RWW 160 How Do You Sharpen

Chris Schwarz recently posted a quick video that shows him sharpening a chisel. In the description he asks that viewers not comment with words but a video showing how they sharpen. Considering how influential Mr Schwarz is, I can’t help but wonder how many videos will look very similar to his own. I thought I might add my own contribution since I like to think I have “honed” my process to be highly efficient and discovered that embracing free hand sharpening isn’t nearly as difficult as one might think. Like all hand tool woodworking, a little bit of practice goes a really long way.

Want to see it even faster?

May 27, 2013 | Sharpen a chisel in 30 seconds by RenaissanceWW on

12 Responses to “RWW 160 How Do You Sharpen”

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  1. Mitch Wilson says:

    What about a blade that is cambered? Jointer blades have little, if any, camber. Are you still able to achieve a good microbevel doing everything by hand?

    • Shannon says:

      Cambered blades are just as easy because you can rock your wrist from left to right along the curve be it really subtle like on a smoothing plane to radical like with a moulding plane iron or carving gouge. I find honing a curve to be much harder and depending on how deep the curve even impossible when using a jig.

  2. Jim Arnold says:

    We do things pretty much the same, Shannon; waterstones, 1000 and 8000 grit, blade in line with the stone (as opposed to perpendicular as Daneb does it), polish the back with 8000, camellia oil at the end. Some minor differences; I push instead of pull (but will admit that the pull is easier for keeping registration), I never do a secondary bevel on any blade, I polish the burr only once (at the end), and I shave my arm (woodworkers mange) instead of testing on my thumbnail.

    You did not do a camber stroke on this blade and I know you like them. I do a camber on absolutely every plane blade…some more than others, but none aggressively.

    Jim A.

  3. Jimmy Buder says:

    I just free hand on my Tormek, it is quick and I do not have to move my hand to a new position, and do not have to setup some jigs. I only use the jigs if I get an nick or something on the edge.
    I find the angle just like Shannon, I rest my hands in the angle on the tool rest and then I have a foot switch to turn on the Tormek and 5 seconds later I am honing it on the leather wheel for 5 sec and I am finished.

    I always polish my edges on leather with some honing compound to get it really sharp and prevent rust,
    sometimes I only use the leather wheel to do a toutch up.

    Around here (sweden) the old farmers always used leather, perhaps it is not that common in USA on sharpening, correct me if I am wrong.

    • Shannon says:

      I think Lester strips are quite common in the US too. I use one as well though mainly on my carving gouges and moulding plane irons that get light duty. I can refresh an edge quickly without going back to the stones. I will do the same thing with paring chisels or right before I chop out the baselines of dovetails.

  4. Jeff Studebaker says:

    Thanks for all the effort you put into making these videos – tons of great information.

    On your sharpening technique: I’m curious as to why you use a micro-bevel.

    I thought the purpose of a micro-bevel was to cut down sharpening time by reducing the surface area to be sharpened – and therefore the amount of metal you are removing. You just hone the micro-bevel and ignore the primary bevel.

    If you are removing the old micro-bevel each time, and you’re getting a burr on the primary bevel, why not just stop there? Why create a new micro-bevel if you already have an edge?

    Is there another purpose for the micro-bevel?

    • Shannon says:

      Excellent question Jeff and you are probably right. I could just cut out the micro-bevel and get back to work. This may be partly habit since I have been using micro-bevels from my jig sharpening days. I’m inclined to believe that I’m getting a sharper edge by putting the slightly steeper new angle right at the tip. Think “ruler trick” but on the bevel face instead of the back. I also like to think of it as an additional line of defense because when I ding the edge or dub it over on my strop I can always hit “reset” and go back to my primary bevel without having to regrind that whole face. I’m reminded of a video game I have on my iPhone where a little guy climbs a wall while nefarious hooligans throw things at him trying to knock him off. You can pick up shields that allow you to get hit once before being knocked off the wall. I always feel safer with that little protective bubble around me giving me another chance if I get hit. My micro-bevel is the protective shield of edge tool life.

      • Jeff Studebaker says:

        Thanks, Shannon. I would guess that the extra few degrees on the bevel adds to the strength of the edge as well.

  5. Eric R says:

    Cool video.
    Thanks Shannon.

  6. Parker Tindell says:

    I like your method. Do you need a micro bevel? whats the benefit if you remove it every freehand sharpening? Thanks.

    • Parker Tindell says:

      Shannon I just read Jeff’s question and your answer hahaha I must have over looked that

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