If you are a woodworker using chisels and planers, you know their keen, sharp edge is critical to making any task easier. To return the edge to a mirror finish, follow the simple steps below.
Select the your abrasive
The most common sharpening choices are either waterproof sandpaper or sharpening stones. And, amongst the stone options you can choose water, oil, or diamond. The technique is the same; so, the choice comes down to cost and grit preferences. Waterproof sandpaper is generally cheaper, while stones are available in finer grits and, properly cared for, last for years. Ensure that whatever choice you make provides a flat surface for sharpening. For more information on the types of stones and what choice to make, reference our stone guide.
Prepare the back face
The back face on a correctly sharpened blade has two characteristics: it is flat and it is polished. To flatten and polish the back face, place your abrasive on a solid, non-slip surface and work the blade with arms extended, adding the weight of your upper body. The more pressure you apply, the faster the cut rate. Polish until the surface becomes reflective.
Grind the bevel (optional)
Creating the grinding bevel with a grinding wheel makes sharpening easier and faster. The angle of the grinding bevel is about 25 degrees for a plane blade and as low as 15 degrees for a chisel – there is no standard angle. Use a slow speed bench grinder with a cool-cutting wheel. The best results come from a premium white aluminum oxide, 60 grit, soft-grade bench wheel (J grade). You control the cut rate and feed speed. So, avoid heavy pressure and slow feeds, which can burn tools through over-heating.
Sharpen the bevel edge
To create the sharpening bevel, you need to restore a flat face to the rounded blunt edge. Sharpening requires two grades of abrasive – both in the fine range. The first grade quickly removes the rounded edge. The second, finer grade polishes the new flat face. Hold the blade freehand or, for more precise results, in a honing guide at the correct angle. Sharpen until the edge is shiny and you can feel a tiny burr on the end. Turn the planer blade or chisel over, and repeat.
Remove the burr
Lightly rub the underside of the blade against the stone until the burr is removed.
Properly store your abrasives
To ensure your sharpening products work optimally on the next use, ensure they are properly cared for.
Sharpening stones will need to be reflattened periodically with waterproof sandpaper attached to a glass plate.
Bench wheels glaze over in time and need to have fresh, sharp abrasive grains exposed by removing the glaze with a wheel dresser. The restored wheel will cut faster, cooler and coarser.
You now have a freshly sharpened blade for your woodworking – you’ll feel and see the difference in performance immediately.