Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't Be Fooled By The Rocks That I Got

The world needs more sharpening info and especially from me like it needs more dovetail cutting advice, so I'm going to try to keep it brief here today. Still, if you are reading this then you probably
  • Have already read Schwarz's "Sharpen this"  notes
  • Know that I'm cheap and like to come up with my own things. so here's my story.
For many years I struggled in ignorance, not realizing what "sharp" really was and using (with varying degrees of success) the Scary Sharp® method to make things less dull. When I took my first class at the WoodWright school several years ago, I had a light bulb moment and realized what the target was, and it was time to put in some investment in water stones and a honing guide. So I went to the local store and got (links are for reference only, I get no benefit):

Now I was able to get to sharp, but I found that the mess involved with soaking made me delay. Not only that, but I failed to realize just how sensitive to flatness and out of it they get. I ended up chasing my tail a few times thinking that the stone was "flat enough." All-in-all, while water stones are great and work for most of the worlds best woodworkers, it just didn't seem to really fit me well. For some time I had been considering switching over to diamond stones, but had thought it would be a fairly large investment to switch over and just slogged along, sharpening only when every chisel and/or plane was dull and basically making it a big to-do that I dreaded.

Then a while back, I was listening to the Dusty Life Podcast and Brian mentioned a project he had for DIY'ing some diamond wheels to his Work Sharp 3000. I thought this was intriguing. (I'd never heard of these diamond stone lapping disks) and I went to look at this system that before I had only considered a Scary Sharp® enabler. Surprisingly I couldn't find anyone that really spoke poorly of this system, but I could see the grit change over as a slight impediment to implementation in my shop.

Then I had a "brilliant" idea. I could take a mostly unused midi-lathe and make a spindle that would mount all 4 proposed grits simultaneously. With a bit of gizmotastic jig design, I'd have my ideal setup. so I decided I'd go ahead and buy:

I figured if 6" disks were good 8" would be even better for just a couple more bucks and would still fit in my lathe fine. I mounted these to some MDF circles and tried briefly to get this to work on the lathe, but I abandoned this idea because:

  1. It was going to take some effort to get dialed in, so I had to put that project on the back burner.
  2. I needed to quickly sharpen something, and in the process I discovered an interim solution that makes an adequate permanent solution.

I used my honing guide as normal (this "slow down" doesn't bother me and I like the consistency YMMV), but instead of lugging out the water stone, I tried these lapping plates (on some flat substrate like MDF, glass, granite) they cut incredibly fast and I was back to work. Based on a tip from Shannon, I use Original Windex (ammonia based) to clean up the swarf without rusting the diamond plates, a couple of spritzes and all was sharp and cleaned up again in no time.

I've been using this setup for maybe 6 months and I am impressed mostly by how quick these diamonds plus stropping with green compound can get me to sharp, but also just how affordable this setup is. I figure you can get rolling for <$65 total. At first, I thought that the disk shape would be a problem, it's not. The 8" diameter means there is a lots more "stone" surface area than normal. I'm sure it's not the ultimate sharpening setup, but it gets the job done fine.

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