Moderators: Random Orbital Bob, nev, CHJ, Noel, Charley

By D_W
johnnyb wrote:my mate is a lifetime pro woodworker and he uses a norton india and his hand as a strop. his main no 5 is a rapier thats been broken and welded.
he does great. he laughs at all my fancy rubbish. but being a pro hes mostly electric. but does pay hand tools due respect.

What does "pro" mean? There are some historic -type woodworkers here in the states (museum employees or retirees from museums doing commission work) and they don't necessarily tend to be tool hounds, but most are using more classic sharpening routines and fairly fine tools (not expensive, but fine....well, to the extent that they do a lot of carving, they've got a lot of money wrapped up in carving tools, new and vintage).

I like an india, it's a great stone, but it's not capable of good finish off of a plane for cabinetmaking or toolmaking. A washita will usually yield a good finish if it's been stropped (bare leather, or you can use compound, but just something to make sure the wire edge is gone) and a fine oilstone better. (not to mention the myriad of micron and submicron modern abrasive options).

For someone doing joiner work or almost all of their planning to trim, then an india stone setup is probably fine (presume scraping and sanding follows). I know it's not that popular to finish off of a plane these days, despite the resurgence in hand tool woodworking. i know of exactly two professional woodworkers who do it, and the others use planes but finish with sandpaper.
By D_W
I've lost track of the people who have gotten washitas. This topic came up on another forum and I pounded the ground about how great they are (i'm not responsible for most people having them, not claiming that, but did generate a lot of forum traffic for folks to go find their own) about four or five years ago and there was a brisk period of selling, but I dared to go onto the UK ebay site and saw 8 of them sell last week, none that I saw more than $40.

If there was ever a useful step-up in cost with tools, I think it's going from sandpaper or an india (or generic coarse synthetic stone) to a washita. Most of what vexes new users with washitas is just learning how they like to be used and then getting rid of the wire edge without overworking an edge on compound. Once you get the hang with the stones, they are about the best thing since sliced bread for everything except A2 and japanese steel (japanese steel loves them if it's not full hardness, but most new japanese tools that say they're 65 and are in the higher cost ranges are actually 65 hardness, and beyond the washitas ability to do anything other than smudge their surfaces).

I managed not to buy any of the washitas that went by ebay last week - they're a losing proposition for me coming from England due to the postage, but gosh, each time I see one that looks a little different than the ones I have, I want another one.

The selection in the US is not as good, not nearly as many older unbranded stones and more recent manufacture behr manning stones that are ungraded (they just say "washita oilstone" on them). The later behr manning stones can be less good on average than the vintage stones.

The washita has so much range that I've finished razors on one, which is something an 8k synthetic has trouble doing. It requires wire edge management with a barber's linen, and the right touch, but the quality of the edge that they leave is comfortable for shaving. Synthetic stones have to go really fine before they are. Like 1 micron size.

Gotta stop talking about these or I'll be getting more.
By johnnyb
by pro i mean hes 50 and been working in many branches of woodworking since leaving school at 16. mostly stuff is belt sanded in pro shops then orbital.
really his skill is in numbers. hes remakably good at deciding how much stuff he needs from a quick measure. also hes great at doing stuff without instructions. he can just say look at a mechanism and with a bit of muttering see how it works and if it will fit. a remarkably useful skill.
hes got a great overall gauge eye as well.
what i mean by all that stuff is experience, knowledge and a good natural feel goes much much further than "i can sharpen an edge tool" even being good with figures is more important.
sharpening threads are a pita
By D_W
My mother is in the same group, I guess my father, too. They do smaller lower-cost stuff, but what they do doesn't resemble anything that I do with hand tools (probably for the better - their work is profitable).

They have worn out two small bandsaws and two stationary belt sanders and are on their third of each. I can't profess to having ever worn out anything.

A friend's dad (this friend is English, he's in the states but his dad stayed in england) was a Joiner, by trade. He had a very worn out block plane, smoother and record 5 1/2. My friend is an engineer and was always irritated with his dad's kit because he remembered him redoing the floors and other things in their own house and always doing it by hand (finish scraping, etc).

When his dad died, he brought his tools back and threw most of them away. I still have two of the man's planes because the friend won't take them back, and in his tool box, he had a single carborundum stone and a washita. 15 years ago when he showed me this stuff (he's a waterstone adherent because that's what the catalogs and videos say you must have), and we thought maybe his dad didn't use any of those goods because the carborundum stone was badly dished and the washita stone "look at the charts, it's not fine enough to finish anything".

Boy were we wrong. That washita stone went in the garbage.

In a fit of experimentation, I made a cocobolo coffin smoother that I still use with nothing more than a stanley 4, a washita and chisels. I did fair the sides of it with coarse sandpaper after planing them to shape. There is very little that I do on a given day that requires more than the use of a washita. I pared the bevels on that plane (when you make planes, two of the bevels are always agreeable - the ones that are vertical when the plane's sitting, and two are always back against the grain). The against the grain cuts were the only cuts...on cocobolo...where I really wished for more than a washita sharpened edge.

I think I made the plane faster than I would've if I'd have faffed with "all of the right tools" making it.

Cocobolo turns out to make a crappy coffin smoother in some ways (the plane will belly behind the mouth from wedge pressure), but it was a good learning experience. I've not gone back to any synthetic stones or long regimens at this point. I have probably 100 sharpening stones of various types, from $1 to $750. Nothing on the top of my cabinet where I do my sharpening cost more than $40.
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By ED65
timothyedoran wrote:Sorry to bring a tread back from the grave but I would love to know how your cheap AliExpress stone has lasted. Would you still recommend it?


Couldn't recommend it more highly both for how well it works as a solo honing option (with or without stropping) and in terms of how durable it has proven itself to be. If I posted a fresh photo of it you'd be hard pressed to tell it hadn't been taken back when the thread was started.

Try not to pay more than £3 for it! There are various sellers flogging the same thing and the prices are all over the map including some with OTT shipping, but plenty selling it for under a fiver with free shipping.
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By woodbloke66
D_W wrote:What does "pro" mean?

'Pro ' means professional which means he/or she gets paid for what they do and has nothing to do with the quality of the work produced. It may be excellent, indifferent or poor; the essential thing is that they are paid for their efforts - Rob
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By Trevanion
All I have to do is walk over yonder to ye olde slate quarry, pick up a flattish, smooth piece of genuine Welsh slate, douse it in a little water from the stream and you've got yerself a honing stone.

Cost all in: 200-yard exercise, nature's finest stream water.

You can't do much better!
By Sideways
custard wrote:
Anyone with a long enough woodworking memory will recall the dreadful "glass paper" that was still being sold into the 1990's; grit that fell off the paper and embedded itself in the workpiece, inconsistent grit size, backing paper that was forever tearing, and abrasive particles that went blunt after a few seconds of use. It's difficult to imagine such shoddy materials being of much use against tool steel. Comparing that with the amazingly effective abrasives available today is why I put sandpaper amongst the most important innovations of the past forty years.

I for one absolutely remember the awful glass paper you describe. Very poor as well as susceptible to damp and cracked and flaked every time you folded it.I remember the first time I ever bought and used garnet paper back in the late 80's. That was such a dramatic step up, as was Mirka's abranet the first time I used that - with a hand sanding block and extraction hose. Yes, abrasives have come a long way.
By YoelD
Having now found my bench stone, what I have is:
Double sided oil stone of unknown provenance in a wooden box (bought with two previously rusted tenon saws at a boot sale, all for £1). Let's say roughly 34p.
Strip of leather from the leather shop run by someone my parents knew, stuck to a strip of wood: free. But needs replacing now.
Thick bit of glass ripped off of some cheap trophy: essentially free. This I use to wrap some paper round, clamp to a surface and use to flatten the stone.

A bargain until I added in a honing guide.
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By Jacob
If you dump the honing guide you won't need to flatten your stone and sharpening will be much quicker and easier.
Hardly anybody used them until the great boom in amateurs shopping for kit, in the 80s and after.
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By Ttrees
Those thin cheap plates are handy to have, I have the 400 and the 1000 grit,
not that I use them very often, but they are worth having.
Most of the time I use them for other shop made tools like a screwdriver for carburetor jets.

The one time I do use them for woodworking, is when I hit some cement in the reclaimed iroko
I do get,
No way of telling what's underneath the paint, and since the iroko is tearout prone, I need to use the cap iron closely set, to avoid the irritant dust you get from tearout.
The cap iron frequently gets damaged on my beater plane, and have to re-hone it.

I use the corner of the stone to create a small hollow on the underside, so I can finish it off on the rest of the stone
It would be a pain in the ar~e, using sandpaper and can be possibly problematic on an oil stone
if its not flat.
Normally in the swing of things removing paint, so don't want any problems half way through,
as cement contact is already one problem to deal with.

Gotta say for regular use the washita is great, I use a 40 quid mirror polish worn in 1800 diamond stone for finishing it off, if that stone could be got cheaper that would be my vote.
In the absence of that stone, maybe a superfine Ultex exists, obviously purchased on their half price once or twice a year sale, followed be a strop if needed?

Sharpening got a whole lot faster after ditching the guide, and the washita was actually..
definitely as course as I needed, afterall

What stone do you use Jacob? :)

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By Jacob
Ttrees wrote:.....
What stone do you use Jacob? :)

Ive got a collection. Tried many options but generally settled with what I started out with - a double sided Norton for everything. The others are redundant though I'm always having a go on an experimental basis.
Recently flattened the face of an old Stanley 5 1/2 blade. Not something I normally would do but this one had been roughly "un-flattened" by previous owner using disc sander or something and was difficult to remove the burr without lifting it and creating a mini bevel on the face edge.
Tried flattening two ways, first on a coarse Ezelap diamond plate, then paper wet n dry 80 grit - just wetted down onto my planer table. The paper was very much faster. Just sayin!
If I had one choice (or recommendation for a beginner) it'd be the double sided norton. Even grinding is viable on the coarse side if you put the blade into a bit of a handle for more leverage and speed - a 10" piece of 3x1" with a saw kerf.
Dumping honing jigs was the big step forwards - everything is easier and faster - mainly because you can put more welly into it - full length of stone as fast and forceful as you can manage.
PS still have a use for a jig, fiddling with old tools - a quick 5 second pass at 30º with a very rusty old blade is diagnostic - it shows up where the bevel is on/off the angle
By YoelD
Jacob wrote:If you dump the honing guide you won't need to flatten your stone and sharpening will be much quicker and easier.
Hardly anybody used them until the great boom in amateurs shopping for kit, in the 80s and after.

In all honesty, I don't know why I bought it. I've only used it once. Got attracted by the shiny parts and marketing of the "precise angle". 8)