October 28, 2016

The Thin (Not) Red Line: Sharpening

It's been a while since my last post, and for that I do apologize to those of you who have been stopping by to see if there's anything new.  Thank you, though, for continuing to check in!

Life has been incredibly weird the last several weeks, and while I've been getting some shop time, I have not been able to sit down and do all the after-shop work. 

I'm enjoying the video format, as it is just so much easier to show what I'm doing rather than trying to take some pictures before/after a cut, and then write about it.  That being said, this video ended up being fairly long, coming in at just about 30 minutes.  That might be too long, but I'm trying to be thorough.  It's a balancing act. 

I've been pondering the idea of doing 2 or 3 of my old style posts for every video post.  Let me know what you think down in the comments!

Over the last few weeks, I've been grinding a lot of metal with sandpaper glued to a granite counter top.  It has been extremely tedious, but ultimately, incredibly rewarding!

As you know, woodworkers are usually solitary, but we definitely don't exist in a vacuum.  Particularly not without the vast amount of information freely available to us though on-line and print resources.  Part of my anti-vacuum-ness (That's a word now), entails reading and watching the products of Paul Sellers and Marc Spagnuolo, aka The Wood Whisperer.  Specifically, I've been reading Essential Woodworking Handtools (Sellers) as well as Hybrid Woodworking (Spagnuolo).  These are amazing books, and I highly recommend either/both of them to anyone interested in getting into woodworking.  Both of them also produce incredibly high quality videos that really bring their written works into a whole new light.  Being thusly inspired, I set about preparing my recently acquired chisels and hand planes.

Make no mistake, this was actually some pretty sweat-heavy work. 

...And today was relatively cool!
The single-iron No. 4 Stanley plane that I received from my mother-in-law, needed a LOT of work.  The blade was in pretty decent shape, needing only a small amount of flattening and honing of the bevel.  The sole, on the other hand, was torture.  It was dished badly along its entire length and breadth, and required about 12 total hours of flattening on 60 and 80 grit sandpaper.  All in all, I removed right about 3/32" in order to get in good working order.  While it's a cheap plane, I have to say I was very pleased with the results.  Tuning it is a bit finicky, as the twin screw set works more like a spokeshave than a bench plane, but once it's there, it makes incredibly impressive shavings. 

The vintage planes that I picked up in Prescott, AZ were in overall pretty decent shape.  The plane irons and cap irons had a lot of surface rust, but not much in the way of pitting.  The irons were also mostly flat, so didn't need much rehabilitative work.  The bodies had some surface rust and needed some general cleaning and oiling.  The soles were decent and flattened pretty quickly.  I think altogether I had them cleaned up and ready within about 4 hours total.  Maybe 6.

I had 4 chisels to sharpen (though I only filmed 3), and those went quickly.  Much more quickly in the video!

I was a bit uncertain about my ability to sharpen freehand, and my confidence was undermined further by attempting it with the un-filmed chisel which is some strange beast that I picked up a few years ago at the Big Orange Store.  I think it's some kind of carpentry chisel from Stanley, but it has a cutting edge at the front (like a normal chisel) and also one side.  This leads to a particularly odd angle on the front bevel, which I just could not wrap my head around.  Thinking that the others might present difficulties as well, I went ahead and picked up a cheap honing guide.  It worked very well, but I have since discovered that freehand sharpening is not difficult if you're not working on something weird.

Now that everything is shaped and sharpened, I'll be switching over to a 3-grit and strop set-up.  I'm pretty sure I've got some scrap leather laying around somewhere, and I have plenty of extra plywood!  Just need some polishing compound, and I'll be all set.  I do have a set of diamond plates on the wish-list, but for the time being, sandpaper will do just fine.

That wraps up my initial adventures in sharpening, and now that I've gotten everything in decent shape, it won't take nearly as much effort to keep it that way.  I also shouldn't have to initialize and/or restore so many items all at once!

As always, I'm really open to feedback.  If there's something you'd like to see, or something you think I could improve, please let me know down in the comments.  Thanks for reading!!


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