The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Sharp is King.


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.

IMG_2701 (002)

The weather station with its scrap pine ‘template’

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.

weather station

The finished weather station. I will take another photo when it is hanging in its future home.

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.

blade wallet

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.

ice-bear-800-japanese-waterstone

800g King water stone. This is an internet stock photo and not a photo of mine, which is bathing in a plastic container.

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****

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4 Comments

  1. AusWorkshop says:

    Great post Bill!…very nice… I have the King Ice Bear 6000 (AU$90) and the King 1200 (AU$35) and both work really well. I’m wishing I had the 800 now, I think that would cut really nice and fast…. but I usually use a DMT for anything below 1000. The 800 King would cut faster than a diamond 600 from personal experience with both the above, you will get to your fine edge faster and that’s what it’s all about, it’s a really different feeling cutting with stone as opposed to diamond. Sometimes I think the king 1200 even cuts faster than my diamond at 600. I can’t describe it but it sure feels like it.

    I personally think that the diamonds go dull pretty quick, they will still work for many sharpenings but it’s like the diamond tips lose their aggressive sharpness after only a few uses. I think the advantage of the stones is you are always getting a fresh lot of sharp tips on the fine particles, constantly renewed as the stone wears and exposes more of them almost with each stroke it feels!

    I’m a big fan of using both diamonds and water stones, I really want to go all the way with one or the other but I just can’t make myself convinced that only using diamonds is the better and fastest way to go (Paul Sellers method). If anyone is reading this and haven’t ever tried the Kings then I highly recommend them. The Japanese know what sharp is, that’s the reason you had the fruit ninja moment in your shed. I hear you! It’s the best feeling ever when you truly experience sharpness achieved by your own hands.

    I love the fresh feeling of water stones, the diamonds always feel like your just smearing scratches in the metal instead of cutting fine peaks and valleys with really sharp peaks. Imagine a mountain range with sharp rocky peaks instead of grassy rolling hills the same size, the height and size may be the same but they look totally different that’s the best way I can describe it and no doubt if you looked under a microscope that’s probably the difference you’d see. Unless the diamond is brand new then they would be similar.

    In most tests I’ve seen with microscope photos they probably use brand new diamonds, but unless you’re going to open a fresh new DMT each time you sharpen then you will never get that same result. Go fresh, go King!

  2. billlattpa says:

    Thanks Andrew!
    I was, and still am to an extent, a user of the DMT stones. But, I could not agree more with your statement that they seem to lose their aggressiveness. However, they work great for flattening my water stones quickly, and they do a decent job for an initial grind.

    The King 800g has been a revelation. As I mentioned in the post, the Norton 8000g stone has always been fine, but the 1000g stone never seemed to work exactly they way I thought it should. It always ‘almost’ did a good job. But I thought it was far too slow for a water stone, and it wore very unevenly, which you might expect from an 8000g or 10000g, but in my case the opposite was true.

    I love Paul Sellers as a teacher, and I think he is by far the best of the lot when it comes to online woodworking courses. I’m not overly a fan of his sharpening method, except for the fact that he is the one who finally sold me on using a leather strop/compound on all of my tools. You definitely cannot argue with his results, as his tools are always razor sharp, but I have been a water stone user for some time now and I don’t see the need to change, especially after my experience with the King stone.

    After reading your comment, I am thinking that I may go ahead and get the King 8000g gold stone. As I said, my Norton has worked fine, but maybe the King will be even better. And what is most impressive is the price. They are very competitively priced, and in my limited experience they offer the best value in water stones on the market.

    Thanks
    Bill

  3. bloksav says:

    The weather station is looking really good. I can understand that it was allowed in the living room. It surely deserves it.

    I tried water stones first time at a class at Dictum in Germany, and I ordered a set. I think that one of those stones is a King as well. And they really do cut fast.

    The wallet for the combination plane blades seems like a great idea. IT looks so much better than having them lying around in an in-orderly fashion.

    Brgds
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jonas! It was a fun little project, and it will look much better when it is hanging because the cherry panel is raised above the walnut, giving a nice little shadow effect.

      I can’t stress enough that since I’ve been using the King water stone for the initial sharpening my tools have been far, far sharper. I sharpened my LN block plane for the first time with the king and the difference was remarkable. I think maybe the most important aspect is that the King stone seems to be much easier to flatten. The Norton 1000g stone I used always seemed to be out of true not matter what I did to ensure that it would wear evenly. The King cuts far more quickly and seems to not only wear more evenly, but true up easier as well. I take a couple of passes with the DMT stone to flatten the King and it’s ready to go.

      I like the blade wallet, and I need to make another for the 4 large blades that are left. My only regret is that I should have made a lid!

      I was going to attempt to put all of the irons in one wallet, but the tongue/groove blade wouldn’t sit in the wallet with some of the smaller plough blades, so I decided to make separate one for it as well as the other larger sizes. BTW, this is for the Record 050, which I believe you have.

      Thanks again!
      Bill

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