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Thread: Scary sharp fact or fiction??

  1. #1
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    Scary sharp fact or fiction??

    While exploring options for sharpening plane blades and chissels I ran into some reviews of the ScarySharp method. Sounded real good specially with the extensive rave reviews it got. Since I have not invested in any sharpening stones yet I figured the ScarySharp is worth a shot considering the low cost (the complete setup cost me $25 which includes $7).
    I used the following website for details and instructions.
    http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/Sharpen/jig.html
    I have made the exact setup Brent recommends, and the same set of sandpapers (PSA backed). I tried it last week with mixed results. Couple of problems; the sandpaper after a very short time starts feeling smooth. Since I am using oil as recommended I am not sure it is because of the iron filings collecting in the gaps. Also I could never get the final product sharp enough to cut the hair off the back of my hand, even though I followed the instructions to the dot.

    I asked Dennis about his opinion and he offered me his water stones for comparison. So last Sat I spent the afternoon at Dennis's shop working with his Japanese waterstones and Tormak. One of the plane blades was out of square (I got a second one for backup), the Tormak got that fixed in no time. After about 4-5 hours of dedicated scrubbing and rubbing on the stones I finally got one of the plane blades "shaving hair off the back of your hand" sharp. Issue settled right? well maybe not.

    I wasn't willing to give up on the ScarySharp just yet. So I spent Sunday night sharpening my 1/4" chisel on the ScarySharp setup. The sandpapers were still effectively cutting, even though they were noticeably smooth. One modification I did from the process Brent Beach recommends is that I honed the back of the chissel dead flat (lesson learned from Dennis) as opposed to a slight bevel Brent recommends. The final result the 1/4" chissel got to hair shaving sharp.

    I will soon try the process on my second plane blade but as a result of this weekends ordeal I have a couple of questions, hopefully some experienced iron sharpers will be able to answer.

    1. When using ScarySharp do you only use pull strokes? does the push stroke (where you are pushing the sharp edge into the sandpaper) have any detrimental effects on the sandpaper. The smoothness of the paper suggests it's loosing its bite, but the paper still cuts the irons effectively, unfortunately I didn't time the first use of the paper so I can't compare the results. I don't have enough experience with this to make a judgement as to whether it is slowing down or not.

    2. Has anyone been using the ScarySharp for an extensive period, what is your experience. Do you think it is good enough to replace waterstones?


    thanks
    Zahid Naqvi
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  2. #2
    I use to use Scary Sharp but found that it took to long and that coarse sandpaper (initial flatening stages) isn't real flat (even when mounted on a granite surface plate) so that initial iron (chisel, plane, etc) prep can take a very long time and go through a lot of paper. I prefer to use Shapton stones because they cut metal very quickly and come in very fine grit sizes. The Shapton's use water as the lubrication/evacuation medium but a lot less water than most water stones. The Tormek is very good for some things but for most chisels and plane irons final honing on stones is still required.

  3. #3
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    First, I will say that a lot of people have used and swear by the SS method for sharpening. Personally I thought it was a royal pain going through, and switching out, all the different grits of paper. I gave up on it (maybe too soon) and only use it now for the coarsest grits to flatten backs of irons and chisels, and fettling planes.
    Until I recently got my Shapton stones, I was using diamond stones through the extra-fine grit and then finishing with either stropping or a 6000 waterstone. For me this was much faster and easier than dealing with changing out papers all the time.
    SS can and does work. However, I just never liked the process. To me, the easier the process, the more likely I am to sharpen when I need it as opposed to well after I need it. The key is to find a process that works for you...whatever it is.

    Tom

  4. #4
    Zahid, I have used scary sharp in the past and still use it to flatten the back of my chisels after sharpening on the Tormek and for honing the edges of scrapers.

    I happend to find a 30" long piece of 3/8" glass so I can attach all the different grits of paper to it at once. I just put it on the bench when I'm sharpening.

    I don't use it full time because the sand paper cost more than a good set of stones because it wears out so fast.

    I use it for scrapers because I don't want risk putting a groove in my water stones.
    Dennis

  5. #5
    I used the scary sharp method for a couple of months. Then I switched to the Tormek, now I use waterstones.

    My current favorite is the Tormek, dressed with the rough side of the stone for 220 grit, and a waterstone. I use the tormek to set the bevel if it needs it and the waterstone to finish the job.

    My problem with scary sharp wasn't the edge that I got. It just wasn't as cheap as advertised and it was a big pain for me. Most of that pain was attaching the sandpaper to the surface (I use tiles). I'd glue the sandpaper with an adhesive spray by elmers and then wait 15 minutes or so. Then I'd use up the paper too quickly. Sometimes I'd dig in a corner and that section of paper would be unusable.

    When it was time to switch the paper I had to use a glass scraper to clean it up. Also, sometimes I'd have a little bubble under the paper and that would round over the edge of my tool. Finally, the dry metal powder was difficult to clean from my hands. If I had spray glue on them it became nearly impossible to get them clean.

    90% of the time now I can just pull out the waterstone from a bucket and sharpen it freehand. I typically use a 800 and 4000 grit combo stone and nothing else. I don't sharpen them as well as this guy but they cut wood quite well.

    I like waterstones because for me, they are cleaner and they are faster.

  6. #6
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    I started out with scary sharp and switched to a combination of water stones and diamond stones. I have now switched back to scary sharp.

    My problem with water stones was the constant hassle with flattening them before the next use. Diamond impregnated plates were used, in courser grits, for flattening the backs of chisels and irons and the water stones. I quickly learned that not all diamond impregnated stones are flat from the factory and that diamond impregnated plates don't hold up well to sharpening steel on them.

    For scary sharp I use 5 pieces of 1/4" plate glass 9-1/4" x 11-1/4" that I glue the wet dry paper to. Water is used as the lubericant on the wet dry paper. The coarsest grit used is 80 grit Emory paper for initial flattening the backs of irons and chisels. That one you use dry, water dissolves the glue holding the grit. With the wet dry paper, I use grits 150, 220, 320, 400, 600. 1000, 1500, 2000, and 2500.

    In answer to one of the questions asked, when working on the backs of chisels and irons I use a back and forth motion, with finger pressure on the top of the blade. When working on the bevel, sharpening is done on the pull stroke.

    I also have a piece of of 1/4" plate 9" wide by 37" long. This I use to flatten plane soles. 4-1/2" wide rolls of PSA sand paper are used on this to avoid the hassle of gluing them. By the way, I had bad luck trying the Elmer's brand of glue. It would spray out in clumps. The grits used start at 60 and go to 80, 120, 180 and 280. Since this system is used dry, I just take a paint brush and sweep away the iron filings from the grit. If I'm doing a number of flatenings. I wear a dust mask. Iron dust does float in the air and you inhale a lot of it without a mask.

    The problem with scary sharp is that the paper wears out, particularly the lower grits. In addition, my hands turn black with the water iron combination. My average cost for a sheet of wet dry paper is 36 cents. That, over a long period of time, with constant use, could get expensive. The initial flattening of backs is time consuming, whatever method you use. I've tried to use the disk on my Jet sharpening station with some success. However, I fear that there is a high risk of screwing up the piece of steel I'm working on or worse yet, sanding a finger tip.

    My final step in the sharpening process is use of a strop. This is the final polish put on the edge. I use a dry, wax free honing compond on the strop.

    I will probably stay with scary sharp until I have enough money to switch to the Shapton Stones and try those.
    Last edited by Richard Gillespie; 03-02-2004 at 8:29 AM.
    Possumpoint

  7. #7
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    I have tried the scary sharp method and got like most other posters on this thread mixed, results. I now use a mixture of stones, diamond, Shaptons and Norton. If I were to start over I could go right to the ones that I like best much less expensively than the expensive trial and error method that I used. I like the Shapton's ok but they require some method like all waterstones, to flatten them. I use a diamond stone, 600 grit to flatten my stones. Incidently, the ceramic stones with the saw cuts on them are concave, they flatten your stone to a convex shape and not flat as they are supposed to.
    The Norton waterstones work about 90% or better, as well as a Shapton and cost much less. I also use a diamond stone to flatten these. The Shaptons will stay flatter longer than Norton but not a lot longer. So if I were to start over on the cheap, I would buy a 1000/4000 and a 4000/8000 Norton combination stone and be done with it and a 600 grit diamond stone to flatten them. In addition, I did recently buy a granite surface plate at Woodcraft, this is an extremely useful device for any kind of sharpening and flattening. It is flat to < .ooo1, thats 1/10000 inch. Put a sheet of 600 on it and flatten your stones or determine if they are flat. I was also able to finally determine which of my squares were reliable, $29.95 is money well spent for a small granite surface plate.

    Gene

  8. #8
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    Zahid,

    Welcome to the never-ending debate

    I'm fairly new to woodworking, but have been sharpening hunting knives my whole life. ScarySharp has worked great for me on chisels and plane irons.

    As for "push or pull", I believe sharpening should always be done with a push stroke, i.e. pushing the edge into the sharpening medium. The rationale being that it pushes burrs away from the cutting edge. The exception appears to be stropping, which I haven't tried yet.

    My experience with scary sharp is that I go through the coarse grit sheets (150, 320) pretty fast whereas I have reused sheets of the finer grits (600, 800, 1000, 1500 and 2000 ) on several tools and still get great results. I believe the fine grits perform more of a polishing or stropping action and the very fine abrasive particles don't get knocked off as easily as the coarse, also less metal is removed to clog things up, but I've generally found that, the finer the grit, the longer it's useful life.

    I grind/hone dry on sandpaper, I figure it is a disposable medium and the purpose of oil is to suspend the metal shavings so they don't clog the pores on a stone. When honing knives on Arkansas or ceramic stones, I use oil. I do vaccum up the waste about every dozen strokes on the coarse grits, this helps keep the steel grinding against the medium and not the combined waste and also helps keep things flat and slightly less messy.

    Also, are you using a jig? The most important factor in sharpening is keeping the edge at a consistent angle to the medium. On a chisel or plane iron, if you're sharpening to the primary bevel (normally 25-degrees), it's easy to hand hold with that big bevel against the medium, although I've found it hard to "feel" the bevel against the paper with chisels smaller than 3/8", plus I like to use a 30-degree micro bevel, so I normally use an $8.99 jig from WWS. The jig is also good for grinding the primary bevel, I've only done that once thus far on a 2" plane iron and after getting 1/3 of the bevel established in 30-minutes at 150-grit I switched to 80 for a faster grind.

    I've seen Brent's website and while it is very informative, his methods look extremely time-consuming. I think you can get acceptable results without going to that much trouble.

    The Tormek looks like a "Cadillac" of a sharpening system whose cost I can't justify.

  9. #9
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    I attended an all day lecture with Mark Adams of The Mark Adams School of Woodworking. His method is so simple and fast it was funny. Take a belt sander and load 320 grit. Turn the sander upside down and "attach" it to a solid surface. Take the chisel and hold the bevel flat against the platten. Turn the sander on and allow ONLY a couple of reveloutions. Stop and check the back side and with your finger feel to see if a burr has been raised. Mark took the chisel to the sander 3 times before he had one all the way across the back. Now at a slow speed motor mount non-stiched rag wheels (anything else will generate too much heat) and apply a cutting compond. Mark used something green and soft. Make sure rotation is away from you. Plunge the bevel into the rag wheel and buff. Check the back for burr, you may have to "touch" the back to remove the burr. Don't spend a lot of time on the back. Check for sharpness. Mark hit the bevel a couple of times, then dry shaved hair off his arm. This took no longer that 5 minutes with discussion.

    Remember you always need to flatten chisel backs before any sharpening.

    No affiliation to Mark Adams School

    Terry

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Quiram
    I attended an all day lecture with Mark Adams of The Mark Adams School of Woodworking. His method is so simple and fast it was funny. Take a belt sander and load 320 grit. Turn the sander upside down and "attach" it to a solid surface. Take the chisel and hold the bevel flat against the platten. Turn the sander on and allow ONLY a couple of reveloutions. Stop and check the back side and with your finger feel to see if a burr has been raised. Mark took the chisel to the sander 3 times before he had one all the way across the back. Now at a slow speed motor mount non-stiched rag wheels (anything else will generate too much heat) and apply a cutting compond. Mark used something green and soft. Make sure rotation is away from you. Plunge the bevel into the rag wheel and buff. Check the back for burr, you may have to "touch" the back to remove the burr. Don't spend a lot of time on the back. Check for sharpness. Mark hit the bevel a couple of times, then dry shaved hair off his arm. This took no longer that 5 minutes with discussion.

    Remember you always need to flatten chisel backs before any sharpening.

    No affiliation to Mark Adams School

    Terry

    Interesting, Terry, but I'm not sure I care to get my fingers that close to a spinning, abrasive belt!

    Also, can you define "slow speed motor", I'm assuming it's less than the standard 3450 RPM of a bench grinder.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for all the good advice guys, it's good to know I am not the only one who is confused on the issue. The problem of flattening the water stones, as some of you indicated above, is quite easy to manage. I was in Dennis Peacock's shop last weekend sharpening my blades on his waterstones when we started talking about how to flatten waterstones. I remembered reading somewhere about a method of flattening waterstones by rubbing them against each other. Dennis figured the theory was easy to test and started doing just that, within 2 minute he had the stones deadflat so that they would slide/glide off when stacked one on top of the other.
    The reason behind my persuit of ScarySharp is my shop. I currently work in one half of a two car garage with no source, or drain, of water nearby. Using waterstones in this setup is a bit of an inconvenience. ScarySharp sounded so much better, but alas as I am beginning to find out it not as good as it initially sounded. But I am may need to persist with it for a while.
    And James yes I did make the jig Brent recommends to keep the chisels and blades at a constant angle.

    Zahid
    The means by which an end is reached must exemplify the value of the end itself.

  12. #12
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    Where can you purchase the Shapton stones?

  13. #13

  14. #14
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    Interesting, Terry, but I'm not sure I care to get my fingers that close to a spinning, abrasive belt!
    You are only letting the belt make a couple of turns. Not even enough to heat up the chisel.

    Also, can you define "slow speed motor", I'm assuming it's less than the standard 3450 RPM of a bench grinder.
    David was using a motor that turned 1800rpm.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Zahid Naqvi
    I currently work in one half of a two car garage with no source, or drain, of water nearby. Using waterstones in this setup is a bit of an inconvenience.
    Well, I'm a big fan of using whatever works for you. I keep my waterstones soaking in a 5 gallon pail. When I need more water I dip my hand in it and drip a little more on the stone. Not having nearby water hasn't been a problem at all.

    Now the tormek on the other hand, I have to fill a pitcher before I use it and then I clean it when I'm done. A water source for that would be really nice.

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