Over the weekend I finished up the weather station project I’ve been working on as well as made a small “wallet” for some combination plane blades. Though, I’m happy to have finished those projects, I’d like to share with you a very minor (but oh so major) change I made to my sharpening system.
First things first, a few weeks back I made a weather station for the instrument kit I purchased from Lee Valley some time ago. Those of you who read the post may recall that I used walnut for the base and a piece of scrap pine to hold the weather instruments. The scrap pine was just an experiment to test the appearance of the piece; I liked what I saw, so I decided to go ahead and use cherry as the contrasting wood. Because I already had the pine template, cutting the cherry to size and boring out the dowel holes was a matter of minutes. The only time consuming part was planing the board smooth from its rough state, which took around 10 minutes to complete both sides.
Otherwise, it may be worth noting that I attempted to bore out the 2 1/2″ diameter hole with an adjustable boring bit and brace, but it was simply too much material for me to hog out. Instead, I once again used a hole saw, but with an electric drill rather than a drill press, as my drill press has been having issues. I did not want to use the hole saw again because I felt the holes were a touch too large for a snug fit, but in the end it worked out just fine.
To complete the finish I coated it with linseed oil, wiped off the excess and let it dry overnight. I added a second coat in the morning and let it dry for around 4 hours or so, then added two coats of wax. I have to admit that it turned out fairly nice, and my wife actually wants to hang it in the living room, so I’m happy with the end result.
The other project I completed was a basic wallet to hold the smaller blades for a Record combination plane. The project was basically a way to pass the time while the second coat of linseed oil was drying. I used a scrap piece of 1/4 inch plywood and a couple of pine cut offs. It was really a very basic, down and dirty project. I’m happy to report that the fit is nice, and I coated the inside of the wallet with wax to not only smooth it out, but also for added protection.
But the real revelation has been my sharpening “system”.
On paper, my sharpening system may seem complicated. It’s not. I have two water stones, a DMT duosharp diamond stone, a leather strop, sandpaper, a hand cranked grinder, and a low-speed power grinder. For nearly all of my sharpening, the water stones and a leather strop are the only requirements.
If I have to do any heavy grinding I use sand paper and/or the DMT stone. If it’s real bad I will use the power grinder (or if I am trying to reset the bevel). As an added note, I personally don’t believe that power grinders are completely necessary. They certainly save time, but you can work without one. In fact, I admit that the only reason I have one is because it was purchased using a gift card that I received through my work, where our vendors offer those cards as incentives to take their online training modules. As far as the hand cranked grinder is concerned, it was given to me by a friend, but it does work rather well if need be.
The reason I bring up my sharpening method is because I’ve been making an effort to sharpen a few tools every time I woodwork. In this case, I sharpened a 3/8 in chisel, the iron from my block plane, and the 1/4″ plow iron from the combination plane. What has been remarkable lately are my results. For the past few months I’ve been getting beyond razor sharp tools. Perhaps I’ve just become a better sharpener through experience, but I don’t think that is entirely the case.
Going back to the water stones. For many years I’ve used a 1000g and an 8000g Norton. I’ve always had good results with the 8000g stone, but the 1000g stone always seemed to give me trouble. I felt that it was slower than it should have been, and it seemed to wear unevenly no matter how carefully I tried to keep that from happening. So a few months ago I happened to drop the 1000g stone (a Freudian slip?) and it broke in 3 pieces. Rather than try to epoxy it back together, I purchased an 800g King stone.
I can’t tell you exactly why I purchased the King brand, probably because it was inexpensive, but I can tell you that since I’ve been using that stone for the initial honing the sharpness of my tools has improved beyond dramatically. The King stone cuts very quickly, and builds up slurry far faster than the Norton ever did, it has worn evenly and it seems much easier to flatten ( I use the DMT stone to true up my water stones) That all being said, I still use the Norton 8000g stone and it has always worked well.
The first tool I sharpened using the King stone was my marking knife. I’ve never been a great knife sharpener, but I can tell you that after 5 minutes with my regular method (800g, 8000g, strop) I was using that knife to fruit ninja paper out of mid air. When I say I could have shaved my face with it I am not exaggerating.
Since, I’ve been going down the line, sharpening a few chisels and/or plane irons at a time, as well as other tools like my router plane and coffin smoother. In fact, I believe the only I have left to finish using the King stone are the jack plane iron and my 1 1/4 in chisel. That being said, I’ve only sharpened 2 of the combination plane blades thus far, but my 8 chisels and 4 bench planes are basically finished up, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
So maybe it’s the stone, or maybe I’ve improved and the actual stone has nothing to do with it, but I don’t think that is completely the case. Nonetheless, since I’ve been using the King stone, sharpening has been faster and easier, and the results speak for themselves. Some people treat sharpening as some sort of religious experience; I’ve never felt that way about it. Sharpening has always been a means to an end for me, and for once getting to that end has been far faster and more enjoyable than it ever has been.
****As sort of a post-disclaimer, I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this post. I am just doing it because I’ve found the King stone to be an excellent value****