The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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A co-worker (friend?) of mine was clearing out his tool shed and came across some old chisels. He brought them into work today and asked me if I wouldn’t mind bringing them home for sharpening. I gave them a glance, decided that they didn’t look quite like dying yet, so I brought them home with me.

Some old, Klein, Buck Bros, Greenlee, and an unknown chisel.

Some old, Klein, Buck Bros, Greenlee, and an unknown chisel.

I figure on doing a few per week, as it will be a good chance for some practice. I’ve discussed my sharpening system (though I hate to describe it that way) before. It’s simple: a coarse/fine diamond plate, 1000 and 8000 grit water stones, a leather strop, and every so often sandpaper. I’ve heard more than a few times this type of system called “fancy” on woodworking forums and such. If my method is fancy then I would love to know what “simple” would entail. Either way, it seems to work, and since I’ve gone to this set-up I’ve gotten consistently sharp tools. I know that I’m an amateur, but I do know what “sharp means”, though some professionals and amateur kiss-asses will say differently.


My “fancy” sharpening set-up.

I sharpened both the Buck Brothers chisel and my Stanley 1 inch, which for some strange reason is the only chisel I own that has never really been sharpened. The back on the Buck Bros. chisel was brutal, and took me about 15 minutes just to get the area just behind the edge flat. Luckily, my Stanley took just a few minutes. I then progressed through my system. I now sharpen free-hand for the most part, as it seems to me that a guide and water stones don’t mix. I’ve come to the conclusion that the eclipse style guide makes a trench in water stones, though I can’t ever claim that I’ve seen a noticeable one, but I know it’s there. The Veritas guide, with its wider roller, doesn’t cause that problem, but I really only like to use it for skewed irons. I don’t advocate any particular method. Do it free-hand or with a guide; it’s up to you. I just like the feel of free-hand sharpening (and I want to be just like Paul Sellers). All kidding aside, it took me another 15 minutes after the backs were flattened, but I ended up with two razor sharp chisels, sharp enough to cleanly slice end grain on oak, shave the hair off my arm, and easily cut through paper.

New old chisel

New old chisel

Razor sharp Sweetheart

Razor sharp Sweetheart

Before I flattened my stones, cleaned up, and called it a night, I decided to give my newly sharpened moving fillister another test run. I used the same piece of scrap pine that I did for the last test. I was a little anxious, because if the edge rolled again I knew I was in for at the least another grinding, at worst the search for a replacement iron. At the last moment I almost put everything away and ended the night on a high note, but whatever I may be, I’m not a wuss, so I went for it. Thankfully and happily, the sharp iron easily sliced the fillister, and there was no rolling on the edge. I carefully removed the iron from the plane, stropped it a few times, and then lovingly dusted the plane body and wiped it with a cloth. I will likely have to hone this tool a little more than I normally would other planes, but that is a small price to pay to once again have a working tool ready to go.

It still works

It still works



  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    Glad that worked out for you.

    • billlattpa says:

      It really seems to be holding up. I took the iron out of the fillister and used it free hand just to see if I could beat it up a little but it held up. I think with this iron I will probably have to hone it before or after each use depending on how you look at it. That’s probably a good idea for any plane iron, but there are always times where you just aren’t going to sharpen every plane and chisel you use as soon as you are finished with it. With the fillister, I’m going to have to make it a point to do just that.

  2. Nice gesture Bill. I’m sure your co-worker will enjoy the “sellers edge”. The plane looks like it’s working brilliantly.

    • billlattpa says:

      That Buck Bros. chisel tested my stamina. The back had grinding marks on top of grinding marks.
      The fillister is hopefully ready to go. I will likely have to hone it after each use, but that is good practice anyway, isn’t it??

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June 2015
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