woodworking tools

Sharpening Woodworking Tools

Blunt tools are useless. But chisels and planes soon become blunt in use, so you must make arrangements to sharpen them.

To do this, buy a sharpening stone or ‘oilstone’, preferably one with both a coarse and a smooth side. The coarse side is not normally used. It is for grinding an entirely new edge onto very worn tools, or onto tools with chipped cutting edges.

Chisels and planes are not ready for use when you buy them. They are given a partial sharpening at the factory but it is always left to the buyer to give the final touches. You can use a plane or chisel in this ex-factory state but the work will be hard and inaccurate.

Tool sharpening is easy in theory. The cutting edge is drawn along the fine stone face a few times at a certain angle. You will be able to feel with the thumb nail that a slight burr has been raised on the flat side of the edge. Remove this burr by laying this flat side on the stone and drawing it backwards once or twice. Whilst doing this, it is vital to keep the tool pressed flat to the stone.

The burr will come away as an almost invisible sliver of metal, rubbed off on a piece of leather or, if you are skilful, on the ball of the thumb.

You can buy sharpening gauges to help you to get the correct angle or you can make a perfectly satisfactory job just by placing the bevel of the cutting edge flat on the stone and raising the tool about five degrees. This will be enough to give that final keenness to the edge which makes all the difference.

Saws and drills are difficult to sharpen accurately at home and we recommend that they are done professionally, at least in the early days.

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