A Pro Tool Sharpening Guide
Tips and gear for keeping your tools at their sharpest.
Sharpening chain saw teeth
Using a file to sharpen chain saw teeth that are completely rounded off takes a long time. With the Dremel chain saw sharpening kit it’ll take only a few minutes to restore the entire chain to that wonderful state where huge chips are flying out the chute. Just place the proper diameter grinding stones from the kit into your Dremel and then visually match up the angle marks on the metal bar with the angle of the teeth. The kit comes with an angle gauge and stones to fit the most common tooth sizes.
New angles on tool sharpening
Here’s a better way to hold tools securely while you’re grinding them—and take the guesswork out of creating the right bevel angle. It’s a short piece of 2×4 with an angled end and a 1-1/4-in. hole for a clamp. We made one for chisels and plane blades, and a few more with different angles for wood-turning tools. Large labels with the tool’s name tell you which blocks are for which tools.
For a Delta grinder with a 6-in.-diameter wheel, a 5-1/2-in.-long piece of 2×4 aligns the tool to the wheel just right. For other grinders you may need to adjust this length.
Note: The angle you cut on the block is not the same as the tool’s bevel angle. To determine the block angle, turn off the grinder and hold the tool’s bevel flush against the wheel. The angle of the tool shaft to the workbench is the angle to cut on the 2×4.
Super-simple chisel sharpener
Most woodworkers rely on sharp chisels and planes for their livelihood. A pro-favorite sharpening device is the WorkSharp system. It sharpens chisels and plane blades quickly with no mess. The best part is that you don’t need any practice to get a razor-sharp edge. The WS3000 is available at home centers and online.
Axes: file and hone
Not all axes have the same blade bevel, so when they’re resharpened it’s important to follow the lines of the original bevel. Inspect the ax blade for any chips or nicks. If you find some nicks, grind them away. Make sure to sharpen the whole edge to preserve the shape of the blade. You should also be careful not to burn the edge.
Keep a bucket of water handy to douse the head after each pass, then dry it off and continue grinding. If your blade has only small nicks or irregularities, you can usually file them away with a 10-inch mill bastard file. Filing produces very little heat, so you won’t need to worry about ruining the temper of the blade.
Sharpen shovels with a file
Sharpening a shovel is one of those things most people don’t think to do very often. But, once your shovel is sharp, the task of digging almost becomes fun. Along with sliding easily through soil, it’ll cut right through stubborn roots and sod. In most cases, you’ll only need a file to sharpen a shovel, but if the edge has some chips or deep nicks, use a grinder first to reshape the edge.
Next, file along the blade of the shovel from each side to the center. Move the file in one continuous motion for a consistent edge. The angle should be about 45 degrees. It’ll take up to 20 strokes per side for a good edge. Use a bar clamp to hold the shovel firmly to the bench. Once the shovel is sharp, don’t worry about the burrs you’ve created on the back side; they’ll disappear the minute you start digging.
Here’s a fast, safe and easy way to rough-sharpen smaller shop tools like paint and glue scrapers. First, buy a sanding disc kit for your drill. The kit will include a rubber disc and several sanding discs in various grits. Carefully clamp the drill in a vise without bending or distorting the drill’s housing, then run the disc at low speed. Hold the blade so the disc rotates away from, not into, the blade so it won’t cut into the disc. Move the blade from side to side, working near the outer edge of the disc for greatest control. Use coarser grits to restore nicked edges and finer grits for touch-up sharpening.
Belt sander as a tool sharpener?
Larger tools like axes, shovels and other gardening tools are easy to sharpen on a belt sander. To keep the belt sander stationary as you press the tool against the belt, clamp the sander in a vise or to a worktable. Then:
- Remove the tool’s dust bag.
- Check the angle of the cutting edge and hold the tool on the belt so it preserves this angle while you’re sharpening.
- Make light side-to-side passes, pausing to check the edge every couple of passes, and be sure to hold the tool so the belt rotates away from the cutting edge.
Battered cutting edges can be reshaped with a 60-grit sanding belt and finished up with a 100-grit belt.
How to keep your spade bits sharp
Spade bits work great for drilling rough holes through rough material, but they take a lot of abuse in the process. Luckily, a spade bit doesn’t have to be sharpened with precision in order to work better. A few strokes along the bottom with a file and you’re back in business.
Clamp the bit in a vise and file the cutting edges, making sure to maintain the existing angle. A tapered triangular file works well for many sizes of spade bit.
Tune up carbide router bits with a diamond paddle
Chipped or severely dulled carbide router bits require professional sharpening, but if the edge is slightly dulled it can be restored with a diamond paddle.
To avoid changing the cutting profile of the bit, sharpen the back of the cutters only. A handy method is to clamp the diamond paddle to your workbench and move the bit back and forth over the diamond-impregnated surface. Start with the coarser-grit side of the paddle, then switch to the fine side. The sharpened carbide should have a consistent shiny band along the cutting edge.