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Real Trouble Sharpening...

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JamesJ

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Hi all,

I know this is the archetypal newbie question - but it is really driving me nuts! Since I started doing woodwork I seem to have spent my life trying to get my plane blades to behave and get them reasonably sharp. I have read countless articles, blog posts, watched videos etc... I don't want to become a sharpening freak (I would rather like to spend my time making stuff), but just cannot get it right and cannot afford to buy loads of stuff (e.g. a diamond stone to flatten them etc). Here is where I am up to so far:

I have a have combination Norton waterstone 1000/4000, a piece of 30x30cm float glass, a sharpening guide (I know, I know) and an old electric grind stone.

The waterstone I cannot keep flat. I draw the lines on in pencil to test it, but the water just washed them away. Wet and dry blunts in an instant when I use it to flatten the stone and anyway the 4000 hates w&d and just leaves grit tracks all over it. So the waterstone becomes concave and somehow this results in a plane blade that leaves plane track edges on the wood!?! Surely it should make a convex blade not a concave one!

I had a go at scary sharp, but the very pricey paper (£1 a sheet!), would rip with the smallest speck of grit.

So my aim is to get a flat straight blade with a sharp edge and then David Charlesworth tells me I shouldn't have one of these anyway! He wants be to create a sharp convex blade, which I can sort of see (no plane tracks like I manage), but this just seems to complicate things...

To add to it all I have inherited a whole bin bag of oilstones... which I hear don't need to be flattened... sounds ideal... Plus I have a lovely range of grades etc (If they were good enough for my great-grandfathers surely they should be good enough for me!), but they don't look wide enough to use my beloved sharpening guide on.

It is all SO confusing... I just want to be one of these people who can grab a blade and sharpen it to shave with on an old rock they found lying around outside...! Surely to goodness it cannot be this complicated?

Help!

James
 

James C

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If you really want to use the oilstones with your honing guide then you can fix two wooden runners either side of the stone at the same height for the wheels to run on. If the stone does wear down then you can plane the rails down to keep them the same height as the stone.

I would recommend never using wet n dry to flatten waterstones if you don't get grit tracks then you probably get pieces of the grit embedded into the stone, which is not nice.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Hello James, and welcome to the forum!

I can quite understand your frustration with this subject. There seems to be a mass of conflicting information about, and quite a few people 'plugging' one method or another. Well - if their method works for them, you can't say that they've got it all wrong; but their method may not necessarily suit you.

It helps a bit to remember what it is that you're trying to achieve in sharpening a plane iron or chisel. What you're aiming for is the convergence of two surfaces (the bevel and the flat faces) at - effectively - nothing. That means that both the bevel face and the flat face must be equally polished, but that polish only needs to be right at the cutting edge; it doesn't really need to extend more than a fraction of a millimetre behind the cutting edge, but for convenience or for other reasons, it sometimes does. The shape of the bevelled face behind the cutting edge really doesn't matter; it can be flat (Japanese chisels), concave (hollow ground) or convex - they all work. The flat face of a chisel needs to be flat so that can act as a jig when you pare with it, but a plane iron can have a tiny back-bevel, and sometimes that helps matters.

The shape of a plane iron across it's edge does depend on what you want it to do. A jack-plane iron intended to remove a lot of waste is usually slightly curved (say 1 to 1.5mm crown at the middle of the edge). A plane iron for final dimensioning (try plane or jointer) would be straight, with the corners just slightly removed (say the last 2mm at most) in a gentle curve so that the corners don't leave plane-tracks on a face being worked. A smoothing iron would be about the same as the try iron.

Whatever method of sharpening you use to achieve this is entirely down to personal choice, but all of them take a bit of practice before it 'clicks', and all of them give steadily improving results over the months as you get used to them. All the methods have upsides and downsides. Waterstones are quick, but need frequent maintenance to keep them flat. Oilstones are slower, but being harder wear less slowly (but they do wear - they need flattening much less often, but they will go out of flat gradually).

To get a good edge, you do need to prepare both the bevelled face and the flat face of cutting tools. The bad news is that getting a flat face flat and polished can be tedious. The good news is that you only need to do it once for any given iron. Probably the quickest way is to use your float glass and sheets of wet-and-dry, starting at about 150 grit if the iron has noticable grinding marks left by the manufacturer, and then working through 240, 320, 400, 600, 800, 1200 and if you can get 'em, the finer grades. Then polish on the fine honing stone. Then grind the bevelled face, hone and polish an edge, and very gently 'back off' - polish the flat face to remove the wire edge with the iron FLAT on the stone. You should then be getting a good enough edge to work with. You can subsequently rehone and repolish the bevelled edge several times before you need to regrind, but the flat face won't need touching again except to back-off the wire edge on the polishing stone, and that should be enough to keep it in good order.

It does take a bit of persistence to get there, but once you 'get it' you're there - bit like learning to ride a bike.

Good luck - keep persisting, and you'll get the hang of it!
 

Dodge

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James,

Firstly welcome to the forum and i'm sure you will get all the answers to your queries as there is a wealth of knowledge out there amongst the members.

Getting back to your original problem there are so many different ways that people undertake their sharpening that you could probably write a multi - volume encyclopedia and still it wouldnt cover everything.

When I was initially taught and undertook my apprenticeship etc I was always taught to keep it simple and it has worked for me over the years.

Anyway seeing you are reasonably local to my workshop, i'm on the Norfolk Suffolk Border at Diss, if you fancied coming up to my my premises one afternoon and bringing your planes and chisels with you I will spend some time and teach you how I keep my blades sharp and hopefully this will help you get started as there is nothing more dangerous in the workshop than blunt tools!

Let me know if this would be helpful and we will see whether we can arrange a mutually convenient time.

Rog
 

dunbarhamlin

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Bite Roger's hand off!
And then close your ears and stick to his method for at least 6 months before you start experimenting with other ways.
 

matthewwh

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dunbarhamlin":3e6pxggy said:
Bite Roger's hand off!
And then close your ears and stick to his method for at least 6 months before you start experimenting with other ways.
+1
 

Harbo

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That's a great offer and good advice.
Sounds like you've been trying out too many systems without getting the hang of any?
Sure Dodge will sort you out,

Rod
 

woodbloke

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matthewwh":3ir8dfdm said:
dunbarhamlin":3ir8dfdm said:
Bite Roger's hand off!
And then close your ears and stick to his method for at least 6 months before you start experimenting with other ways.
+1
+2...and then some! - Rob
 

marcus

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+3, generous offer from Roger, nothing beats being shown. I expect you'll find it's easier than you expect with a bit of instruction. Also starting with water stones and scary sharp has probably made things more difficult than they needed to be as with these methods you have to think about the things you are sharpening on as well as the thing you are sharpening!
 

Noggsy

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Welcome James. Excellent summary Cheshirechappie which has clarified some things that I was wondering about. Thank you. This forum is such a good resource, with so many helpful people.
 

jimi43

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More support from this quarter from me on the excellent offer from Dodge.

Not one person on this forum (or the planet) has the "correct" answer to this Groundhog of questions but if you stick to Roger's guidance (as others have recommended) and close your ears to others for a while until you perfect it...you will soon be a master...then you can go off on any tangent you wish in the knowledge that you know how to do it...it's just learning your own style you need to concentrate on.

Even after all the years of practice I have had...I still give my best chisels to Douglas who lives around the corner...simply because he is far more of a perfectionist than I am...his "flat" is truly flat and he doesn't leave it until it is! I'm simply not that patient!

This forum is great for swapping favours...a fine place indeed!

Bravo Roger! =D>

Jim
 

Jeff Gorman

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JamesJ wrote:

It is all SO confusing... I just want to be one of these people who can grab a blade and sharpen it to shave with on an old rock they found lying around outside...! Surely to goodness it cannot be this complicated?

Well ......... If he wants to get even more confused, some time looking at http://tinyurl.com/cgm7vgh
might do the trick!

Jeff

Jeff Gorman
http://www.amgron.clara.net
 

MickCheese

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James

Just do a search for Roger's (Dodge) past posts or look at his website and you will see he is a true professional so take him up on his offer and stick to his methods until you have the experience to make you own decisions.

Mick
 
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