Friday, June 3, 2016

Sharpening stones and strops.

I often get asked about sharpening stones and the so called mystery of them.  Often I know the question(s) before the person even asks. Water versus  Oil stones? My response to them is usually what about natural, diamond or sand paper for sharpening? My response usually leaves the students more confused. So I follow up my previous response with water stones cut fast and get out of flat. Oil stones are cut slow but stay flat.  Diamond stones cut great but often doesn't get the sharpness level high enough for certain situations. Sandpaper works fine but will cost more than the stones in the end.  Natural stones are awesome and work like any other water stones.  Than there is ceramic water stones which are great and they don't need to be soaked in water, which is the real advantage.

The other question that comes up is do I strop? Usually my response is who doesn't!

But one of my other favorite questions is what do I think about honing guides versuses free hand sharpening?  Honestly, honing guide are great but you can't sharpen every tool with a guide. I would say you need to learn how to free hand sharpen every tool, but there is nothing wrong with using a honing guide.  

In the end it doesn't matter what you use to sharpen. All that matters is the tool is SHARP. I don't care if the edge of the tool shaves the hair off your skin, because I can shave off all the hair on my arms with a dull tool with out issue.  I don't care how good the edge cuts the end grain on eastern white pine. Often I see woodworkers testing the sharpness on pine and once they are happy with the results they go over and cut some mahogany, walnut, or some other species. Why did theybother testing on a piece of pine. 

All I care about is getting the job done. No one is going to see the bottom of my mortises or the bottom of my dovetail sockets. So sharpen often and  strop often. Once you notice resistance hone or strop the edge.  Rarely do I go a day without sharpening. Often I sharpen the same tool 3-4 times in a single day.  

One important detail that is often not asked is compound do I use on my strop? I use to apply yellow stone but this particular  product has disappeared from the market. For the last 6 months I have been using Autosol which I was introduce to by Robin Wood in the UK.  Where do I buy it? Google it. What I can say is say about the compound is by far the best I have ever used.  

Now go out and sharpen.