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Thread: Locked in whether you like it or not: yet another sharpening thread

  1. #1
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    Locked in whether you like it or not: yet another sharpening thread

    Didnít want to put this on the freehand vs jig debate soÖ

    There was a lot of talk about freehand being easier with a flat bevel ie no microbevel). I find this true with my Japanese tools. I keep a flat bevel on these as I was taught and find it easy to freehand them. As I was spending ten minutes looking for my angle setting jig*, I thought about that thread. But here;s my two problems. Firstly, I have a microbevel on many of my tools as I learned the Charlesworth method of sharpening and I donít want to grind all of them to get rid of it. Bee, speaking of David (and Cosman) I have used the ruler trick on a lot of plane blades (even though in retrospect they had flat backs). Iím not even sure how to undo that easily.

    so I guess Iíll putter along with what I have because itís like momentum and Iím too lazy to change.

    *it had fallen under the table

  2. #2
    It wasn't clear to me whether the microbevel you mentioned was on the front of the bevel or on the back (ruler trick). On my tools, the microbevel on the front is tiny, so if I wanted to get rid of it it wouldn't take a lot of grinding to do so. But I use a microbevel on all my tools so I don't really have to grind all that off.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 02-14-2024 at 12:48 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
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    It is a microbevel on the front and the ruler trick on the back.

  4. #4
    You can freehand a microbevel. Just align the blade so the bevel is flat against the stone or whatever, and then raise it 5į or whatever your microbevel is. The thing with sharpening is that you don't have to be exact. You just have to be consistent.

    I don't usually use microbevels because I haven't found the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. However, there are a few instances where I will apply them, like on a mortise chisel with a steep primary bevel. I guess in theory I could grind a larger secondary bevel, but that's more work without enough payoff to make it worth my time. Either way, I have no issues whatsoever putting a microbevel on something freehand. I don't even use a ruler to do the "ruler trick". I freehand that as well. Freehand sharpening takes a bit more skill, but it's not THAT difficult to learn. Practice enough and you'll gain the muscle memory to easily hold the blade at a consistent angle while you work it. And that's all you need. Consistency.

    The thing with sharpening is, there's not really a right or wrong way to do it. There is such a thing as a good and bad edge, however. But so long as the method you use gives you a good edge, then there's no reason to overthink it and make things more complicated just because some guy on the internet has a different opinion. Always trust what the edge of your blade tells you more than what a rando with a YT channel says.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Harris View Post
    You can freehand a microbevel. Just align the blade so the bevel is flat against the stone or whatever, and then raise it 5į or whatever your microbevel is. The thing with sharpening is that you don't have to be exact. You just have to be consistent.

    I don't usually use microbevels because I haven't found the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. However, there are a few instances where I will apply them, like on a mortise chisel with a steep primary bevel. I guess in theory I could grind a larger secondary bevel, but that's more work without enough payoff to make it worth my time. Either way, I have no issues whatsoever putting a microbevel on something freehand. I don't even use a ruler to do the "ruler trick". I freehand that as well. Freehand sharpening takes a bit more skill, but it's not THAT difficult to learn. Practice enough and you'll gain the muscle memory to easily hold the blade at a consistent angle while you work it. And that's all you need. Consistency.

    The thing with sharpening is, there's not really a right or wrong way to do it. There is such a thing as a good and bad edge, however. But so long as the method you use gives you a good edge, then there's no reason to overthink it and make things more complicated just because some guy on the internet has a different opinion. Always trust what the edge of your blade tells you more than what a rando with a YT channel says.
    I just donít have the dexterity to be anywhere near consistent unfortunately.

  6. #6
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    Tony, in my view there are two ways to sharpen: freehand and using a guide. Both are legitimate. Ignore anyone who guilts you for using a guide, flat bevel, hollow grind, etc, etc. Just do what works for you - working wood is more important than the way the bevel looks.

    if using a guide, the micro secondary bevel is your friend. The aim is always to minimise the amount of steel to hone, and honing a full bevel is not efficient (Jim Krenov used to hollow grind his Japanese chisels). A secondary bevel on a chisel may reduce its range of use (e.g. more difficult to ride the bevel), but this does not invalidate a sharp chisel.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

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    You don't actually have to be perfectly consistent to freehand. I think this is something that intimidates newbies- they assume the consistency of a guide is essential to getting a sharp edge, and if they can't match that consistency they won't get sharp.

    If your angle wobbles a few degrees each stroke, it's not going to ruin your edge. All that will happen is you will be rounding the bevel (which is irrelevant for sharpness), and the final edge angle will be increased slightly; e.g. if you were aiming for 30 it might be 32 at the edge.

    And holding a long tool like a plane iron or chisel, if you have good ergonomics with your setup you should be able to stay within a degree or two after just a little practice. Plane irons and chisels (unless very narrow) are the easiest tools to freehand - easy to hold, no curves to deal with. Just lock your wrists and go.

    In my observation the biggest issue beginners have is simply not removing enough steel in the initial stage of honing, so that there is still damage and wear/rounding at the edge when they progress to finer stones. Just keep going on the coarse stone until you raise a big honking burr- that guarantees you have completed the job on the coarse stone. If you fail to do that, none of the finer stones are going to make it sharp. On the occasions where I sharpen something and it doesn't seem quite sharp enough, its always because I didn't do enough work on the coarse/medium stone. Never because my angle wobbles a bit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hazelwood View Post
    You don't actually have to be perfectly consistent to freehand. I think this is something that intimidates newbies- they assume the consistency of a guide is essential to getting a sharp edge, and if they can't match that consistency they won't get sharp.

    If your angle wobbles a few degrees each stroke, it's not going to ruin your edge. All that will happen is you will be rounding the bevel (which is irrelevant for sharpness), and the final edge angle will be increased slightly; e.g. if you were aiming for 30 it might be 32 at the edge.

    And holding a long tool like a plane iron or chisel, if you have good ergonomics with your setup you should be able to stay within a degree or two after just a little practice. Plane irons and chisels (unless very narrow) are the easiest tools to freehand - easy to hold, no curves to deal with. Just lock your wrists and go.

    In my observation the biggest issue beginners have is simply not removing enough steel in the initial stage of honing, so that there is still damage and wear/rounding at the edge when they progress to finer stones. Just keep going on the coarse stone until you raise a big honking burr- that guarantees you have completed the job on the coarse stone. If you fail to do that, none of the finer stones are going to make it sharp. On the occasions where I sharpen something and it doesn't seem quite sharp enough, it’s always because I didn't do enough work on the coarse/medium stone. Never because my angle wobbles a bit.
    This! If you raise a burr and then remove, then polish an edge, it will be good enough for woodworking. You can always improve, and you can tell the difference between a sharp edge and a really really sharp edge, but you shouldn’t let sharpening intimidate you.

    I generally use a guide, but I’m quick to just freehand when I’m in the middle of a project and just want to touch up a tool.

  9. #9
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    Tony has indicated before that he has physical limitations. If a guide let's him get the edge sharpness he needs, that's the way to go.

    Regarding the Charlesworth ruler trick. I think once you start using it, you're stuck with it. After you've raised a burr, you won't be able to remove it after you flip the blade unless you repeat the ruler trick or raise the blade manually to reach the apex. The last can potentially make that back bevel even more steep and require raising the blade even more in later sharpenings.

  10. #10
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    I'll also add that I find sharpening a large flat bevel to be trickier than freehanding a small secondary bevel. I have both western and Japanese tools, and I sharpen most of the westerns with a flat primary and small secondary bevel, and the Japanese I sharpen with a full flat bevel in the traditional way.

    With a flat bevel the angle is easy to register, but its not as simple as setting the bevel flat on the stone. Especially with laminated blades like a Japanese chisel, most of the surface is soft and quickly cut by the stone, with only the area near the edge being hard and slowly cut. If you just keep even pressure on the bevel, the heel will be cut away more quickly than the tip, causing the angle of the whole bevel to become more acute. Over the coarse of a few sharpenings you might find the chisel becomes very chippy, and eventually you discover the bevel angle is now 25 degrees when it started out as 32. To avoid this you have to bias the pressure strongly towards the tip- basically like you are going to tip the chisel up to create a microbevel but stopping just short of actually tipping it. The heel of the bevel will touch the stone but with essentially zero force. It takes practice and a lot of concentration.

    Related to this, you can get an awful lot of friction and suction from a flat bevel. On a large bevel like a kanna blade it can stop you in your tracks, especially on certain stones like a Shapton 5k, but most stones will do it to some degree. The way to mitigate is the same - keep pressure biased towards the tip. If you get the pressure just right it will work smoothly. I think it takes more practice and concentration than sharpening the small bevel with no angle registration.

  11. #11
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    Tony, if you want to remove the ruler trick bevel, you'll need to grind the edge of the blade back until its gone. The way Charlesworth demonstrated it, its width should be very minimal (~1/64"), so it would be doable by hand if you don't have a grinder. Although I don't think there's any reason to remove it if its been working well for you. Even if you want to freehand the bevel, you can still do the ruler trick.

  12. #12
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    you shouldn’t let sharpening intimidate you.
    Considering how many different ways to sharpen people mention in one of these threads, the intimidating mystery leading to paralysis of analysis is trying to figure which is the correct way.

    Don't think about that, because they are all correct in their own ways.

    My way may not be a way that works for others. My choice was to keep it simple and not to try every trick in the book before being able to produce a sharp edge. My focus was on creating the cutting edge. Cambers, micro bevels, back bevels and other refinements were set aside to pay attention to what was taking place with the edge. My attention was given to the scratch pattern on the bevel.

    Was it reaching the edge?

    Without a mentor on the scene, we have to become our own instructor.

    We have to be able to not only find our error, but we have to determine how to change the result.

    Well, maybe that is a bit intimidating.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 02-17-2024 at 12:32 PM. Reason: added: mention after people
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    My choice was to keep it simple and not to try every trick in the book before being able to produce a sharp edge.
    jtk
    This is sound advice IMO, there is far too much noise out there and not just on sharpening.
    Learn the basics and keep it simple until you get a feel for it. Trying to change too many variables at once gets you nowhere.

  14. #14
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    I always find it's interesting, these threads on sharpening, considering people do it in so many different ways. I think it's natural to bounce around from technique to technique until you find something that works for you. That is, unless someone shows you the way they do it and if that person is someone you respect, then you might adopt their ideas and mimic them. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you wind up with tools that are sharp enough for what you want to make.

    I always remember two techniques that I saw, or read about that illustrate this point. As a young carpenter's helper back in the early 1980's the best trim carpenter that I have ever known was a guy named Don, in his belt he carried a block plane, I don't remember the model. When it got dull, he would take a mill file and file the edge. Once the filing scratch lines went all the way to the edge, it raised quite a burr, this he would strop off on his jeans leg, and finish it off on the palm of his hand! The edge he got was sharp enough to do what he needed. Often this was done up on scaffolding while we were shingling.

    The second story is about Tage Frid, one of his students asked where he got the short butt chisels he used. He replied, "The hardware store." The hardware store didn't sell butt chisels. Then the student saw him sharpen his chisels, and understood, he ground the bevel on a belt grinder, then polished the edge on a felt wheel. Years of doing this had shortened the chisel remarkably. He made nice things, so they must've been sharp enough.

    My point is that depending on what you intend to make, and what woods you intend to use, some level of sharpness will be adequate and you can stop there.

    I think some guys are just into the idea of sharpening and want to get the sharpest edge possible just because it makes them happy to do so, or for bragging rights. Nothing wrong with that.

    DC

  15. #15
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    Iím going to continue to do as I was taught. I was just pointing out that some decisions are harder to Ďchange your mindí on, eg Charlesworth method. I canít remember for sure but did my Lie Nielsen blades come with a microbevel> itís been quite a while.

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