A couple of nights ago I was out in the shop going about my normal business when a thought occurred to me. I’ve been working wood for the better part of four years now and I still suck at sharpening. Let me rephrase that; I made myself suck at sharpening.
I know that it takes a sharp edge to make a cutting tool effectively work. I know this. Yet time and time again I will push my blades beyond dull and make myself work harder. Why? Because I don’t want to take apart my tool, lug it across the room and spend what little time I have in the shop doing something that frustrates me more than when someone says fustrates.
My evolution through sharpening started with the scary sharp method and progressed through water stones and then ceramic (sort of). I loved the scary sharp method but I felt like I was always buying sheets and wanted something a little more lasting. Since my highest grit was 2000 I opted for the 4000/8000 Norton water stone. Here is where I went wrong. I used my stone without making sure it was flat. Yes, rookie mistake but at the time I was (and still am but just a little bit less now) a rookie.
I let it soak, sharpen via scary sharp and took it to the stone. Meh… I felt the sandpaper did a better job. I didn’t toss it in the drawer for the next year and a half just yet but it’s fate was already sealed and I felt that $80 went down the drain.
Later in life I saw some ceramic stones on TFWW that were on clearance. I purchased the 220 and 400 grits so I could regrind the primary bevels on some blades. It was around this time that I brought back out my Norton for a second chance at life. I hadn’t reground any bevels yet but I did start using my Norton more often as I let my sandpaper supply run out. Still hadn’t done any maintenance to the stone yet either and was still getting sub par results. Go figure right?
It was about a month ago that I finally decided enough was enough. My blades seemed to be getting dull faster no matter how much time I spent sharping. I had to get a better set up but I didn’t want to spend any more money on equipment. I let the gears in my head turn and when I smelled smoke I knew what to do. I stuck a piece of 220 grit to my granite plate and took my stones to town. Yes, it would seem it was that easy. I went to what I thought was enough which was until it seemed I rubbed all the grit off but when I took a blade to it I saw there was still a hollow in the center. Curse you Perry the Platypus.
My great epiphany came the other night. I should use my 220 grit ceramic stone as a flattening stone! This time I made sure to flatten it before I took anything across the surface. After about a minute or two on the Norton, it would seem all was well. I took a blade across the stones and after a few dozen strokes… no burr? What the??
In my quest of laziness I created a hump on my blades from the hollow of the stone. Even though I thought I used my stone evenly, that was not the case. Remember my original purpose of the ceramic stones? Time to regrind some primary bevels! I want to keep the 220 for flattening so after making sure the 400 was good I took a few blades I noticed needing the attention and brought them back flat.
Lesson learned boys and girls. Sometimes it seems to be in our nature to make things more difficult on ourselves for no apparent reason. Sometimes it’s ignorance, sometimes refusal to listen to logic or even turning an eye to something that is staring you in the face. I don’t enjoy working harder that I have to but sometime it sure looks like I do. Surely I can’t be the only one though?