Sharpening #1

When I was building my shed, it really was a predominantly power tool affair. With one exception. I decided that I would use a good old-fashioned chisel and mallet to chop out the notches for the noggins and studs. There must have been nearly two hundred of them. I needed to learn to sharpen my chisels.



All I had was the coarse/fine reversible oil stone and honing guide that came with my chisels, and that did the job nicely, a bit crude, but fine for the rough work I was doing in softwood.




When I first encountered the work of Paul Sellers, one of the first videos I watched was about sharpening plane irons freehand on diamond plates. I managed to find some relatively inexpensive plates on eBay, and I made a sharpening station with them. Sharpening freehand is not as easy as Mr Sellers made it look, and I still haven’t quite got the hang of it.



This first sharpening station, while useful for chisels, is not very good with plane irons – the plates are too narrow. I found some wider ones and made a second station – coarse 250 grit, medium 800 grit and fine 1200 grit. The plates are lubricated with glass cleaner, to lift off the swarf. This is a lot less messy than using an oil stone.




The last sharpening station I made, again following the advice of Paul Sellers, is a leather strop. This is simply a piece of leather glued to some ply and charged with chromium oxide. The ground bevel of the chisel or plane iron (or spokeshave iron) is dragged over the charged leather 30 or 40 times to give a final polish at about 20,000 – 30,000 grit.


I still use the honing guide with the diamond plates I’m afraid, but one of these days I’ll try to master the freehand method. I get pretty good results if I say so myself, the acid test is taking a freshly sharpened chisel or plane iron and seeing if it can cut a curve in a piece of loosely held paper. If it can, then its sharp.

The other type of sharpening I needed to get to grips with was hand saws…

…but that’s for another post.


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