How to Sharpen Tools

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

Ron:
I want to talk to you about a cutting edge subject.  How to keep the blades in your home and workshop sharp.  Starting with the one you use most often, your kitchen knives.  Now I’ve tried a lot of different systems out, and the ones that I like the best are the motorized systems that hold the knife at precisely the right angle each time you draw through.  Something like this.  Just turn them on, you’ll notice that as I drop the knife in the slot here it’s held at the same angle each time I pull it through, that’s really important in a good sharpening job. And how do you know if the knife is sharp?  Take a piece of paper like this, hold it between your fingers, and…

Well that should handle the kitchen knives, but what about those workshop tools?  I’ve got a friend coming over, whose going to show us how to get the same kind of sharpness on your planes and chisels.

Norm:
Hey, Ron.

Ron:
Hey, Norm.  How are you?

Norm:
Good.

Ron:
Good to see you again.

Norm:
What have you got out here?  You’ve got everything out.

Ron:
Well, not everything, but I’ve got a lot of stuff out here, because I want to take advantage of this.


Ron:
These are some old chisels that I pulled out.  These’ve been knocking around for a while, got some pretty bad knicks…

Norm:
Oh, yeah.  I see that.

Ron:
…right here on the edge of the blade.  And got all my planes out, taken out some of the plane irons.  So, when it comes to sharpening tools like these, where do you start?

Norm:
The best thing and the most important thing is to learn how to use the bench grinder, with a guide system and water nearby, so that we don’t burn the edge.  Because once you burn the edge…big trouble.

Ron:
Okay.  Well, I’ve installed a grinder over here, and I also picked up that accessory you told me about, the tool holder right over here.  Not sure how to use it, hoping you’ll tell me that.

Norm:
Well that’s a good device.  Let’s start with that nicked up chisel you showed me a couple of minutes ago.

Ron:
Yeah, this guy here…that could really use some help.

Norm:
Yeah.  This is an edge guide that slides in the base station here.  You just loosen these thumbscrews here, stick this in here, bevel down of course.  Lock this down with the rubber-lined jaw so it doesn’t slip around on you.  Put it back in the track, you set your angle here, you grind it very gently and gingerly, keep dipping it into the water…
Ron:
So you’re going for that consistent angle.  You don’t want that angle…you want to determine what that angle should be, at each pass you want to keep it at the same angle?

Norm:
Absolutely.  And it’s an even grind, and the most important thing in sharpening is the right angle and the sharp edge.  You can’t have one without the other.

Norm:
Go easy, back and forth.  Maybe two passes and dip it.

Ron:
Now the dipping is to keep the blade cool.

Norm:
Yeah.  And also, if you want to keep it in this track system, and control with one hand, you can use a spray bottle, and just spritz it and keep it cool.  If you see the water boiling it’s too hot.

Ron:
Now what happens here if the blade gets too hot?

Norm:
If it turns blue, you’ve got to grind it back maybe an eighth of an inch or more to restore it to the temper that was originally from the factory.

Ron:
So all we’re trying to do here now is get rid of that nick and get that straight edge.  Oh.  Nice edge – nick’s all gone.

Norm:
Yup.

Ron:
But this is not sharp at this point.
Norm:
No way.

Ron:
So the next step would be what?

Norm:
You’ve got to bring it over to a honing station.

Ron:
OK.  Now there are tons of ways to do that, all kinds of stones out there.  What’s one of your favorite methods.  Easy to do.  Foolproof.

Norm:
Foolproof is a piece of quarter inch plate glass like this that you can get at any hardware store or glass place.  Make sure they’re easy edges, so you don’t cut yourself.  Just keep that on a flat surface.  And you can get silicone-carbide wet and dry paper at any lumberyard, any hardware store.  And then what I do is I tape the far edge away from me on the glass. 

Then what I do is I spritz a little water underneath, this creates a little suction, holds the paper nice and flat.  And then we spray a little water on top.  And then we just take the chisel…

Ron:
Now, this would work well for a chisel that you’ve just ground, but it would also work for a new chisel, right?

Norm:
A new chisel…

Ron:
Here, try one of these because I want to keep an edge on that.


Norm:
Here’s a trick.  If you’re doing it by hand, the easiest way is to pull it towards you, if you’re righty, I’m righty, hold it with your right hand.  Push with your index finger down, until you feel the flat contact.  And then just pull towards you.  In different places to wear out the same paper evenly.  Don’t go back and forth.  Just pull.  And then you can look at it like that, if it’s even sandpaper grit marks, and a slight burr on the backside.  And then you can take a few strokes here, this way.  If you really want a super chisel, you have to flatten it on something like this glass, until it’s an even color.

Ron:
I can see with a chisel like this, where you’ve got a large flat here on the blade, that you can feel that.  But when you get into a plain iron like this where that angle is very short, see it seems to me that it would be much harder to feel when you’re on the flat here.

Norm:
It’s not easy to hold it there by hand.  That’s why they have honing guides, this is one of them.  This one rolls along your surface.  You just stick it under here, get your angle correct, so that it’s sitting on the bevel like that.  Get it at right angles to the jig itself.  You lock this handle.  This guide roller here which is lubricated bronze, it’s quite easy to do.  You just pull it.  You can do it blind – close your eyes and do it.

Ron:
Hey, it’s working!  Very nice!

Norm:
You’ve got the hang of it.

Ron:
You know, thank you so much for coming by and showing us this. 

Norm:
You’re welcome, Ron.

Ron:
This is a great system.  Inexpensive, materials easy to find, and really simple to use.  Well goodness knows, I’ve got a lot to practice on over here. Unless you want to do these for me?

Norm:
You have fun doing it, boy.

Now you just have to trust me on this:  There’s nothing like the sound and feel of a really sharp plane.

Learn how to sharpen tools; includes details on grinding, shaping and honing kitchen knives, plane blades and chisels.

The topic for this workshop segment is a "cutting edge" subject: how to keep the blades in your home and workshop sharp. First Ron showed us a bit about sharpening kitchen knives and then Ron was visited by an old friend and woodworker Norm, who demonstrated how to sharpen many of the various types of blades in his workshop.