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"I only sharpen to what's needed for the task"

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D_W

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Some of you may be aware that I am a stone hound, a tool builder and sometimes I test things. I noticed that what I say tends to be least well received when I've actually tested it (recently caused some posts to be deleted).

One of the things that comes around over and over and over is the boast from various folks that they will only sharpen the minimum needed to complete a task. This boast is sort of the "climbing the hill of nobility with both legs tied at the ankles" to let you know when you're reading it that the person making the claim is absolutely dedicated to results and they aren't wasting their time like you are.

This discussion is going around again on another forum as it does sometimes here, and having tested actual results of this, I changed what I used to do because I realize that the amount of effort that I expend is largely dependent on sharpening. There are two questions to answer:
* what level leads to a positive return but is tolerable (as in, I can't tolerate stopping work for 5 minutes to sharpen, or even 4 or 3, let alone some of the long routines where folks will state that stop to start with a plane is 7 or 8 minutes)?
* why don't we notice the difference in effort day to day, and if you don't notice it does it count?

The simple answer to #1 is that you get almost the entire possible return for your efforts by following your sharpening process (whatever you've developed that's fastest) and taking a very fine stone and working the smallest amount of the edge that you can manage to work. This doesn't have to be an expensive stone. It can be a $9 vial of 1 micron diamonds that will last you a decade. I hate to say it, but using a single medium stone and replacing the strop with a very fine abrasive is a positive yield. I'm a big fan of strops, but results show otherwise (as in, don't skip the fine abrasive). My cycle time sharpening is 1:20 or so for a plane iron, and 2 minutes total if I have to take apart a completely dull double iron and reset it for actual double iron use. Less for chisels.

Why don't we notice the difference? #2? Because we can compensate all kinds of ways. We can sharpen more often (more total time), lean on a plane, push the shaving thickness past where we want, etc, and then assure ourselves that we're making less effort.

What did I find in testing? Something 5 micron size in abrasive lasts about 65% as long as something finishing at 1 micron (so if I sharpen with 5 microns and then strop, which has to be fairly brisk), I'll get 65% of the footage planed before sharpening is a necessity. If I replace the strop with a 1 micron abrasive, spend the same amount of time on the very iron tip and back quickly (as in - 10 or 15 seconds), I will get, for example, 1000 feet of planing instead of 650.

But looking closer at the results, you might think that the planing is the same, just fewer feet with the coarser abrasive. It isn't, in fact. The last 650 feet of planing with the fine abrasive are actually smoother and with less effort than the first 650 feet with the coarser abrasive, and the surface result is better. The first 350 feet with the fine abrasive aren't to be seen anywhere during the planing of the latter.

I'm not the only person who has ever tested this and generated a data set. At least one other person has done a much more extensive study and found the same thing, but as a huge fan of natural stones, I thought I could find a way that they would buck this one way or another. They do not. I also wanted to find the laziest way possible to get the results so that I didn't end up with a 4 or 5 minute sharpening process, because in a typical session of shop work, I could sharpen 2 or 6 times, or something like that, depending on what I'm doing.

This isn't a matter of buying expensive gear or adding a lot of time, it's just improving results. There actually isn't any expensive sharpening gear that improves results further beyond the cheap loose abrasives.

What else is impacted?
* surface quality (uniformity and brightness)
* the occurrence of skips, etc, on pieces you're finish planing (or more specifically, the sharper a plane is, the easier it will start a cut, the fewer skips and humps you'll develop at the edges of work and then subsequently need to remove with abrasives, etc)
* the amount of effort you expend planing both downward and forward in general
 

D_W

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What brings this to mind? Other than reading this discussion going on at another forum that I don't participate in, I have actual data gained in an unbiased test, and in the case of the results, they are the opposite of what I was hoping for.

Also, I make planes, so I get planes from people to fix from time to time (soft irons, some kind of fit issue or "it just doesn't work"). I send the planes back sharp, but 1:20 second sharp, not circus sharp. When I get a comment after returning the plane, it's usually something long the lines of "it works really smoothly", but I resharpened and it's not working as well. I have no idea if anyone takes my advice on sharpening after that (their business and not mine).

One of these has culminated in a request for me to give a session in a woodworking group in the states here that's comprised of advanced amateurs and some professional woodworkers. In my opinion, it's too far to travel to make it worth the effort (it would be a two day travel effort to talk about sharpening and planing for perhaps half an hour).

If you're suspicious of my results, you can test them yourself very easily by getting a test board and doing the following (it has to be a clean board without mineral deposits or silica):
* sharpen two irons - one coarse, and one as I mentioned above
* plane something like 150 or 200 feet at a time with both irons until they are dull. do your best to keep the shaving thickness even and separate the shaving piles so that you can weigh them to confirm that feet are proportional to volume planed. Do it on the edge of a wide board, but something less wide than your iron so that you're not dealing with lateral flatness issues
* record the results and then prepare the two irons opposite to so that you have one trial for each iron on each abrasive type

see what you find. You'll be surprised when you can use the two next to each other and you see the difference in results and feel the difference in effort and ease. Note the level of dullness when it becomes difficult to plane without concentrating much harder to eliminate defects and get a good clean start to the cut.

It'll take about an hour to do this test if you're suspicious, but it'll save you far more than an hour in the future if you learn something from it.
 

D_W

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That would work":z6ao74oj said:
Sweet or salted? :roll: :roll: :roll: :lol:
Oh my... a DATA SET???????????
I know it's WAY out of bounds to discuss a sharpening thread and ask people to consider a legitimate test. There's a risk that a specific result (which would sure kill the ability to argue endlessly in the future) might be seen by most or all.

Results oriented discussions are illegal on the internet in 42 states here. (hammer)
 

D_W

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That would work":qmt2xgqr said:
DATA?
sorry I can't help saying that again
Yeah, it sounds funny, eh? data. I guess that's what you call footage planed. Data.
 

MikeG.

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D_W":2mvoeg2m said:
.......... I noticed that what I say tends to be least well received when I've actually tested it (recently caused some posts to be deleted).........
That was because you were posting on your pet subject in an inappropriate place. In it's own thread it would have been fine, but you wrecked a thread started by a complete novice by dumping acres of utterly irrelevant stuff into it. It was absolutely nothing to do with it including test results.
 

Trevanion

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I think I can hear the rumbling and thundering of a keyboard somewhere in the north, I think everyone should seek shelter.
 

That would work

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I would rather be a slug on the Bonnevile salt flats than associate data with sharpening tools. :twisted:
 

D_W

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MikeG.":1nzv07ez said:
D_W":1nzv07ez said:
.......... I noticed that what I say tends to be least well received when I've actually tested it (recently caused some posts to be deleted).........
That was because you were posting on your pet subject in an inappropriate place. In it's own thread it would have been fine, but you wrecked a thread started by a complete novice by dumping acres of utterly irrelevant stuff into it. It was absolutely nothing to do with it including test results.
Well, hopefully it can live here. Not because we should argue about it, because it has real utility. Arguing is for things that people want to be true, this is a matter of something that just is.
 

D_W

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That would work":3cx9s4bf said:
I would rather be a slug on the Bonnevile salt flats than associate data with sharpening tools. :twisted:
It's a bit of a buzzkill for some to take their romantic wants and expect results. Not results in an engineer and protractor and hour process way, but in a lazy "ghee, I'd like to not do more than I have to" kind of way.

I'm sure there are artists who complain when they're beginners that learning about proportion and design is something that kills their creativity. And then, when they learn about them, they create better art.
 

D_W

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Trevanion":2dqeesxk said:
I think I can hear the rumbling and thundering of a keyboard somewhere in the north, I think everyone should seek shelter.
being not from the UK, I can only guess Jacob lives north? :lol:
 

thetyreman

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I don't have time for testing blades, I just look at it and say to myself is it sharp? yes or no, if it's not sharp re-sharpen then get on with making, I'm only interested in the actual woodworking, joinery and end results, it doesn't matter how you get there.
 

That would work

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D_W":11z83rar said:
That would work":11z83rar said:
I would rather be a slug on the Bonnevile salt flats than associate data with sharpening tools. :twisted:
It's a bit of a buzzkill for some to take their romantic wants and expect results. Not results in an engineer and protractor and hour process way, but in a lazy "ghee, I'd like to not do more than I have to" kind of way.

I'm sure there are artists who complain when they're beginners that learning about proportion and design is something that kills their creativity. And then, when they learn about them, they create better art.
OK, a snail then.
 

D_W

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you don't need to recreate results of the testing unless you want to disprove them. I had zero interest in doing any of the testing that I did, but a group of us thought that PM-V11's claims of edge durability were suspicious, and nobody else who does a lot of planing would step up. This was an offshoot of that test - I wasn't looking to examine footage planed based on sharpness, but learned something I wasn't looking to learn.

The way these results came about was in an attempt to find a single step sharpening media that would be very close to the results of more than one step (like a washita stone, for example, or coarser loose abrasives) process.

"I don't have time" and "I like to work with hand tools" are sort of strange comments. I don't want to is more accurate, and there are a lot of things I don't want to do. I wanted someone else to perform this test, too, as i probably spent as much time on it as I would typically spend to build a guitar.
 

Sideways

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Ignoring all the baggage. I'll listen to someone who's open to trying a new idea that doesn't fit with their own preferences, and willing to change when the facts as they best understand them say they should.
I lobbed that same idea into one of the vacuum cleaner threads the other day so I'd be a hypocrite not to, as well as potentially missing out on something that will help me.
I'm an engineer so real, repeatable data beats subjective opinion every time...
Cheers
 

AndyT

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Ok, here's a considered response from me.

If I was earning my keep as a full time woodworker, planing chiselling and sawing all day long, and efficiency was one of my goals, this discussion would matter to me. But I'm not. I'm someone who's happy to spend his time pottering in the workshop/playroom making things out of wood.

I even deliberately reduce efficiency by trying out different approaches - do I prefer using a wooden plane or its metal equivalent? Saw, plane or chisel a rebate? Tails first or pins? Gang cutting or singles? Rip by hand or by bandsaw? Radio 3, 4, or 6? Thing is, I can forget what the answer was before next time I need to know. Never mind!

In all of this, I sometimes try to do fine, careful work - such as my little walnut table - and then, I will be more careful about sharpening. I'll do it more often and I will also hone.

But if I am doing something more undemanding - like planing a piece of wood so it's the right size to mend a hole in the shed - I adjust my standards - so a plane or chisel would just get a quick rub on a fine-ish stone and get on with it. You could call that "sharpening to what's needed for the task" if you like. To me it's more about common sense than any sort of claim to be a superior worker.

I can easily spend more time making coffee or tea than I do sharpening, but I'm not going to stop doing either of those.
 
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