How to Sharpen Chisels
Perhaps in the past sharpening and maintaining chisels in your kit has been a laborious job. Maybe you've had to send them away to be sharpened, or chosen to go out and buy a completely new chisel to solemnly add to the building pile of blunt blades. Over time this becomes increasingly more expensive, and shockingly time-consuming. All because you aren't sure how to properly sharpen them yourself.
This blog post was written to give you two separate methods that can be used to guarantee a keen edge on your woodworking gear. Both methods can be harnessed while on the job site, or at home working on a personal project.
Chisel and Plane blade sharpening
To effectively sharpen and maintain the edges of your hand tools you need to work with a combination of 3 mediums which work in harmony together.
Step 1 A grinder – for serious removal of material and establishing a new clean bevel edge
Step 2 A precision double sided diamond stone – for re-honing and sharpening to a shaving edge and from thence maintaining this standard
Step 3 A quality leather strop and paste for polishing and achieving a razor finish.
*Once you have created the perfect edge you will be able to maintain it by employing step 2 & 3 only . Only revert back to a grinder if you have severely damaged your tool or you need to totally re-establish a new bevel edge.
How to Sharpen Chisels Using a Diamond Sharpening Stone
Whenever you're using a sharpening stone it's essential to apply a few drops of lapping fluid to the surface first. When you use a James Barry diamond sharpening stone (or credit card stone) it carries a 5 year guarantee if you use lapping fluid.
First make sure that the back of the tool is flat. The back of a chisel or plane blade is as important (if not more so) than the bevel edge.
You only need to ensure that the final 3 – 4 mm of the blade is flat NOT the whole length of the back.
If required use a coarse cut to establish this quickly, 300 grit 50 micron.
Then revert to the bevel edge using the fine 1000 grit 15 micron abrasion.
Simply hold the chisel to the sharpening stone at the same angle as the bevel, and lightly drag back and forth.
Once you feel you've resharpened the edge of the chisel on the bevel side, you then focus on the flat side. But only to get rid of the wire edge. You only really have to drag towards you once or twice before the wire edge from sharpening is gone.
However, ensure that the blade is flat on the stone.
Then you may proceed with the leather and the mirror paste, to achieve the ultimate finish and you're ready to sink your teeth back into work.
This method can be used on the worksite, but trying to consistently create the correct angle for the chisel without a guide can be tiresome. And if you're unable to maintain that bevel side angle, you end up blunting the edge rather than sharpen.
How to Sharpen Chisels Using a Credit Card Stone
This method is ideal as a quick fix solution when working on site or away from the workshop.
As before, always use Original Formula Lapping Fluid.
Perhaps a rather unusual stance in tool sharpening is holding the stone in one hand while you sharpen the tool with the other. However, with some sharpening stones, they are just too awkward and heavy to hold in one hand.
This method can be consistently achieved on a busy site, just as well as it can be in replicated your workshop at home.
First, have your credit card stone in hand, and placed at the same angle as the edge of your chisel.
Then gently but consistently move the sharpening stone, not the chisel, in a circular motion, while holding the stone at the same angle. Remove the wire edge, and take the chisel for a test run. Repeat if needed... and don't mock us till you've tried it.
If you've got the right bit of kit for it, the job becomes some really light work. James Barry prides himself on the quality of finish, and long-lasting life of all the sharpening stones he produces. Using methods such as electroplating to ensure longevity. For blade, and tool sharpening there's nothing on the market right now that can compare.
Share this with a mate that struggles when sharpening tools, and let us know in the comments below the worst resharpening experience you've had!