True Confessions: I’m Grinding Averse


These secondary bevels are embarrassingly wide.

I always avoid grinding far longer than I should (unless I hit a nail or something else catastrophic to a cutting edge). But with a year’s worth of loaning tools out to students and hundreds of dovetails of my own this year, it was a job on which I’ve procrastinated for far too long, on all my chisels and bench planes.

My secondary bevels (35°) were on most of my tools wider than my primary bevels (25°). As a result, my edges have breaking down quickly, and I’ve had to sharpen and hone a lot more often than I should. This has for weeks (months, really) not only been a waste of time, but also means I (and students) have been sharpening and honing a lot more steel than necessary, and as a result, probably not doing a very good job of it.

So today I sucked it up and pulled out Christopher Schwarz’s Veritas Mark II Sharpening System to regrind the primary bevel. Are grinding wheels faster? Yep. But (to my shame) I’m a bit scared of grinding wheels. I prefer the reliable consistency that a disc grinder and guide provides to the need for user skill and paying attention when using a wheel. (Note: I’ve also used and like the Work Sharp, and if I had carving and lathe tools to grind often(ish), might prefer it to the Veritas machine…but I rarely carve or use traditional lathe tools, so…).


I’d say the Veritas system is foolproof, but there’s always a bigger fool. But it is easy. Clamp the blade in the blade holder, using the setting jig to get the right projection for your desired angle, then rest the blade holder on the properly set tool rest, and lightly touch the blade to the right side of the wheel, moving it across the sandpaper to spread the wear. Stop every few seconds to make sure the blade isn’t too hot to touch (and if it is, dunk it in water), and keep grinding until your secondary bevel isn’t as wide as the Ohio River in spring (as mine were) – or until any nicks are gone, if that was the issue (as it was on two of mine, that I suspect had been dropped). Chris has a good video on it here.

I reground five Lie-Nielsen chisels and three blue-steel Japanese chisels (cue the slings and arrows…to which I say, so what; it works) and three Lie-Nielsen bench plane blades. It took me a couple hours (the penalty one pays for waiting too long), then another 45 minutes or so to sharpen and hone them all (on my Shapton Pro #1,000, #5,000 and #8,000 waterstones) and clean out all the grimy crevices on my plane bodies.


All (much!) better now.

I do still need to regrind my jack plane iron, but for that, I’ll just have to stay awake at the wheel – the 10″ radius I want on that blade can’t be done on a disc grinder.

The only problem I encountered was being too stupid to keep a swarf rag handy. Now I have to wash it out of my jeans.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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9 Responses to True Confessions: I’m Grinding Averse

  1. steverennells says:

    For the last six months or so I have sharpened everything freehand. I used to obsess over secondary bevels and ruining the temper of my irons and chisels. No longer. Touching up an edge is less than sixty seconds and back to work. I watched Richard Macguire’s videos on sharpening and it was the best $30 bucks I’ve spent.

  2. J.C. says:

    Alas, I’ve become adept at widening my secondary bevels as well. When the secondary becomes the primary, I take my Delta wet-wheel-dry-wheel combo machine down from where it hangs on the wall and make some sparks fly. So pretty! Just like the 4th of July. Then it’s a few minutes more on the diamond stones and few more passes on the rouge charged strop. I can always shave with them afterwards. The strop stays nearby along with a white washita and an oil can with WD for touching things up during a project. So there, Shapton Schmapton. I’ll never have to flatten a diamond stone and the washita only has to pay a visit every couple of years to the diamond.

  3. Bruce Lee says:

    One other thing going for the Worksharp is that it comes in a 240 volt variety, for those of us who get that out of the home power supply.

  4. Todd D Reid says:

    What angle do you have on those SW chisels? They come set at 30 degrees. I changed mine to 25 degrees and they hold up and cut much better on hard wood.

  5. Michael Woodward says:

    My one KISS about the Veritas Sharpening Systems.

    5👍’s up.

  6. John Wolf says:

    For truly messy (and a good cardiovascular workout) one needs a treadle grinding wheel with a water drip. For added benefit, they do a wonderful job.

  7. Mike Hamilton says:

    My dad always said better quality fool-proofing leads to breeding better quality fools.

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