Full Chisel Blog

February 17, 2008

Former Scary Sharp User

Filed under: Sharpening,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 5:43 pm

I have used this method on occassion in the past and being very careful I was able to generally avoid dubbing over the flat side.  I still used stones but gave the sandpaper thing a chance.  Now while sandpaper is perfectably acceptable to use during nineteenth century, it was expensive and available in limited grits.  Sharkskin or dogfish skin was also used.

 Traditional sharpening was always done on stones and the results are superior to any other method.  Besides of the fact that that is how it was done, it is too easy to dub over the edge using sandpaper no matter how it is used.  I have tried several methods of securing the paper and there is still the problem of the give of the paper. 

No matter how flat the substrate the paper will still give a bit causing the problem.  Once it starts everytime sharpening occurs it is amplified.  While the method is quick I think that it like all new improvements just isn’t that good.  Proper sharpening, keeping the back of the blade Flat against the stone insures that this dubbing will not happen.

And I will not even think about discussing back bevels or the ‘ruler trick’, this is just a bad habit and not a good practice.  Woodcarvers can micro or double bevel their tools, they are different, both the tools and the people.  I have a good friend that for a number of years was a professional woodcarver.  He had a problem in that he couldn’t drink beer and carve wood.  His solution, he quit woodcarving.

As for sandpaper, I don’t have much use for it, when stuff comes off my lathe it is smooth enough off the tool that any sanding would scratch the surface.  Sharp planes and scrapers produce a much finer finish than sandpaper can ever achieve.   It does have its place, just not for sharpening or finishing.  I lightly sand finishes between coats and that is about the only use I now have for sandpaper



  1. Well now that you know what I don’t use anymore here is how I sharpen:

    I use natural stones, Indiana Limestone (grinding wheel), a very hard local red sandstone, Arkansas and Washita stones, and my favorite for finishing is Hard English Slate. Of course I use a leather strop with rouge for final stropping.

    Oil Stone or Water Stone?

    I don’t care because I don’t use oil or water as a lubricant when I am sharpening, yes I sharpen DRY. The reason I do this is that a number of years ago I read in a magazine (Popular Science, I think) that had an article about sharpening without oil or water. The argument was that the oil or water held small particles in suspension and they would collide with the edge and actually score it noticably. Using a microscope they made the comparison and it was dramatic.

    So, I quite using oil or water, except to clean the stones, I clean water stones with water and oil stones with oil. I do this prior to starting sharpening and I try to remember to clean it up when I am finished, if I remember.

    And how do I sharpen plane irons and chisels, with the back (opposite bevel) Absolutely Flat on the stone at all times, never lifting it an angstrom, ever. I remember my master giving me a dope slap up the back of the head when he saw me do that, remembering that slap, I keep the back flat. Once the back is flat then I turn my attention to the bevel, when a burr is formed I reverse a few times then take the blade and pass it laterally through a piece of hardwood (the maple on my leather strop) to remove the burr, then on to the English Slate for a mirror polish, then to the strop.

    What are the grits? soft, medium and hard, 1X,XX, 80,000, I have no idea beyond the first three other than really soft, kind of hard or almost medium. I start with the soft grits, usually coarse, then medium which is finer then on to hard for the final sharpening.

    What angles to I grind my tools? I actually don’t know, usually at what ever angle they are when I acquire them. If the angle is wrong then I change it to work.


    Comment by admin — February 18, 2008 @ 10:07 am

  2. I do agree with what you point out, and I do stones, as well as a (gasp) lap-sharp, but I suspect I will always be a scary sharp user for one simple reason.

    Sometimes I’m not in my shop, and out with friends. If a stone is not at hand, sometimes a sheet of sand paper can go a long way.*wink*

    Scary Sharp is the epitome of a very practical solution that is right in front of many of us while we work wood. I know I tend to have pieces of it laying around…you just never know when it might give you an edge over a given situation, so to speak…

    Comment by Alan — February 18, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

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