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Chisels come from the manufacturer needing preparing or initialising as well sharpening. How do you check they are flat and get them sharp? Paul shows you the process he follows. This gets them to the level we need for crisp and accurate work.
Is it me or are old videos being re-released? Its dated 16 jan 2017 but I’m sure I’ve seen it before..
There’s a video on YouTube where Paul sharpens a chisel on wet & dry with plate glass. That could be it? We wanted to make sure that the standard chisel sharpening technique was represented on the site. It’s a gap that’s been present in the Tools & Technique section for a little while and one we’ve been very keen to fill.
I believe it seems familiar because the technique is the same. This video appears to me to be a much abbreviated version of the first one I watched some time ago. Never hurts to revisit or refresh.
About 6 minutes from the package to a working tool. Leave it to Paul to get straight to the point. He’d be half way through a project before most are just putting away their Tormek
Paul and crew
Thank you for the video. You folks have made my skill level grow considerably. I would like to see a video on how to initialize a gouge. Thank you once again.
Mark, I’ve been wondering why that blank spot was there. Y’all must have worked on that site a while back cause it hasn’t always been there. I think y’all took some of the older stuff and put it on YouTube or something.
One thing about this video though is now I just got confused. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything because I don’t want to get anyone else confused or wound up over nothing. If this video was put on YouTube then for sure I could understand but on this site I could have sworn that Paul taught us to sharpen our chisels at 30 degrees at the cutting edge and 20 deg. At the heel with the Macro camber. Those chisels don’t come stock at 30 deg. Do they? And then the second part it the back. A few sharpens and then he’s past the flat spot on the back he created right. So he will then go back and creat another flat section at that time. Or ? . I’m just trying to square all this right inside my noggin. It’s already messed up enough as it stands now. Lol. Thanks
Hello Christopher, good questions.
Those chisels usually do come with a 30 degree bevel, or sometimes 25. If you start at 30 at the edge, the natural action of your arm drops you to 20-25 at the heel. Paul often suggest working a bit more at the heel to help prevent people lifting up to far and getting a steeper bevel. ‘Constant maintenance mode’!
Re the back, Paul has flattened around the first 3mm of the edge, which you wouldn’t get near for quite a while with hand sharpening methods. So he would have to flatten it further then. Or you can of course take it further back.
Hope that clarifies things.
Thanks WWMC Team for refreshing the topic!
It’s new. Paul has a scab on his head that he got recently.
Thanks Paul. Recently I’ve been sharpening without a guide using your system as seeing you do it has given me confidence. I don’t think I can really screw anything up. When I look at the sharpened edge, it looks a bit like I’ve got some very minor facets from minor angle sharpening. Is this a normal thing for a beginner? I’m guessing yes. Chisel seems sharp.
When I mean facets, I mean going back towards the handle. Not left or right. The facet runs the entire width of the blade.
That is very normal, particularly with a new chisel that has yet to develop a macro camber. It can be due to adjusting the angle as you sharpen, short sharpening strokes so not getting the whole surface in the extension of your arms. But if the chisel is sharp and works well, it’s not a concern.
Hello Phil: I notice that Paul sharpens his chisless in a way that he ends up actually sharpening with a slight pivoting as he draws the chisel on the backstroke. This method causes a slight rounding of the chisel blade back face?
16th of January 2017, not 17th of January 2016 😉
I think, this is one of Pauls “don’t worry, just do it” videos, that I like so much. No background information, just exactly, what you need to get started, when you have never ever in your life sharpened a chisel yet. Any refinement can be learned later. I whish, I had known that little, when I sharpened my first chisels. It would have saved me a lot of time.
yea for me about two years worth. lol
I’m sorry for this comment Paul but I couldn’t resist a good laugh.
Thank you for sharing this new video. I think it is the third one explaining how to set a chisel ready to work but I would like to watch a video showing how to fix a chisel or an iron plane with a dent on it.
Should it be fixed using a grinder or just by using the same technique as shown here on a course diamond plate until we get rid of it?
Do you mean in the cutting edge? If it is fairly small I would go to some coarse wet and dry to get it down, then to the diamond stones. If it is bad, it is often worth going to the grinder, as long as you are careful to quench and not overheat the edge.
Not being near to a shop that sells the green block for the final sharpening, I was shown the same result that can be obtained with ‘Autosol metal polish’ which can be bought at any motor car accessory shop. Just tack a piece of leather to a piece of timber and treat it as per the green block so that you can see your face in it!.
Hi there from Portugal,
Thanks For another great video,
I use that type of stones and chisels but I can only free hand the large(18mm and 14mm) the other I always get a skew in the from bevel.
Is this normal in the begins? ( Maybe next time can Master Paul teach us with a slim chisels.
*large(18mm and 24mm)
You are likely applying pressure to one side more than the other. That is very normal as you tend to favour your dominant hand. You can use a guide to help get you back on track, but the best thing is to move the fingers of your left or non dominant hand which is applying more downward pressure to the side where you want to take more off. You can keep an eye on whether it is being corrected using a square and by seeing how much of a burr is being formed on the side that you want to remove more stock.
it is also worth looking at body position. Paul keeps his shoulder square to the bench, with his iron/chisel in line with his right hand and arm. This hand controls the angle at the cutting edge with the index finger on the iron. The left hand then comes in at a right angle and applies more downward pressure. That is a good starting point.
I will try it Obrigado(Thanks)
Did you manage to get it right? To me it’s also always happening… maybe it’s because I’m a beginner.
Thank you Paul for your great videos! Most of the time I watch them to learn new techniques since I am just a beginner,but sometimes I watch them just to relax. You have a confident way about you without any bragging or hoopla. I have been given an old barbers strop but wonder where I can get some of that green charging material, I think you called it chromium oxide. Many thanks, Jim from Seattle
Google for honing compound. Also most woodworking stores should carry it.
Woodcraft.com has two different sizes of the Formax green Aluminum/ chromonium oxide honing compound. I bought the large bar four years ago and I’m positive that bar will last me a lifetime. It’s .5 micron so that’s some pretty fine abrasive particles.
Always enjoy a craftsman putting a nice edge on a tool. I know he said his stones were flat but he didn’t tell us what type of stone he uses. Does he use more than one set of stone and what are the 3 different grits. Nice job. I love to hear his voice. It is always so clear.
For sharpening stones, we use 3″ x 8″ stones in 250 (coarse), 600 (fine) and 1200 (superfine) grit. We get them from Eze-Lap. More info here:
I am new to handtools, and have some success with Paul’s method. But things are not quite perfect. I have a 15 year old set of blue handled Marple chisels. I had trouble with them when I used a veritas honing guide since the edge seemed to crumble and chip quickly. Using Paul’s method I got a decent edge quickly, and the edge no longer crumbles, perhaps because of the camber. But the edge still blunts quickly. Just a few cuts even in pine and I need a few strokes on the strop. After the strop I can cut paper and shave hair on my arm if I want to impress someone, but when cutting wood for a few moments, the wood quickly begins to “resist” the chisel and I have to strop again, and again. Is this just bad steel? Or have I done something wrong? Thanks for any advice!
@Sanford, assuming these are good Marples, you may actually have to acute an angle. If it gets under 25 deg. you start breaking real fast much over 30 degs and while it can take a beating it does not cut like you want for joinery.
Any one remember what the grit is on Paul’s “coarse” hone? He always brings a bur up very fast on it.
@ehisey 500 I think and he uses diamond coated steel plates, DMT I think. With alot of pressure they cut quickly. They are definitely worth the money. But I use a Japanese water stone for my polishing at 6000.
@sanford if I have to resharpen often, its because I accidentally put a micro camber on my blade. It will be technically sharp but the geometry is off so it feels like there is more resistance then there should be.
I think that is why Paul always says “Good and sharp.” Good referring to the shape of the edge. Try getting a consistent and flat reflection coming from the edge into the macro camber.
Thanks ehisey and Ivan. I checked my chisels and it seems that hand sharpening a fair number of times changed the angle a good bit. Maybe well over 30 degrees. And I think that Ivan is right that there is a micro bevel. After I had sharpened a number of times, I was have difficulty raising a burr even on the coarse diamond stone and probably kept raising the angle of the chisel till I got one, That changed the angle and, I guess, put a micro bevel on it. I suppose I have to grind it down to a proper bevel and start over again. I guess this is a good reason for beginners to use inexpensive chisels — it is not a big deal if we waste a lot of steel practicing!
Good morning al
l I use EZE-LAP Diamond Plates. Coarse (250 grit), medium (800 grit), fine (1200 grit). I think this is what Paul uses. I got the green buffing compound from Ebay.
Hope this helps.
Thank you Peter George and Peter Kirby for your quick replies about the green honing compound!!! I will never need a mirror again! Ha,ha
Hi Phil. Thank you so much for answer the various questions above. I found it really helpful. You answered the one question I had but some of the other questions were also issues I’ve encountered. It made me think that what could potentially be helpful on these technique videos is for you or Paul maybe to address the top 5 (or more) issues that you commonly see students encounter (as exemplified by the questions above). Paul does touch on this to some extent in his videos. I would find it helpful that if not only do I get to see the technique but then hear what are the common beginner problems are and how they are solved. Just a thought.
The Q&A youtube videos as well as the Q&A for the rocking chair were also very helpful.
Thank you for your suggestion. Will mention it to Paul and take it into consideration.
Thank you for the video. What is Paul spraying on the diamond stones? Is it just water?
glass cleaner (not Windex). I think that is equivalent to a diluted solution of ammonia (though I certainly don’t know the ratios).
I’m recalling Paul says it is like Windex somewhere. “Not the type of cleaner that foams on the glass”
I have watched a different video from Paul Sellers on how to get a brand new set of chisels ready for work with plate glass and wet/dry sandpaper. I am prepared to purchase the stones needed for the sharpening. I’m just wondering if the stone will work as well for the right out of the box prep that is needed for getting the chisels ready. Thank you very much.
@Joshua, I have Waterstone’s a 1000k and 3k grit Naniwa. I used this to prep my Stanley Chisel it works too, but not as fast as Diamond Stone.
the diamond plates work a treat straight out of the box as long as they are decent quality.
There’s no more efficient method for preparing or sharpening edge tools.
The’re well worth the initial outlay as they will last for many years if looked after.
Coarse, fine and super fine work well as successive grades and are what i have. (8″ x3″)
I’m thinking of getting a medium one as the jump from coarse to fine when flattening blades takes a bit of rubbing to eliminate the scratches from the coarse plate.
Paper on glass works but is much more laborious.
one thing to bear in mind is the diamond plates loose a little of their cut with use once “broken in” but still work very well.
hope this helps.
i have tried most systems except water stones which seem a lot of messing to me.
diamonds are best.
Thank you very much for the response. I just ordered a set of diamond stones of what seem to be about middle of the road quality based on the reviews I have read.
To save money, I originally went with sandpaper on glass for coarse and medium, and a combination fine/superfine water stone. Wore out at least $40 in sandpaper just to prep three plane irons (one arrived with a very severe skew) and seven dinged-up chisels. Just finished a couple of hours on the water stones — what a mess! Water here, water there, water everywhere. Filthy water, too, darkly stained with grit from the stones and metal sludge. Now I need to flatten the stones, using a $30 stone that will later need flattening itself.
It seems to me that sandpaper on plate glass (1/4″) is initially the least expensive method, but the cost in sandpaper will soon add up to more than oil, water or diamond stones. The water stones are less expensive than diamond plates, but an absolute mess to work with. And, I suspect, replacing worn-out water stones will eventually end up costing as much as diamond plates.
The good news is that my wife has told me to go ahead and get the diamond plates. Doing a little research, I found one place selling the 8×3 DMT plates for $56 each, and another at $84 each for the same plates! So it pays to shop around.
Also, after a lot of time studying sharpening on various websites and YouTube videos, Paul Sellers is the only one who explains what we’re actually doing during sharpening. I now know what to look for, regardless of method. As a result, I finally got sharp tools. Thank you, Paul and Co.
In march Will take a coarse with Paul. So I’m try already to get my sharpening up this month and try some planing/joining.
But have some issues with sharpening:
– never seem to get a complete shining backface. What am i missing?
The bevel of chisel/plane/ curved part of back iron I get really shiny and smooth but not the back face?
Work for more as half hour and not much is going on, sometimes seems i even make it worse?
– I use the diamond plates. Maybe it’s the glass cleaner I use?
– what pen is used to make the black markings to check where are the high and low spots of the backface?
– why is the backface polished on a piece of wood and not on the strop?
Hope someone can give me some hints. Fiddled for more as an hour on setting up my Stanley 4 and to my idea the plane functions less as before I started 🙁
You only need to get the first few mill of the flat face flat, but going a bit further means you won’t have to do it again for a while.
Paul usually uses a sharpie, but any permanent marker will work.
We use the wood rather than the strop as the wood is flat, whereas the leather on the other side tends to round the edges of the chisel.
Hope that helps,
thanks i tried it for several hours more.
finally got 1 chisel shining. but not sure what goes wrong when it’s not mirror like finish.
used a sharpie and i see the iron coming off, but at Super Fine should it already be shiny like a mirror or is that for the last step on the wood/strop.
(read somewhere that it’s possible that i’m using to my buffing compound, maybe that is what i’m doing wrong…)
I did some more research, and is it possible i put too much pressure on the diamond plates?
That is something i read:
“When compared with conventional sharpening stones, all DMT products work faster and sharpen quickly using light pressure and rest assured that your DMT stone remains flat!”
” With diamond stones it is important to not press down firmly when sharpening. Let the diamond do the work.”
i always assumed Paul put his whole upper body strenght into it? Or is that just with the strop? Hope i haven’t ruined my diamond plates 🙂
The mirror shine comes from the buffing compound on the flat wood surface.
Thanks Phil more practice gave me a mirror finish.
I assume if you can see yourself than it’s ok?
It’s not like a real mirror and if I look close you can still see lot’s of stripes on the metal.
really looking forward to the 31th and check the chisels you have in your workspace!
I believe Paul says that he uses a simply glass cleaner as a lapping fluid. From what I can see it is a UK product that I can not find the ingredients.
Is there a comparable product in the US? Is it alcohol based? does it contain ammonia?
Also is there concern for rust forming on the diamond stones?
I use water with my diamond stones and have to be diligent about drying my stone when finished.
The fluid Paul refers to is automotive windshield washer fluid, which contains Methanol and sometimes Ethylene Glycol.
Both are poison for people and animals, and Ethylene Gycol tastes sweet, so keep it away from kids and pets.
It is Not glass cleaner like windex. To quote:
“Which glass cleaner do you use?
The glass cleaner that we use is auto glass cleaner rather than house window cleaner. The reason we use this is that it has non corrosive properties to stop the stones rusting as well as staying on the stones a bit longer than water. This helps to float off the swarf better which is another purpose of lapping fluid. Window cleaner has soap and fragrance in it which we don’t really want as well as, in our experience, causing or at least not stopping the stones from rusting. You can just use water, but we feel there are enough advantages to using glass wash.
You can also use a water additive that makes the water non-corrosive.”
My fluid of choice for both diamond and “oil” stones has been simple green cut with some water, and I find it keeps the stones free of scarf and glazing.
You should in any case wipe the stones down with a paper towel when you are done. I don’t get rust and a couple diamond plates I acquired used are in better shape than when I got them.
Paul has given confusing descriptions. I’ve been in his class…it isn’t windshield fluid (that comes in gallon jugs). It is just spray window cleaner, but non-ammonia.
Yes, it is confusing, since he specifically says auto glass cleaner and NOT WINDOW CLEANER.
“The glass cleaner that we use is auto glass cleaner rather than house window cleaner. The reason we use this is that it has non corrosive properties to stop the stones rusting as well as staying on the stones a bit longer than water. This helps to float off the swarf better which is another purpose of lapping fluid. Window cleaner has soap and fragrance in it which we don’t really want as well as, in our experience, causing or at least not stopping the stones from rusting. You can just use water, but we feel there are enough advantages to using glass wash.“
Yeah, I know, I know. He deals with about a billion messages a day and sometimes being off by a word or two makes a big difference. I think this is one of those times.
It would be helpful if he just posted a photo of one or two of the products he uses. We can then look up equivalents.
But, honestly, I doubt any of this matters and suspect all are fine. I wouldn’t use the windshield fluid (with glycol) because of the chance of a pet or kid getting into it.
Ed is right, it isn’t windshield fluid. The one that we use is this one. Anything similar should be fine. But you can just use water and make sure to dry the stones to avoid rust.
Simple green, btw, uses 5% ethoxilated alcohol ( a surfractant often used with laundry products) and 5% sodium citrate as the main ingredients, with 1% citric acid and other trace substances.
Hey everybody, thanks for all the input. Arrived on the job a little early today so had some time to do a little more research. Below you can find a link to the product I believe is used in the videos. The page also has a downloadable ingredient list to help find comparable products.
Thanks again for all the replies!
I bought a beautiful 8-piece set of old Swedish Eskilstuna chisels on a flea market. Trying to restore them now but four of them have a big belly on the back. By looking at the handles it looks like somebody hit them very hard with a big hammer which made the chisels to bend… Just a guess.
Is there a way to restore a chisel with a serious belly? How?
I guess it wouldn’t be preferable to grind 1-2mm off the chisel back? Should I try to heat them up and bend them?
How about grinding one inch straight and leave the rest of the belly?
Thanks Paul and team. I have three DMT 8 x 3 plates, coarse, medium and extra fine. I bought them after burning through about £20 worth of wet and dry in a week, and thinking I may as well spend my cash on diamond plates early instead of waiting until I had blown enough money to buy them on wet and dry paper. I started using tap water on them, but found they quickly started to rust. So I bought a cheap spray bottle of auto windscreen cleaner from B&Q and used that instead. I also washed the stones on hot soapy water and scrubbed them with a really stiff brush, this got most of the rust off, but I also used a rubber/eraser over each of the plates and that got all of the rust and grime off. The auto glass spray cleaner works way better than tap water and my plates have not rusted again since I swapped. The swarf floats away better than it did with water. I’m definitely going to keep using it. lastly, I was going to make a plate holder as suggested by Paul, I even went as far as cutting a piece of ply to size, but the plates are so heavy that with the little rubber pads stuck to the bottom, they don’t move at all when sharpening. So now I just keep them loose on the ply, I like the ply for protecting my bench from the mess, and it makes it easier to move my plates, strop, etc around, but I like to be able to move them to sharpen long ways at the edge of my bench when i’m sharpening my router plane blades/bits/irons/whatever. Thanks again.
I have got three of my old boxwood Marples bevel edged chisels with significant bellies, rather a bow on the full length, 1/4″, 5/8″ and 3/4″. It seems quite impossible to flatten these. I have been trying to flatten them with sand paper on glass, but I don’t think I made any progress with them after hours of lapping. It seems to me that since the bow runs along the full length it is not possible to find an anchoring point so to speak and the bow remains.
I read somewhere that it could be possible to heat them and bend them the other way, although this is not without risk of them braking. In any case, I have no furnace that is able to develop that sort of temperature. I might have to wait till winter to try it at my mother’s fire oven.
Is there anything else I could try? Please give me some suggestion, perhaps there is some lapping technique that can work in this case. Did you have any good experience with flattening bowed chisels?
I have also found a lot of old chisels are bellied. And I also found flattening with sand paper to flat surface can end with a rounded edge. I therefore came with this solution: I grind with coarse paper on a flat surface only the portion that is bellied (not up to the chisel edge), thus purposely creating a hollow. Then when I flatten the chisel back on the stone, it will hit on the edge and at the back.
You want the chisel edge flat enough that you can easily and properly remove the burr on the stone.
That’s my 2 cents if it helps,
The problem with trying to flatten these chisels is that when you rub them on the abrasive you have to apply pressure, and this pressure in actual fact will flatten the chisel according to the amount of resistance there is. Is there a reason you want perfectly flat chisels? Because 98% of tasks with chisels do not rely on the flat face. I understand that there are times when you might want that perfect flatness but I think most of my chisels are not flat either and I have no issue with them.
How far from the edge have you managed to flatten so far?
“Significant belly” is a subjective description. Show a picture of the chisels against a straight edge, or measure with feeler gauges.
The purpose of flattening is so you can raise an even burr when you work on the bevel side. If the chisel is “ reasonably flat” it need not be “ perfectly” so as long as you have been able to get the edge area flat.
Of course, if the chisels are so bad you can’t point them at your work, maybe they are a lost cause. In that case I’d take drastic measures and give them a good whack on an anvil. You don’t have much to loose. If they were tempered soft enough to bend in the first place, they might bend back. I wouldn’t try heating them unless you are a blacksmith and know what sort of quenching and tempering Marples steel needs. ( water? Oil? Air?). Your chances are high of doing more harm than good.
Thank you very much for the answers. I managed to flatten the last 1/2 inch, so it will hopefully be fine.