We are filming a full-length video to complement my “Sharpen This” book. Megan is filming it, and I am editing it. The video will be available next month.
One of the film’s many segments is about my personal sharpening kit. You might find the information interesting. Plus, this short video will give you a feel for the level of immaturity in the video as a whole. Serious information. But with a bit of levity.
As mentioned in the video, all of this equipment is mine. I bought it. Paid full price. And so I have stuff to say about it – good and bad.
Here are links to the products mentioned in the video. I do not get any kickbacks from these links. I chose these suppliers because I use these suppliers. Yes, the last two links are to our store.
- Norton 3X grinding wheel, #60 or #100 grit (either is fine)
- Shapton Pro Series Kuromaku sharpening stones, #1,000, #5,000 and #8,000
- DMT Dia-Flat Lapping Plate
- Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide
- Klingspor Sand Flex Block
- Woodpeckers Mini Square
- ARNO burnisher
- Super Woobie
I suspect that this blog entry will kick off a lot of questions along the lines of: Could you compare this brand of fart sharpener to a second brand? And the answer is: no, not reliably. I have used a lot of systems. But comparing them in a meaningful manner is beyond the scope of most humans.
Here’s what I can say: All the systems work. You get what you pay for. Buy from a reliable manufacturer that stands behind its products. And complexity is not your friend.
— Christopher Schwarz
47 thoughts on “My Personal Sharpening Kit”
Your final sentence should be emblazoned on the wall of every shop, Chris. It needed to be said.
I find that you don’t always get what you paid for, but quality is always worth the asking price. Still reading my copy. Glad I was on the right track. I hadn’t thought about the drip pan for some reason (duh). Just started using an old damaged baking sheet. Loving it so far.
My setup is broadly similar, my solution to the need for a lapping plate is a small bit of 12mm thick toughened glass and a sheet of wet and dry sandpaper stuck down with water. It works very well. Also good for flattening plane soles. The glass was free but if that wasn’t around I’d use a stone benchtop offcut from the kitchen bench factory down the road.
The key take-away, IMHO, is “All the systems work”. I have old-school oil stones from the era before I knew water stones existed, soaking-required Japanese water stones from when I bought my first set of Japanese chisels from Japan Woodworker in Berzerkely (I drove all the way from San Jose), Nortion spray-n-go water stones, and diamond “stones” from DMT. They all work. While I love everything Lie Nielsen makes, I prefer the (more expensive) Lee Valley honing guide. It does everything well, including a handy micro-bevel knob.
I have always used Windex as my lubricant. That way your tools or nearby metal surfaces aren’t as susceptible to rust. I’ve had the same hand activated sprayer for years and I still have the same gallon of refill that came with the spray bottle. I still wipe with oil after sharpening, sometimes I even clean my shop windows.
I have this kit and agree it works. I also use a Tormek and like it. I think it makes a difference whether or not you sharpen as a hobbyist. If you sharpen to put food on the table then efficiency is king. If you’re an occasional sharpener who doesn’t do it often enough to build muscle memory a system might be useful.
Nice book. But it would have been nice to include blank pages after each chapter for notes and I agree it doesn’t matter what you use but it is used
I’m happy you’re making videos. I try to visualize the motions when I read the books, but I’m not always great at seeing things in my mind. Seeing techniques in a video is great reinforcement to the books.
I’m glad you’re glad. Because I’d rather get another vasectomy than be on camera.
But I fully acknowledge that having video available is a good thing for a lot of people.
I think every time you post something when you’re on camera you say that but in all honesty you’re a natural. You’re a good teacher and it shows on camera.
This probably sounds odd… but after years of chasing this sharpening ‘system’ or that, one guide or another, freehand, etc. I’d kind of said ‘screw it all’ and simplified things a lot. I dusted off the old Delta 6″ variable speed grinder, set up the rest on it, set the honing guide and got to busy actually doing woodworking rather than chasing some perfect edge. As it turns out, the ‘Sharpen This’ book came out a very short while later, and while it definitely answered some questions (including some I didn’t realize I still had), it was a relief to see that I hadn’t gone too far astray!
But what about
I use a various micro bevel angles for every species of wood. I find that while a 35 degree angle works well on walnut, a 35.352 works better on cherry. Mahogany is a completely different animal and for that I crank it all the way down to 34.883 This approach is not up for debate so don’t even bother trying!
If you don’t have the spectral micrographs of the surfaces (with luminosity coefficients) – then didn’t happen.
The formula for edge angle is 1.8 x 35 + 32 ÷ Janka hardness. That, of course, is for sea level only.
I follow this blog daily, and this is the first post where I feel like I have something too contribute for once.
Many natural stones have intrinsic properties to them that allow them act as multiple grit stones, and you don’t really here about that much, so I figured I would discuss my sharpening system and philosophy.
I value minimalism in my life and try to apply that to my woodworking, so having as few tools and sharpening stones as possible is something I actively try too do. I pretty much try to have one stone for each phase of sharpening (grinding, honing, polishing).
Living in a apartment, I do not have the space or ability to run a grinding wheel, so I use a #80 grit Japanese water stone as my grinder. Its the white stone of the brand that Chris uses(my phone won’t let me look at the article for the name). I have found it tiring to constantly flatten the stone when I am trying to repair a heavily damaged tool, so I am looking at replacing it with a diamond plate.
My honing stone is a Wastikivi from Finland. These stones do not seem to be well know outside of Scandinavia, and I think that is a shame. They are good stone for both the shop and the field since they do not asorb water and crack in below freezing temps, while also covering a range of grits.
You can’t really assign a grit to the Wastikivi due to being a natural stone, but it acts as a good honing stone and even a low polisher. When using the stone, the more of a slurry it builds up, the finer it sharpens. Controlling that slurry allows you to adjust how coarse it sharpens. If you constantly dip it in water, it acts like a coarser stone, but if you want to finish a tool at a higher level, just let the slurry build up.
I have used tools that I just sharpen with the Wastikivi and strop with green compound, and they leave a amazing finish on wood. If you know anyone that’s getting into woodworking and wants a low cost setup, I think that combo of strop and stone would be a cheap way to introduce them. I leave my tools for rough out stuff, like axes and drawknives at that level of sharpness, and they handle great.
For polishing finer tools, I use a Belgian Coticule. These stones act backwards to the Wastikivi, where a heavier slurry equals a coarser grit. When I one to finish the edge of a tool, or touch it up, I use the Coticule without a slurry. This will leave an edge that does not need to be stropped, just like a #8000 grit stone.
I’ll use a strop with the fuzzy side up (doesn’t get damaged as easily) with green compound too touch up my tools if I do not feel like they need to be sharppend.
My tool selection does collaborate with my sharpening stone choices also. For example, I always touch up or sharpen my tools after use, so I prefer steels that are easy to sharpen, such as 01, 52100,
PM-V11 or whatever a tool makers high carbon steel of choice is. This allows me to quickly sharpen my tools when needs.
I also do not use a jig( not judging anyone who does). There are ways to sharpen any tool by hand, and while I’m sure a jig helps tremendously, they are not needed. Having a little bit of freehand convexity to a edge is not the end of the world and it will do just fine.
I guess the whole point of me writing this is to just let some readers know that there are other options of you are not satisfied with the commonly available media to not be afraid with finding your own way of doing things
Do you have any tips or tricks for freehanding at the grinder?
I can never seem to get a square edge without a jig. It makes freehand honing feel easy…
Of course, put a piece of hardboard in the boot tray. I’ve also been dealing with the decoration, usually by getting the feet of my waterstone holders to fall in the right spots so they sit flat. I don’t know why you decorate the bottom of a boot tray to collect dirt and mud.
The ridges are to allow space for air to circulate beneath wet shoes, to allow them to dry faster. They didn’t really have “sharpening station” in mind while designing them. Perhaps someone should.
I have to ask this as I have easy access to Shapton glass whetstones but not Shapton Pro whetstones in NZ. What do you see as the pluses and minuses of the Shapton glass stones?
Just my opinion, but the glass stones are mostly glass, and have a very thin layer of sharpening media. They wear out quickly and will cost more in the long run. A lot more.
Just my opinion, but the glass stones are mostly a waste of money. You will use up a 1,000-grit stone in a year.
An alternative to the boot tray. Silicone pet feeding mats with a lip. Nonslip and most are smooth.
I was thinking about with out patterned bottoms, at least not deeply patterned, and thought that a cafeteria tray would be a pretty good choice. All have edges to hold back grinding “stuff,” are waterproof, most new ones are plastic, and washable. I wonder if there is a second-hand market.
I have a couple of trays from Ikea that I use under cat food and water. They are about the same size as cafeteria trays, are smooth, but have a little bit deeper rim, and rubber feet on the bottom to keep them in place. They go nicely in the dishwasher.
We have discussed the IKEA trays on the blog and IG. They are small and a little too flexible. But they work.
I found that clear plastic refrigerator trays work nicely. And, one nice thing about a “set” of same size stones and holders is that one can move from stone to stone even if they are close together. Dealing with different heights is inconvenient. Lastly, my understanding is that some of the harder steels (and good luck figuring that out), inflict much more wear on a conventional waterstones. I know after trying some of the fancier steels (D2 and PMV11), I’m shifting back to good ole’ O1. And, thanks again for sharing your experiences.
When you put the sharpening kit away (under the bench) do you cover it with anything? Thinking about protection from dust, wood chips, etc. Or, do you just say the heck with it and deal with it?
The huck towel covers the stones.
I haven’t used a diamond flattening plate before. What’s a good way to clean one after the flattening is done in order to avoid future grit contamination? Thanks for the video and the book!
Work down from 8,000 to 1,000 when flattening. Then grit contamination is irrelevant.
That makes sense within a session. I meant between sessions. If the last stone flattened is the 1k, the next session you start on the 8k. What’s the method to clean the flattening plate before the next cycle/sharpening session. Sorry that wasn’t clear. Thanks!
I rinse the diamond plate with water.
Perfect, thank you very much for the reply!
Your a brave man Chris. This is such a controversial topic (as you already know). As a machinist I do know a thing or two about sharpening. You are so right, pick a quality system and learn it before you consider it junk. Most systems work, just some better than others. Give ’em hell man!!!
Do you ever use latex gloves to keep your hands clean wile sharpening?
I have never even thought about it. But I’ll give it a go.
I have tried it, and didn’t like it at all: the glove finger tips tended to get caught in various places, with resultant tearing off of bits of glove that got in between the edge and the stone (talk about putting the emergency brakes on!), but most importantly, they made it much harder to feel for a burr.
I thus concluded it was easier all around to just wash my hands afterwards, if needed. As my sharpening station is next to a sink, that’s no big deal anyway.
I’ve tried it – I hate getting swarf under my nails. But unless the gloves fit like a second skin, they’re just a bother. They get stuck under the blade and rip, and interfere with my process. So I bought a nail brush.
Great video. I’m curious about the plant mister. Why use that over a regular spray bottle?
It is less tiring to use over the long haul. Also, tendinitis — the curse of the hand tool class.
complexity is never your friend.
Is there a reliable way to know when an extra-fine diamond plate is worn out? With oilstones and waterstones, I think it’s pretty evident when you’ve worn them thin but I don’t know if my Dia-Sharp XF is worn/damaged or just needs to be thoroughly cleaned.
It depends on what you expect I think. There seem to be two camps of diamond stone users. One says, “diamond stones start brash and then settle down.” The other says, “diamond stones cut great and then just quit.” (Or, the equivalent. I’m giving examples.)
I think what happens is the sharp corners and edges round off making the plates less aggressive. If you are trying to quickly remove a lot of hardened steel you will notice more change than if you’re just flattening highly friable stones. Truly and completely worn out won’t happen until you’ve knocked most of the diamonds free from the plating medium. So YMMV.
Thanks, David. I think my challenge is that my XF polishing stone/plate is cutting unevenly and I’m not sure if it’s because of swarf gumming up sections of the cutting surface or if I’ve dislodged the little diamond bits…they’re only 9 microns.
Have you tried the usual cleaning procedures?
I have not tried Krud Kutter or Bar Keeper’s Friend yet but I’ll give that a whirl and see how it goes. Thanks (and thanks for producing the video—clear cut and practical)!
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