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Tool Tip: How to Sharpen a Chisel

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Step 6: Adding a Microbevel

You've now gone through the four grits of waterstones, and you should have a chisel blade so shiny and sharp that it will put a smile on your face. But there's still one more thing you can do to help your chisel out: add a microbevel.

A microbevel (or second bevel) is just what it sounds like: a very small bevel at the end of your already-beveled edge. The primary purpose of this microbevel is to save you time. When your chisel dulls, you merely need to sharpen the microbevel instead of going through all of these steps from scratch. It will take several sharpenings before the microbevel has been ground more or less flat with the rest of the bevel; at that point, you will go through all of these steps again.

To put a microbevel on your blade, slurry up your 8000-grit stone with the nagura stone and put your chisel/honing guide onto the stone. Raise the handle of the chisel a tiny bit, and with a nice steady stroke, push forward to the other side of the stone. Pick up the chisel (don't draw it back on the stone), place it again on the near side, and repeat a handful of times. Each time, try to raise the chisel handle by the same very small angle.

After several sets of passes, you'll see a thin line on the end of your chisel blade. Job well done.

But wait! There's one more important step before you can pack your stones up and start hacking away at wood.
 
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Rishnai6 years ago
Execellent instructible. I'll have to use this to sharpen my chisels soon, that's for sure. Speaking of sharp chisels, my old woodshop teacher was real anal about keeping sharp chisels, and if you nicked an edge or something, he'd make you stick around and sharpen the dang thing. He had one set he said he kept razor-sharp, which he wouldn't let us touch, but said one could theoretically shave with it if he felt the need. Is it actually possible to get a chisel that sharp, or was he just jiving us?
offseid (author)  Rishnai6 years ago
Well, I think it's definitely possible. I think I heard that razor blades are sharpened to something like 3000 or 4000 grit, and I sharpen my chisels up through 8000 grit. However, woodworking blades are sharpened at a 25-30 degree angle, as that is optimum for wood. I'm not sure what the optimum angle is for skin. :)
Rishnai offseid6 years ago
I don't know either, but I guess that's why I'm not in the razorblade business.
Kavall Rishnai4 years ago
Straight razors are typically sharpened to 8000 grit or above. The primary angle is roughly 15 degrees. I say roughly because when you are honing a straight razor you use the spine of the razor to hold the angle.
Danzeyboy4 years ago
Man alive that looks sharp. My chisels are all chipped and need an expert like you. I'm a plumber so I put them through a lot of nails etc!
offseid (author)  Danzeyboy4 years ago
Hey, I'm no Yoda. Anyone can do this! But if your chisels are all chipped then you might need to grind them down on a grinder first to establish a flat edge and a starting bevel. I don't cover that here (I don't even have a grinder) but you could probably find tips (and video) on this elsewhere. Once you've done that, start with this Instructable and you'll be set!