Another Sharpening Thread - Consideration of Cost

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D_W

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I talk fairly often about the importance of being able to see what you're doing with an edge, which is for more than one reason. it could be because you're a beginner, and it could be to solve issues with whether or not an iron that feels like junk really is. I won't go into the latter, there are a lot of circumstances, but safe to say, the issue is simple - under any visual magnification, the edge should look fairly uniform and you can quickly learn what is occurring in a picture that threatens that and what doesn't.

I was reminded by someone (not on a forum) who mentioned to me that he thinks maybe the whole sharpening thing is overblown. Of course it is.

Why is it? because people talk about how they're doing something, and not about results- not about how long, and not about how often things come up short. And I think it's compounded by the fact that most people talk about using hand tools more than they use hand tools.

So- the point of this post - what you're using to sharpen cost-wise doesn't really matter. What you're doing with what you're using to sharpen and how fine the final step is - that does matter. And how accurate the method can be does matter. This means freehand accuracy, not that there's a need for a guide.

If you have a stone that cuts fast but leaves a burr, then you have to deal with the burr. Inevitably, sharpening is two steps of something - putting grinding aside.
* honing
* stropping

here's what an edge looks like off of a shapton cream - which is unequally graded in grit size, on purpose I think, because it makes the stone faster if it claims an average grit size but the particle size is variable and scattered rather than consistent. For example, the sigma power 13000 is very consistent and only slightly smaller claimed particle size, but it's 1/3rd or 1/2 as fast.

shapton cream.jpg


The important part of the photos is the edge - this is the back of a plane iron. How fine, how consistent and does it look rounded or have voids.

Not an expensive stone -about $50 in japan and should last anyone a lifetime of sharpening if they like it.

You can go up in cost a lot and not get much more other than trade offs for fineness vs speed. If you want to go finer, then it's more important to concentrate on only working the very edge of an iron and biasing the bevel.

How this ties into two steps is that instead of using a medium stone and a really fine stone, you can shoot for the middle (like an ultra fine india or a scuffed washita stone on the bevel side) and then replace stropping with something as cheap as white buffing bar on wood.

So, the next picture is literally from about $3 of materials. A 6x2 stone that is slightly finer than a fine india and a bit of white honing bar that I got from sears (now defunct) in the clearance aisle for $0.99. Buffing bars have to be reasonably graded if they're a polish bar, even if they're cheap. A drop of oil on wood allows the bars to soften and the wood allows them to cut reasonably fast (hardwood) but stray large particles don't damage edges like they might on a harder surface.

$3 system edge.jpg


The time spent with both methods is about the same. I prefer the feel of the buff bar on wood, and I like the small extra fine india stone better than any waterstone.

The third part of the system was grinding the edge with PSA roll on wood, just to make a point. it's relatively inaccurate and if you grind by hand instead of a fixed grinding setup, you'll have shorter edge life because the convexity will reduce clearance and there's no strength advantage to it.

if you don't believe that, sharpen a blade for a while entirely by hand, get it really sharp and then sharpen another blade with a grinder grinding shallow and then final honing at 33 degrees. plane with both in a piece of wood and see how much faster the hand ground iron runs out of clearance. You'll be shocked.

Lack of clearance is a huge waste of energy.

After noticing the fineness of the honing compound, but combined with its relatively good speed on hardwood, the only reason that I don't do it is because I grind a lot of metal and I'd have to make a box to keep the "wood hone" in to keep metal dust from settling on it. I use the buffer to remove a burr instead because it doesn't care if metal dust lands on it.

$3 - the fineness counts here. The edge on the right will last longer than the one on the left, it takes no longer to achieve and it costs almost nothing.

When it gets difficult to get any nicking or wear out with the stone before it, then it's time to regrind. Really, regrinding a step for that is better.

How many times you can hone varies, so someone claiming "do it every 4" or whatever, that's method not results - it makes no sense when any method gets the same result.

If I stop metalworking at some point, I will go back to using this on plane irons as the buffer is OK, but it doesn't really have a purpose on plane irons above and beyond a flat abrasive strop because they're not getting denting damage.
 
Summary points after that because there's a lot to digest there:

1) fineness is important when there is no trade off - this takes no extra time, and is perhaps less than a minute to refresh a chisel and about 1 minute of honing time front and back to finish a plane iron

2) the often trumpeted bit of "you don't need an edge that fine".....no merit, and I've noticed that people who actually do a lot of work never really say that. it's often said by people who use hand tools when nothing else will work.

3) fineness doesn't cost anything unless you need designer materials. what people need to do is understand what result they want and be able to see it and it takes a tiny fraction of the time that you'll waste sharpening or dealing with sharpening related issues to do that. Like looking at an edge with a $20 hand scope about 10 times a year when you're starting.

better sharpness on anything on the bench always amounts to better results and less frequent sharpening, and replacing the bare stropping step with something that has fine abrasion ability solves a lot of problems people have with completing the job - especially in regard to edge fineness and burr removal.

I have a mid cost microscope - it's not lab quality, but I also have a hand scope that was $13 more than 10 years ago. I would imagine the hand scopes that are $20 or so now (delivered) are several times better in terms of quality. There is no virtue in spending gobs of money on stones that aren't any finer than inexpensive abrasive sources and then saving money on not buying a cheap device that will allow you to actually figure out where you come up short.
 
You figure out how whether or not a plane is sharp by using it. No need for a microscope.
Can be useful to have several planes on the job for comparison, and a bit of candle for a quick squiggle on the sole.

Thinking about Odate and the plates - can't help thinking theirs was a somewhat cynical operation; crazy sharpeners devote masses of time and energy arguing against hollow stones and sell you more stones and other kit to flatten them etc etc - then come up with the brilliant wheeze of trying to sell, guess what? hollow stones, o_O also in sets of three and diamond encrusted , at astronomical prices!
Didn't catch on though! :ROFLMAO:
 
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You figure out how whether or not a plane is sharp by using it. No need for a microscope.
Can be useful to have several planes on the job for comparison
You have to actually compare things to discern anything.

using somethng, using it again a day later doesn't really let you find out much. Comparing what you generally do against what you do and then determining "that's good enough" doesn't inform anything.
 
You have to actually compare things to discern anything.

using somethng, using it again a day later doesn't really let you find out much. Comparing what you generally do against what you do and then determining "that's good enough" doesn't inform anything.
That's why I said "Can be useful to have several planes on the job for comparison". If you feel that one is getting a bit blunt then pick up another one and try it.
If you just use one plane when it needs sharpening becomes obvious anyway.
 
I wonder if anyone thinks there's a snide trick in this case to using a fine but really cheap india stone and a cheap buffing bar on wood, and where is the trade off if so?
 
That's why I said "Can be useful to have several planes on the job for comparison". If you feel that one is getting a bit blunt then pick up another one and try it.
If you just use one plane when it needs sharpening becomes obvious anyway.

You're not grasping what I'm saying. If your feedback loop is other things you've done by feel, you're going to be missing things that are easy. that is, if you do "OK" sharpening but not well enough to leave a defect free surface and you use tools like that through their dullness cycle, comparing one freshly sharpened to one that's needing to get back to "OK, but no better", the justification is weak.

In this case, easy (as in missing things that are easy) is about as cheap as sharpening could be without dealing with gluing down obnoxious sandpaper and the process takes about as long as one stone and hand stropping. Except the results are a whole lot better. The only thing that's a bit of a shame is that the india stone used in this process exists in catalogs but isn't really widely available - norton lists it as an ultra fine or extra fine, but I've never seen it retailed.

I have seen a bunch of stones like this used, though, and never paid honest money for them - they've all come in lots with other things. This one came in a bag full of slips that a flea market flipper listed. The slips had several shaped stones that I wanted, some translucent, for $17, so the stone cost essentially nothing.

They were also popular in japan where hand work and sharpening didn't die back to site work standards as early as it did here and England (1900 or so).
 
You figure out how whether or not a plane is sharp by using it. No need for a microscope.
Can be useful to have several planes on the job for comparison, and a bit of candle for a quick squiggle on the sole.

Thinking about Odate and the plates - can't help thinking theirs was a somewhat cynical operation; crazy sharpeners devote masses of time and energy arguing against hollow stones and sell you more stones and other kit to flatten them etc etc - then come up with the brilliant wheeze of trying to sell, guess what? hollow stones, o_O also in sets of three and diamond encrusted , at astronomical prices!
Didn't catch on though! :ROFLMAO:

boy does it make discussions weird when someone goes back and edits posts substantially.

I saw those crowning plates at the time and figured they were for beginners - they probably are. The whole concept of using a laterally dished stone to create camber is a beginner's thing. Camber is just added by using a complete stroke along the diagonal when sharpening and maintained a little more or a little less by honing a secondary bevel off of an accurate grind. It's added in the same amount of time as it could be skipped. No extra time.
 
Nerd alert. I bought a used Fine India, not a combination, just a red brick.

It cuts much slower than my "newer" combination stone.

I just finish the edge on a piece of clean softwood with Autosol. Am I correct in thinking David, that this is an appropriate approach based on your post?
 
Nerd alert. I bought a used Fine India, not a combination, just a red brick.

It cuts much slower than my "newer" combination stone.

I just finish the edge on a piece of clean softwood with Autosol. Am I correct in thinking David, that this is an appropriate approach based on your post?

Autosol is teats. fineness based on backing but on medium hardwoods or harder softwoods, the edge looks like this:

autosol.jpg


Pardon the dirt on the edge.

It does have a little more residue than wax sticks, but you can also freshen it up with wd40 or something once it's on wood if it's dry to lessen having a gooey mess on the wood all the time.

This edge is slightly more rounded due to the slurry dulling of the paste on a softwood (as in, the particles will travel around the edge and round it slightly).

This isn't a bad thing at this level of fineness - compare it to the shapton and it's still a good bit better. Even this tiny bit of slurry dulling has some benefit - it's a little stronger from the start. A super crisp edge like the second picture above can develop tiny defects that later wear off. Not a huge concern to anyone who doesn't finish off of a plane, but i find it annoying on the odd dead flat project that you can finish with a plane but then see a super bright finish with tiny lap marks on it. The brighter the finish, the more the contrast.

Short answer - it's great stuff on wood. Great. Dries out when left unattended but can often be revived with a drop of any oily solvent so as not to have as much random goo.

For anyone considering trying, wipe off any chisel that will be used for paring as autosol intentionally leaves a protective film - so does its sibling, dursol. And that can obviously be blackened with iron.
 
Tests = the **** = good 😂?

I rub a bit of honing oil on it once it dries off.
 
I'm sure that for a lot of people who haven't looked further at any of this (it counts for me as I'm sharpening a lot, but if you sharpen something once a week, maybe it doesn't matter that much).

I had the notion that you really couldn't improve edge life beyond the fineness of the fine natural stones, and I like them so much I kind of wanted them to be the tops. they're more stimulating than oxides or powders.

When testing a bunch of plane irons in 2019, I took an old ward iron - one that should've been the least sensitive to media because it has such a fine grain structure compared to many of the modern irons sold now - I found that 1 micron diamonds extended edge life with everything else the same by between 15 and 20% over the finest of hard black arkansas stones.

Assuming you can avoid damage, which most folks can do because the potential for damage other than silica is really an interrupted cut before you run material through a machine. I don't usually run anything through a machine, so the cozy situation of planing off chatter isn't typical.

With the benefit of testing one sharpening and same board, another right after, it was clear that 1 micron diamonds on an edge. led to easier planing and better downforce from the plane longer into the cycle.

If you sand off all of your planing mistakes, maybe it doesn't matter - the easier planing part. But, it has a great deal of influence on how uniform your finish planing will be as one tiny chatter will take several shavings to remove. A total waste of time.

As I mentioned elsewhere, dimensioning and finishing is more about accuracy than anything else.

---------------

where does 1 micron come from instead of 3 or 1/10th or whatever else? 1 micron diamonds are about the finest diamond choice that you can use and still make a pretty big jump from a middle or upper middle stone.

I wouldn't have tested 1 micron diamonds without the urging to compare to natural stones.

The edge life advantage mentioned exists even when there is no edge damage occurring throughout the entire cycle.

if someone is hacking and slashing in a dirty environment, then damage is going to limit the edge life mentioned here and maybe it won't matter. But at the bench with clean wood - just yet another thing learned by experiment that wasn't apparent in use.

1 micron diamonds are also fine enough that most steels won't leave a burr that even needs palm stropping. The shapton cream will still leave a small bias/burr, especially on softer steels.
 
I can't actually post my response, the forum has overwritten it 😂

Nice..

forgot to comment on the india stones being finer - some of the old ones are harder, but I've run into all manner of things with old stones thrown in with lots, including a stone that has a muddy slick binder, but is intended for oil and has the same additional fineness over what's sold now as a fine india.

I have a modern fine india in my IM-313. and it does settle down a lot in fineness, but it's not as fine as the older stones. Those older ones are way too old and too much handled to have any markings. Who knows what they were called or sold as.
 
I checked the current Norton catalog, there's a mention of the extra fine India in the grit comparison table, but no actual product offering. After a fine India, the next product described as extra fine is the soft Arkansas.
 
Nice..

forgot to comment on the india stones being finer - some of the old ones are harder, but I've run into all manner of things with old stones thrown in with lots, including a stone that has a muddy slick binder, but is intended for oil and has the same additional fineness over what's sold now as a fine india.

I have a modern fine india in my IM-313. and it does settle down a lot in fineness, but it's not as fine as the older stones. Those older ones are way too old and too much handled to have any markings. Who knows what they were called or sold as.
I got lucky. One side is worn. The other has the India logo painted onto the stone.
 

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