MORE ON OUR PLANS PAGE!
Worksharp 3000 Tips and Tricks: At Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, I get to work with a lot of different tools, and the Worksharp 3000 is just one of many sharpening systems we have. Recently, we’ve been making a series of videos with tips for using some of these systems, including sandpaper, stones, diamonds and power sharpeners like the Tormek and the Work Sharp. You’ll find those videos in our special sharpening section. For those of you who prefer the Worksharp, we’ll cover some tips that will help you get the best results, overcome some common issues that viewers have asked us about, and save some time and money along the way. We are going to be focusing on chisels and plane irons, but many of these same principals can be applied to other tools as well.
Watch the video...
...or read the article.
Table Saw Workstation
TOOLS YOU CAN BUILD!
Table Saw Workstation
MORE ON OUR PLANS PAGE!
2X6 Roubo Workbench
A lot of folks spend loads of time honing the bevels of their tools. Then they put the iron back into their plane, and it cuts like crap. Or their chisels crush the wood fibers instead of cutting them cleanly. What went wrong? You only sharpened half of the tool. It doesn’t matter if you get the bevel shining like a mirror if the back isn’t flat and equally polished right up the edge. You must pay equal attention to both surfaces.
The problem is, it takes a lot of work to flatten the back of a tool for the first time, even with a power sharpener, because you’re removing a lot of material over a large surface. On the Worksharp, you do that work on the top of the disc by laying the tool flat, and letting the sandpaper do its work. You must be careful when you lay the tool on the disc, though. You don’t want to scuff the cutting edge and cause yourself more work. So, make contact with the edge of the disc first.
And don’t press down too hard as you work, or the grit will dig into the blade and you may lose your grip. Worse yet, excessive pressure can lead to uneven grinding. So, take care to apply light, even pressure. With coarse grits, you still may have a problem holding the tool. I suggest using that little rubber cleaning block that came with your system. It will grip the tool better, it will keep your fingers away from the spinning disc and protect them from heat buildup
TIP #1: POLISH BOTH FACES
A common problem occurs when people think they’ve flattened the back of their tool, but they neglect to polish it all the way to the very edge. If you look closely, and see a dull strip along the edge, you aren’t done flattening. This can take forever, so fortunately, there’s a trick. I keep an inexpensive thin metal ruler (about 1/32" thick) on hand. I lay it right in the center of the platform, then I lay my tool on it. I slide the tool over the disc, being careful to keep the edge raised until I get into position, then I drop the edge onto the disc. This will create a very fine back bevel, in fact it’s so slight that it hardly counts as a bevel at all. But what it does do is concentrate the polishing action on the very edge, where you need it most. So instead of taking an hour to flatten the entire back of a plane iron, it only takes a few seconds per grit. It’s a huge time saver. Of course, as you use and re-sharpen your tool, it will get shorter, and eventually the little polished strip on the back will be gone. So, you’ll need to keep an eye on it and repeat the process every few sharpenings. And while this works fine with hand planes and most chisels, I don’t do it on fine paring chisels. Those won’t work properly with a back bevel, you must flatten the entire back.
TIP #2: MANAGE THE HEAT
The Worksharp is a slow-speed sharpener, and it’s air-cooled. But you can still overheat a tool, especially when you are working with coarse grits to remove a lot of material. Normally, I hold my fingers slightly back from the edge while I sharpen. When the steel gets too hot to touch, I pull the tool back and let it cool. If you have the wide blade accessory kit, you can use the aluminum platform as a heat-sink. Just lay the tool on the platform and the heat will quickly dissipate from the blade. It only takes a few seconds, then you can get back to work. If you are using the cleaning block trick I mentioned earlier to hold the tool on the disc, you won’t feel the heat. In that case, stop every ten or fifteen seconds, check your progress and let the tool cool a bit.
Another way to keep your tools cool is to use that cleaning block every so often to clear the shavings form the sandpaper. Clean paper means faster cutting and less friction to build heat. Believe me, it’s a lot harder to overheat a tool on the Work Sharp than it is on a grinder. But you do still need to keep an eye on it.
As you work, you may notice metal shavings collecting on the machine itself or nearby. These little balls of fluff tend to build up wherever they can hold on, such as on the wide blade platform, around the chisel port, or on the machine housing. Brush these fluff-balls away frequently, because if they get too big, they will begin to smolder. And if a smoldering bit falls near something flammable… well, why take the risk. In fact, I recommend using your machine somewhere that’s free of anything flammable, including on the floor around you. And certainly, nowhere near any solvents or flammable objects.
TIP #3: BEVEL ANGLES
This is a question I get a lot. A good range for most chisels and hand planes is between 20 and 30 degrees. The closer your bevel angle is to 20, the finer the tool may cut, but the quicker it may dull. So, you must find the right balance between durability and performance for the work you’re doing.
Here are my recommendations: For chisels that are going to be used for paring, or taking very fine shavings, without using a mallet, hone to 20-degrees. For your standard bench chisels, I recommend 25 degrees for soft wood, 30 degrees for hard wood, or if you are going to be pounding on the chisel with a mallet. I generally keep plane irons around 30 degrees because I hate sharpening them and I want the edge to last as long as possible. If I need a lower angle for end grain or something, I use a special low-angle plane. Obviously, you’re not going to want to regrind a different bevel angle on your chisels when you switch from hard to soft wood or from paring to chopping mortises. That’s why it’s good to have different chisels for different tasks.
Chris Schwarz sharpens all his tools to 35 degrees. He claims they cut fine, stay sharp for a long time, and he doesn’t have to worry about keeping track of angles. It you’re looking to keep things simple, this is worth looking into.
Some people like to grind micro-bevels on their edges that are a couple degrees steeper than their primary bevels. The main reason for this is the same as for that back bevel we discussed earlier. It reduces the amount of time required to hone the edge as compared to working the entire bevel. There are other theories about micro-bevels, and we could spend all day debating the issue, but we won’t. If I’m using the chisel port on the Work Sharp, I don’t create a micro-bevel. It’s fast and easy to just sharpen the entire bevel to the angle you require. I do, however, put a micro-bevel on tools that I sharpen on top of the disc with a jig, especially if I am using very fine polishing compounds. But that’s a matter of necessity more than speed and convenience, as you’ll see when we discuss the leather honing discs I use.
TIP #4: THE GRINDING STAGE
Sharpening is a two-stage process. When you must reshape a bevel, or repair a tool, that’s the grinding stage. That’s when you use the course grits. The next stage is honing, where you move into fine grits. Let’s discuss the grinding stage first.
I use the 80-grit sandpaper for grinding a new bevel, then 120, then 220. You don’t have to buy Worksharp’s sandpaper, I have used less expensive 6-inch sanding discs from other sources. But lately I’ve gone back to the Worksharp discs (Course for grinding, fine for honing, extra-fine for polishing) because they stick better, even if the discs sit for months without being used. In fact, it can be a little bit of a pain to remove them sometimes. I use a heat gun and clean off any residue with goo-gone or some other solvent.
Another reason I like the Worksharp discs are because they are made from ceramic oxide, which lasts a lot longer than other sand paper. Ceramic oxide is typically found on sanding belts; it’s hard to find it on sanding discs outside of the ones sold by Worsharp. Most sanding discs are aluminum oxide, which isn’t as durable. If you do want to buy discs somewhere else, I recommend you at least get silicon carbide. Make sure it says it on the package. If it doesn’t say silicon carbide, it’s not silicon carbide. (Here are some on Amazon. And here’s a guide that explains the different types of abrasives out there, what’s best for tool sharpening, and how different grits compare.)
Whatever sandpaper you use, be sure to clean it periodically with the rubber cleaning block that came with your machine. If you lost your block, you can buy them cheap on the internet. They work well for all sandpaper, whether you’re working with metal or wood. Keeping your grit clean will help it last a lot longer.
So, I begin grinding with 80, and as I work my way through the course grits, there are two ways I can tell if it’s time to move on from one grit to the next. First, there will be a ragged burr that will form on the edge. When that burr stretches across the entire width of the edge, I know I’m done with that grit. (Note: If you grind with the tool pointed directly at the center of the disc, you may not get a burr on its full width. In that case, use the scratch-pattern method described below.)
Another way to tell if it’s time to switch grits is to look at the scratch pattern you’re creating. Whenever you are using a spinning disc-based system like this one, it’s best to keep your blade pointing toward the center. That’s because the outside of the disc is spinning faster than the inside, so turning the blade sideways may result in more material being removed from one side of the bevel than the other, especially with the more aggressive grits you use in the grinding stage. I’ll keep the tool pointed at the center when I’m using 80 grit. Then, when I switch to 120 grit, I do skew the tool to the side a bit. This will change the scratch pattern on the bevel, helping me to see when all the 80 grit scratches are gone. Then I go back to center for the 220 grit. Once I go through those three grits, my bevel will be re-established. I don’t use course grits like these on the back of the tool unless I am flattening the whole thing. If I’m using the ruler trick, I skip ahead to the honing grits.
By the way, if you’re grinding on top of the disc and your edge is coming out crooked, it’s not the jig that’s the problem. It’s the table itself. Use the set screws to adjust it until you are grinding evenly across the bevel of your tool. To help you make the adjustment, use the black sharpie trick, which we’ll talk about in more detail when we get to the chisel port.
TIP #5: THE HONING STAGE
The honing stage begins after a bevel is formed. In your day to day sharpening, you begin at this stage. You don’t need to go back to the coarse papers to touch up an edge.
For me, this stage begins with some 400-grit paper, and then I move away from paper and into polishing compounds. (If you touch up the edge frequently, you may not even need the 400 grit paper.) I bought a four-stick polishing compound kit for a few bucks, and they’ll last for years and years. They are so much cheaper than paper.
A long time ago we made a video about how to build your own wide blade platform, and how to use ½” MDF discs and honing compounds. We even made a downloadable guide about it. That’s a great option for the do-it-yourselfer.
Or, you can buy the aluminum wide blade platform from Worksharp, which also comes with their honing guide (and works as a heatsink, as mentioned earlier). Instead of MDF discs, you can buy the Worksharp stropping discs, which are plate glass with leather surfaces. I’m going to go through the honing process using the leather discs in this article. If you want to go the MDF rout, many of these same tips still apply, and more specifics are in that guide.
I begin the honing stage on the back of the tool. There’s a reason for that as you’ll see. I use the ruler trick and 400 grit paper. Then I use a stropping disc with black Emory polishing compound, which is equivalent to about 800 grit sandpaper. Since the leather disc sticks up higher than the sandpaper did, you’ll need a thicker ruler, or a strip of wood. Just something that lays a little bit above the surface of the stropping disc.
I just apply light pressure, too much pressure can cause the tool to sort of sink into the soft leather, which would actually dull the tool. So, keep the pressure light. It only takes about 15 seconds, and I move on to white compound, which is about 2000 grit. Then brown Tripoli, which is close to 4000 grit. And finally, red rouge, which is 8,000. (Instead of red you can use green or gold, which is about 10,000 grit. In fact, lately I started using the Tormek brand honing paste instead of the red rouge. It’s white, but it’s not the same as the white polishing compound. It’s super fine, over 10,000 grit.)
By the way, do yourself a favor, and use a sharpie to mark the edges of all your discs so you know what grits are where. Especially with the polishing compounds. You don’t want to accidentally put the wrong one on top of a different grit.
The reason why I do the back of the tool before I hone the bevel is, especially if I’m using that ruler trick, there’s a chance you can roll that soft leather over the cutting edge and dull it. So, I do the back first, then I can correct any problem with I hone the bevel, beginning with the 400-grit paper, which will crisp that edge back up before I move onto the leather discs again.
When I install the first leather disc, I have that height problem to deal with again. This time, I set my jig for a steeper angle. For example, I set my jig to 25-degrees for most plane irons when I’m using the sandpaper. Then I change it to 30-degrees for the leather strops. If I didn’t, the added height of the disc would cause the bevel to contact only on the heel. To solve that problem, you are in effect creating a fine micro bevel. It’s not really 5-degrees, it comes out to something less than that. But it keeps the wheel in contact with the cutting edge in much the same way as the ruler trick did on the back. (If you’re using ½” MDF discs, they may stick up even higher above the aluminum wide blade platform, requiring an adjustment greater than 5-degrees.)
After you spend about 15 seconds on each of the four compounds, your tool will be razor sharp and ready to work. If it starts to get dull again, I may go back and use only the two or three finest compounds, which will take less than a minute combined to touch up the edge. In fact, you shouldn’t have to go back to the 400-grit paper unless you let the tool get really dull; or at least not until that fine polished edge on the back is gone. In that case you’ll go back to the beginning of this process with the ruler trick, re-polish the back, and then start at 400-grit paper to crisp up the bevel before returning to the compounds.
TIP #6: THE CHISEL PORT
I bought my Work Sharp years ago, and the reason I got the 3000 model, instead of the cheaper 2000 model, was the adjustable chisel port. I loved the idea of walking up to the machine, sticking my chisel into the slot, and pulling it out razor sharp. But some people have some difficulty getting the results they expected.
The most common problem I hear about is the chisels aren’t being sharpened evenly, which means you have to grind forever, and the end result is an edge that isn’t square. The most obvious solution to that problem is to adjust the port by loosening the set screw under the disc, then using the lever on the side to make an adjustment. The best way to do this is to take a chisel that you know is square, and color the bevel with a black Sharpie. Put a fine abrasive on the disc, because you don’t want to remove a lot of steel during this test. Turn on the machine, and lightly press the chisel against the bottom of the disc. Don’t push too hard, just let the edge make contact for a second or two, then withdraw the tool. If the ink isn’t worn away evenly across the width of the bevel, make a small adjustment with the lever, and repeat the test until the wear is even. Then tighten the set screw under the disc, and you’re done.
Of course, even if your machine is perfectly tuned, you can still get a crooked edge if you jam the chisel into the port with excessive force. Pushing too hard can cause the disc to deflect upward on one side. You may think that the harder you push, the faster the abrasive will cut. But you’re just going to create more work for yourself to correct the crooked grind you get. You should especially take care when you are using coarser grits, because they will dig into the steel of the chisel and pull the end of the tool to the right. The little adjustable fence will help counteract that force, but it may not be enough if you get too crazy with the grinding. Be patient, push until you make light contact, and let the abrasive do the work.
That’s it for our Work Sharp 3000 tips. All of the tools and accessories we mentioned, including the pastes and compounds and alternative types of sandpaper and the jigs are all found in links in the notes below. And be sure to check out the latest issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, always full of tips, tricks and tutorials designed to make you a better woodworker. You can read and subscribe for free at Stumpynubs.com. Happy honing!
LINKS TO TOOLS SEEN IN VIDEO (clicking on these links helps support us, at no cost to you)►
(WS3000 honing jig is not sold by itself)
Videos and plans for WS3000 stand (stores your discs and creates a wide blade platform from wood), and guide to using MDF discs with honing compounds
HELP KEEP OUR VIDEOS FREE! Please support those who support us by visiting their websites and having a quick look around-
Blue Collar Woodworking, Stumpy Nubs, Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal and Mustache Mike are all trademarks of
Midwestern Trading Company, Michigan, USA - Copyright 2011-2018 MWTco