How Often Do You Regrind?

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micro bevel water stone sharpening

I don’t normally regrind. It’s something I’ve always reserved for when setting up old tools or re-setting knackered edges.

But since moving to water stones for my sharpening (I’m still on with that water stone experiment), my usual methods have somewhat let me down. I will talk about them soon, maybe in a video. But for the water stones I had to change tactic, and switched to the micro bevel (or secondary bevel or whatever it’s called).

I quickly came to realise why this method of sharpening is so popular. It’s fast, very predictable and gives very good sharpness. But only if you respect the technique enough to regrind… and regularly.

For those not familiar to this method, it’s quite simple:

You grind your chisel, iron or whatnot to about 25 degrees…ish

Then sharpen to about 30-35 degrees…ish, creating the secondary bevel.

You get about 5 lovely fast, predictable, sharp, sharpens…ish

Then it progressively becomes less fast, less predictable, & less sharp.

You regrind the blade to 25 degrees and restart over.

Depending on the tool, I push to perhaps ten sharpens before regrinding, though I find it best to regrind sooner. Push your look and you’re on the grinder for longer. Also those look pushers take longer to sharpen, as the bevel grows, and are less sharp.

The method works a treat. But I sharpen a lot, which means I’m spending quite a lot of time on the grinder, so much so, that I’ve even shunted my stump up to the damn thing so I can sit whilst boring myself.

I wonder if my need to regrind so much is half due to my low tool approach. I’ll often use only one plane for an entire build, so naturally it’s getting all the welly. More irons equals less regrinding, or something like that. My chisel use is the same, I use my Splitproofs for nearly everything, so there going to need sharping more.

For those of you that use the secondary / micro bevel method, how many sharpens do you tend to get to a regrind? I appreciate it’s a guesstimate.

42 Responses

  1. Glen

    When I did things this way I was regrinding maybe every 3-7 guesstimate sharpens. My chisels got shorter faster. I went to freehand, with a honing guide only to establish the proper bevel. Including de-nicking them, of course.

    For drastic cambers I grind.

    Reply
    • Richard Maguire

      Cheers Glen, I must say that has started to become a slight worry for me. I’ve had the same set of chisels my whole life but I’m guesstimating they won’t last half as long with the grinder.

      Reply
      • Glen

        Like the posters below, ya gotta be careful when you regrind.

        I should mention that my primary grinder has become a 100 year old Modern hand crank and only just barely fits a Norton white 3X wheel. My last power grinder died a couple of years ago. Good riddance, I should have chucked it long ago.

        The hand crank takes a little getting used to, as far as accuracy and “getting into your rhythm,” but it’s like riding a bicycle: once you’ve mastered it, you’re the one in control. I don’t even dip in water anymore.

        It was powered grinding that ate chisels. Probably my fault when it gets down to it, but I find the hand grinder much easier.

        Reply
  2. Jim Beach

    I probably regrind every 5ish times on a Tormek. Its quick and saves time sharpening by whatever method you use and gives better results. Leave it longer and you need to grind more off the primary bevel hence it takes longer.

    Reply
  3. Jasper

    Working with the Tormek (or Tormek-ish, if you are on a budget) is very predictable. I can choose and (re)set an angle with great precision, so there is very little material to remove. So that is a quick procedure. During work I mostly use a stropping plate.

    Setting up the machine however takes some time, so occasionally I grab a flat stone. And then continue to use it 3-7 times on that chisel, because it disturbs the quick procedure mentioned above. And then regrind on the wheel. Mixing the two is wasting time and steel.

    I know of a double bass maker who has seven irons for his block plane. He uses them all up and then regrinds all at once. So they shorten at the same rate. Which is handy when changing to a fresh iron.

    Reply
  4. Paul Chapman

    I use more planes than you do, Richard. Usually a #5, #7 and #3 and I have a spare blade for each, which I sometimes switch to and grind/hone later. I grind on a Tormek and hone on diamond stones and diamond paste on wood using the Lie Nielsen honing guide, which is excellent – a massive improvement on the Eclipse guide.

    Reply
    • David Cockey

      A large number. I use a secondary bevel with waterstones and a jig, but don’t regrind unless the edge is badly corrupted. Secondary bevel is 30 degrees and primary bevel is a bit less, generally around 27 degrees or so. The primary bevel is re-established when needed with a 1000 grit waterstone. Usually I don’t let the seconday bevel become more than half the width of the bevel.

      Reply
  5. joseph laviolette

    I finally stopped fighting with the convex camber crowd and joined them. No secondary bevel, no honing guides, and annual trips to the grinder. I take my tools to my 8000 grit stone at least daily, often times more (especially chisels, I like a fresh sharp edge all the time) depending on the tool or task, Rougher than that quite often too.

    I estimate I spend about 45 seconds an edge sharpening it

    Reply
    • TaDaMan

      I am also in the cambered iron by hand camp. Reshape nearly and often.

      The only time I use a power grinder is to reshape or rehab a chipped blade.

      Reply
  6. Eric

    I regrind maybe every 5 to 6 sharpenings, but that’s a guess as I usually just go by looking at the size of the secondary bevel. But I never grind all the way to the edge. On my full speed grinder it runs the risk of overheating, but it also eats more steel. I leave a sliver of the old secondary bevel remaining, which is easily honed from there.

    Reply
    • DenverGeorge

      I’m with you. My grinder is not that accurate ($3 at a garage sale) and leaving a sliver keeps me from burning the edge. In between grindings I use my 1000 and 8000 waterstones for the secondary bevel. I like to keep my secondary bevel at no more than one third of my primary bevel.

      Reply
  7. Steven Davis

    Richard –

    You are totally on to something here.

    Dust off your geometry skills.

    First, if you did a single grind at 35 degrees, you basically take off a parallelogram of material with each sharpening to get to clean metal of thickness d.

    The volume removed is :

    d*h

    Where he is the height of your chisel.

    For the secondary grind, first, you have to make the initial grind to 25 degrees.

    Then the secondary bevel.

    Each primary bevel cut is chewing up your chisel quickly.

    This will take a bit of trigonometry, so I’ll get back to you if no one beats me to it.

    I’d switch to a just a correct primary bevel of you don’t want to chew up your blades.

    If you can tell me how much depth material you remove and the thickness of your chisel or blade, we can build a model. Nicks are nicks, after all.

    Reply
  8. Paul Bouchard

    I found grinding stressful and slow on the wheels I was using, so I always put it off too long. My coarse Atoma diamond stone is the center of my current set up. The results are always straight and there’ son risk of ruining the temper. I only ever do a couple of touch ups before re-establishing the bevel but that never takes too long. I may try oil stones or water stones again some day but don’t see myself ever moving away from a coarse diamond plate.

    Reply
    • Paul Bouchard

      I’d like to also warn people off the DMT extra-extra coarse 120 micron plate, if they want to fix nicks. The diamonds may be bigger but they’re so thinly spread, it’s actually less aggressive than the extra-coarse plate. I’m finding the Atoma #140 to be perfect.

      Reply
  9. michael

    While I have reground chisels in the past (typically old/rusty car boot finds – my grinder has sat for 3 years unused (at least for chisels) I keep all my chisels honed to 25 degrees and while there is more works to put a sharp edge back on – I use DMT’s 4 diamond stones (Blk, Blu, Red, Gr) and a new edge takes no more than five minutes to have a mirror finish – certainly wastes less precious metal.

    Reply
  10. Graham Haydon

    Good to hear you’re grinding away in the workshop :). Just like to say my heart has swelled to read you’re using splitproofs. Tradesman’s choice and for good reason. Nice to see the content coming again.

    Reply
  11. Tim

    Richard,
    You should have a talk with David Charlesorth about this. If anyone is an expert in sharpening with water stones, it would be him.

    Reply
  12. Allen

    I’m clumsy with the grinder.
    And, the grinder is not that forgiving if the phone rings and the tool slips left or right.
    Even without accidents, I’m a rookie and still (occasionally) fail at getting a straight edge off the grinder.

    I’ve watched through a couple of Deneb Puchalski’s sharpening videos on the Lie-Nielsen YouTube channel and I’m thinking of grinding with sandpaper and a flat plate. It seems to me that this would take only the minimal amount of material necessary and a slip isn’t likely to take the corner off the chisel! According to Deneb, this method takes the same amount of time as wheel grinding.

    Does anyone use this method for grinding?

    Thanks,
    @

    Reply
    • Jasper

      Sandpaper on a flat plate is very easy, but expensive in the long run.

      How about letting a diamond stone (or three of them: rough – medium – fine) into a flat plate, making one level surface? You can use a sharpening jig on that.

      Reply
      • Allen

        Hmm. I know you’re right
        Still, I’ve “burned” a few plane irons (and chisels) trying to grind them.
        I really dislike using the grinder and always feel like I’m taking too much metal off my tools.
        And a 45 yard roll of 180 or 220 grit adhesive sandpaper is less than $55 US.
        I may give it a go and see how long the sandpaper lasts.

        Oh, and I have three EZ Lap plates ala Paul Sellers.
        Even the coarsest of the three is a bit too fine for grinding a new primary bevel.

        Thanks,
        @

        Reply
        • Jasper

          For rough and dirty grinding (shaping) I use a belt sander, clamped upside down to the bench.

          It is a small-ish and slow-ish machine. The belts that are too worn for sanding wood quickly are still OK for shaping metal. Very low risk of overheating.

          I could even make an angle jig hovering over the belt.

          Reply
  13. Simon

    Hi Richard,

    I’m on waterstones too and since starting to work nearly every weekend, I’m finding the need to sharpen a lot. I don’t grind and I don’t use a micro bevel, so I’m finding I spend quite some time on the 220 stone (which is now only half it’s original thickness).

    I was thinking of replacing the 220 with a fast cutting diamond plate to cut down on time, and then use the 1000/4000/8000 to refine a nice edge. I’m also using the Veritas Mk II honing guide which removes all the guess work.

    Si

    Reply
  14. Jason

    I’ve gone through a lot of sharpening methods, before finally settling on what I feel I should have been doing from the beginning; sharpening free hand with three diamond stones and a leather strop.

    Sharpening free hand was very scary to a beginner like myself, but I found it to be a lot easier to become good at than I thought it would be.

    Reply
  15. Micheal Kingsley

    I use a Tormak for my primary grinder, especially for my turning tools… It is a wet grind, so you don’t have to worry about the tool, it is always sharp… and I do not lose as much steel that way, but on my hand chisels, I use a worksharp, which isn’t a grinder at all, it is more of a metal sander, that lets me use what ever grit I need up to 30000, it your mind is set on how fine an edge you need. I know both of these tools are a bit spendy, but then I do not buy as many tools that way. BOTH are repeatable edges, so you don’t have to set up as often, nor do you have to regrind nearly as often, as it is more of a strop than a grind. However I also have a slow speed grinder set up at about an 80 grit for when I buy a tool or find one that I like in a boot sale or something like that. Set up up right on that, then move on to the other machines. I admit I used to just use a norton oil and an arkansas strop stone, but they tool too much time and were very hard to repeat the edges without a LOT of practice. I still own them, but do not use them.

    Reply
  16. Cormac Dooley

    I’m beginning to worry now. I hardly ever regrind unless the edge is chipped. I hone the secondary very regularly on an 8000 and then on a leather strop. I use split proof Irwin “Marples” generally and a couple of A2 Lie Neilsens for paring. The A2 steel takes a bit longer to work. The edge lasts longer but doesn’t have the killer bite of O1.

    Reply
  17. John Slattery

    Hello all,

    Over the years I’ve used most methods, but I now sharpen freehand on diamond stones followed by a quick strop, a convex camber with no secondary bevel. It’s quick, and after an initial bit of practice, easy to do. More than satisfied with the results, wish I’d known about it years ago, nowadays I would only grind a severely damaged edge. It’s a bit like bench heights really- just do what suits you best!! No right way wrong way.

    Reply
  18. Kees

    Hi Richard

    4 to 5 times is a good guess I’d say. Btw grinding isn’t waisting more material. It removes metal that needs to be removed anyway, one time or another. It just removes it earlier in time.

    Btw I use oilstones. I would be interested in your method and setup from when you still used them too. How did you avoid the grinder?

    Reply
  19. Stefan

    Hi Richard,
    I’m doing my sharpening on diamond stones from 250 to 1000 grit.
    I don’t have a secondary bevel on chisels. I’m always honing the full bevel.
    Regrinding only if necessary with 80 grit sandpaper on a granite tile.

    Cheers,
    Stefan

    Reply
  20. Steve Voigt

    Hi Richard,
    I use the same method, but with oilstones. What were you doing before?
    I get about 6 sharpenings that are easy, then another 4-6 that get harder.
    I agree with Kees, this method doesn’t necessarily remove more material than any other. But it’s easy to remove more than you need to, especially when the secondary bevel is very small.
    I would not worry about using up your chisels and plane irons. They were meant to be used up. They are perishable commodities, not precious heirlooms. Look at old woodies or old Butcher tang chisels in the second hand market; often as not, the usable steel is nearly gone.

    Reply
  21. George Lough

    I just hone twice. The first time gets rid of the secondary bevel.. It doesn’t take much because this is very narrow. Then i make a few quick passes to make a new micro bevel. Grinding wheels eat steel.

    Reply
  22. Nadir Ralph

    If you use your chisel a lot, you have to maintain it a lot. If you are not in the wood shop much, you don’t need to grind it often.

    Reply
  23. Dan Murphy

    I agree with Kees and Steve Voigt: periodically regrinding the primary bevel on the bench grinder (or belt sander, Tormek, coarse diamond plate, whatever) won’t eat up your tools any faster than any other sharpening method — as long as you leave a thin sliver of the old edge (secondary bevel) when you regrind.
    In theory, your tools should, if anything, last a little longer: if you’re only honing a thin secondary bevel with your bench stones, you have a better chance of getting a perfect polish (i.e. completely removing the scratches from the coarser grits), which creates a more durable edge.

    Reply
  24. Ollie Sparks

    Maybe a little different outlook but rather than look at how long the secondary bevels last why not consider how to remove the primary faster? from the stool use it sounds like you could use a more powerful and/or better wheel. Using a large grinder and a cool running wheel is a massive gamechander. Okay so you know I do a lot more grinding than an average woodworker so can justify running a 3ph beast but even a cheap second hand 8” ebay grinder with a decent wheel will make an enormous difference. From my view It doesn’t matter how many secondary laps i get out, because I know a complete regrind to wire edge takes about a minute for a plane iron and half a minute for a chisel. just my two bob.

    Reply
  25. Rob Stoakley

    I grind back plane irons when the honed bevel gets to around 1-1.5mm and it’s then too bloody irksome to re-hone. However I NEVER re-grind my Japanese chisels as the hollow grind from a Tormek…even the new T8 which I’ve had a play with, removes too much of the softer backing and thus reduces the support offered to the harder cutting steel.
    All honing done on the SS sharp system from Workshop Heaven with a Kell III guide, including Japanese chisels, which will fit it.
    But not, I hasten to add, the new LN guide because I’ve had a play with that as well.

    Reply
  26. Michael

    I was at a class that roy underhill (he of the woodwrightshop PBS series) taught. He was demonstrating the easy with which one could take a rusty old chisel and produce a fine cutting edge in only a few minutes. He started with a very small hand grinder to remove the rust and then finished on a couple of oil stones. when asked by the gentleman at the back what angle he was putting on the edge roy responded – “I have no idea.” The was then ask what stones he was using, To which Roy responded “Ah that I can tell you, they’re the ones I have used for the last 40 years…

    Reply
  27. Walter Ambrosch

    Richard,
    I gave up on water Stones. Just too many complications.
    As to grinding… I generally hone (regardless of abrasive method) until the honed edge nearly eliminates the original bevel grind.
    But, I also let the full heel and toe of the tool touch the stones at all times so while not as fast as just honing the toe, it keeps me at or near the original grind angle most of the times.
    Having said that I have also just kept honing regardless of if I see the original grind or not as long as I still and cutting with a sharp keen edge.
    There are some methods that only grind once to shape the tool, the rest is all honing all the time.
    Hope this is helpful to someone…

    Reply
  28. Mike Ballinger

    I tend to sharpen a batch of chisels in one hit. I’ve never used a grinder. I have a simple DMT diamond stone set up with three grits, medium, fine, superfine and a leather strop with green polishing compound. I use the PS method and I’ve timed the sharpening a to be around 2-2.5 minutes per chisel. So after 15 minutes I normally have most of my edge tools ready to go. The strop made a world of difference. If I get a bad edge with a nick it does take a while to sort out on my set up but thankfully it’s not often I have that problem. I might get a courser diamond plate for that one day, and I generally use a honing guide in that scenario.

    Reply
  29. Pete The Wood Servant

    I’m 68 and have been woodworking professionally since nine years of age. Growing up in the workshop and self employed since 1970. I have tried water stones but gave up for exactly your reason. Too much regrinding. The chisels I use daily I’ve had since my 7th birthday. For as many years as I can remember I only re-grind if I dink and edge. I’ve had a Tormek for several years for this and it’s brilliant. I sharpen without a secondary bevel on an Arkansas translucent stone and strop 50 strops bevel and back every hour max. I do the same with my plane irons. Plus I’ve always had grave doubts getting water near my precious tools.

    Reply
  30. Jonathan

    Like so many others, I use the Paul Sellers method and the Tormek when I need to. I find that this works for me: sharpening is quick, easy, and does not interrupt my workflow. I originally used oilstones and a Stanley honing guide, but changed some years ago. I like the simplicity of freehand honing.

    Reply
  31. Tone

    I use a cheap old, secondhand American WEN wet bench top grinder, which has a small 2″x2″ 240 grit wheel, it’s much slower, safer, quieter & gentler than a bench grinder, cost ~£15 used. I used up the original stone wheel but it came with a spare. I also have bigger, old 1980s Swedish Kiruna wet wheel, which will take over when the when the WEN wears out. Again, it is slow & gentle. These tend to be more expensive but I bought mine broke & fixed it. There is a cheap new modern plastic alternative from Westfalia (German presumably), about £30 with spare wheels available. No jigs, you learn to sharpen by hand.

    I also have a very big, powerful, fast, wet stone wheel but I would recommend against that. Too dangerous, aggressive & messy. If you fancy a big wheel, go for a much slower, gentler, safer pedal/treddle/handle powered version instead. If you want something more more aggressive a linisher/belt sander (ideally a Sorby ProEdge system) seems to be the popular modern alternative to a grinding wheel.

    Reply

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