New Chisel Sharpening?

Grit12Gauge

JP
User
New to woodworking and just received my first set of chisels. I purchased a 4 piece Stanley sweetheart set. They are relatively sharp out of the box, but am I suppose to flatten the back and sharpen these chisels as soon as I get them?
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Well, at least before you use them. If you look closely at the back you will notice there are circular grinding marks. They aren’t too deep but you want to make at least the first 1/2 inch mirror polished. Then make the front bevel smooth, polished, and razor sharp.

Do your best it keep them that way, always sharpening or at least honing on a leather strop BEFORE they get dull.
 

Grit12Gauge

JP
User
Gotcha! I purchased a 300-1000 stone and a honing guide. Would you suggest a higher grit than 1000 for getting those chisels perfect?
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
Search "Scarey Sharp" You will find yourself using a combination of methods to achieve the results you want. Some due to economics, and others due to practicality. Once in Lowes, customer in front of me was buying a set of chisels. I asked if he was going to sharpen them? He said "No, that's why I'm buying a set of new chisels."
 

Oka

Oka
Corporate Member
All my chisels are mirror sharp, except the ones I call "butcher chisels". These chisels I use for very coarse work and take enormous abuse. That way when I never use my real woodworking chisels for anything but woodworking.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
Gotcha! I purchased a 300-1000 stone and a honing guide. Would you suggest a higher grit than 1000 for getting those chisels perfect?
After the 1000 you can use polishing compound on a leather strop or some people use mdf. Since I don’t allow that garbage in my shop the leather glued to a pine board works quite nicely and is traditional. Load up the leather with the compound and pull away from the edge so as not to cut the leather. Which compound? Different people-different answers. I have used green, red, white, they all work. Black and brown are too coarse, don’t use them. White is for stainless steel, cuts quick and makes a high polished finish, red is very fine but slow, green is in the middle. You already have a great sharpening stone, don’t waste your time trying other methods. Learn to use what you have. Years from now you may want to try something else if you are not happy with the edge you produce. But you need experience to know the difference. Many people waste time chasing after a better system when they really just need to fully learn and understand one.
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Gotcha! I purchased a 300-1000 stone and a honing guide. Would you suggest a higher grit than 1000 for getting those chisels perfect?
You're going to get a lot of opinions re: sharpening. I agree with Mike ultimately you need to determine what's best for you.

That said, for me in my shop, 1000 would not be nearly high enough. I usually go to 16,000 but I suggest going to 8000 as a minimum (water stone). I do use a strop just for that little extra polish and burr removal, but it is not necessary.

And don't forget if you're using water stones they need to be re-flattened with every use.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
LevelDescriptionParticle SizeAvailable Stones
1Extremely Coarse - Fastest metal removal, leaves very visible scratches in cutting edge. 100+ Micron Extra Extra Coarse Diamond, Coarse Crystolon
2Coarse - Very fast metal removal, leaves visible scratches in cutting edge. Most coarse stones commonly available. 60-100 Micron Extra Coarse Diamond, Coarse India, 220 Grit Waterstone
3Medium Coarse - Fast metal removal rate, scratches not as visible. Finest recommended grit for dull tools and knives. 45-60 Micron Medium Crystolon, Coarse Diamond
4Medium - Good metal removal rate, light sctaches edge. Intermediate stage before finer grits.35-45 Micron Medium India, Fine Crystolon
5Medium Fine - Minimum recommended grit for final stage of most knives. Edge does not appear sctached but frosted. Finer than medium but sharpening rate slower.25-35 Micron Fine India
6Fine - Modest sharpening rate, leaves metal edge with frosted appearance. Edge sharpness equivalent to majority of factory edges on knives, tools. 15-25Fine Diamond, Soft Arkansas, 1000 Grit Waterstone
7Extra Fine - Slow sharpening rate. Edge is showing a polished looking edge. Very sharp edge better than most factory edges on good knives. 8-15 MicronExtra Fine Diamond, Hard Arkansas
8Extremely Fine - Edge is extremely sharp. Very slow sharpening speed. Edge reflects light very well.4-8 Micron Norton 4000 Waterstone, Hard Black Arkansas, Hard Translucent Arkansas
9Near Mirror Polish - Edge is very near perfect. Grits past this stage provides only modest benefit. Leave edge polished to naked eye. 2-4 Micron Norton 8000 Waterstone, DMT Extra Extra Fine Diamond Stone
10Mirror Polish - Sharpest edge possible, extremely slowing sharpening. Leaves mirror edge without visible flaws. 0-2 Micron Diamond Paste, Green Honing Compound, Abrasive Powder
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
DMT® Diamond And Ceramic Color Coded Grit System

Extra-Extra Coarse (XX)
Silver - 120 micron - 120 mesh

Extreme repair of a very damaged edge.

Extra Coarse (X)
Black - 60 micron - 220 mesh

For aggressive removal of metal on damaged tools. Useful on garden tools, axes, lawnmower blades, plane soles, and to flatten water stones.

Coarse (C)
Blue - 45 micron - 325 mesh

Rapidly hones cutting tools or restores an edge on a tool or blade.

Fine (F)
Red - 25 micron - 600 mesh

Ideal for putting a razor sharp edge on a blade that is regularly maintained.

Extra Fine (E)
Green - 9 micron - 1200 mesh

Polishes and refines the edges of fine knives and precision tools after they have been sharpened on coarser grits.

Extra-Extra Fine (EE)
Tan - 3 micron - 8000 mesh

Extra fine polish to an extreme edge.
 

Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
For years I used only a 600 grit diamond stone and leather strop. That is as fine as most factory blades and good enough for most plane and chisel work.

It is only when you are using a smoothing plane for final finish or a chisel for end grain paring that you need much finer sharpening.

On most average hand work finer sharpening is wasted time. Of course, most fine woodworkers like to think they need finer sharpness.
 
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Pop Golden

Pop
Corporate Member
A Work Sharp machine is the answer to prayer. I always had trouble sharpening and 3 systems solved my problems. 1: for chisels carving tools and plane irons Work Sharp , 2: for lathe tools the One Way Wolverine system works best I use a 120 wheel and a Razor Sharp slotted polishing wheel with green silicon carbide compound & 3: for anything a float glass plate with sandpaper & a Veritas honing guide will work. I'm a big believer in sandpaper sharpening. Your platform muse be flat & sturdy. I use 1/2 inch thick float glass & paper from 80 to 1500 grit. To finish I use Yellowstone honing compound on cardboard (the back of a writing pad), And if I need to get finer plastic drafting sheets have a very very very fine tooth that's finer than anything else I know of. I also have an assortment of slip stones, Arkansas stones etc. (FYI -Work Sharp is a power sandpaper sharpening machine)

Pop
 

Oka

Oka
Corporate Member
I agree with Mike, I do have a number of stones and diamond plates for sharpening. In the end, what is truly most important with chisels is the back flat part is truly flat and polished so it does not create friction in the cutting process. That, is #1.
The rest is all dependent on how you arrive at getting your edge sharpened. The last generally, is always stropped with a piece of leather and green polishing compound, the red as said previously is really for polishing. I use that on silver repairs and alike.

The most go to I use are 320 emery on a granite or diamond stone to flatten and true up.
I use 600 or 800 to get to an rough edge
1000-1500 to get the edge sharpened.
IF ..... it needs more I might use a 3000 or 6-8000 to really bring in the edge.
Then I ll strop ......... a lot really has to do with what kind of metal you are sharpening. Some are really responsive, some are super hard and difficult. Those might not take to a 1000 grit as well as a 1200 for example. You just have to get an understanding by trial. At least that is what I did. Remember, some metals might be the hardest toughest stuff, but they may truly suck to work with because of that. That is why you will notice on some of the Stanley planes it will stamp the type of metal on the blade. I have 2 that are O-2 and 1 that is A2 FYI... A=air hardened, O=Oil hardened and W=water hardened.

After the 1000 you can use polishing compound on a leather strop or some people use mdf. Since I don’t allow that garbage in my shop the leather glued to a pine board works quite nicely and is traditional. Load up the leather with the compound and pull away from the edge so as not to cut the leather. Which compound? Different people-different answers. I have used green, red, white, they all work. Black and brown are too coarse, don’t use them. White is for stainless steel, cuts quick and makes a high polished finish, red is very fine but slow, green is in the middle. You already have a great sharpening stone, don’t waste your time trying other methods. Learn to use what you have. Years from now you may want to try something else if you are not happy with the edge you produce. But you need experience to know the difference. Many people waste time chasing after a better system when they really just need to fully learn and understand one.
 
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Mike Davis

Mike
Corporate Member
I also have the complete Shapton stone set and my one super plane with the Veritas blade does get the 16,000 treatment. but that is the only one I spend that much time on. My #6 with the 8 inch radiused blade barely gets 600 grit. Just has to plough through those thick chips. A super sharp edge wouldn’t last 3 minutes on that one.
 

junquecol

Bruce
User
For a leather strop, stop in a thrift store, and buy an old leather belt. For final polishing, I use "Tormek" sharpening paste on MDF. A tube will last a lifetime, if you don't misplace it first. DAMHIK. Found it! Now I have two, so I need to live two lifetimes.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
I purchased a 300-1000 stone and a honing guide.

You didn't say what kind of stone (ceramic or diamond?) and which brand of honing guide you have. That information would be helpful.
This Paul Sellers video is a good demonstration of the basic tips for chisels and plane irons.

 

Tarhead

Mark
Corporate Member
I can't add to the sharpening method suggestions but sometimes the bevel can get work-hardened at the factory and be a devil to get sharpened. If you aren't making pretty quick progress the bevel can be too hard and ultimately will chip when you put it to work. If this happens, grind off ~1/8" and regrind the bevel.
 

Grit12Gauge

JP
User
I purchased a 300-1000 stone and a honing guide.

You didn't say what kind of stone (ceramic or diamond?) and which brand of honing guide you have. That information would be helpful.
This Paul Sellers video is a good demonstration of the basic tips for chisels and plane irons.

A Trend 300/1000 diamond stone and a cheap 15$ honing guide from amazon.
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
A Trend 300/1000 diamond stone and a cheap 15$ honing guide from amazon.
Ok, thanks. Have a go at preparing them for use with your stone and honing guide. The back doesn't have to be perfectly flat (you can mark the back with a Sharpie pen before starting with the 300 stone to gauge your progress after a few strokes to see the high and low spots).
 

Grit12Gauge

JP
User
5D86206C-4FB3-440C-A5A5-4538A6BA1CAB.jpeg

Top is a new 3/4inch chisel from the set
Bottom is a 1/2inch chisel I have spent and hour flattening the back.

I can’t seem to get those scratches off the chisel and get to the “mirror finish” I hear everyone talking about. Any suggestions?
 

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