Building Skills: Stay sharp for under $200 with the right process and materials.
Synopsis: Woodworker Ben Brunick gives a step-by-step tutorial on keeping chisels sharp in the shop and on the job site using a diamond stone and a compound kit. The diamond plate flattens the back of the chisel and cuts a sharp microbevel on the front side, and won’t wear out the way a water stone will. A series of photographs show the process of preparing the polishing blocks, flattening the chisel, and sharpening the bevel.
I get no joy from sharpening. It’s just something that I sometimes have to do before I can get to work. In the best of circumstances, sharpening is happening in the shop where it’s warm and water is available. But that’s not always the case.
The last job site I worked on had no heat and no water when I started. I was building and restoring windows, work that required sharp chisels. With no water and in freezing winter temperatures, my water stones were useless and couldn’t be stored on site even if I did bring my own water—when water stones freeze, they break. I decided to look into a new system that was less fussy. I also wanted it to be portable and affordable. And of course it had to get my chisels as sharp as I needed them to be.
After experimenting with a few different methods, I settled on the system shown here, which starts with a double-sided diamond plate. This one is from Trend and it has a 300-grit side and a 1000-grit side. I use Lapping Fluid, also made by Trend, to lubricate the plate. The diamond plate flattens the back of the chisel (if necessary) and cuts a sharp microbevel on the front of the chisel. Not only are these diamond plates more…