Sharpening Tools for Woodworking
Sharpening Tools for Woodworking
Keeping your tools sharp and ready to wood is an extremely important procedure overlook by many new to woodworking. A sharp tool will increase the accuracy of any cutting tool, but also will increase the speed at which the tool cuts. Learning the right way of keeping tools sharp will increase your efficiency and increase the life of the tool.
This is the method I use to sharpen both chisels and plane blades. This sharpening guide holds all my plane blades, although it has trouble with very narrow or short chisels. A simple wooden fixture sets the distance between the chisel tip and front of the guide so it is always exactly the same. I use two double-sided DMT sharpening stones. If it's the first time I'm sharpening a chisel or if the tip is nicked I'll start with the coarse (black) grit. Otherwise I'll start with blue (medium) or red (fine). I finish up with the green (very fine).
Using the entire stone sometimes means you have to forego some jigs, but it’s always good to develop your ability to sharpen freehand as I can think of dozens of situations in even hobby woodworking where your bench and jig won’t be available. All the grandiose words written in the last couple decades on honing, all the expensive gizmos for sale to help you do it, and all the trouble folks seem to have with it puzzle me some. Grind that blade correctly, and the difference in cutting speeds and technique between oil, water or composite stones is meaningless because there isn’t enough honing to be done to measure a difference. Moreover, why would I want to trade my hundred-dollar
The problem with written, rather than hands-on, instruction is that it sounds a lot more complicated that it is, making it intimidating for the beginner. That's a shame, because sending your saws out to commercial sharpening services shortens their life. The first thing the commercial shops generally do is shear in a new set of teeth by machine, which reduces your remaining blade depth by anywhere from 3/16th's to a quarter inch. Touching up your saws as it is needed, in contrast, is dead simple and only takes off a few thousands of an inch, as you will soon see. For the price of a couple commercial sharpening, you can buy all the simple tools you need and fabricate a filing horse like ours.
There are many things that one should consider when making a decision if a saw needs sharpened or not. First and foremost, you should inspect the teeth. If the teeth are regular and even, and "grab" the palm of your hand slightly when you push against them, your saw probably is fine as it is. By grab, I mean that if the teeth are sharp, they will snag the skin of your hand and then release it. Don't do it so hard that you cut yourself. You will immediately be able to tell with a light touch if your saw is dull. If however, the teeth are uneven and don't seem sharp to the touch, your saw will definitely need filing before you will be able to do useful work with it. Below are examples of what properly sharpened teeth will look like, and those that need filing. Carefully inspect your saw and decide what course you should take.
Many woodworkers dread sharpening and consider it onerous – a time consuming chore to be put off as long as possible. Only when a chisel is so dull its blunted edge resembles a hammer’s head are they forced to exhume their only oil-stone from that seldom explored drawer in which it lies – entombed in a mass of greasy sawdust. I felt that way myself until I realized I had to make peace with necessity of sharpening. Only then could I improve as a woodworker. Through years of experimentation, reading, and asking questions I have developed a system that produces reliable, repeatable results in a short period of time. It can work for you too. Once you get a feel for the skill, maintaining an edge on your tools takes no time at all – a few minutes a day. Preparing an edge for use takes longer but you only go through that process occasionally. The key is in knowing when it’s necessary to start up the grinder, and when a simple honing will suffice.
Many woodworkers are intimidated by the very idea of sharpening their tools. There's often a fear of doing more harm than good. This task really isn't as difficult as it might seem. Approached with some patience, and armed with some back round information, it's really a matter of practicing. Knowing you really can't do irreversible harm makes it somewhat less intimidating. With so many options available it becomes somewhat overwhelming trying to decide which sharpening device will provide the best results, with the least amount of difficulty. Since there are many different tools requiring a very sharp edge for woodworkers, the method chosen will need to be adaptable, or at least have accessories to provide versatility.