Sometimes the journey of becoming a skilled woodworker takes you down paths that didn’t seem important at first. Do you know a woodworker who could use some sharper tools? Maybe you could use some yourself. This article is a story about how I learned to sharpen chisels, planes and knives so they’re very, very sharp, and to do it in a fraction of the time sharpening normally takes with ordinary methods. It’s also an easy chance for you to give the gift of sharp tools and woodworking enjoyment to family or friends.
I decided to get serious about woodworking in the late 1970s. There was a great woodworking program at my high school at the time, but I noticed something strange back in grade 9. We were all taught what planes, chisels, carving gouges and knives were supposed to do, but none of these tools seemed capable of working like I expected them to. At first I thought this was my fault. “I just need to get better”, I told myself. But the funny thing was, none of these tools were working particularly well for anyone else in the class, either. Even the teachers were not getting great results. Why?
Most people in the class gave up on the struggle of using hand tools early on, but that didn’t make sense to me. “If hand tools are useless, how come I see all kinds of great woodworking that was made before power tools were invented? And besides, what do I do when I want good results and hand tools are the only way to make that happen?”
Eventually, I realized the obvious. Hand tools with cutting edges really are useless (or nearly useless) unless they’re at least as sharp as a new razor blade. That’s when I knew that to reach my woodworking goals, I’d need to get very good at sharpening. And I did. Armed with white and black Arkansas oil stones, a honing guide and a leather strop, I learned to sharpen tools so they could shave hair cleanly. I was 16 years old then, and as happy as any young woodworker could be. Happy, for a while, that is.
The problem was how long it took to sharpen tools with stones. And conversely, how much it hurt when a hard-earned edge got damaged and dull before it’s time. This dissatisfaction led me on another quest that eventually brought me to where I am today. I own and use lots of edge tools in my shop, and I don’t even mind lending my best tools out to people I know. The reason is because super-sharp edges are no longer all that precious to me. I can make them any time I want in just a few minutes. In fact, it usually takes me less time to hone an edge using my methods than it would take me just to drag the sharpening stones out onto my bench, lube them up, then get the honing guide adjusted. I still own most of my old sharpening stones, but I can’t remember the last time I used them.
Since the mid-1980s I’ve sharpened all my edge tools on a buffing wheel setup I built in my shop. It’s simple, it uses a salvaged electric furnace blower motor and it works so fast that I don’t even think about looking for a better alternative. In fact, I don’t think there is one. How much better can it get than taking a chisel from dull to scary-sharp in 60 to 90 seconds?
Over the years I’ve taught hundreds of complete beginners to sharpen hopelessly dull chisels and planes quickly, making them sharper than a new razor blade. These days I do my teaching mostly online. Check out RAZOR SHARP, my video sharpening course, and you’ll see why I’ve taken sharp woodworking tools for granted for a long time now. I guarantee this course will revolutionize your woodworking. Your satisfaction is guaranteed.
Want to see a REALLY sharp chisel in action? Click the video window here to see the results of my sharpening techniques as applied to cutting the end grain of a piece of hardwood. If you know anything about woodworking, I think you’ll be amazed by what you see this chisel do.
GIVE THE GIFT OF VERY SHARP TOOLS (PLUS TWO BONUS WOODWORKING PROJECT PLANS)
The simple equipment you need for the sharpening process is inexpensive and the buffing wheel itself is easy to build yourself. I’m still using the old, reclaimed furnace blower motor to operate the buffing wheel that’s an integral part of the system I made 30 years ago.
In this $19 CDN course package, (about $14 USD) you (or your woodworking love one) will learn how to:
* Quickly sharpen chisels, planes and carving tools so they finally do what they’re supposed to do.
* Build your own buffing wheel so you don’t need to buy slow, expensive sharpening stones.
* Test the effectiveness of an edge you’ve sharpened so you know for sure if you’ve sharpened it correctly.
* Troubleshoot edge tools that aren’t cutting properly no matter how much you hone them.
* Safely grind woodworking tools to create the correct bevel angle while minimizing the risk of overheating and damage to the metal.
* Hone both straight chisels and plane irons, as well as curved-edge carving tools and spokeshaves.
* Choose and maintain a bench grinder so it serves the special needs you have as a woodworker with tools to grind.
- RAZOR SHARP COURSE: A downloadable video course on sharpening tools.
- EASY-BUILD TABLE COURSE: Plans & video lessons for building a great table
- WORKBENCH COURSE: Plans & video lessons for building a great workbench
- PRINTABLE GIFT CARD: With download link for your loved one to get the courses.
Got questions about sharpening tools or this course? Send them to me here.