One of the things that I like about heading into a new year is it makes me think about the things I am doing and evaluate what I am doing and if I should be making any changes. For those of you who are following my YouTube Channel, you may recall a few weeks ago I was working with a "plane shooting board" and I made the statement that my plane was not a sharp as it could be ... but it mostly worked ...
Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/zW0c87jdtdM
I could have stopped everything and got all my sharpening equipment out and sharpened the plane blade, but honestly ... the process that I have is a bit tedious, and when you are in the middle of a job and you want to get it done ... stopping to set up a whole sharpening system for one blade really takes away the workflow from the job at hand.
That is why I have decided to try a different way of sharpening. One that I think is going to be much quicker and handier for me to sharpen just one blade ... when I need it, and still get a super sharp finished blade.
Basics to Blade Sharpening
To Start off ... for those who are new to blade sharpening, the first thing we always do is to make sure the BACK of the blade is flat from side to side. Chisels must be flat, especially right at the tip, Plane blades 'might' have a small back bevel on the back, and that is acceptable, but only on plane blades unless you have some other special purpose. In general, all blades need to have a flat back. If the very bottom of the blade is not flat, probably the best way to get down to the area that is flat is to use an electric wheel grinder - but very careful you do NOT HEAT UP THE BLADE as it will lose its temper. If the tip turns color it has lost its temper. Use water and dip the blade into often to keep it cool while you grind down. Keep the tip as straight as you can.
Yup ... not an easy task, but take your time and you will get it.
Determining Angle of Cutting Surface
There are many different angles and an experienced woodworker and sharpener may have a reason for sharpening their tools at different angles but the generally accepted angle for chisels and wood plane blades is 25 degrees. It is very common to put a small "micro bevel" on the tips of blades that are at an angle of 30 degrees. The purpose of this micro bevel is to minimize re-sharpening in the future. Rather than trying to sharpen the whole face of the blade, often you can just lightly touch out the sharpness on the micro bevel to restore the sharpness of the blade. If the tip and edge have been damaged, you may need to re-start the whole sharpening process.
M-Power Fasttrack Sharpening Tool
What attracted me to this tool is how small and compact it is and the fact that it uses diamond sharpening stones of various grits so that I can go all the way down to 1000 grit, and of course these are all re-usable, and if / when they do wear out you can simply purchase a new one in the grit you need.
I have the version that includes the 100, 220, 450, 600 and 1000 grits, in what I call "diamond chips". I liked this range because it means I can take blades that are quite rough and work my way through the grits up to 1000 to get the best sharpness I can. Plus the tool has a leather "strop" on the back of the tool that can be used to add a tiny bit more sharpness.
The tool has 2, what I call wings that are at an angle, in inside these wings the diamond chips are held in with magnets. The diamond chips for this tool can be placed into the holder in 2 ways because one side of the back of the diamond chips is higher at the front than the back, this means you can control what angle you sharpen at. The tool even shows a diagram of how the chip needs to be inserted in order to achieve the angle you want. A very innovative idea, quick, simple and accurate.
Click here to see more about the tool - M-Power Tools
Using a Felt Pen to Monitor Your Progress
One of the best tools you can have to help you monitor just how well you are sharpening your blades is a small felt pen like a Sharpie, or for a tiny bit more money the Milwaukee Inkzall is far superior for the workshop ... much more durable tip writes on rough surfaces and even wet. oily and dusty surfaces, it really is superior.
Sharpening With Fasttrack
First of all, check the backs of your blades on the build-in de-burring diamond chip on the tool. Mark the back of your blade, give it a few minutes rub on the burr remover and see how it looks. If the lines are gone, especially near the tip, you are good to sharpen.
Next, start off with the coarsest grit diamond chip you have and set it in the sharpener at the 25-degree angle and make sure the chip is in the correct way.
Mark the face of your blade with the felt pen, ease the blade up to the diamond chip and slide the stone back and forth a few times, then examine the face.
If you have taken off markings near the tip of the face of your blade, you are good to go, if you are only taking lines off much further up the face, you may need to grind that angle down on an electric stone grinding wheel. Trying to sharpen that part down on this tool may be too tedious.
Use the coarsest grit you have to establish and a nice flat face on your blade, if it is a chisel, the whole face does not need to be the angle, on a much thinner plane blade you may be best to do this.
Once the blade face is angled, now you can start working your way up through the grits. As you do this, you may find you don't need to do a lot of work with each grit, sometimes just several swipes will work, but you will need to be the judge of that.
Once you have the blade as sharp as it can be with the stones you have, you can leave it, or you can put a micro bevel on the face. This is simply done by taking out the finest diamond chip you have, turning it around to alter the angle to 30 degrees and again give it several swipes with the stone and you should see a very narrow flat stop along the tip of the blade that indicates you have established a micro bevel.
Next, remove the burr from the back of the blade. Use your finger to run down the back of the blade from the top to the bottom, as you do when you reach the bottom of the blade you should feel a very fine ridge along the bottom. This is normal and is a fine area where the steel has curled around the tip of the blade, this needs to be removed on the de-burring diamond stone on the face of the sharpening tool. This won't take much work but you can check your progress by feeling the edge.
lastly is to use the strop, it really does make a difference. It gives you blade that tiny edge of fine sharpness.
That's it .. you are done. and now if the blade gets dull, all you will need to do is set up the tool with the finest grit, at the 30-degree angle, give a few swipes, de-burr, strop and you are done ... easy, easy, easy.
This tool more than I hoped for. The blades are as sharp as my other sharpening tool and I can now sharpen and re-sharpen my blades quickly and easily without making a "whole afternoon of it" and losing touch with my workflow.
If you "love sharpening" and sharpen often, you probably already have a system that works for you and you should probably stick with that. If on the other hand you don't really have a system or, you are looking for something quick that still does a remarkable job, the M-Power might be a tool to consider.
Copyright Colin Knecht