How To Sharpen Hand Tools On A Stone

Posted in Woodworking Business, Woodworking Tools

If you are going to use hand tools, you are going to have a lot of fun sharpening them. At least, we hope you do because sharpening is an essential part of using hand tools. 

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But honestly, there is a sense of satisfaction in making your hand tools razor sharp. We ask you to recall the image of a blade master of the old. You’ve read about them in books and seen them in the movies. You will recall how lovingly and painstakingly they sharpened their swords. 

Well get into the blade master mode every now and then and get those tools razor sharp!

Blunt tools cause you to use excessive force, can cause injury and spoil the cuts you are making. Sharp tools cut easily. So whenever you realize you are exerting yourself, its time to sharpen the tool. 

It’s a better practice to keep the tools sharp and not wait till they get blunt. With experience and practice you will find out how often you need to sharpen each tool to keep them sharp. 

All right, let’s get down to it. How to sharpen your woodworking hand tools.

The best way to do it is, use a ‘wet stone’.

sharpening hand tools on a stone

Sharpening With A Wet Stone

  • A wet stone is, well, a stone, and putting some water on it and moving the edge of your hand tool along its surface, sharpens it. 

Sometime back ‘wet stones’ used to be pretty expensive easily above $200. But that’s no longer the case. Now you have something called man-made ‘wet stone’ and since, as the name suggests, it can be manufactured, the cost is much less in the range of $30 – $45.

These serve the purpose just as well as the naturally found ‘wet-stones’ of the old.

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You can buy a ‘wet-stone’ with varying degree of surface roughness: Coarse, Medium, and Fine. 

A medium/fine works for tools that aren’t too blunt. Get a coarse stone if you really let your tools loose their edge before sharpening them. 

“Always run the tool on the medium/fine stone once you are done with the coarse one.”

Start by getting yourself a man-made ‘wet-stone’. It will be sufficient for most of your sharpening needs. 

Here are some more sharpening stone options:

  • Oil Stone. This one uses oil instead of water and hence calls for a much messier affair. An oil stone was the sharpening stone of choice before ‘water stones’ were discovered, especially the man made water stones. 

Now I doubt if anyone uses them anymore expect for some specific reason. Using oil stones tends to mess up your clothing during sharpening, leaves a residue of oil on the tools that can, in turn, leave a stain on the wood you use them on. So all in all, avoid oil stone as you have no need for them.

  • Slip Stones. If you use carving chisels, you are going to need these. Slip stones are meant for sharpening carving tools or tools that do not have a flat edge. 
  • Diamond Stone. This stone is used to revive worn out sharpening stones. So you probably do not need this now, if ever. It might be easier and better to buy a new water stone for $20. If you use some expensive sharpening stones, then the diamond stone will help you keep them in fine state. 

Right Way To Sharpen Your Chisel and Planes.

These are the steps you should follow to sharpen your hand tools effectively and safely.

  • Wet your wet stone according to manufacture’s instructions. 
  • Choose a coarse, medium or fine stone according to how blunt the tool. 
  • If starting with a coarse stone, always finish up by moving in to medium and fine stones. 
  • Hold the chisel with your first 2 fingers pointing towards the blade. Place 2 fingers from the other hand near the tip of the blade. 
  • Put the blade on the stone with the bevel side facing down. Carefully angle the blade so that the edge lies flat on the stone. Be careful about this because you do not want to change this angle. 
  • Move the blade slowly around the stone in a circular or an ‘8-figure’ motion. You do not have to exert too much pressure.  Let the stone do its job. You might be surprised at first, at how quickly and easily it sharpens the edge. 
  • Once you are done, reverse the blade and run the opposite edge on the stone. Hold the blade flat on the stone. This is to get rid of small shards you have created on the edge while sharpening. 

Well that’s it. You’re done. Your tools are sharpened. Take care not to change the angle of the bevel or spoil the corner of the blades that meets the side. 

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Also, its better to sharpen your chisels frequently. You will have to work less and the chisels will be better maintained. 

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