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 the present day where we use Hi-Tec materials or steels that have gone through specialist hardening and then sharpened.

Sharpening a chisel is a simple process that can greatly improve your woodworking results. 

To start, you’ll need a sharpening stone, honing guide, and some oil. First, attach the chisel to the honing guide and adjust the angle to match the bevel. Then, place the chisel on the stone and rub it back and forth in a circular motion, applying light pressure. Continue until a burr forms on the back of the blade. Flip the chisel over and repeat on the beveled side. Finally, remove the burr by rubbing the chisel flat on the stone. With a little practice, you can have a sharp chisel that’s ready for your next woodworking project.

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:

Oil Stones

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.

  • Novaculite 
  • Aluminum Oxide
  • Silicon Carbide

Water stones

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

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

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