Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sharpening with Sandpaper

I have said elsewhere that sharpening on sandpaper is the cheapest way to start sharpening, and the most expensive way to continue. That's because you can scrounge up what you need to make a razor-sharp edge on a chisel or plane iron for well under $20. But then the sandpaper wears out pretty quickly, and it retails for around a dollar a sheet. Even if you find it for 50 cents a sheet in bulk, compare that to a $30 water stone that lasts for a couple of decades, and you'll see what I'm saying.

So why bother? Like I said, it's the cheapest way to get going, and you can spend just a little bit to get sharp tools for your first few projects, and then invest in more permanent equipment later on. The cheap honing guide I recommend for beginners will work on water stones or diamond plates as well. And even though I own a set of great water stones, I still use sandpaper when I'm out on an installation and don't want the mess, or the risk of theft or breakage, that go along with using water stones outside my own shop. And wet or dry sandpaper is good for flattening water stones. So when you get additional sharpening gear later on, you don't have to fret about wasting money on sandpaper sharpening.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sharpening: Extra Coarse

I learned this trick from Mark Duginske a couple of years ago: drywall mesh is great for flattening plane soles. It's also great for flattening water stones. So I wondered to myself: would it also be good as the very coarsest sandpaper in the “Scary Sharp” method? Turns out the answer is “kinda, sorta.”

I'll backtrack a little in case any of this is new to you. Here's a picture of drywall mesh:

You can find it in the big box home stores in the same area as the drywall tools, tape, and joint compound. It is coarse, and the mesh structure lets sanding dust (or iron filings) fall through so the mesh can keep cutting. In drywalling, it's used after you've taped and mudded, to quickly get the surface ready for paint. As you can see from the photo, it's die cut into a tabbed shape to fit a special holder with a handle.