Sharpening Opinions Please

Chisel Sharpening Day

I know only too well how true the old saying: “ask 10 woodworkers the same question and you’ll get 12 different answers” but I’m going to take a chance and ask it anyway! I would really like to know opinions of others out there who, like me, probably spend the majority of the time working by yourself in your shop. As the picture shows, I recently sharpened my bench chisels, I use a 30° bevel which I’ve found holds a better edge when using hardwoods and exotics.

Question #1: Micro or secondary bevels — your thoughts. I’ve decided not to do the micro bevels. I never use a power grinder which leaves a hollow ground so micro bevels never get very long. Without a hollow ground that micro bevel can get quite long and then it takes some time re-establish the entire bevel. The sharpening session I had yesterday was quite lengthy since the micro bevels were half way up the edge! I could see that if you used a power grinder you could restore the entire grind quickly but hand work takes much longer. What are your thoughts???

Question #2: As you can see, I use DMT diamond stones and have them in coarse, fine, extra fine, and extra extra fine. The question, if you have them is this — do you use some type of lubricant with them or use them dry? I’ve done it both ways and it seems that even though using some water with a few drops of detergent lifts the swarf off the stone, it also makes a mess! It also seems that using the stone dry the cutting action is more aggressive and the swarf can be removed with a paper towel. Your thoughts???

Question #3: If you use them, how do you clean your DMT diamond stones? I use Bar Keepers Friend and a a grey scrubby.

Question #4: When sharpening chisels do you remove the burr from the back on each stone before going on to the next grit? To restore the edges I spent a lot of time on the coarse stone so I removed the burr from the back on it before going to the fine stone. Then didn’t remove it until after the final strokes on the extra extra fine — what do you do???

That’s enough questions and I’d appreciate some responses. One of the reasons for sharpening the chisels was to prepare for an online class I’m taking from Matt Kenney. It’s about making a small, wall hung cabinet. He has some construction methods I’d like to learn more about. I’m planning to use vertical grain Douglas Fir so wanted to see how it works with hand tools. These dovetails didn’t turn out too badly, the wood is pretty graining so starting the saw cuts requires concentration to stay on the scribed line. Pretty happy with these. To highlight the beautiful vertical grain I plan to use OSMO Polyx which I did on this corner. Anxious to get the first “hands on” lesson in the Matt Kenney class, so far it’s been about design and things to be aware of when selecting lumber. The wood I got is 4/4 and he’s mentioned we’ll probably surface to a thickness around 1/2 to 5/8 inch. Telling the grain direction is tricky with the Douglas Fir, used my smooth plane to surface the dovetails; worked well on one side but not so great on the other!

About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
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2 Responses to Sharpening Opinions Please

  1. jefski78 says:

    Hi John, I tried to post a response to your blog below, but it didn’t appear to make it. Thankfully I saved a copy because it was uncertain while posting whether it would work. Hope this helps. I’m looking forward to finding out what you learn. Jeff

    Q1: on my diamond stones, I use the Veritas Mark II honing guide which includes an easy way to set a secondary bevel about 2 degrees higher (30 and 32 for most, 25 and 27 for paring). So to keep the bevel small, I hone the primary every time on a coarse stone, switch to the secondary, and work it on the fine (1200) stone (or medium stone if it’s pretty bad). Sometimes I go to the grinder and establish another bevel so that there’s less to do on the coarse stone, so bevels of about 25, 30, and 32 degrees. Then I go to a Lee Valley hard felt wheel with their very fine green wax honing compound. Since acquiring a Worksharp 3000, I’ll often hone straight (ie. no camber) edges with no secondary bevel. I still use the felt wheel. FWIW, I once saw Marc Adams demonstrate honing a single bevel with a belt sander. Very fast, but I had trouble keeping the edge square. He followed with a cloth buffing wheel with black wax honing compound. Q2: windshield washer fluid, which I heard from Paul Sellers. It’s not too messy, just wipe it off each time with a heavy paper towel. Q3: I don’t clean them other than wiping with a paper towel as in Q2. Q4: I don’t touch the burr directly. It comes off with the felt wheel. I used to do the back on the 1200 grit stone after honing the edge at 1200. I had a cloth wheel on the grinder with black honing paste which took a while to remove the burr. Sometimes I would use a leather strop instead, with some common green wax honing compound. The recently acquired hard felt wheel is much faster so I rarely touch the flat side.


    • Thanks for your answers, appreciate that! Hadn’t thought of re-establishing the micro bevel each sharpening, just kept making it longer and longer until I decided to go all out on the coarse stone!! I too have the MK.II but no power sharpening equipment, too easy to overdo it and heat the steel. I have modified a 1″ belt sander but rarely use that unless major damage. I do strop though and will try the windshield wiper fluid — again, thanks.


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