Timber Framers Guild

Sharpening Chisels

Posted By: Treeax

Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 01:03 AM

Does anyone know of a jig, that holds your chisel at any angle as you sharpen it?

Posted By: Ray Gibbs

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 02:06 AM

There are lots of jigs out there. Lee Valley has a substantial selection of sharpening items; stones (oil,water and diamond) lapping plates, the jigs you're talking about and a complete motorized system that I use that works great.
Posted By: TIMBEAL

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 10:48 AM

Lee Valley is a very dreamy place. I like the stuff they have. A 1800 rpm grinder and a buffing wheel, any one use a buffing wheel for chisels? Does it round the edge over too much? Tim
Posted By: Jim Rogers

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 02:07 PM

I've got a sharpening guide and like it very much.....
I got mine at my local Woodcraft store.
Here is a link to the type I use:
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 02:39 PM

As a newbit to woodworking a year and a half ago, I saw the jigs and thought the angle was critical, but what I've learned is this:
You don't need a fancy jig to sharpen a chisel properly
You don't need a powered machine to sharpen a chisel or edge tools
You don't need an exact angle, you need roughly 25 to 30 degrees, some say closer to 30 for hardwood will keep it sharp a little longer and closer to 25 is slightly better for softwood, though either will work fine with either. Even 24, 23, or 22 degrees will work.
You need only set your angle one time when you prepare a tool the first time(like an antique) with a wood block at the desired angle sitting on the tool rest of a belt sander to rough out the angle and rough out the flat side.
Rule one is to flatten the backside of the tool.
I use the cheapest method around now, sandpaper sharpening on glass. I bought a 3foot piece of 1/2 inch or 3/8 min glass at a glass shop for $16 with the edges beveled and smoothed. I made a frame for it from scrap MDF. it lays on the benchtop. Then bought Pressure sensative adhesive (PSA) sandpaper in 80, 150, 220 grits and lay 12 inches of each on the glass. Then flatten the back side moving from coarse to finer paper, removing all previous coarser grit scratchs and cleaning in between grits so that you don't transfer any coarse grit to finer. Keep the paper swept clean with a brush. This process is all done dry by the way and you can never over heat a tool like with a machine because you can never get it hotter than you can hold. After the three grits, cut some 600, 800, and 1000 grig wet dry paper like you get at the autobody supply store (or pepboys, I prefer 3M or Norton paper). You don't need adhisive for this paper, just cut it to the right size and lay it on the previous paper on the glass (lay the 600 over the 80 grit, 800 on the 150 etc. and the grit of the underlying paper will hold the wet/dry paper in place. work down to 1000. Now your getting pretty sharp. You can try to polish finer if desired. You can play with wet stones but don't necessarily need them. Once you've done this process on your chisels and get them in shape, you don't need to do this much work every time -to resharpen just a quick run through with the finer grits. I learned from a 30 minute DVD Called Sandpaper sharpeing, it's the second item on this page:

Here's a video I just found online.
In this online video they spray water on the wet dry paper and use an angle guide. They also talk about using 1/4 inch plate glass. I recommend 3/8 min. You don't need either. I posted this online video link just to show that just sandpaper will do the job well. The Sandpaper sharpeing video by Mike Dunbar shows how to hold and rotate the chisel to the bevel angle and sharpen 90 degrees to the axis of the chisel. This sandpaper method is nearly as fast as a machine, but has far more control and is more forgiving. Chipped edges are no problem for the sandpaper method. The Sandaper sharpeing video by Mike Dunbar also shows how to sharpen edge tools with curved edges.
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 02:44 PM

Oh, a micro bevel can be added if desired. And I usually set my finer wet/dry on the 150 or 220, not really the 80 as I stated above.
Posted By: frwinks

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 03:53 PM

Treeax, glad to see another soul on here inspired by Mark's workshop cool
The clip posted by brad_bb is great, and you can pick up a jig at your local homedepot (that's where I got mine, think it was $12-$15).
Where in ON are you?
Posted By: Treeax

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/13/08 06:20 PM

I live in oshawa, ontario, but I'm building my cabin in maynooth.
I just bought some red pine (6x6). They didn't have any white pine, but I think I should be alright with the red.
thank for the help!
Posted By: Timber Goddess

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 06/15/08 03:35 AM

Bring back the strap!
A little bit o' leather goes a long way when a stone is not readily available.....
Posted By: eye_like_wood

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/27/08 09:33 AM

Would a honing guide be necessary for this or can you just eyeball it?

Is this a good honing guide?

Posted By: eye_like_wood

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/27/08 09:34 AM

Is a bit of leather just as effective? Did the old-timers have honing guides? Can you describe the use of leather for this? If simpler is better.... I just bought a couple of chisels and want to take good care of them.
Posted By: eye_like_wood

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/27/08 09:36 AM

Here is a "strop". What do you think, sandpaper or strop? Thanks for your opinions!!
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/29/08 10:02 PM

As stated above, you don't need one with the sand paper method( or stone). As long as your existing bevel angle is in the ball park, you will use IT as your guide. There is a way to hold the chisel when sharpening, holding it on the beve, and you can achieve a flat surface on your bevel, just as you need.
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/29/08 10:08 PM

Sorry I answered the wrong question(from previous page). You wouldn't use a strop for getting old chisels in shape. I think it would be used for the final hone stage or for maintenance. I have started with old chisels and needed the sandpaper method. Also if you chip your chisel (like drop it on concrete), you'll never take enough material off to get past the chip with a stop. I suggest you make a sandpaper/glass station first, get your chisels in shape and learn the technique, then you can try a strop. I made my station from some scrap mdf and scrap pine strips. I bought a piece of Glass from the local glass shop for $16, and I bought rolls of pressure senative adhesive (PSA) backed sandpaper from Supergrit. I'll try to remember to snapa pic.
Posted By: eye_like_wood

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/30/08 01:28 AM

Do you mind if I ask a related question? I want a sharp edge on my shovels. They came from the store just dull and simple, the same width throughout. I tried to file one of them, but the shovel was harder than the file! How can I file the shovel? Also, should a hatchet be razor-sharp? I did a bit of sharpening with a stone, but it seemed to be inferior to the first tree I tried it on.
Posted By: TIMBEAL

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/30/08 01:48 AM

Not quite razor,but right next to it, the axe. As for the shovel, maybe the file is dull. A hand held grinder.

I file my axe, and sometimes touch it up with a stone and even the leather strop to get the wire off the edge.

Axes are great as are the adze and slick. All similar tools just different handles. Tim
Posted By: TIMBEAL

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/30/08 02:00 AM

I like photos. Here are the companions, axe, lipped adze and slick. They comprise my cordless router. The whole....dap could be cleaned with just the axe, the other tools make it a bit easier. Tim

Posted By: Jim Rogers

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 09/30/08 03:51 PM

We sell strops and small sheet of plate glass for sharpening stations..... if you need one... just let me know....
Posted By: sculptor

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/08/08 12:52 AM

Ya - I know of a jig that holds a chisel at any angle while you sharpen it and it's called your hand/s! That's german.
Posted By: Chris Hall

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/09/08 03:39 PM

Originally Posted By: sculptor
Ya - I know of a jig that holds a chisel at any angle while you sharpen it and it's called your hand/s! That's german.

uh, I don't think using the hands to sharpen freehand is uniquely German...that's absurd!
Posted By: Waccabuc

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/09/08 07:20 PM

Chris, could be he's punning - your hand/s - you're Hans - German or germaine. Ha ha. As with most puns I usually just shake my head, sometimes chuckle.
Pity the punsters, credit them for trying, even for making a positive contribution.
Thanks for your offer to teach. I'm considering joinining. Looking fwd to more details from you.
Posted By: OurBarns1

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/10/08 09:16 PM

perhaps Sculptor forgot to put an "e" at the end of german...
germane makes more sense in that context.
Posted By: Chris Hall

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/11/08 02:18 PM

Okay, not so punny, but okay...
Posted By: daiku

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/11/08 02:44 PM

Just got back from the Eastern Conference, and Toshio Odate discussed roller jigs during his sharpening presentation. He thought they gave you TOO sharp of an edge - it will be too fragile, and chip off (at a very tiny scale) thus dulling your chisel. He felt that using your hands without a jig gives you a slightly imperfect edge, which actually lasts longer. We watched him do this with a planer blade, and then he planed some pine for us. The shavings were so thin, you could read fine print through them! CB.
Posted By: 123gen

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/11/08 03:06 PM

My husband, Iwao Nakajima, is a Miyadaiku, now residing in New York. Back in the late 80's he designed aand built a temple at the Peace Pagoda in Leverett. Sadly, the beautiful little peice was torched. "Gen" is still very much active and is an enthusiastic teacher. With more than 40 years of service to this endangered craft and complete devotion he is recognized as "Torio". I suggest he may be avaluable resource. He would like to know more about your efforts. E-dress above or call 631 724 3441.
Posted By: Chris Hall

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/11/08 06:31 PM

Originally Posted By: daiku
Just got back from the Eastern Conference, and Toshio Odate discussed roller jigs during his sharpening presentation. He thought they gave you TOO sharp of an edge - it will be too fragile, and chip off (at a very tiny scale) thus dulling your chisel. He felt that using your hands without a jig gives you a slightly imperfect edge, which actually lasts longer. We watched him do this with a planer blade, and then he planed some pine for us. The shavings were so thin, you could read fine print through them! CB.

I think that any sharpening technique, done well, can produce an overly fragile edge, but I don't think it's as simple a matter as how acute an edge has been produced (nor do I suspect does Odate think such).

An edge that is a little more obtuse, if smooth, will stand up longer than a very acute edge, that is true. An edge made quite acute can be dressed, or 'jointed' on the stone, to reduce the amount of acuteness, and to clean up raggedness on the edge. You want to find an elusive balance point between as acute an edge as possible and one that will stand up as long as possible, and this is very much a case by case situation, given different steels, and different woods, and different phases of stock preparation/finishing. For hogging off material, such as when scrub-planing, a more robust edge makes sense, while for that finish pass or two, pushing the edge towards greater acuity, at the expense of durability, makes sense. Some steels tolerate a thinner edge than others, and some steels can be refined to a thinner edge than others. I'm not going to get into specifics.

If the edge left after sharpening is at all ragged (this can be seem with a pocket magnifier sometimes, or felt by running the your finger nail carefully against the edge, or by looking at the edge in the right light), then it will tend to wear faster. This is kind of like having slightly rgged finger nails that catch on some fabrics.

The edge raggedness can be produced by improperly removing the wire edge produced through working the bevel on the stone.

There are ways of dealing with this problem, and I think I agree with Odate's thoughts insofar as the roller jig limits the range of techniques that can be applied to flattening the blade, back and bevel. A jig also is a one-step removal from intimacy with the process of sharpening, as it removes some of the feel transmitted from the blade rubbing on the abrasive. This is less a factor in one-piece blades, but quite important with laminated steels, such as are found on Japanese quality tools and some very old western ones.

I don't use any sharpening jigs myself, but recognize that they do allow for rapid and controlled work to change bevel angle. The roller jig can help some people with simply rough-patterning the physical movement of rubbing the blade back and forth on the abrasive. And, if person hasn't developed really good control over the tool when sharpening, the roller jig can definitely facilitate the sharpening of some of the more challenging tools, like long handled chisels with small bevel surfaces. The greatest flexibility in technique is gained by learning how to sharpen freehand, IMO, just like learning how to ride a bike without training wheels.

Sharpening is the foundation of hand tool use, and while the idea of sharpening might seem basic, there is a lot to it. It's not something you just learn and then are done with it - it's an ongoing exploration.

Any finish shaving, I might add, ought to be thin enough to read a newspaper through. Not all woods yield that type of continuous shaving however, but pine certainly does.
Posted By: TIMBEAL

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/11/08 11:27 PM

I don't use hemlock much but my guess is it wouldn't give a clear shaving. Off the mill it is very stringy.

As for the rollers, I see them as a crutch as well. If it sustain a person, so be it. I wouldn't want to be caught without it if that is the case. With the rollers how do you get the rounded profile many cutting edges need? Very few or none of my tools have a straight profile. That may be a personal preference. My stones are not flat either.

I have been sharpening for 15 years and it is still an on going process, in many ways.

Colder temps will dictate sharpening in the house.

With the Christmas season coming up, I think a bow for the wreath built from shavings would be quite nice. Tim
Posted By: daiku

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/12/08 01:55 PM

The problem I have with roller jigs is that I like to switch back and forth from the bevel to the back on each grit. The roller jig gets in the way of working the back. And I completely agree with Chris on the importance of the "feel" of the abrasive working on the steel. You have to be holding it in your hands for that. CB.
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/12/08 03:11 PM

I did find that out too. I initially bought one of the veritas holders for holding the angle, but I have never tried it. I use the existing bevel angle on the chisel and my hands to keep it at the same angle (you are resting the bevel face on the sandpaper so it's not difficult). I also learned that the angle is not super critical - 25 to 35 degrees. 25ish for soft woods and 30 or so if you do more hardwoods. The larger angle just strenghens the tip a bit more and keeps you going longer on hardwoods, whereas you it would seem you can shave a little better with the shallower angle on the softwoods.
Posted By: brad_bb

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 11/12/08 03:12 PM

You can use any angle in that range on anything though. It's just a slight difference from what I hear.
Posted By: brad_bb

Sandpaper sharpeing station - 01/15/09 06:39 AM

Thought I should add some pics of my sandpaper sharpeing station.

Last winter I had made this sandpaper sharpening station. This station uses a piece of plate glass about 6"X36". Strips of pressure adhesive backed sandpaper are applied to the glass, and chisels are sharpened, starting with coarse grits and working to progressivley finer grits - 80, 150, 220, 400, 800, 1000, 1500 grit. With chisels that have been damaged, are not flat, or have no edge, most time is spent on the 80 grit, and less time is needed with each successive grit. After working with each grit, the tool is wiped off to prevent contamination to the next grit. The paper used is also wisked with a brush or wisk broom to remove any metal or sandpaper dust and prevent clogging of the paper. My blue brush is one that was in the brick/mortar section of my local home center. Just have one that is stiff enough to brush out the paper. Once the first three grits have been worked through, finer paper is laid on top of those grits. These finer grits are NOT adhesively backed. they are held in place by the friction of the sanpaper base. These finer grits are automotive wet/dry paper that can be found in autobody stores or sometimes autoparts stores, and come in sheets that can be cut into 3 pieces. A razor blade holder(on the right of the station) is used to cut the adhesive backed paper to length and the fine grit paper if scissors are not handy. I use a red marker to color chisels and after lapping, I can easily see what has and has not been lapped flat by what marker has been removed. All of my framing chisels are antiques and are all TH. Witherby purchased off of ebay. Some were badly bent and were straightened by Jim Rogers partner in a forge. All of my chisel sheaths were purchased from Jim Rogers as well. My chisels are currently still being prepped with 80 grit but most are almost ready to move to the next grit. This sharpening station can be used for more than just chisels. I've used it to sharpen a hatchet, pruners, loppers, tune ships auger bits, and even sharpen the counter sink on countersing drill bits. Some of the small wood dowels and pieces of wood are used with the various grits of sandpaper to sharpen small or curved tool edges. This is a very effective sharpening method.
Chisels that are in good shape, you usually do not need to go back to 80 grit unless you damage or chip the tip or corner. A tuned chisel that is starting to dull just needs to be gone over from 400 to 1500. Exactly how coarse you start on depends on how it looks and your judgement.
If you've used your chisels when they are sharp and when they are not, you know the difference. You can shave and plane with a sharp chisel. You fight and cuss with one that is not, and you end up gouging when you don't want to. I don't use any guide except my fingers and the existing bevel.
Posted By: Jim Rogers

Re: Sharpening Chisels - 01/15/09 04:12 PM

Nice setup and thanks for sharing....
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