Sharpening System Tradeoffs

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What are the tradeoffs between the following sharpening systems? Japanese waterstones, scary sharp, DMT Diamond stones, Shapton Stones, Lee Valley (LV) Veritas MkII, or Tormek?
Here's my take: (I've only used Japanese waterstones and the scary sharp method.)
The Japanese waterstones aren't cheap but the last a while. A 4000 grit from LV is about $21 for the regular size and $38 for a large. Soaking them in water is a nuisance. Keeping them in the house ('cause they'll freeze in the garage is a hassle, too. They always seems to be in SWMBO's way.). I estimate start up cost to be: $100 -- Lee Valley sells a "professional" kit for $108 -- a deal! This should last a while but not sure how long it last with respect to the other methods.
I tend slightly prefer the scary sharp method over the Japanese waterstones, although it's hard to get more than 2000 grit paper. Plus the paper is more expensive than I thought -- one chisel might use a sheet of 400. A sheet of 1200 and 2000 only last a few sharpenings. Boxes of 50 sheets of the 2000 grit paper are $40. Boxes of 1200, 600, 400 -- only a little cheaper. They also come in packes of 6 sheets or 15 sheets. A friend of mine claims you only need to grits. I've been using 4: 400, 600, 1200, 2000. I hear you can also get 2500 but the store I buy from considers that a special order. It's also a hassle to go to yet another store to buy the 3M 77 adhesive: a can of it is another $13. I can store all this stuff in the garage and there's no water to worry abour. Start up cost plate glass ............... $10 Assortment of sandpaper ... $50 Totoal .................... $60
The DMT Diamond stones are "endorsed" by Lie-Nielson: http://www.dmtsharp.com/ or http://www.lie-nielsen.com/diamondsharpening.html -- looks like $120 per stone and you'd need 3. Ouch. Probably need more stuff too -- don't know. Start up cost > $360.
The Spapton stones aren't cheap either (http://www.shaptonstones.com /) -- the 1000 grit is about $53, the 8000 is $102. They claim they are much faster and last a lot longer. You also need their lapping plate which is about $150. Ouch, again. Steve Knight "endorses" this technique, right Steve? See http://www.knight-toolworks.com/extras.htm near bottom of page. Start up cost (3 stones and the compact lapping plate) -- approx $400.
The MkII seems very convenient. It is certainly cost competive with the DMT Diamond stones and the Shapton stones. You can also apply the scary sharp technique by making your own platters. Start up cost for unit plus two extra platters ... $320
The Tormek seems to be a favorite for folks that sharpen more than chisels and hand plane blease, like turning chisels, etc. It's pricey. Start up cost ... $400
Note: LV also carries ceramic stones (not Shapton -- I don't think), diamond stones (not DMT -- I don't think), aluminum oxide stones. I don't know how they compare but they are cheaper. LV also carries a belt sander. I don't know much about that technique either. Any comments, Robin?
My conclusion: stick with the basic scary sharp method. Sharpen a little more often and run to the automotive paint store for more sandpaper every once in a while. Take the money that I would have spent on the more expensive methods and buy a new hand plane. Am I wrong?
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Never Enough Money wrote:

Having more sharpening methods and gadgets than are known to mortal man, I'm inclined to agree with your conclusion about Scary Sharp.
Of course it depends on what you're sharpening and for what use. I prefer a coarse diamond stone for leveling, coarse oil stones for rough shaping of badly nicked up blades, a manual sharpening system for general purpose knives and kitchen knives and a variety of slips and ceramic stones for carving tools. But for general woodworking tools its hard to beat plate glass and abrasive paper.
I don't like power sharpeners because IMHO the cheap ones aren't worth having and I can't afford something like a Tokmek. Same for grinders, and its too easy to overheat the edge besides.
One piece of advice on using sandpaper: Spring for the best wet-or-dry paper you can get and look around for a source of high-quality stuff. Auto supply stores are a good place to start, but you can usually get it cheaper if you go to a mail-order specialist.
If the finish from a 2000 grit paper isn't fine enough for you, then finish off on a leather strop with a very fine grade of abrasive powder such as aluminum oxide.
Also, when considering finishes, remember that waterstone grades don't match conventional grades. a 1000 grit water stone is a lot coarser than 1000 grit sandpaper.
--RC
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Or, better yet, save the abrasive compound for your buffing wheel and use the strop without it.

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CW wrote:

Perhaps 'strop' isn't the right word. But fine abrasive compound on leather keeps a keen edge on tools.
--RC
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Bare leather has been used for many, many years due to its fine abrasive qualities. Adding an abrasive to it is not necessary. If you do that, you might as well just use a stone. There is a place for abrasive on leather but not for plane blades and then should be fallowed up with bare leather to achieve the best possible edge.

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Interesting compilation NEM, and I think you are not* wrong (per your last sentence).
But, here's my scenerio:
I went with SS because I am friggen "poor" and can do nothing about it. I was able to find a slab of flat marble 10x22x3/4" and a slab of glass 18x18x3/4", both for $25 at a local junk shop/yard. Honing guide, Eclipse copy for $12 at a Rockler store, all kinds of local abrasive papers and I am set. Besides I love the area you get compared to stones, and a honing guide takes up too much space on stones. There that older General brand guide that is always on eBay, it's wheel base can stay off of stones. I now have my Stubai set honed to 1200, I love it. I my town super 77 is everywhere in stock and have two old cans from the past that I dug up.
As far as machines there is also the Sears ones. One is like the original Makita of fame, spinning flat and uses water: http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=TOOL&pid921171000&subcatnch+Grinders It seems like a good deal but they do not mention replacement wheels. who else makes 7" wheels in different grits and the right sized arbor hole???
They also have this super cheap alternative to Tormek's upright wheel and no mention of water use or replacement wheels and other grits: http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&vertical=TOOL&pid921170000&subcatnch+Grinders
I am making my own wheel strop for the drill press. The disc is 7 1/2" wide x 2 1/4" thick. Three wood discs glues together, the two lower ones are 3/4" basic ply and the top disc is 3/4" MDF laminated with very thin white linoleum, it's very flat. The leather will be on top of the disc using super 77, and I bought LV's green honing compound bar. I had the arbor threaded and the chuck-end cut to 1/2" from a 5/8" cold roll rod by a local machinist, and bought grade 5 nuts and two different OD sizes of 5/8" washers. It should spin nice and heavy, and slower if I can flip the front pulley.
Because when there's 'never enough money'... there's this specific creek we need to learn to cope with... I am MUCH worse off than you!
Alex
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On Thu, 07 Oct 2004 17:34:36 -0700, AAvK wrote:

I'm trying to picture this. The two ply layers are ballast? The working side is on top? Could you also splice a band of leather around the circumference, to handle some different stropping chores? If you flipped the leather side down, could you bring it down on a plane blade's back (clamped to the DP table)? That would be nice, indeed.
--
"Keep your ass behind you"


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You have some good ideas. All sides can be used indeed! A thick and hard leather for the top for fine honing. A soft leather will create an "out-round" on the bevel which is undesireable.
Leather on the side, let's say two leathers on the side! A split, rough facing and a smooth facing, one above the other, or not. And some split, tough horse butt on the... ahem... bottom. The wheel can be flipped over on the arbor. You thought of that for lapping plane blade backs but I wouldn't clamp the whole disc/wheel to the DP table, because pushing the blade's cutting edge on the leather would not be good for it. My disc will only spin in the chuck so that the leather surface is spinning "away" from the blade's cutting edge. Needs to be a slow spin.
My ass is behind me -and only me! I Swear!
Alex
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I have this hobby(passion) and for the past 25 years I have sought out a quick and yet sharp and durable edge on a hand plane(# 9 1/2). I have a shelf of the "Tried and Failed". Including even some motor driven units. And out of the years it comes to this. The material I am planing is bamboo - which has a high amount of silica(sand) in it. The plant absorbs it as it grows - blown in on the wind - as I suspect other woods and such do. The silica leaves small notches in the edge of the blade. So the system I use(need) is this. Using a Veritas blade holder I first "grind" the notches away with a 300 grit diamond - I then us a 1000 - 6000 grit waterstone for final sharpening. The end result is a system that takes about 10 minutes to sharpen a blade and a blade that is sharp enough to shave away the hair on my wrist. Now if you can imagine having sharpened away 2 Hock blades in that period of time so be it. The insights are still this - diamonds stones clog and eventually wear out. Dish soap and a toothbrush refresh the diamonds as best possible. And . . .Water stones dish out quickly so it is always best to have 2. That way a flat surface can be regained by wearing the 2 dished stones against each other. The guy I really feel sorry for is the one caught up in "The Zen of Sharpening" - I have seen others in my field that can spend hours sharpening - Along with the different levels of stones and gadgets are the chants that are required learning. These are the folks that get really discouraged when the realistics like myself take a blade and in 15 - 30 minutes of planing are back at the sharpening station.
Wayne

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I have picked-up on that too, sharpening fanatacism with some people. You have a good common sense about it that I need to excersize. The most effective sharpening in a short time so I can get back to work.
Alex
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AAvK wrote:

The best system is to strop constantly while you work. Makes the edge last a whole lot longer and makes the work go easier as well.
Or as a guy I know puts it: "I'm a tool sharpener who does a little carving on the side."
--RC
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On Fri, 08 Oct 2004 05:24:50 +0000, Rick Cook wrote:

I run the strop-on-a-block backward across the mounted plane blade. It does seem to give the blade a few more shavings before the wood gets hard again. With chisels, yeah, strop early, strop often.
--
"Keep your ass behind you"


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On Thu, 07 Oct 2004 22:16:11 -0700, AAvK wrote:

There was a post, to which the quote might be a reply, mentioning those who "get into the Zen of sharpening," and then spend too much time at it. This morning an image popped into my head: The Master carefully arranges his stones and blade. He meditates. Then, he takes one stroke on the finest stone. The blade shaves wispy curlies off purpleheart... ;)
--
"Keep your ass behind you"


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On Fri, 08 Oct 2004 08:51:33 -0500, Australopithecus scobis

"A good cook changes his chopper once a year, -- because he cuts. An ordinary cook, one a month, -- because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousand bullocks, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always interstices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such an interstice. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.
"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is difficult to tackle, I am all caution. Fixing my eye on it, I stay my hand, and gently apply my blade, until with a hwah the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper and stand up, and look around, and pause with an air of triumph. Then wiping my chopper, I put it carefully away."
-- Chuang Tzu
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Wayne Cattanach wrote:

I don't know if you're aware of this, but diamond stones cut just as well as last a lot longer when used with minimal pressure against the tool.
You're also quite correct. Bamboo is an interesting material to work. Btw: What are you making that you're using planes on bamboo? Fly rods?
--RC
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In the application I am working on the burr is removed - so stropping is of little gain. The bamboo is so hard that it would "flip" the burr in just a pass or two. And yes - Fly Rods
Wayne Author "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods"

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On Fri, 8 Oct 2004 09:02:19 -0400, "Wayne Cattanach"

Stropping isn't about removing a burr. it's a cushioned burnishing/abrasive process that if done right quickly yields an edge sharp enough to shave with that lasts longer than the edge produced with uncushioned abrasives alone.
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snipped-for-privacy@thanks.com wrote:

It is also easy to renew on chisels and similar tools. Which means you can keep the edge sharper longer. Planes, now. . .
And Wayne, as a certified (or certifiable) bambusita, I've got to ask. What kind (species of bamboo) do you use to make your rods?
--RC
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On Thu, 07 Oct 2004 15:31:50 -0700, Never Enough Money wrote:

I got the LV set of 800 and 4000 stones then later added a 10k stone. I still use SS. There's a learning curve with the waterstones; I still get a shinier back with SiC w/d paper. Stones cut faster than paper, according to various sources. It's nice to have the SS plate handy for touch-ups, then go to the waterstones at the end of the day.
Ace has plastic shoeboxes for a couple of dollars. Such can hold two stones in water, always ready to go. Small, compact, and easily stored.
The Eclipse-style guide puts ditches in stones, and also trenches paper. The General is, according to Lee's Sharpening book, tough to set precise angles. Plan your layout well, and you can keep the roller on your backing plate instead of the paper. Gives you shorter strokes, of course, but saves both the paper's flatness and the roller's roundness. (Yes, my eclipse roller has grown some flat spots.) (I got mine at Menard's for $7-- 8^D )
Use fluid with your paper. I made some homemade stuff based on clues found on the net: some washing soda, some detergent, and water. WD-40 works nicely on paper, too. Anyway, the fluid will help the paper last longer. I use a crepe eraser, the art kind, not the Rockler kind, to scrub the paper. Move the eraser from fine to coarse! (The water based fluid plays well with the eraser.)
You have nice large plates. Get more grits. Smaller steps, I've read, make each step go faster, hence less wear on the paper. I get sheets onesy-twosy on sale, and they last a long time. Norton 3x sheets are very nice. They last much longer for about the same price as regular sheets.
I have a couple of pocket ceramic stones; one I've had for 20 years, the other is new. I discovered that neither is flat. Apparently they need to be freshened on a diamond stone now and then. (Local Woodcraft has some DMT hones on display so one can try one's pocketknife on them. I'm planning to run those ceramic stones over them a couple of passes...) Anyway, the ceramic put the final shine on my SS blades for low cost. (That was before I got the 10k stone... Saved for a while for that one...)
Frugal is good, IMHO. Pamper your sandpaper and get the plane.
--
"Keep your ass behind you"


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This is a great analysis. However, you left off the grinder (slow speed 8", hand crank, belt sander, etc.). And of course, once you have the grinder, then you need a tool rest. That adds to the cost of all the "by hand" methods.
I did basically the same analysis and decided to go with the Veritas Mk II and I'm really happy with it. You don't need to buy extra platters. The system comes with 2 platters and you can use both sides of each platter. Also, one of the grits they say to just use for flattening blades, which I don't seem to be able to do effective on the Mk II, so you can put 0.5 micron paper in it's place and good edge. Given that setup, I get excellent, repeatable results.
Two other things to consider in Mk II price comparison. You don't have to buy a grinder and tool rest. Also, even though Mk II uses abrasives like SS, they last a REALLY long time. I bought an extra set of abrasives when I bought mine at the beginning of the year and I still haven't worn out the first set. For a hobbyist, they last a long time even compared to 3M microabrasives. I think there are three reasons for that: 1. Repeating the same grind is very easy, so you are removing very little metal each time. 2. The coarsest grit is really aggressive, so you don't spend much time messing around on finer grits. 3. There isn't a roller of the blade guide also grinding away at the abrasive. 4. The micro bevel means that at the last stage, you are removing very, very little metal. 5. Centrifugal force tends to keep the abrasive clean.
I would especially recommend Mk II for a beginner trying to get into hand tools. I spent so much time doing the back and forth on sandpaper as I learned to sharpen. It becomes frustrating and I was inclined to use dull tools or tools ground to the wrong bevel. Mk II is really, really fast, so I'm much more likely to stop and sharpen a tool or grind it to the correct angle.
Mark

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