Instructables

How to sharpen your woodworking tools with sandpaper

Picture of How to sharpen your woodworking tools with sandpaper
I was skeptical when I first heard about the sandpaper method. How could it produce a decent edge on my chisels and plane blades?

 I'm now sold on the method, but will not claim it is the "best" method, that will be up to your evaluation. However, it is a method you should consider, along with water stones, ceramic stones, oil stones, and diamond stones.



 
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Step 1: Why sandpaper?

Picture of Why sandpaper?
Few subjects in woodworking are as contentious as the best method for sharpening tools.

One excellent method  using water stones is already published in Instructables: http://www.instructables.com/id/Tool-Tip-How-to-Sharpen-a-Chisel/

So why consider another method, and why would you consider using a piece of crude sandpaper on your precious woodworking chisels and plane iron?

Here is the main reason: cost. Cost of good water stones is $100 and up each (you should have several of various grits). And sandpaper? Less than $2 per sheet. This is not a fair comparison, however. A water stone will last years; you will have to buy many pieces of sandpaper and replace as they wear out. But bottom line is that the sandpaper method is a lot cheaper.
Second reason: Simplicity. The sandpaper method is pretty easy.
Third reason: For most of us the sandpaper method, if done carefully, will produce the sharpest cutting edges we have ever experienced.
JeffreyO3 months ago

The idea of creating MDF sharpening `stones' interests me, since I don't really have the space for a permanent sharpening station, but when you wet the paper on the MDF does this not cause it to deform due to swelling etc? Do you have a method of sealing it that prevents this? Thanks again for these clearly written instructions.

Bill WW (author)  JeffreyO3 months ago

Thanks for looking.

I do not wet the paper on the MDF, I just use the sandpaper dry.

I now use a "honed marble" tile bought at Lowes or Home Depot in their flooring dept. They are the right size, perfectly flat, and cheap. So if you want to use water, this would work for you.

To hold the tile from moving, I use the non-skid shelf liner available at the dollar stores.

Bill WW (author) 3 months ago

Thanks for your comments!

The glass bathroom shelf is a good idea, it is the right shape and is thick. I now use a "honed marble" tile bought at Lowes or Home Depot in their flooring dept. They are also the right size, perfectly flat, and cheap.

To hold the tile from moving, I use the non-skid shelf liner available at the dollar stores.

I'm on the other side of the country from you, but welding is one skill I still have to learn. Now learning to use a lathe.

LynxSys3 months ago

This is a well-written and thorough Instructable. Another of the many options for a lapping plate is to use a piece of glass. I sharpen this way using a piece that was originally meant to be a glass bathroom shelf. It's the right size (about 5"x16"), light, small, and I got it for less than $20. The other benefit of the glass is that it's easy to clean when the spray adhesive that I use starts to get gross, and the underside is frosted, which gives it a little grip on the table surface. I have also thought about sticking a cork or rubber backing on it to give it additional traction. The other option I can think of would be routing a recess in the face of a board to hold the glass and then putting a cleat on the underside of the board to sit against the edge of my workbench as I sharpen away from myself.

i found a place near me that makes marble countertops. their dumpster is full of smallish peices of lapped stone, and I use aerosol glue to stick the paper onto them for this. Glass works too.
Bill WW (author)  Mugsy Knuckles1 year ago
Thanks for the comment.

I thought about visiting a countertop shop to ask for scraps, may still.
My wife wants new countertops for the kitchen, this is my opportunity!
cjs12981 year ago
This looks neat. I'm only fourteen and with little money, so I'll be sure to try this,
Bill WW (author)  cjs12981 year ago
I love your icon, the prism and spectrum. I have a couple of prisms. made a stand for one of them so that I can rotate it as needed.

Yes, you can sharpen with stones costing hundreds, or with good sandpaper costing a few bucks. There is nothing wrong with the sandpaper method, but the big woodworking companies can't make much money with it.

Be careful; most of my scars came from working with tools when I was your age.

Thank you Bill, this was really instructive and it will definitely improve the lifespan of my tools! :3
Bill WW (author)  iamthestatic2 years ago
Thank you for your comment, hope this sharpening method is a benefit to you..

You must have seen some of the 90 Instructables by Rimar2000, a close neighbor of yours in La Plata.
Phil B2 years ago
This is good and very practical. Thank you.
rimar20002 years ago
This instructable is very useful, Bill.

When I use my lathe, the tools lasts well sharpened only one or two minutes, despite they are HSS. So I glued a fine sandpaper disk at the base of upper cone of the variator, and now I can sharp the tool quickly without stop the motor, in 4 or 5 seconds. Maybe my procedure is not the ideal, but it is good enough for my needs. It is easy to replace the sandpaper disc when it wears out.