|Blade and Honing Guide|
I am a happy man! I have discovered a great regime for sharpening my plane irons and chisels. I use a honing guide, a simple Eclipse type one that costs about a thousand rupees. It takes just a few seconds to fit a blade and the results are consistent and repeatable. I find that if I use the same honing guide and the same angle on a particular blade, the bevel presented to the stone is consistent and requires very little effort to re-sharpen.
My regime requires the use of three moderately expensive Japanese ceramic stones:
the Sigma Power 400 grit (Rs 2900), Sigma Power #1000 (Rs 2200) and a Naniwa Ebi #8000 (Rs 3400). The prices quoted are for stones from toolsfromjapan.com and exclusive of shipping charges.
I follow this procedure for maintenance sharpening:
1. Fit the blade in a honing guide
2. Do initial honing on #400 stone to raise a burr. About 100 strokes.
2. Refine edge on #1,000 stone - 50 strokes
3. Polish edge on #8,000 stone - about 25 strokes
And Voila, the blade is super sharp once again.
Max time 5 minutes.
|Japanese Ceramic stones: Sigma Power #1000 (left), Sigma Power #400 (Centre) and Naniwa Ebi #8000 (Right)|
The key to this is the Sigma Power 400 stone which cuts like the devil and is way faster than diamond stones or sandpaper. The Sigma stones work exceptionally well with India made plane blades and the harder Chrome Vanadium chisel steels. Indian plane irons are usually if not exclusively made of EN42 steel, also popularly known as Spring steel. It takes forever to sharpen Spring steel blades on sandpaper and Diamond plates too are not great at taking down this steel either. Sigma Power appears to have been designed to wear down this steel in no time at all. It is a marvellous piece of work and hugely reduces sharpening time and encourages me to keep my blades razor sharp. It's so easy.
The downside is the cost - buying the three stones will cost about Rs 10,000. Not a small sum to drop on sharpening supplies. But for the serious woodworker there are few alternatives. Sandpaper in the long run is extremely expensive and so are Diamond stones. Clearly there is a cost for maintaining super sharp blades.
However, the 8,000 grit polishing stone could easily be left out of the equation without significantly reducing the final sharpness, which I suspect comes mainly from the #400 and #1,000 stones. The #8,000 stones gives a mirror finish to the bevel and produces a fine edge that is supposed to last longer than one created by lower grit stones. But the #8,000 is not essential and one can get very good results with just the first two stones.
Local Indian carpenters get by with a Rs 180 stone - one could go that route and add a strop with polishing compound. I have, however, tested the sharpness of those blades and the ones sharpened with Japanese ceramic stones; there is really no comparison. Local carpenters use a lot of forces while planing and chiselling which is completely unnecessary if the blades are super sharp. There is also the question of the final quality of a planed surface. The grit at which a blade is honed at will determine the smoothness of the planed surface - no question as it is a direct relationship.
|Thin shavings can arise only out of the mouth of a super sharp plane|
In other words, if someone is going to invest in hand tools for woodworking, I would advise they keep the number of tools to a minimum but spend on good sharpening stones.
It is better to have just three or four hand planes (Jack, Jointer, Smoother and Block) and about 6 chisels of different widths and a set of good stones. It is worth it if you can stop work and re-sharpen for just 5 minutes and then get back on the job.
I have been flattening small 15 inches square panels in between other work and my sharp planes are a huge help. They are quick, clean and satisfying. Nothing like a good sharpening regime!
11 October 2017