Sharpening Station

Sharpening has been a sore point ever since I moved into the current shop. I had a good spot next to a sink in the shop, but didn’t have any kind of stand or surface to put the stones. So I ended up putting them on a counter on the near-opposite side of the house. This was an unfortunate situation, not just because I’d have to ramble all the way over there every time I wanted to sharpen something. The lighting was bad, the mess I made over there was atrocious, and its temporary nature made me unwilling to organize further.

I had originally intended to make a freestanding sharpening station to put next to the shop sink, but every stand that I made ended up unscrupulously co-opted. Finally, I realized that instead of a stand, I could just put some strong shelf-like brackets into the wall there, making it more of a built-in. It would theoretically be less work than another stand. Then I gave myself some additional “motivation,” saying that I would not sharpen another tool until the sharpening station was in its rightful spot, though I am unsure if this was a good idea or not.

I started by installing a sheet of drywall into the wall framing (it was bare before), and painting it white so that it would reflect light. Then I got to making the brackets themselves:

These are sort of mini-timberframe-like things in southern yellow pine. I decided to use drawbores for the shelf support joints, but didn’t bother on the brace joints. (I do not want to talk about how long I spent making those pegs.) There are two stiles, each with upper and lower shelf supports.

I made a stretcher to go between the upper supports so that the upper shelf would be very strong and resistant to movement and racking (this is, after all, where the work would be done). When I glued and drawbored everything into place, it looked like this:

I was somewhat unsure of how easily it would install on the wall, but it turned out to be easy enough when I used double wedges off of a support on the floor to get the stiles plumb and the brackets level:

Each stile is screwed directly into a stud behind the drywall in three spots. After a bit of stress-testing, I was satisfied that the top brackets were up to the task, so I added some crappy plywood shelves, put my stone holder and other stuff on the top, infrequently-used supplies (or otherwise questionable purchases) below, and called it done:

The stone holder is attached to the upper shelf, which is in turn screwed onto the brackets. This should eliminate any kind of slippage without the need for anti-skid pads. Bottles with water and camellia oil are on the overhang to the right, and my two honing guides are behind the stones. There’s even a faux-backsplash that’s nothing more than a leftover piece from a home renovation project.

Then I sharpened a chisel quickly to make sure that I had a functional setup. Anticlimactic, as intended.

Restoring an Ash Mortise Chisel

To make the joinery in the stool project, I’m going to need a fatter mortise chisel than my W. Butcher “pigsticker.” Fortunately, while trolling eBay a while back, bidding cheaply on every pigsticker I saw (and losing all of them), I managed to pick up two for about $13 each. When the dust cleared, I had a 3/8″ William Ash and a 7/16″ Samuel Newbould. Both needed work to get back into usable shape, but at least I didn’t have to make a handle for either.

For whatever reason, I picked the Ash to restore now, which had a lot of rust. In retrospect, I have no idea why. The Newbould doesn’t have much rust, but it does have some pitting near the tip, as does the Ash. And of course, that’s the worst part, right? So no problem with the slightly smaller chisel, right?

Well, that is, unless that one has a tip that is about as sharp as a blunt screwdriver, which is exactly what the Ash had. But I’m pretty hardheaded, so I resolved to reshape the bevel. However, even though this type of chisel is laminated and most of the metal is pretty soft, the cutting edge is always ridiculously hard. I didn’t want to spend years trying to muscle that off. For salvation, I turned to…

The world’s most horrible grinder.

Hand-crank grinders look cute and all, but I bought this Wissota thing for about 50 cents a long time ago, and after fiddling around for a long time trying to make it turn even halfway reasonably, I put it aside. Some of its many features include:

  • Grotesquely misshapen, hot-burnin’ wheel
  • Mismatched bushing/arbor
  • Missing tool rest (although this might not be such a bad thing)
  • Bent crank handle
  • Frozen nuts
  • Broken clamp knob

But for whatever reason, instead of going out and getting something reasonable, I put it on the bench and started fooling around with it. I managed to get the nuts turning, and when I tightened everything up and turned the crank, it started spinning with a groan. For lack of a better idea, I squirted a little WD-40 into the oil hole, and to my surprise, the noise went away and it turned freely.

So I put on the safety glasses, got a jar of water for cooling the blade, and went to work, using a clamped board as a tool rest. This worked well enough (gotta love those high-carbon steel sparks), and before long, I had an actual bevel on the blade. Whee.

Then I turned my attention to the chisel’s face. There was a lot of pitting near the tip on this one after some flattening:

Oh, how I hate dealing with this mess. It was off to the surface plate and the 3X sandpaper to fix this problem:

The sandpaper doesn’t stay aggressive on this steel for very long. After switching sandpaper about 5 times (note to self: get some 60-grit paper next time), I had finally gotten through the pitting, so I finished smoothing the face, then turned my attention to the bevel side.

I started with an Eclipse-style honing guide at first, but this chisel is just too heavy for that, so I just did it freehand. This worked well, and before long, I had a sharp chisel. But it’s not truly sharp until you use it to make sure, so I did just that on some beech:

Yeah, I’d say it works. I might remove some of that black oxidation on the sides at some point, but for now, I don’t think I need to. Anyone want to take bets on how long the handle will last?

One question remains: What will become of the world’s most horrible grinder? I might be able to make it work reasonably well with a decent wheel and a little tuning. Or should I get a new one? Grinders are useful things, no doubt about it; I just hadn’t really needed to bother with one until now.