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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
And I'd viewed more videos than I can take. As I haven't bought or used chisels in a long time, and those were Stanly's used to notch wood like 2x4's and the like, I bought a set of Narex Bench chisels and finally got around to taking them out of the packaging. I had also gotten a set of Narex Mortise chisels. So after seeing these videos and wanting to do the right thing I decided to flatten the back side of the chisels. I have the DMT Diamond Duo plates with Coarse/Fine/X-Fine diamond plate surfaces. I found from trying to flatten a bench plane iron that I needed something a bit more than coarse to start with as the iron had never been flattened. So I ended up with using some Norton wet/dry 220 grit paper which did a decent job of getting the stubborn edges flat all the way across and then proceed with the other three steps polishing it more and more as I went. I finished the iron using the Veritas MKII system and got a really shard iron. So this morning I was excited about taking on the chisels until I wasn't. As the shoulder isn't 100% yet and won't be for at least another 5-7 weeks I just wanted to flatten the widest chisel and check it's flatness. Hoping the coarse plate would be a good starting point I quickly became discouraged. I'm using water as my lubricant and I'm only trying to flatten from the tip back maybe 2-3" and quickly saw that this was far from flat. I had run my HF 3 chisels very quickly and they did well, mostly in about 10 minutes on coarse but the Narex was well into 40-45 minutes and that included the 220 grit sandpaper and coarse diamond stone, possibly longer. I was starting to feel some soreness in my hand and realized I was flattening them as well. As trying to hold the width of the chisel flat and with pressure I was using both hands similar in the same method you would for CPR except I was standing. They don't mention what to do with skin cells in the mesh of the diamond stone but I figured I'd clean that up for good measure and the slurry was stopping any bleeding.....and I have really smooth palms. The chisels in this subject are found here https://www.infinitytools.com/narex-premium-bench-chisels

So back to Google, DMT's website, and Amazon (the website not the jungle). So I ordered the Extra Extra Coarse Diamond Stone and should have that in a few days but I still have the issue with holding the chisels flat on the stones. So I immediately thought of the wisdom of this group and thought I could entertain you with my antics, abrasions, and newly smoothed skin while seeking some wisdom other then "send them to Louie's Sharpening Service and get it done for $50". I can't be the first, and if I am I loose, to have this kind of issue with sharpening, or at the least the flattening process. I was thinking that there must exist somewhere a holder that will allow a strong grip on a small part so it can be help down flat with pressure and allow good clear hand contact. Anything guys and gals? My palms would greatly appreciate it. Some pics included to hopefully see the problem.

Next thing to tackle would be the mortise chisels...........
 

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@sreilly - Steve: when I need to flatten the back of a chisel or plane iron, I use the magnetic base from a dial indicator to start. Saves me from having to exert pressure using just my fingers. I start with some 80 grit sandpaper on plate glass if the back needs a lot of flattening, moving up to 120, then 150. At that point I'll move to my diamond plates then onto my Japanese water stones.
 

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Rob Crosman has some great youtube vids on plane and chisel sharpening. He goes further than me with water stones, but I don't see the need for myself. Also look at the Trend youtube videos with Jim Barry.

I found that for 50 years I was working far too hard at it using the old supposed 'tried and true" techniques that were difficult and profanity-producing. Plus, modern diamond plates make it easy. Not only for planes and chisels, but carbide router bits and forstner drill bits, and bevel edge garden tools. I've given away all my old Arkansas stones to someone who has lots of time and prays to the mysterious Sharpening God for results,

I now use a Trend 300/1000 grit diamond stone then followed by a 3x8 piece of leather rough-side up with green rubbing compound. Easy, fast, and very sharp.

Even taking new chisels and planes and flattening the back takes no longer than 10-15 minutes with frequent sips of coffee. Once the back is flattened it will rarely be necessary to do it again. Edge touch up is a matter of a few minutes at most.

Try working not so hard and you may see results faster. Good luck with a quick shoulder healing.

Steve
 

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Ouch, pricey things, aren't they? I have/had a set of a dozen, from HF possibly, that I used for a long time, but last time I looked, they apparently followed my younger son home. Never saw a need to flatten the backs, did all my sharpening on a belt sander, and they performed great. I've got my eye on a replacement set on ebay, 12 for around $12. Look just like my old ones, made to be whacked with a carving mallet. I don't know, but if I wanted to flatten the back of some, I believe I would start thinking belt sander, possibly disc. Chisels that pricey tho, I'd get some el cheapo chisels to practice with first, maybe yard sale chisels. I don't watch youtube about things like that, so just what are you supposed to be gaining by flattening the backs of your chisels?
 

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use a speaker magnet to hold the chisel or the like...
paint the back of the chisel w/ a felt tip.. (when you are flat the felt tipping will be gone)...
use a circular motion on your stone..
every time you change grits, change the direction of the motion..
you only need to flatten the 1st half to 2/3rds of the chisel...

.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys, I knew you'd come through. The first mention of magnets and my mind was swimming with ideas. I could use some rare earth magnets I have and use them recessed into a flat wooden handle to keep those chisels and plane irons steady and the hands off the surface. I know these things, just deep down farther then I looked it seems. Stick thanks for the advice and pdf. Those mortise chisels should be fun. Arthritis is having some affect as well so a larger surface to hold will help tons. Thanks again. Now where did I put those magnets.........
 

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I don't watch youtube about things like that, so just what are you supposed to be gaining by flattening the backs of your chisels?
Sharp chisels.

Try watching the recommended youtube channels and you'll understand. The back is as important as the bevel edge. The bevel doesn't exist in isolation. It's an important concept to understand and will help you with all edged implements.
 

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@JOAT

The importance of flattening the back of the chisel is to make sure the knife edge, after sharpening the bevel, has a straight edge...see pic below...

Imagine if the back were not flattened (gray area in the pic)...the sharpened edge would not be straight.
 

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Nope, not watching utube videos on it. Don't trust many utube videos. Got my belt sander sharpening idea many years ago, from a world class furniture maker, and darned if I can recall who it was, but it has worked very well for me, so not changing my sharpening method. From what I learned, got his chisels at the local hardware, and never flattened the backs of his chisels. Plane irons, fine, they always cut at the same angle - or at least supposed to. Chisels never cut at the same angle, they always are at a different angle, even if it is just a minute difference, so as far as I can tell a minor bit off on the sharpening is meaningless. My grandfather was what most would call a master carpenter today, and none of his chisels had flattened backs, as far as I know. Do chisel manufacturers recommend flattening the backs?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@sreilly - Steve: when I need to flatten the back of a chisel or plane iron, I use the magnetic base from a dial indicator to start. Saves me from having to exert pressure using just my fingers. I start with some 80 grit sandpaper on plate glass if the back needs a lot of flattening, moving up to 120, then 150. At that point I'll move to my diamond plates then onto my Japanese water stones.
Excellent idea and I'm ashamed I didn't think of it.
 

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According to Lee Valley who sell the Narex chisels up here they are supposed to come flatter than that. I've taken literally hours to get some of the old Sheffield chisel makers chisels flat across the bottoms. I used to quit when I got to 600 grit on my diamond stones but then I tried some 2500 grit carbide paper on glass and there was a noticeable improvement.
 
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Unless there's a noticeable convex bulge on the flat of the chisel, you only need flatten the 1/4th to 1/2 inch (at most) edge next to the top bevel. Everything else is wasted energy and accomplishes nothing.

That's what I mean about new techniques surpassing the drudgery of past methods with faster, better results.

If you enjoy doing all the extra work, you can polish the back of the chisel until you have a mirror, but it does nothing to give you a sharper edge.

I once would have done all that work thinking it was necessary. Now I know I was wrong, wasted time and energy doing it, and now my chisels, planes, and knives are sharper than ever and I can get on to the work.
 

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@JOAT

The importance of flattening the back of the chisel is to make sure the knife edge, after sharpening the bevel, has a straight edge...see pic below...

Imagine if the back were not flattened (gray area in the pic)...the sharpened edge would not be straight.
that chisel appears to be a cranked neck and the way the flattening came out it is perfect for using it for paring...
 

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According to Lee Valley who sell the Narex chisels up here they are supposed to come flatter than that. I've taken literally hours to get some of the old Sheffield chisel makers chisels flat across the bottoms. I used to quit when I got to 600 grit on my diamond stones but then I tried some 2500 grit carbide paper on glass and there was a noticeable improvement.
the more polished the back side the less friction there helping the chisel cut easier/smoother...
 
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I use the side of the wheel on my Tormek for flattening...
I get a mirror in a few minutes...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Nope, not watching utube videos on it. Don't trust many utube videos. Got my belt sander sharpening idea many years ago, from a world class furniture maker, and darned if I can recall who it was, but it has worked very well for me, so not changing my sharpening method. From what I learned, got his chisels at the local hardware, and never flattened the backs of his chisels. Plane irons, fine, they always cut at the same angle - or at least supposed to. Chisels never cut at the same angle, they always are at a different angle, even if it is just a minute difference, so as far as I can tell a minor bit off on the sharpening is meaningless. My grandfather was what most would call a master carpenter today, and none of his chisels had flattened backs, as far as I know. Do chisel manufacturers recommend flattening the backs?
Hey if it works for you and you're happy with the results why change now. But as is with most things there are ways to do things and ways to do things properly. I tend to lean toward properly as there is a reason for these to develop. In my case I want quality tools that will help get the job done well. In the case of chisels and planes, as I'm finding out, there's cutting and shaving. In many cases you could think of it like shaving your face. Now I've seen some faces that could be shaved with an ax and not be any the worse for it while most it would destroy. The difference is the material and the sharpness of the cutters. The sharper the cutter the cleaner the cut. Like shaving with a new sharp blade, it will cleanly cut through while that 2 month old used every day blade with likely pull harder and whack off the cut leaving less than smooth in its wake. Question remains what to use and how to get there. The attachment Stick replied with takes you to that place as do many articles written by those we would consider professionals/experts.

My intent along this path is to learn the proper recommended way to first choose, setup, and use quality tools. Afterall someday these will belong to my son and they might as well be worth having. They don't have to be Lie-Nielsen quality but good quality non the least. Again it comes down to what is acceptable to you and how far you want to go. I'm not looking to become a master woodworker but I would like to acquire those skills.
 

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I have a sheet of plate glass, obtained from a glazing company, a piece cut for me from a broken shop window. I wet it and lay a full sheet of wet and dry paper on it and using plenty of water go through the grades of paper finishing with 1200 grit. I've tried the side of the Tormec wheel which works but it take for ages to remove much metal.
 

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I have a WorkSharp 3000 I use mostly for flattening the back. Makes quick work of polishing and I use the strop disk with some polishing compound for the final touches. Prefer using diamond stones for the bevel. The WorkSharp is also excellent for rescuing a damaged chisel or iron. But from time to time I'll get out the different grits of sandpaper.

I don't let my chisels get dull. After use, I give then a few swipes on the fine diamond stone so they're arm hair shaving sharp every time I use them. Don't forget the ultra light lube on the diamond stone. I don't use a guide, I figure after 30 or so years of the angle might go off by a negligable degree or two.
 
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