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How to sharpen chisels
One day I was using my chisel on a piece of lumber and I realized I was using way too much force. In fact, I found myself moon walking across my workshop every time I made a cut. After a little research, I made the unfortunate discovery that I was not meant to be the next Michael Jackson – but that my chisels we’re extremely dull and in dire need of a good sharpening.
But then came my next question… What is the best way to sharpen chisels?
The best way to sharpen your chisel
There are several different ways to sharpen your chisel. The most affordable option is sandpaper. While a piece of sandpaper will do the job, don’t be surprised if it wears out after a few uses. The best option is a bench grinder with a 120-grit wheel, as it will make sharpening quick and easy – and you won’t find yourself buying sandpaper over and over again.
Why it’s important to keep your chisel sharp
Similar to keeping a knife sharp for cutting steaks (or stabbing your crazy mother-in-law) – chisels are no different. Obviously, chisels must make cuts into very dense materials. Without a flat bottom and sharp bevel, your chisel simply won’t do its job. Or, perhaps it will, but it will be a lot harder and much more frustrating. Furthermore, a dull chisel is an unsafe chisel. You might find yourself pushing so hard that you slip and stab yourself in the hand. Trust me, that’s the last thing you want to experience on your otherwise peaceful Friday night.
Chisel sharpening will ensure your tool is performing at its full capacity. Overall, woodworking will be a much more enjoyable experience and make your work run a lot smoother. Like any tool, keeping up with the maintenance is necessary to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
How to flatten your chisel
When you first get your chisel, you may notice the back isn’t flat. Or, it may look flat and it’s really not. The reason why it’s so important to ensure the back of your chisel is flat is because it won’t perform consistently when making cuts. Therefore, you must not only sharpen your chisels, but ensure the back is flat when you first purchase it.
The best way to flatten your chisel is with a diamond stone. This will be a one-time purchase and you will be able to flatten every chisel you purchase thereon.
Once you have your diamond stone, take your chisel and run it across the diamond stone in a forward and back motion. This will ensure consistency and flatten your chisel the best way possible.
Now, your chisel should be nice and flat, and ready to be sharpened.
Top 3 ways to sharpen your chisel
So, now that you know why it’s important to keep your chisels sharp and how to flatten your chisels, let’s go over some of the best ways to sharpen chisels.
So, sandpaper isn’t the best way to sharpen chisels. However, it is one of the most commonly used methods. Why? Well, because it’s cheap. On top of that, most people have sandpaper lying around their house or workshop.
Keep in mind, sandpaper isn’t going to last long. After just a couple uses, you’ll find yourself having to go back to the store to buy more. In the end, you may end up spending more money on sandpaper had you would if you simply went with a more long-term solution.
In order to sharpen your chisel using sandpaper, first you should place 1000-grit sandpaper on a flat surface. Ensure your sandpaper isn’t going to slide by clamping it down or putting something heavy on top of it. You will first want to sharpen the end (if necessary). To do this, hold your chisel directly above the sandpaper facing down so the edge is flat against the sandpaper. From there, move it back and forth across the sandpaper. After a few good seconds of sanding, check the tip and ensure it is nice and flat.
Now that the edge of your chisel is square, you will need to sharpen the bevel. Place the bevel of the chisel on the sandpaper and ensure it’s flat. Rather than doing a back-and-forth motion, you’ll want to be a bit gentler when sanding the bevel. Sand only in one direction to avoid any inconsistencies. Once you’ve sanded the bevel, you’re good to go. Ensure everything is flat and you’re ready to start cutting into your first piece of wood!
A grinder is the best tool for chisel sharpening. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll be confident your chisel is properly maintained. While a bench grinder will get the job done, you may end up spending a couple hundred dollars on one. However, you can get this bench grinder on for a decent price.
Once you have your grinder with a 120-grit wheel, turn it on and get your chisel ready. Place the bevel flat against the grinder as it is rotating. It should work pretty fast, so check your chisel after a few seconds and ensure your bevel looks good and the end of the chisel is still flat.
Chisel Sharpening Stone
After grinding, it’s a good idea to use the diamond stone you used for flattening the back of the chisel. Keep in mind, it’s an option to solely use a diamond stone for both flattening and sharpening. However, using a grinder and diamond stone will be your best option as the grinder will help shape the bevel, and the diamond stone will finish the process by sharpening the chisel to full capacity.
To use your diamond stone, simply spray it with water and place the bevel flat against the stone. From this point, you are essentially doing the same process you would for sanding the bevel. Move the bevel over the diamond stone in one direction 5-10 times. The diamond stone works quickly, so make sure your bevel is flat against it at all times and don’t go too fast. After 5 repetitions, check your chisel and make sure it’s sharp. You may want to repeat this process once more but don’t do overboard.
Awesome – you’re good to go! But, wait. How often should I sharpen?
How often should you sharpen your chisel?
This will depend on various factors such as how often you use your chisels, what type of work you’re doing, and how rough you are on your chisels. Therefore, when trying to determine how often you should sharpen your chisels – there’s no single answer that will apply to everyone.
It’s a good idea to sharpen your chisel right out of the box. It’s also important that you flatten the back of the chisel immediately. After using your chisel for a while, you will likely notice when it starts to dull. You may find yourself using extra force or your blade not cutting the wood consistently.
If you want to test your chisel to ensure it’s sharp, take your chisel and lightly push it into your fingernail. It shouldn’t take too much force to start to cut into your fingernail. Another common way to test your chisel is by using it on your arm hair. It should be able to cut your arm hair with ease.
However, if you ever experience a dull chisel, you’ll quickly realize it. As long is your chisel is slicing away wood with ease, you should be in good shape.
Chisel sharpening may seem like an unnecessary task. However, it’ll make a huge difference on the quality of your work and ease the process of doing it. Having a dull chisel is not only unsafe and annoying to use, you could be limiting the life of your tool. Chisels are like any other tool – you must maintain them and take good care of them.
Like anything in the woodworking industry, practice is key. You may be unsure the first time you sharpen your chisels. However, you’ll quickly develop a routine and you’ll even look forward to sharpening your chisels – knowing it’ll help you work more efficiently.
Hopefully this article provided a little more insight on chisel sharpening and the best way to sharpen a chisel. Stay sharp, and as always – Happy Woodworking!