The Karate Kid of Sharpening Systems

wax on wax offWax on, Wax off

There are so many sharpening systems out there, it can be rather daunting.  Powered or unpowered, hollow grind or flat, single bevel or secondary micro-bevel, oil, water or dry, friable or fixed surface, open or closed grit, wax on or wax off.

I’ve come across another system recently, which has an interesting take on the process.  It is the Precision Sharpening System from M Power.

PSS1-Diamond-Cross-precision-Sharpening-System

It is based on diamond stones, and has two fixed angles 25° as a primary angle, and 30° as a secondary angle (such as for a microbevel).  The stones are exceptionally easy to change, held in place magnetically.  There are grits from 100 through to 1000 available (with the unit coming with a 220 grit and a 450 grit stone).

Where the system is somewhat different, is the direction of sharpening.  Most systems have the grinding direction in line with the chisel, where the PSS works perpendicular to the blade.  Secondly, most systems have the stone (grinding surface) stationary, and the blade is bought into contact and moved against the abrasive.  The PSS has the tool stationary, and instead the stone is bought to the tool, back and forth, creating a flat grind.

PSS1-Sharpen-small-chisel-484It is an interesting grinding direction.  Takes a little getting used to, but I can’t see that there is any particular disadvantage to the resulting tool edge.

The carriage is captive in the base, but has a bit of movement, which allows the sharpening surface to float fully on the tool. You can then apply as little or as much pressure as you like or need.

The body of the sharpener is best secured down, and there is a hole and screw made available for just that.

PSS1-Diamond-Cross-484

The system has a particular distinct advantage – speed of setup.  There is no jig that needs to be set up, or clamped to the blade.  The tool is placed on the flat bed, held against the lip at the side to keep it perpendicular to the sharpening stone, and a few swipes and you are done.

Remove the stone carriage, flick it around and a few swipes for a micro-bevel.  Change stones in seconds to move between grades.  It will not take every type of blade, but anything straight, such as a chisel or plane blade up to 2.5″ wide is no problem (3mm to 64mm).  The ease of setup and repeatability means regular, quick touchups are no problem, and you may find you use it more regularly given the ease of use.  With the result being continually, satisfyingly, sharp blades.

Available (in Oz) from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.

 

 

Saving some electrons

So I got a little motivated reading Schwarz – it sounds so easy, all this hand planing etc.

Got out the hand planes, and my DMT diamond whetstones, and sharpened my plane irons.  I used the camber roller on the Veritas Mk II to produce a slightly rounded front edge (according to Chris, this is good for Jack Planes for heavy stock removal).

DMT Diamond Stones

From left to right, the plates are the Extra-extra coarse, the extra coarse/coarse (double sided), the fine/extra fine (double sided) and the Extra-extra fine DMT whetstones.

The extra-extra coarse is a ripper – the rate of metal removal is impressive, and it takes next to no time to get the blade to the shape you want, even when it has been used for other purposes (opening paintcans is a pretty typical activity for an abused chisel!)

The extra-extra fine gives that mirror finish.  The other four grades allow you to work through each, as is good sharpening practice.  As much as I don’t mind the double-sided concept, I would really prefer to have each grade the same physical size as the larger two I have, and ideally single sided.  The cost is really in the diamonds, not the base material.

The larger size is ideal for something like the Veritas Honing Jig, especially with the larger plane blades I sharpen.

The other secret about diamond plates is they actually get better with use.  Yeah, weird, but it is a fact never the less.  DMT plates have very consistent diamond size – nothing like a rogue diamond to scratch the hell out of your otherwise finished blade edge, so a quality plate avoids that danger.

Camber Roller

You can’t see it in this photo (didn’t have the right lens with me) but there is now a very mild camber to this blade, stopping the corners from digging in while ripping off massive amounts of the surface of the timber.

I needed to clamp up the piece of Camphor Laurel I had chosen for the exercise, and needed some more dog holes.  While marking these up, I discovered just how warped the surface of my workbench was.  That might explain a few things I’d been experiencing.  Not sure what I will do about it (if anything).  Problem will be solved by making my own workbench (one day).

I chose the Camphor Laurel as it had been resawn with the chainsaw jig on the Torque Workcentre, and had quite significant ridging – a perfect candidate for a Jack Plane.

Ridging

Ignoring the step (this being the other side of the board fwiw), these were the ridges I wanted to see disappear.

Started off with the Jack Plane, and really couldn’t get anything happening.  Just isn’t right – something not working.  Then I remembered reading something in the Anarchist’s Tool Chest about Chris talking about using the Jack Plane across grain – the fibres being weaker in that direction.  Sure enough, that worked a treat, and great swaths of timber came flying off.

Shavings

From there, I moved onto the trying plane to create a flat surface.  With the long bed, it rides on top of the ridges so they get cut down until such time as you get full-length shavings. (These were performed with the grain, rather than across)

It was about this point that I was really discovering that hand tools are:

1. lubricated with perspiration (it is quite labour-intensive!)

2. more involved that you’d expect – a powered tool that takes 1000 cuts/minute (or more correctly 16000 – 40000 (2 flutes on a router bit running at 20000 RPM) is quite different to a blade skimming along the surface at a fixed attack angle.  You can get away (easily) with a (comparatively) blunt blade on a powered tool, whereas a hand tool needs to be razor-sharp.  Imagine how impressive a powered tool would be with the sharpness of a handtool.  Required motor power would be so much less, finish significantly high.

3.  slow, and take a lot of physical effort.  And quiet.  Power tools are noisy, and produce a lot of wood dust along with fine wood shavings (the result of thousands of tiny cuts, rather than one long cut).

Smoothing cuts

Then moved onto the smoothing plane.  This is quite a bit shorter, and is designed to take fine shaving cuts, leaving a smooth finish.  When properly tuned, the finish can be shiny, providing a mirror finish.

So I got a semblance of a result.  A bit too scalloped out of the middle – must have concentrated a bit much effort there.  Not sure whether it was harder than expected, but it does go to show that even if you are very proficient with powered tools, that knowledge does not readily transfer.  Gives one a real respect for those who live with handtools (or had no choice through the ages).

Need another woodshow so I can pick Terry Gordon’s brain about the basics again!  Using handtools to prepare a board – one of the new show demos for TWWWS 2013!  I’d sit in for that 🙂

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