What is Sharpening? And Tools for Sharpening
Sharpening is the process of grinding or polishing an edge onto a hard material for the purpose of cutting.
Sharpening woodworking tools
The woodworker will sharpen a chisel to effortlessly cut wood. As a woodworker, I will sharpen my tools multiple times during my day. How often will depend on what I am doing? If I am chopping in a mortice I will be cutting against the grain which is harder on the chisel so it will require more sharpening than if I am paring with the grain.
Other skills will sharpen their tools for other reasons for instance
- A man may use a strop to sharpen a cut-throat razor so he can get a close shave.
- A cook would sharpen a chopping knife so they can quickly prepare vegetables.
- A hunter will sharpen a knife for the quick kill
Sharpening is a pastime
For centuries tools have been sharpened so artisans can perform various cutting tasks. From the first tools made of bone to present day where we use Hi-Tec materials or steels that have gone through specialist hardening and then sharpened.
There is a variety of different sharpening materials.
There is a huge array of different natural and manmade sharpening materials. Here are a few options available:
Traditionally Oil stones have been the first choice for most woodworkers. My prefered choice because the oilstone is the sharpening tool I started out with also a good oilstone such as the Norton India is cheap and will last a very long time. Oil stones can be messy but if you keep a rag nearby you can quickly mop up any excess oil. Oil is used to lubricate the oilstone as a medium to transport any metal swarf away.
Oil stones are the traditional Western stones that many people grew up using. These stones are made from one of three materials (Novaculite, Aluminum Oxide, or Silicon Carbide) and use oil for swarf (metal filing) removal.
- Aluminum Oxide
- Silicon Carbide
Fast cutting Waterstones are becoming very popular especially fabricated ones. Waterstone contains similar abrasives to an oil stone but the filler that bonds it together is much softer in the Waterstone.
Water stones wear faster than oilstones
The softer filler or bonding agent wears away faster which exposes more abrasive during the sharpening process.
A Water stone will become misshapen
You will need to use a flattening tool before every sharpening session
Will a Waterstone rust my tool?
Exposing any steel except stainless to water will corrode it. When using a Waterstone you should carefully dry your tools. There are sharpening liquids which do not rust your tools
Natural Water Stones
- Natural Japanese water stones are quarried in Japan from sedimentary rocks containing a fine silica abrasive.
- Natural Novaculite from Arkansas is another stone that contains high levels of Silica
- Natural Belgium Blue but also Coticule stone is a clay bound volcanic ash with tiny abrasive Garnet crystals
What do you use to sharpen with?
Sharpening can be performed with a
- sharpening stone
- Diamond sharpener
- Chefs steel
- Leather strop
- Sharpening system
Woodworkers are experts at sharpening!
An artisan who regularly works with wood will have developed expert sharpening skills. Woodworkers will use either their own manual skill to sharpen a tool on an oil stone. Sometime they will use sharpening AIDS. Sharpening AIDS or guides can help a novice woodworker to repeat the sharpening angle. Making it easy to produce a super sharp edge on their tools similar to the professionals.
How do you sharpen?
Leave it in the comments below
By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’.
Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.
Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.
Why do I write these guides?
We started to write these guides to help our customers. The idea was to provide the information needed to install our made to measure wooden products that we sell on this website and directly to our local customers.
We soon received feedback from people abroad and interested readers not local to us. I like to help people and I am excited that fellow woodworkers or keen DIYers found guidance in my articles. I intend to carry on writing and producing youtube videos for the purpose of providing useful content. Please share our blog with your friends and anyone that could find interest in the magic of working with wood.
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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.
How did we come up with the trading name ‘Wallybois’? Well, it is simple really, my best buddy ‘Wally’ and the fact that ‘Bois’ is French for wood and we live in France.
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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989
Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France