If you spend time woodworking, either as a hobby, or as a profession, you know the importance of maintaining good tools. In fact, you are only as good as your sharp tools.
Dull woodworking tools lead to chips, tear-off, and a lot of mistakes.
Keep Your Woodworking Tools Sharp
That’s why maintaining a sharp edge is so important. Like the tools themselves, there are lots of complexities when it comes to keeping them sharp, but there are a few simple things to keep in mind. Here are six steps you need to know to keep your go-to tools in tiptop working order.
1. Find the Right Sharpening Supplies
Tool sharpening is all about having the right sharpening supplies. For most of your sharpening needs, you’ll be looking for the right stone. Sharpening stones come in three common varieties, and knowing which stone, or combination of stones, work best for you, will be a huge help in your sharpening process.
The first of these stones are oilstones, which get their name from the oil you use on them as lubricant. They come in both natural and manmade varieties, as well as various coarse, and fine grades.
The next variety, water stones, are also available either natural, or manmade. They use water as a lubricant, so there’s no mess, and they are made from softer stone to allow for faster sharpening. They do require flattening more often than other stones because of this softness.
Diamond stones are the more expensive investment, but aside from the initial start up, they have few detractors. The industrial diamonds are attached to a metal backing, and the surface is so hard that it can be used to sharpen any tool as well as to flatten other stones.
The more you work with sharpening your tools, the more likely you are to develop a collection of various sharpening stones in a range of materials and grades. You’ll develop preferences for each stone, and each type of tool.
2. Sharpen New and Old Tools
Once you’ve got some of your sharpening supplies picked out, you’ll want to consider what tools need work. It’s not just the tools you use frequently that will need sharpening. You also want to make sure that new tools get a good treatment before you use them. It seems counter intuitive that a brand new tool would need sharpening, but you’ll want to spend some time with each new tool before you put it to use in your shop.
3. Lapping the Back
This step is the first one you’ll take in how to sharpen a chisel or edge tool. It refers to smoothing the backside of the blade. Using a sharpening stone you’ll flatten the back of the blade so that you can create a razor sharp edge at the tip. You’ll want to start out on a coarse grind, moving the blade in circles, and move to progressively finer grades. This way you’ll get a nice smooth polish on the back of the blade.
4. Grinding Your Edge Tools
Depending on the type of tool you’re sharpening you’ll most likely want to make use of a grinder system to create the desired bevel that you’re looking for. You can buy special grinding wheels that can work to prevent your tools from overheating during grinding, but even so, you’ll want to drench your tool in water periodically to prevent it from getting too hot as you work.
5. Maintaining the Angle
When sharpening any woodworking tool, from a hand planer to a chisel, the angle of the blade is very important. If you don’t maintain the same angle as you sharpen, then you risk irregularities, and you compromise the integrity of the blade.
That’s why when you using a sharpening stone or grinder, you want to make sure that you place it on the stone at the correct angle. It can be tricky to hold the angle steady as you sharpen, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience doing so. That’s where using a sharpening jig, or a wooden wedge can come in handy. They’ll do the tricky part, so that you can concentrate on spending the right amount of time on the coarse and fine grades so that you achieve the ultimate sharpness and polish.
6. Hone After You Sharpen
To the laymen honing and sharpening sound like the same thing, but they aren’t. While sharpening involves a stone and can be used to grind off the old metal, honing is the process that follows. It can bring the blade to a finer point by using a finer grade sand paper. That’s where you get the razor sharp edge from.
You’re on Your Way to a Kit Full of Sharp Tools
Once you get your tools sharpening correctly, you can use them to their full potential. They’ll cut through wood easier, improve the pace of your projects, and give you control and precision. The quality of your work will improve, and you’ll find that you won’t make as many errors, or damage as much wood.