For those who like to sharpen their own hand tools, the following web
site has about the best instructions on how to do it that I've come
across. It has good background info, explains the why of each step,
has good photos, and is very well written. It is by Maurice Fraser,
a long-time teacher and contributor to Fine Woodworking mag.
I ran across a reference to this site in an old Fine Woodworking magazine
and gave it a read. I'd never tried his method of sharpening but thought
I'd give it a go with a set of chisels. Mind you, I don't have the best
sharpening stones - a somewhat coarse silicon carbide stone with a
"moonstone" (fine aluminum oxide). Just using these two stones following
Mr. Fraser's methods, I was able to put a keen edge (sure seemed keen to me)
on these chisels and did it in short order. The edge I got is, I'm sure,
better than they had when new which was probably 20 years ago.
I have an old stone used for sharpening straight razors called a "Moor"
stone. I don't know the proper use of this stone but using it on one of the
chisels created a mirror finish on the honed edge. I don't have a leather
strop (am planning to get one, though), but I can't imagine that is will
improve much on the edge I already have. What I need even more is a good
technique for rounded chisels, like lathe gouges.
So, you're correct that Mr. Fraser's technique's are excellent.
One part of Fraser's method that I have had first-hand experience
with is avoiding honing jigs and just do the honing by holding
the tool in the proper way. I have a good honing jig (Lee Valley
I think) and I've used it many times with reasonably good effect.
But a while back I was honing with the jig and for some reason
I was having trouble getting a chisel blade sharp. Out of
frustration I took the chisel out of the jig and honed it freehand
and voila, the blade got plenty sharp.
I don't know why this happened. Perhaps I was not using the
jig properly that particular time. But I just like doing it freehand
more than using a jig. Seeing that I can get a good edge with
the freehand method clinched it. So from now on, until I see a
reason to use the jig, I'm a freehand man.
Watch out that you're not raising the angle of the blade with respect to
the stone. You'll get a sharp edge, but the cutting angle might not be
what you want. Swipe the blade crossways a couple of times. If you've
put a curve on the bevel, the lateral scratches will be in a narrow
band. You want the lateral scratches to cover the whole width of the
bevel. Of course, this tip is only for testing your technique. It'll
play hob with a working blade.
I haven't ever done that, but I really like the idea - and I'm fairly
confident of what it would reveal if I were freehanding. I do believe
that one can become very proficient and efficient using the freehand
method - like Kirby. For me, however, I'd rather toss it in a good jig
(Veritas MKII) take a few quick passes on a few different grits and get
it perfect, with no rounding and with consistent bevel/microbevel
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