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Sharpening a chisel.4/20/20
How to sharpen a chisel?
I have read quite a bit on here about how to sharpen a chisel, I am looking for a system that will give me a perfect factory edge and the kicker is I want it to be quick, or fairly quick.
I have read where people use a regular grinder with the double wheels, that puts a curve in your chisel that is not factory, there are many diferent stones and jigs that places like Lee Valley sell, but they are not that fast.
I have seen some different flat stone systems that seem like they might be the best, but some are quite expensive and others are more reasonably priced. I am all about quality tools and don't mind spending the money if it is a great tool.
I currently have been using a random orbit sander which does not a bad job, put far from perfect. I love sharp and true chisels, but have been struggling to get them perfect. I almost am at the point where I just go buy a new one instead of trying to spend the time to sharpen them.
Tormek T-8 hands down. It's expensive but the time/ effort saved is impressive. Sharpen your kitchen knives and a whole bunch of other stuff too though you'll have to buy some of their other jigs. Standard disclaimer, I'm not affiliated with Tormek in any way.
Scary Sharp System
I use scary sharp a lot here as well. Once you get your initial flattening and bevels good its relatively quick but not necesarily fast.
Your notion of the grinder isnt totally spot on either in that most all commodity chisels other than uber high end will be hollow ground on at least the primary bevel in the way you mentioned on a conventional grinder. A lot of people will argue that its eaiser/faster to put your secondary bevel on a hollow ground front.
Tormek or even a lot of people will swear by the less expensive worksharp grinders.
You don't need any fancy gadgets or systems. Flatten the back of the chisel till you get a uniform scratch pattern across the back. THis can be done on a fine India or coarse India combination stone. Will work faster on a diamond stone. When the back is flat, you will not have to do that again. Get an electric grinder wheel, 80 grit wheel and hollow grind the bevel. The two outer points of the hollow grind on the bevel allow the chisel to ride true on the stone. Flip chisel from back to bevel and with a gentler touch, roll off the bur created. If you want go, to a finer stone to remove the bur. A flat back and this method allows for a chisel to get very sharp. That is all you need, a simple stone and a grinder wheel. You would not have to re grind the bevel every time you sharpen unless you get a nick. When grinding don't let the steel over heat and go blue.
I use the Work Sharp WS3000 system. I've also got some diamond discs for it and can sharpen carbide. I modified one of the edges of the Work Sharp platform and can sharpen router bits.
Not cheap, but not expensive either. Works pretty nice, gets very sharp and you can get scary sharp if you try. For the most part very sharp works for me most all times.
You are a professional and can't sharpen a chisel? Woof! You need to grind and hone two surfaces to a dead flat intersection. I didn't count, but must be 50 ways shown with video on YouTube.
Leo, do you just hone your router bits on the work sharp by feel/eye? I.e. they are not indexed in a collect or anything correct?
Yes. The router bit is free and I'm just holding them by hand. I cut away a section of the "guard rail" and I think I had to raise the diamond coated steel disc up some so I could get the body of the bit underneath it.
I've also sharpened a shaper panel cutter because it was dull and I needed it now. But I don't recommend doing that because of balance.
And you do have to get the diamond discs because they are only about a 1/16" thick while the glass plates you put the sandpaper on are about 3/8" thick and you can't wrap the router bit under it.
I don't think you'll be able to sharpen something like a straight flush cut bit though, I've only sharpened smaller profile bits so far.
I use the Razor Edge System after a carver showed me how easy it works.
Two cardboard/soft MDF 7" wheels on a 1750 rpm grinder. One gets a coating of abrasive mixed into wet yellow glue, and the other gets a buffing compound. It takes a bit of practice, but the results are the best I have ever seen. I have a grinder for removing knicks, restoring angles, etc.
Online or Woodcraft.
I will be long winded since you think you are getting a good edge free handing on an orbital. What you pay for when you buy a chisel is good steel and a flat back. The best chisel commercially available is the PMV11 from Lee Valley for about $90 a piece. That buys you the best possible steel, and a flat back. With everything else you will need to flatten the back. Even with it you must polish the back. This is where the time sink is, but you only have to do it once. At my home shop, I use a Lee Neilson honing jig, and at work I use a cheep eclipse style jig you can pick up for about $12. They both operate on the same principal, and I can get razor sharp and back to work in less the 60 seconds. At home I have norton water stones, and a DMT lapping plate to keep them flat. At work I use 60, 30, 12, and 1 micron lapping film on a piece of glass. My work set up cost me less than $40. Just you tube how to use a honing guide and you'll be off and running.
Thanks for all the tips, sounds like some great ideas that I am going to try. I am looking for speed and a great edge.
I donít use chisels a lot, like I said , I know how to sharpen them with different stones and bevel guides I have bought over the years, I was just curious about a lot of the new systems that you see on the market .
For my Buck Bros and Stanley chisels, I keep a well used sanding belt handy for my edge sander. I install this belt and turn it on, and touch the chisel edge to it careful not to overheat it. This quickly removes any nicks or chunks from the edge and establishes a nice flat bevel in less than a minute. Then take it over to the japanese stone, and use the bevel gage to get the final sharpened edge only at the tip, which is where all the cutting takes place. BTW, Never do this with the japanese chisels.
I do not handplane my lumber or hand cut dovetails, except for my own pleasure. I do often set aside some part of my work for 'play'. I will do something by hand that can be done by machine, but that I prefer to do it by hand, using a favorite plane, or gouge. It is important to realize the edge is where it is at for us in this trade. Even if you sharpen your chisels with a sander.
On occasion, when sharpening my tools (chisels, gouges , shaper knives, plane blades, etc) at the machines, I stop and examine the edge under the bright light at the grinders. It glints off the light and even refracts it a bit so there is a trace of the visible spectrum entering my eye. I look closer, and think how my life is connected to that edge. I'll try the edge on my forearm, to see how easily it shaves.
For 50 years, I have looked at that edge, pretty much every day, one tool or the other. Then I go back and polish it to a mirror surface, ever sharper. If the quality of my life is somehow related to that edge, I want it as sharp as I can get it.
I second the paper wheel sharpening. I laminated 2 pieces of MDF together, then cut out some wheels on the cnc for a regular bench grinder. Turn it around backwards so the wheels are running away from you. One got abrasive glued to it, the other polishing compound. My guys don't get any nice chisels as we are a high production manufacturer, and they are only cleaning up dried glue on inner edges, so its mostly stanley and irwin from lowes. In 30 seconds on the paper wheels, they will make a hair pop off your arm. We normally need to sharpen chisels every two weeks or so unless someone drops one. I have been a sharpener of edges for 25 years now from plain oil stones, up to high end water stones and these cheap paper wheels make me wish I'd never spent the money on all of those things. The slightly sharper edges that the waterstones give isn't commensurate with the amount of time required.
Jeff, there is a lot to unpack here. Tool sharpening is possibly one of the most contentious topics you could bring up among woodworkers. You are extremely unlikely to find an answer to satisfy everyone. Having said that I have to take issue with multiple elements of your question.
Like Rich C, I don't know how one gets to be a professional without being able to sharpen a chisel. Also, I question whether you truly understand sharpness if you're trying to achieve "factory sharpness." All but a handful of commercial chisels are shipped to the consumer with a factory grind that is at a correct bevel and square to the side, but not sharp.
As others have noted, there are dozens of ways to get your chisels sharp. I happen to own a Tormek and love it, but it is not cheap and it is far from the only way.
I still use water stones and I probably always will. If water stones keep you from skiing or fishing you are using them wrong. The back of your chisel needs to
Your life will be made easier if there is a slight hollow to your chisels bevel so that initially only the edge and the heel are touching the stone. I don't use a honing guide, I find honing guides slow me down too much. The hollow should last through multiple sharpenings.
As I said, I own a Tormek and it is what I use to put a hollow on the bevel, but if you're careful you can do the same with a $50 bench grinder. Upgrade the wheel to a friable abrasive and keep a bowl of water nearby. Also, if you are using a cheap grinder remember you don't have to go all the way to edges of the bevel. You're just trying to create a slight hollow. The edge, particularly on a narrow chisel, is going to get hot very quickly. Dip it often and don't get too greedy.
Between sharpenings is where I believe the Tormek earns its money. If the edge seems to be going away, a few seconds at the stropping wheel and I'm back in business. You could, cheaply and easily set up a stropping/buffing station with an old electric motor and a leather wheel.
There is nothing more dangerous than dull tools and no better way to waste time than to refuse to learn the basics of your trade.
Jeff , I have a Tormek Id sell it for cheap, itís practically brand new . Iím in Ct , if youíre interested
I have built kitchens and commercial cabinets for over 30 years, I have hung thousands of doors, I own one block plane and I own maybe 4 chisels. The best job for a chisel Is removing old flooring or removing grout or demolition type jobs. I use routers and jugs and specialty punches and square punch chisels. I hardly every use a chisel and if I do I just hit them with a few different grit stones and done.
I respectfully totally disagree. Based on the work you do, you probably don't need or use that tool the same way others do and that's ok. Majority of my work is antique restoration and custom furniture. My chisels get dull and my life sucks. I have a set for scraping glue on antiques and a set for cutting dovetails and fine work. Im not one of those hand tool only guys either. They drive me nuts as I cant make a dime using hand tools only. But I do feel that at some level knowing how to sharpen a tool fast and cheap is a big advantage. One simple oil stone, after a basic tune up can go a long way. All these fancy grinders, jigs, etc. total waste of time and $. But this is just all my opinion and perspective.
Unusual point of view, but sometimes it's easier to buy a new one, then fix a huge problems