It cannot be overstated how paramount the sharpness of your tools is to the quality, speed and enjoyment of your woodworking. Like most however I can't say sharpening the most enjoyable aspect of the hobby. My tips to make your sharpening easier and less painful are: find a system you like and get good at it, have a dedicated space or have equipment close at hand, and remember small amounts often is easier.
My Set Up
There is lots of great information about the many sharpening systems out there, I won't try to repeat it all. However, I will tell you how I go about sharpening and hope that helps. Here's what I use:
- Shapton Water Stones (impregnated ceramic on glass backing - 220, 500, 1000, 4000, & 8000 grit),
- Stanley Honing Guide (soon to be replaced with a side clamping one and/or the vertas mk II),
- Ubeaut Traditional Wax,
- A bottle of water & a bottle of metho (not shown),
- A kitchen baking tray lined with non-slip matting (secured to the bench by two clamps), and
- Some paper towel.
Sharpening is essentially shaping the metal to form two uniform surfaces converging at an apex. The more uniform the sharper. Here's how I do it.
- Flatten the back - I place the blade's back flat on the stone and moving it in a circular motion moving from 500grit to 4000. The back is the first of the 2 cutting surfaces that will meet at an apex.
- Establish the primary bevel - using the honing guide (at 25 degrees) and the 220grit stone I grind the primary bevel (this is not a cutting surface.)
- Establish the secondary bevel - using the honing guide (at 30 degrees) I use stones 500 to 8000 to produce a polished steeper bevel forming the second cutting surface.
- Flatten the back - repeating the flattening step at 4000 removes the burr formed by grinding the secondary bevel, this angle can be increased by using a small ruler to create a secondary back bevel.
- Cleaning - I use paper towel to wipe the slurry from the blade (formed by the stone, water lubricant and metal grindings), I use metho to clean and dry the metal, and wax to protect the blade from rust and lubricate the base of the plane.
- Ron Hock's Sharpening Blog
- Derek Cohen's In the Woodshop
- Tom Fiddigan's Dedicated Sharpening Bench
- Stuart Lee's review of the Tormek System
- Lie Nielsen's You Tube Channel