On my recent visit to Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking, in Berea, Ky., Larry Williams of Old Street Tool took a few minutes away from his planemaking students to show me how he hones the 30° secondary bevel on a chisel – no fuss, no honing jig. And without the talking and my making him stop for a few pictures, it takes him less than a minute. Larry says that most people spend too much time on sharpening. If you learn to recognize when an edge is not performing as well as you’d like, that’s when to stop using it and head for the stones. The longer you wait, the more work needs to be done on the cutting edge – and that’s a waste of time. If it needs sharpening, just do it. And don’t be too long about it.
Larry uses oilstones (he recommends Dan’s Whetstone, in Pearcy, Ark,), and prefers WD-40 to other oils (it’s cheap, easy to find and it works) – but he’ll use whatever is available. After honing, to remove the wire edge, he takes a few passes on a leather strop charged with yellowstone or green compound. And done.
• For in-depth sharpening instruction for all sorts of edge tools, check out Christopher Schwarz’s DVD “The Last Word on Sharpening.”
• If you want to learn more about steel and sharpening than you could shake a (sharp) stick at, read Ron Hock’s “The Perfect Edge.”