It is no wonder that in the 1839 The Joiner and Cabinet Maker, mentions that many some Cabinet shops in the nineteenth century England did not allow a grindstone on the premises. And why you might ask, well the masters of the shops didn’t want their tools needlessly ground away, nor their workman wasting time at the grindstone.
I am convinced that if modern grinding and sharpening equipment and mentality had been available in the nineteenth century that we wouldn’t have any useful tools today, they would have been repeatedly and unnecessarily ground to oblivion. Modern wood turners seem to have their grinders running right next to their lathes, this I don’t understand.
As it is many old tools are being over ground and over sharpened and probably get more of their metal ground away in just a few years than in the previous 100 years. This is not to say that our ancestors didn’t over sharpen, I have seen more than one plane blade that was ground up to the piercing for the cap iron. Modern woodworkers are overzealous when it comes to grinding and sharpening, trying every new ‘system’ that comes around.
Changing the angle on the chisel or plane iron to match the wood they are using at one point and altering the angle for other woods, seems to me a bit excessive. Also in the nineteenth century when a craftsman was grinding or sharpening they were not making money and as most worked by the piece, time is money. Banning the grindstone saves both time wasted in endless grinding and money saved by preserving the metal on the tools, this idea should be reconsidered.
If you need tools with different angles on their cutting edge, then you should have tools dedicated to that purpose and properly ground and sharpened, instead of regrinding and re-sharpening the tool with every change in activity. Find the proper angle stick with it and save the tools. This is of special importance if you use old tools [they aren’t making them anymore].
I do have a grindstone, 15 inch diameter, two inches wide and on a direct drive to the hand crank. After I clean off the cobwebs and dust, I use this to initially grind the tool to the proper angle and the tool almost never sees the grindstone again. I then use a course Washita stone to work the edge to a burr then move on to English slate for the final hone. I then strop on leather and am ready for work.
I use my tools until I determine that they are dull and not performing well. I then take them to the slate and touch up the edge, then strop. I may have to go the coarser stone if necessary but never back to the grindstone. I never spend more than a couple of minutes at this process. I don’t use any ‘secondary’ bevel and of course the ‘back bevel’ should never be done as it is a bad and lazy practice.
Do your tools a favor and quit grinding and sharpening them to excess. All of that work isn’t necessary and while you may enjoy the sharpening process, [use it on new tools not old ones] it takes time away from woodworking.
Most of my tools are laid steel blades [hard cast steel forge welded to soft wrought iron, which does not harden], so my sharpening is much easier. I only have a thin veneer of hard steel to sharpen and the wrought iron abrades away quickly. I do have a few solid steel carving tools and they take longer to sharpen.