Guide written by:
Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield
Cutting tools will become dull over time. Be it wood chisels, gauges, chainsaw chains or circular saw blades, they all need to be regularly sharpened to continue cutting properly. Thanks to dedicated sharpeners such as models designed specifically for chainsaws and equipped with a bench grinder, your tools will always have a sharp edge.
- Wood chisel sharpeners
- Gauge sharpener
- Circular saw blade sharpener f
- Chainsaw chain sharpeners
- Multi-tool sharpeners
What tools can a sharpener be used with?
Most cutting tools, including drill bits, knives, gauges, wood chisels, plane blades, shears, circular saw blades, lawn mower blades and chainsaw chains will start to become dull after extended use. These component must either then be replaced if they are at the end of their life, or they can be sharpened to make them useable again.
In the past, being trained to use any cutting machine also implied a supplementary course on the proper sharpeningof sharp or cutting parts. In modern times, your common handyman has never gone through this experience, which is now often reserved for professionals.
Cutting machine manufacturers, in an attempt to satisfy even the most demanding handyman, have come up with a variety of intelligent tools and specially designed bases to sharpen hand tools and specific machine blades. This equipment was concieved to extend the life of expensive equipment and it only takes a few uses to understand why investing in a sharpener is often worth it.
Different types of sharpeners
Wood chisel Sharpeners
A chisel is a hardened steel tool that tends to become dull fairly quickly. It can be kept sharp through the use of either a simple stone or water-cooled grinding wheel or even a mixed grinding wheel (combined) is enough to renovate it. Effectively sharpening your tools is done in three steps:
- Roughing the surface with a coarse-grained grinder;
- Finishing the piece by grinding with a fine or water-cooled grinding wheel to render the tool completely level;
- Honing, the last step, is executed with a very fine stone or a honing disk, made of either felt or leather, to which is added a special abrasive paste that ensures that your chisel maintains its sharp edge.
Tips for properly sharpening your tools
When it comes to roughing, any excess of precipitation can often result in what's referred to as burning the edge. In other words, the steel over heats and turns blue when in contact with the stone, ultimately losing its hardness. To avoid that the steel turns blue, it is crucial to constantly cool the edge of the tool with water or air. Blued steel becomes instantly dull and by consequence, completely useless. It then becomes necessary to eliminate this burned part and to resume the operation to zero.
Grinding also often cause the tool to become magnetized, a property that tends to attract steel filings. Using a demagnetizer is highly advisable in order to avoid this problem.
Wood gauge sharpener
This model follows the same principle as the wood chisel sharpener, however, the curved shape of the tool requires a slimmer honing disc. Some sharpening bases are also combined with sharpening brackets that are specially designed to ensure the perfect grinding angle, leaving you no choice but to insert it the right way. To complete any good handyman's tools are accessories such as dedicated templates, a kind of oddly shaped metal cutout, which provides further control on the gauge's sharpening angle. It is an often over looked fact, but the task of cutting and sharpening tools are generally deleguated to a specialized tool maker, even by professionals, making it a prestigious and respectable profession!
Tips for determining the quality of a steel
To ensure that all your tools are composed of hardened steel and not the low-quality steel that is often employed in tools of dubious origin, you simply look at the sparks produced when the tool comes into contact with the grinding stone. The sparks are supposed to look like a shower of shootingstars, which in reality, represents the vast quantities of carbon being consumed within the steel during the grinding process.
Drill bit sharpener
Finding the perfect angle for sharpening a drill bit is a real headache. Its helical shape requires a certain dexterity that is not easy to learn overnight. This will make it that much more of a prideful experience when you achieve it, but can also often bring about great disappointment for those who have tried and failed. To make it easy, it's best to start sharpening drill bits as soon as they no longer produces chips, instead of waiting until they become completely dull. Fortunately, there are a variety of electric power grinders, providing enough features for everyone to find the ideal model that fits their their budget.
Although even basic bench grinders are equipped with accessories that allow for drill bits to be positioned at the right angle, the draft angle (located behind the attack) needs to be manually modified. Some, more efficient models feature the ability to carry out all types ofsharpening, including cutting angles, cross-blade sharpening and re-shaping of the tool body). Always remember to verify the machine's capacity in terms of the diameter it can handle, since any drill but sharpener should be selected according to the maximum diameter of tool it can accommodate. That being said, the higher the machine's capacity is, the more expensive it will be. The quality of the grinding wheel, along with its easy of remplacement if required, is also an important factor that should be verified.
Circular saw blades sharpeners
Circular saw blades require frequent sharpening to maintain its cutting edge performance. If investing in a machine to do this yourself becomes a priority, you should consider a variety of factors before settling. You need to make sure that the machine's sharpening capacity matches your range of blades range, both in diameter and teeth composition. A blade can have different characteristics, starting with its size, which can range from 130 to 600 mm in diameter and it's teeth count, on average anywhere from 24 to 144 teeth.
Sharpening a circular saw blade tends to take quite a while. Some automatic model thereore feature goniometer capabilities that allows you to continue working while the machine performs blade reconditioning on its own. If the particular blade is equipped with tungsten carbide teeth, a matching disk made out of the proper material, should be applied to the machine to grind with. The specific characteristics and performances of these types of disks are generally clearly indicated on the packaging or directly on the surface of the disk.
If there is one machine whose cutting edge is constantly put to the test, it's the chainsaw. We require them for frequent, heavy duty cutting, be it sawing hardwood or pieces of soiled wood (ground, gravel or ends). It's therefore easy to see how a chainsaw's chain can become very dull et inneffective, very quickly. Whether on a job site or in the forest, you should always be equipped with a replacement chain or else make the best of it with a manual chainsaw sharpener- a tool that is generally very useful if there are no time constraints imposed.
Sharpening a chainsaw's chain by hand takes a lot of time. That's why the investment of an electric chainsaw sharpener pays for itself very quickly, with all the time you save. Make sure it's done right the first time. This is a motto that should be applied as much as possible withthis type of work. Just like for circular saw blades, sharpening a chain also required a specific disk thickness, depending on its size. Just in case, you can also purchase small, battery-powered chainsaw sharpeners that can easily be carried around on logging sites.
Multi-tool sharpeners and safety precautions
A multifunctional sharpener combine the features of several sharpeners into one machine: the ultimate solution to sharpening several different types of sharp tools. Garden tools can also be sharpened with a drill-mounted sharpener. No matter what type of machine you end up choosing, always remember to keep a stock of spare parts and matching grinding disks.
Any good craftsman will aso have either a conventional wheel dresser or a specific tool to dress diamond wheels. This ttype of tool produces a lot of dust (grit), so wearing safety glasses is essential.
Wearing protective gloves is also highly recommended to avoid any hand injuries, which if caused by a grinding wheel, can take very long to heal. I had to learn that by experience!
To get more information on basic workshop tools and equipment, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:
- How to choose your drill?
- How to choose your drill bit?
- How to choose your screwdriver?
- How to choose your electric screwdriver?
- How to choose your screws?
- How to choose your workbench?
- How to choose your jigsaw?
- How to choose your circular saw?
- How to choose your circular saw blades?
- How to choose your chainsaw?
- How to choose your petrol-powered chainsaw?
- How to care for your chainsaw?
- How to choose your bench grinder?
- How to choose your grinder?
- How to choose your grinder accessories?
And to always be in safety:
- How to choose your protective eyewear?
- How to choose your protective gloves?
- How to choose your respiratory protection?
- How to choose your safety shoes?
Guide written by:
Michael, Professional and passionate welder, Sheffield, 70 guides
I was trained as a pipe worker and a pipe-welder and after having traveled for 35 years working around the UK, I became the head a metal shop and then a designer and in the end the head engineer. I have designed and built a workshop where I make metal sculptures: I managed to find a piece of paradise where I can to let my imagination run wild. Auctions and garage sales are no secret to me. I find unusual objects and old tools there that I collect or transform into works of art. I also like decoration, painting on canvas, and gardening. I am developing new technologies concerning tools. To share my passion and humbly advise you in your choice of materials is a real pleasure.