|Sharpening with a Honing Guide is Easy|
Hand tools such as knives, chisels and planes can be pretty frustrating and ultimately useless if not sharpened properly and often enough. The problem is that sharpening can at times seem a tedious chore.
I had long been intimidated by the sharpening process and usually kept putting it off as long as I could. The result on my work was obvious but the problem always was the hassle in setting up for sharpening.
I had to first estimate the angle at which a blade had been ground, then set the honing angle, stick sandpaper to glass and then get down to sharpening. The process took time, was tedious and not always satisfactory.
Over the years the sharpening process has become much easier, quicker and even enjoyable. Nothing like the feel of a sharp edge sticking to finger tips.
The transformation has a lot to do with a few sharpening aides I have acquired over the years. Today, I find them indispensable.
|Brass Bevel Gauge|
This little brass gauge is a quick way to find the angle at which the bevel of a blade was been ground. If the angle is very different from what I want to achieve I head for a coarse stone otherwise I head for the higher grit diamond stones.
|The Bevel Gauge quickly finds the bevel angle|
|A standard Honing Guide; many companies make these|
The more accomplished woodworkers can sharpen freehand; years of practice have set their muscle memories and they can get the exact bevel without thinking. I do not have that level of skill and find a honing guide absolutely essential. Once fixed to the guide, any blade can be honed consistently and perfectly.
|I use these stops to set the blade projection from the edge of the honing guide to set the bevel angle|
To set the bevel angle I have made a simple distance stop and it takes just a few second to fix the blade and position it correctly in the honing guide.
Very Coarse Ceramic Stone
|Very Coarse Japanese Ceramic stone|
Most chisel and plane blades available in India need to be worked on a lot initially. Often the bevel has to be re-ground, blade backs flattened and so on. This can be really slow work so I recently procured a Japanese ceramic stone of 140 grit. I have found that this stone works wonderfully even with the hardest of Chrome Vanadium steels. It is a huge time saver and a delight to use.
Diamond Stone set
|My sharpening stones set in a box|
Most times I usually head straight to the diamond stones to put the edge back on a blade. A couple of minutes on these stones are enough to restore the edge of any blade. New or re-ground blades of course need much more work.
I have built a simple box with a tray as the base to hold the stones. The stones are set in recesses cut by a router. There is a notch on the side of each recess to take out the stone for cleaning. The top prevents dust from settling on the stone. I store the box with my other tools and bring it out whenever I need to sharpen. I find this takes out all the hassle in setting up for sharpening.
Some plane blades, particularly the cheaper ones available in India, are made of some sort of incredibly hard steel; some say it is spring steel. At any rate, I have found it impossible to properly flatten the backs of these blades. In such cases or when the back of the blade is somewhat deformed or pitted, the ruler trick invented by British woodworker David Charlesworth is the solution. The idea is simple: a small ruler is placed near one edge of the sharpening stone and the back of the blade placed over it. This brings a thin portion of the blade's edge in contact with the sharpening stone and results in a fine back bevel. This obviates the need for flattening the back of the blade. For more details on the ruler trick read Tom Fidgen's note at http://www.theunpluggedwoodshop.com/the-ruler-trick.html.
I don't use the ruler trick on my better blades because I can flatten them very well and am quite happy to hone them the regular way. I generally do not use a secondary bevel either. But on poor quality blades, the ruler trick is the way to go. Adding a secondary bevel makes the blade easier to sharpen subsequently as only the two thin bevels (back and secondary) need to be honed. The little steel ruler is very useful in these circumstances.
|Leather strop and bar of green compound|
The last step is polishing the blade edge on a leather strop coated with green polishing compound. This made the bevel gleam and brings the edge to a very high degree of sharpness.
This type of polishing compound is readily available in most cities or else can be ordered online from some companies. They cost between 100 and 200 rupees for a big bar that seems to last for ever.
|WD-40, the anti-rust spray|
After the final polishing, I make it a point to spray the blades with a bit of WD-40 and wipe it down to prevent rusting.
With these aides, I find I sharpen often and enjoy the feel of working with very sharp tools.
8 March 2015