We all know that there are so many options available (for a price)...
The most expensive, best and fastest for everyday sharpening in our opinion is the Tormek system:
It'll give you great results with very little effort but takes some mastering at first.
The cheapest way to sharpen a single tool and get it seriously sharp..., is to use sandpaper on a known flat surface... This is known as the SCARY SHARP METHOD!
You could use a table saw bed but I'd strongly recommend you get yourself a Granite Surface Plate. You'll love it and you'll use it a lot...
If you want to recondition old bench plane's for example, this will be indispensable because it'll be flat to within a thousandth of an inch... That's how accurate your plane would be and how flat you'll be able to get a piece of wood with that plane as a result...
It's actually, one of the more expensive ways to sharpen your tools when you realize how much you spend on sandpaper, spray adhesive, solvent (for cleaning the spray adhesive off afterwards), cloths or paper towels for cleanup etc......
I used to use the 'Scary Sharp Method' but soon swapped over to water stones.
If, you'd like to know more about sharpening with sandpaper, let me know in the comments below and I'll post an article on the subject for you.
Then there are water stones: (my recomendation for your first system)
The following set up will get you started and do everything you need it to do:
If you’re still in love with the tradition and artistry of woodworking, you want to enjoy those moments.
There are times in your life when having to slow right down, repetition can be therapeutic. Sharpening with water stones does that for me.
The honing guide makes all the difference in the world. You can sharpen without one and much respect to you if you master that talent but it certainly speeds up and simplifies the process if you have a honing guide.
I find that the 2 stones give me an edge I can shave hairs off the back of my hand with.
That’s plenty sharp for me.
What's a Micro Bevel and do I use one?
(A micro bevel is where you increase the cut angle right at the tip of your blade/knife. Generally 1/32" to 1/16" of the tip)
I do use a micro bevel but I have to say, I have mixed feelings here.
Every tool I use regularly has a 25° primary bevel and a 30° micro (or secondary) bevel, (see pic).
The idea being that resharpening will be faster. It makes sense in theory but after a couple of sharpenings you have to re-extend the primary bevel or you end up with one big secondary bevel.
The other benefit of a secondary bevel is that the edge has more strength to it, it’s less of a fine point so it’s harder to chip although it still does.
I find that I end up working both bevels just to end up with the result I’m looking for which defeats the object.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about sharpening with stones:
1. Your eyes can see a blunt edge in the right light, if you can't see the edge, it’s sharp.
2. Don’t forget to remove the burr when you’re done. I use a leather strop and honing compound for that job.
3. In my experience, stones develop a valley quickly. 2 sharpenings of a 1/2” chisel on a 1000 grit wet stone and you need to flatten it again if you want to be sure it’s flat.
4. You need a reliably flat surface in your shop. If you don’t trust any of them. Invest in a granite flat stone. They are flat to within 1,000th of an inch which is plenty accurate.
5. You need to flatten your flattening stone to guarantee it will flatten your other stones. How I do that is with 100 grit sandpaper stuck (with spray adhesive, never double stick tape) to a known flat surface. If you don't have a Granite flattening stone, use your jointer outfeed bed or cabinet saw bed, if you know it's flat.
6. Sharpening tools is a laborious task that will take hours of your day. It’s much better to sharpen a tool after you use it than go through every tool in your shop in one hit. Your hands and back will thank you.
7. Set up a sharpening station. No matter what system you prefer, dedicate shop space to it and have everything in one place, ready to go. You need that efficiency in a small shop.
8. This may seem obvious but, it takes much more time to sharpen wider blades than thin ones. the more stock you have to remove the longer it'll take. A 1-1/2" chisel can take well over an hour if it hasn't been sharpened in a while.
Some things can’t be sharpened...
If if you own a thickness planer with 2 or 3 blades. You’ll find that they can't be sharpened. I’ve tried and trust me it can’t be done well enough to do it right.
Your sharpening service may be technically able to do it but it’ll be more expensive than buying new blades each time.
Buy a machine with a Helical cutter head, or buy a helical cutter head for your existing machine. The blades have 4 sides and they are extremely tough. They will pay for themselves within a year because you won’t be replacing expensive blades every project or two.