. #12
    Flattening the back and polishing it is just labor. No shortcut that I know of. Others have suggested techniques.

    For the bevel side, I use a WorkSharp and put a 25 degree primary bevel on the chisels. Then I go to my water stones and put a higher secondary bevel. It's not traditional but it's a lot faster than doing all the work on water stones.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  13. #13
    Well, there are a bunch of videos up about sharpening. When you first get a new chisel or plane iron, you will most likely have to spend some extra time 'fixing' it to how you want it. This includes flattening the back. I use all diamond lapping plates, which are several grades above the diamond 'sharpening' stones, mostly they are dead flat. You can even use a table saw top or jointer bed as a flat surface and start with coarse abrasive grits. Hopefully you don't need 36 grit. Some do sharpen to 1000 and then go straight to 16000, and Shapton actually makes a 30000 grit stone. I prefer to go in steps, but I am fairly new to flat work tools, having spent most of the last 30 years at the lathe. When sanding bowls on the lathe, you do not skip grits, ever, because it leaves scratches that you can see. I do like guides for learning until you get the muscle memory, then it doesn't take much effort to get the 'feel' of how things are done. I have the Veritas jig, and it does work well. A simpler method is one of several clones, and Woodcraft has one. You need a board with several depth stops, wood generally, for different angles. Pretty simple to make, and more convenient than the little gage that you slip on the Veritas set up. If you look up Face Edge Woodworking on You Tube, he uses the old India oil stones, the finest is about 400 grit. He does strop the burr off. I consider that to be one of the most essential steps. He uses a cheap 'polishing' paste from the big box store on wood, and that actually works well. You can get diamond polishing pastes up to 16000 grit. I will generally use 2 or 3 different polishing compounds. It is a journey....

    robo hippy

  14. #14
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    There are much better sharpereners out there than I but did want to mention one thingÖ

    Japanese tools are different than all the other tools out there. Not only the construction but the philosophy. When dredging through the mo7ntains if opionions and methods, seek out ones for Japanese blades. Derek knows his stuff, not only generally but for tools from Japan as well.

  15. #15
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    Joel, this may also be of interest to you > https://covingtonandsons.com/2019/07...-tools-part-1/

    There is are links to part 2 through 30 at the end of part 1.

    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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