Sharpening System


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So I am working on building my skills and my first real project, the shaker table from the guild.  While I have the "bigger" tools to get the project done I need a couple of things here and there, the one that I am the most perplexed on (and seems like it is going to be an expensive rabbit hole) is a sharpening system. The other tools I am thinking a couple of narex chisels for cleaning up the joinery and a Dozuki "Z" Saw

I had been looking at the veritas mk2 and shapton stones but by the time I get everything it is about $360

$125 for the deluxe MK2

55 for a DMT for flattening

180 for 1000, 5000, 8000 stones

I am also skeptical about the tightening of the brass knob on the MK2 and being able to get it tight enough, my finger strength is not always the best.

Goals are sharpening chisels, plane blades, and attempting to restore a couple of flea market finds for a number 5 and 7 hand plane

Part of me feels like investing in a good sharpening system is the way to go but its a lot of money at one time.  Thoughts on ways to spread it out a bit more?

I like the idea of not having to soak the Shapton stones so I can just sharpen when I decide to.

Thanks in advance 




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I have the Veritas MK2 and the three Shapton stones Marc recommends.  I am very pleased with this set up.  You can't beat the spray and go operation of the stones and fast set up of the jig.  I only need running water to fill the spray bottle and clean up. 

I don't have a sharpening pond, I have a sharpening puddle - a sheet cake pan.

Since it's easy I have low resistance to sharpening.

The brass knobs are not so difficult to tighten as to loosen.  Why not equip your shop with one of those small flat rubber sheets for opening jars in the kitchen.  Small diameter rubber bands on the knobs might also work.

As far as the money, that's personal, but I am in the buy once cry once camp.

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Thanks for the fast reply Mark.  I think I know what the right decision is and with my birthday and the holidays around the corner the timing is certainly good.  I also agree in general to be part of the buy once cry once camp but spreading out purchases also helps.  

Also I am not sure it would make much sense to go out and buy a cabinet saw right away 

I was thinking about rubber bands or kitchen grippers as a possible solution.  I figure with them if I need to use a pair of pliers of vise grips to get it loose at least I will not screw up the knurl 

If it is easy I am more likely to do it and sharp tools are safe tools.



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If you're looking for a cheaper alternative look up Paul Seller's sharpening video's on you tube I think he is using the DMT plates or something similar. The nice thing about plates is its harder to gouge them. I would also look at the LN guide it works well although not the cheapest for sure. I learned to sharpen using the Rob Cosman process witch is Shapton's, Trend Plate, and free hand. I now still follow the process except I use the LN honing guide. If I was just starting I would go with the Paul Sellers process. Ultimately choose a process (equipment) and stick with it  until you have down then adjust as necessary.  The one thing that makes you better especially with sharpening is doing it. It also helps if you can use someones sharp tools so you know how they should work.

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Lee Valley has free shipping right now.  The best deal is the set that Tools from Japan sells, but it may take up to a couple of months to get it with regular shipping.   Those are about the fastest cutting stones there are, and the same that LV sells, but not as dish resistant as the Shaptons.

Sharpening is like spraying.  No way around getting a good system without making an investment, and with hand tools, only poor use out of them without a good sharpening system.

I have two helpers that also need to use my system, so I had to come up with one that anyone could walk up to and get results.  I have several different guides, including the MKII.   The MkII only gets used if we are somewhere without running water, and we need to go back to using oil stones.  The MKII is kind of fumbly to set up, but you get almost foolproof results if you need to use microbevels.  We don't use microbevels when using waterstones, but that's mostly for the unique reason that I need to make it simple for my helpers.

Some will say, be a man, and sharpen by hand, but we get quicker results overall using guides because they are so repeatable.

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11 minutes ago, K Cooper said:

Nothing to add. Just wanted to be # 100,000 post to this section. 

Way to go Coop!

I have the Shaptons and the MKII and like the system!  I also have the Tormek which is where I start if I want to change bevel angles.

The one thing I'm missing is a leather strop.  This is a great way to touch up your blades between sharpening sessions and keep you working.

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My Tormek has a leather wheel to use with compound & polish a bevel. But be warned Tormek stuff is pricey & a bit slow, however it produces great results. 

I use a MKII and a Norton stones set. They need a bit of a soak and work ok. I just wasn't going to drop the $$$ for Shaptons. I tend to let sharpening pile up then do a bunch of blades & tools all at once.

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I’m a diamond stone an strop fan for planes an bench chisels. I hone on the stones to 1200 grit then strop with green compound. I do go step higher for my paring and dovetail chisels to 2000 grit wet dry paper on a piece of plate glass. Those are grind at a 22• bevel an get nothing but hand pressure on them. When I first started into sharpen I bought a Chinese double side diamond stone on amazon for like 10-12$ an it worked great for about a year an I sharpen at least something once a week 

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I'll complicate matters and suggest that the ultimate system is this ....

... however, it is for more advanced woodworkers. Although it is optimised for freehanding, it may be used very happily with a honing guide (which I use when honing bevel up plane blades).

Regards from Perth


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One thing I have found is that if you don't make sharpening easy on yourself then you will wait too long to do it. For me that is the Paul Sellers system. Free hand, DMT plates and a strop. I have never had the pleasure of using a Tormek, it's possible that one of those extremely expensive setups would be better/faster/stronger. At least they had better be for how damn expensive they are.

Whatever sharpening system you choose should be extremely easy to setup and clean. If you are planing your brains out and you feel the the blade getting a bit dull, the last thing you want to do is go through a lengthy/cumbersome sharpening ritual. You want to pop that blade out, rub it on some course and fine things then pop it back in and get right back at it. All easy peasy like.

It's my opinion that if you can't quickly sharpen and get back to work then you have the wrong system.

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35 minutes ago, Coyote Jim said:

One thing I have found is that if you don't make sharpening easy on yourself then you will wait too long to do it. For me that is the Paul Sellers system. Free hand, DMT plates and a strop.

That's my favorite method too, DMT plates do not require flattening or maintenance and the free hand method saves a lot of time. I do use sharpening jigs sometimes though.

Here's my sharpening station:


The plates can be easily removed when required.

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I started off with sandpaper.   I bought a piece of granite tile at home depot for $5 and glued it to a board.   Then I taped my sandpaper down to it.   That worked ok at the time as I just had a couple chisels.

When I bought my planes, I bought the DMT plates that Paul Sellers recommends... I want to say it was like $150 or so for three of them.   One thing... the first DMT extra fine plate I bought, the coating started bubbling up.   All I'd sprayed on it was water, which is what the instructions said should work.   I took it back to Woodcraft and they exchanged it and the new one has been fine.

I just have the cheap $15 honing guide though.   There was some video on pop woodworking that showed how to file it down to make it work better.   But I've been thinking about buying the Lie-Nielsen one as I really  liked how that worked when I saw it demoed.

But I've had ok success sharpening freehand.   That's what I did with that sandpaper.   The angle really doesn't matter that much, you just have to stay parallel so you don't end up rounding over the edge and undoing your sharpening work.   I bought a Smith's arkansas stone set for the kitchen and sharpen our knives that way.   In fact watching videos on knife sharpening, the only time I've seen jigs used is in the manufacturing of the knives.   Sharpening them by chefs and such is always done free hand.

I think advertising causes us to overthink this way too much.


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I have the Shapton stones and MKll. I like the setup but I am moving over to freehand sharpening. I plan to replace my Shaptons with DMT diamond plates soon. I will say that I started stropping about a month ago and it is a game changer for me. Keeps my blades very sharp, very easily. 

All that said, it doesn't matter what system you use if you use it. If it's too complicated or time consuming, you'll avoid it and then you end up with dull tools which are no fun. As you get more confident and have more success, you'll eventually end up changing systems to fit your working style. 

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Hi Jonathan, 

I have the Dozuki "Z saw and I've been really impressed with it.

Cuts are easy to start and its balance is good for long cross cuts and even dovetails. 

The blade is well supported by the metal top rail support keeping the say moving forward when the wood tries to pinch the blade. 

Very pleased with my investment thus far. 

Hope the feedback helps. 

Good luck with your project. 

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