When I first got into woodworking, I bought some Norton water stones. They were messy, required constant flattening and I never did get good results with them.
So I went with the Scary Sharp (SS) method. And very quickly, I got consistent, shave-hair-off-my-arm results. It’s true that SS isn’t as messy as the water stones. But, over time, it is more expensive to feed the sandpaper beast. Sandpaper on substrate doesn’t hold up well, tearing easily and requiring frequent replacement.
So after watching Paul Sellers’ How to sharpen chisels using diamond stones, I decided to switch to a cheaper—over time—sharpening system.
Besides saving money, I figured it would help me accomplish two more goals.
Goal #1: Eliminate sharpening system clutter.
Here was my messy setup.
To create a more compact system I got four EZE-LAP diamond plates in 250 (81-C), 400 (81-M), 600 (81-F) and 1200 (81-SF) grits. And to keep my sharpening space tidy, I followed Seller’s lead to build a holder for the plates.
I tweaked his design a bit by adding two more “spaces”—one for an additional diamond plate and one for a strop. A removable pine “plate” 3” x 8” x 3/8” with epoxied leather serves as a strop. A coat of polyurethane holds out hope that the MDF surface will keep clean. Rubber bumpers on the bottom corners keep the holder fixed in use. Numbers mark the grits for ease of reference.
After routing out the recesses, I used clear silicon caulking to affix the plates. The strop recess is snug to hold the pine plate.
Now while the overall linear space of my system is 3” longer than my SS setup, everything is in a compact, clutterless holder. And with the strop securely docked, I don’t waste time looking about for my hand-held model.
Goal #2: Reduce time spent sharpening.
Paul advocates a freehand sharpening system. For years I obsessed about angles, jigs and microbevels. For me, all that obsessing and jig setup took a lot of time. By adopting Paul’s sharpening method, I’ve significantly reduced the time I spend sharpening a chisel or plane iron. And that’s given me a few more benefits.
–Bonus Benefit #1: Because it takes less time to sharpen, I do it more often and no longer view sharpening as a chore.
–Bonus Benefit #2: As fast as sharpening is, “touching up” a bevel is even faster. So much so that a 30 second break on the plates barely interrupts my rhythm during a project.
–Bonus Benefit #3: My attention has been refocused on woodworking. Sharpening is an essential skill and we all have to do it. But my former methods consumed a lot of time—flattening stones, removing sandpaper, scraping off sandpaper adhesive, putting the tool in a sharpening jig and on and on. Now I have more time and mental focus to apply to my woodworking.
–Super-Bonus-Benefit: Sellers advocates the use of a convex bevel versus a micro bevel on chisels and irons. He argues that it’s both faster to sharpen and the edge lasts longer. My personal experience since adopting the convex bevel confirms this.
For years, I was disappointed in how quickly micro-bevels dulled. So much so that I abandoned it in favor of a full-faced bevel. However, sharpening a full-faced bevel takes a lot of time and effort, especially if there’s a nick to take out. So I tried the convex bevel and have found that the edge lasts longer for sure. And it’s faster to create in the first place.
Cheaper, faster, stronger, tidy. Just four good reasons that I like my new sharpening system.
© 2015, Brad Chittim, all rights reserved.