i have seen people on woodworking shows using chisels by hand to shave wood to make better joints and various purposes. i dont have a fancy wood handled chisel set.i have a pretty good set of 5 stanley chisels. when i say pretty good, they are the only ones i havent beat to death ,lol
my question is, can these chisels be sharpened to shave wood by hand like this?
Boy, you are opening a can of worms... Here is a long and rambling post that might give you some ideas or just might drive you off to buy some do-all gadget and be done.
I've been using the "scary sharp" or sandpaper method for a while and I'm transitioning into using water stones (IceBear brand, good stuff and less expensive than Norton or other Japan stones). The water stones are a bit more expensive but except for needing to rehab a seriously beat up chisel, I've found them to be faster and less mess than the sand paper. Still a little mess on the bench but not like cleaning up the overspray from sticking down the paper or the metal filing dust.
In general for western style bench chisels, all the sharpening methods will tell you do first flatten the back of the chisel. The whole back doesn't have to be flat, really just the 1/8" to 1/4" down at the business end. Work through the grids/grades of your system of choice until the back is flat and shiny and free of scratches (again, the last 1/4" is really the important part). Next you can either hollow grind or skip the hollow grind. The thing about hollow grinding is that you have less material to remove later with the finer grits and it does make it easier to balance the chisel if holding by hand to sharpen.
The WS2000/3000 does not require hollow grinding (can't do it anyway) and some of the other powered machines don't. I've started hollow grinding and I like it because once done, it isn't necessary again until the chisel has been well used (abused) and it does seem to speed up the later sharpening steps. The speed increase is because you will have only two small edges of the chisel in contact with the honing surface instead of the whole bevel. Less metal to remove so quicker to get through the grit/grade.
Also, you can pick the bevel angle at this time. The average bench chisel is probably around 30 degrees. A good compromise angle. Steeper holds an edge better letting you chop harder. Shallower for paring cuts (say 25 or even 20 degrees) but the edge won't stay as long.
Don't fret getting the bevel exactly at 30.00000. 29 is fine, 31 is fine, etc. Lots of ways to set the bevel, I just give it a quick check with a protractor and then proceed by eye. The key is to have only one facet after honing (unless you are doing microbevels... did I mention a can of worms is involved here!
Seriously, I suggest you google around for the scary sharp method and watch some of the videos at Fine Woodworking, Wood Magazine and on YouTube. You don't have to go nuts making jigs and stuff. Some hardware store float glass and a piece of MDF make a useable sharpening station. Get some wet dry from the auto parts store, up to 1500 or 2000 and have a few sheet of the grades in between down to maybe 80. The really course ones you'll only use once or twice.
Mineral Oil works well as a lube for the swarf, as does water or even WD-40.
As to a honing guide, that is a personal choice. I started with one, about a $40 job so middle of the road in quality and I've stopped using it except for my 1/8" chisel because I can hold by hand and get done quicker. The 1/8" gives me trouble keeping it straight so I still use the guide.
A good sharp chisel or plane blade makes a WORLD of difference!