May 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
I have an embarrasing number of sharpening abrasives. I’ve added to the collection since I took this picture last fall. While I realize it makes the most financial sense to just pick one sharpening system and go with it, I don’t beat myself up for having lots of sharpening stuff. I needed to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t. All the different abrasives will get you a sharp edge, it’s the qualitative aspects of each system that are the deciding factor. And I like having multiple sets around – I do actually use different tools with different stones.
Anyway, for day-to-day sharpening I’ve settled on waterstones (technically, ceramic stones). They work well for me as I’ve developed a routine for getting consistent, sharp edges on my planes and chisels. One disadvantage to waterstones is the water itself – it can make a mess. I use a little mustard-type squeeze bottle to administer the water as opposed to a spray bottle, and that helps a little. I used to throw a towel on my bench and position a variety of plastic tupperware containers and trays to help keep water spillage at bay. And at the end of it all the trays and containers would get washed out (upstairs in the kitchen because we don’t have a sink in the basement). While it worked, all the containers were a bit a pain. I’ve seen where some woodworkers use cafeteria trays or plastic boot trays or even plywood boxes to contain everything. Following those examples, a few weeks ago I broke down and bought this rubber boot tray. And so far, so good. The small lip keeps the water from trickling away, and the advantage of rubber is that it grips – it grips to the bench and waterstones grip to it, even when wet. I just line my stones up, sharpen away, and there is just one thing that needs cleaning. There are a few things I would change about it if I could. It’s rather long at 32″. If it were 4″-6″ shorter it would conserve a little space. Also, it’s flexible – a more ridgid tray (one advantage of plastic) would make it easier to pick up and move with things in it. But for the price I can’t complain too much.
I have a long, growing list of things I’d like to build for the shop. Near the top of the list is a dedicated sharpening station. While this tray makes sharpening a little more convenient, I still need to haul them out and assemble everything on my bench. This means I probably don’t sharpen as much as I should. I’m looking forward to the day when this tray and my embarrassing collection of sharpening stuff has a permanent home.
My working set of waterstones are these Sigma stones from Stu Tierney at the Tools from Japan online store. Stu sells a lot of waterstones, and as such he’s had to educate himself on a variety waterstones, diamond stones, and ceramic stones. He’s written a lot about sharpening on his blog, as well as several woodworking forums (do a search for the username Schtoo at both Sawmill Creek and Woodnet). If you are intereseted in some new waterstones, he would be the logical first place of inquiry.