Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Dedicated Sharpening Bench- part 1

An Introduction...

"The best hand tools in the world are worthless in the hands of the woodworker who cannot sharpen them."

After reading and experimenting with, practicing and then studying the different techniques of sharpening I've come to settle on a system that is working for me in my current shop space and that's good! A freshly sharpened hand tool can turn the most challenging joinery tasks into wonderful and relaxed procedures. Your work will be cleaner with tighter fitting joinery and your tools will perform as they were intended to the day they were made. The joys of working wood will be that much the greater.
In my own basement work space here in Toronto, I've followed the line and I'm happy with my results; but something I'm not happy with and have been promising myself for months to address is my sharpening location and current set-up.
One day last year, I noticed a neighbour throwing out a small wooden table. I snatched it up, rescuing it from the eternal wasteland of the land fill site and have been using it as my sharpening table ever since. Prior to the table I was using a sharpening hook system I designed awhile ago. It was basically an over-sized bench hook with some cleats to hold water stones and a side area for stone storage. The sharpening hook worked when my bench top wasn't cluttered, (which if you know me you know that it hasn't happened much this past year!) so the routine of moving my work project or tools to make room for the sharpening hook soon became tiresome. The small 'throw away' tables footprint has also become reminiscent of a drunken sailor on shore leave so I've finally decided, with a little help from Fine, to build a new bench dedicated to sharpening.
A small scale workbench with large scale workbench strength. The frame has mortise and tenon joinery with a solid 1" thick work surface that has bread board ends fitted into a heavy, through dovetailed apron.
It has a tool tray featuring a unique and convenient way of actually 'holding tools' ! (not just for the hamsters anymore) and I've added some 'off the shelf' items that will also add to the -dare I say- pleasure of sharpening?

Do you currently have a dedicated sharpening area? Is it a re-used piece of furniture or maybe a purpose made table or bench? I'd love to hear about it- be part of the discussion and share some thoughts.

In the next post I'll assemble my cut list and get right into the project with some stock preparation and I'll glue-up the top panels...stay tuned.


  1. Great idea, I look forward to seeing how this develops. I've seen plans for fold-down sharpening stations, but I was concerned about stability on those.

    Do you have a photo of your bench-hook sharpening station?

  2. Wish I had the room for a dedicated sharpening area. Having to pull out the stones from the shelf under the bench doesn't bother me much, but having to constantly set up and break down the grinder and tool rest gets mighty tiresome. Perhaps I'll glean some ideas from your new setup to be able to find some dedicated space.

  3. Hi Tom, I just upgraded my 10x10 basement shop to a 12x12 one and now with the great amount of room i now have(being sarcastic here) i use my workmate as a sharpening station. but i want to build one that will allow me to sharpen my tools wile standing, so a tall table kind of! How tall is your station will be?

  4. I'm interested in the sharpening system you have decided or settled on. Is it in a previous blog, or could you please expand a bit?

  5. thanks for the comments everyone- busy -busy-busy...

    md hills- i made by self a 16foot 'fold down' workbench while building boats a few years I could stand on that thing ! so I wouldn't dis-miss a sturdy fold down option where space is limited. You just need a good design to start with!

    Bob, yeah my grinder is currently living on my clothes dryer -gotta get that off of there ! you have a few things around your space i've been eyeing....gotta 'borrow' a few ideas ! ;)

    David- the sharpening bench will finish around 32". I've tried a few other heights and that one seems to work best for my height. My slow speed grinder is one of those weird designs that you hold the tool from the top ? ( hey, I don't use it all that much)

    and finally scott, I don't think it's in a blog- it will be though...thanks for the idea !
    it's actually just water stones...pretty simple and straight forward...I do use different methods for different tools, two different jigs as I said I'll expand in a future post.

    Cheers everyone !