Sharpening your tools should be an essential part of regular tool maintenance.
Skipping it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to use your tools at all, but it will
- Impact the quality of your work
- Make you look less professional
- Decrease the longevity of your tools
- Increase the risk of damaging the material you’re working with
Let’s see what tools (and who) can benefit from sharpening and how to do it!
Tool Sharpening 101
The tools that we use most often are the ones most in need of sharpening.
- Gardening and lawn decorating tools (pruning shears, pruning saw, spade, shovel, lawn mover blades)
- Woodworking tools (chisel, knives, handsaw, gouge, brace bit)
- Professional kitchen knives
- Basically, any metal tool that’s in heavy rotation
How to Sharpen Your Tools
There are many ways to sharpen your tools. The variety you choose depends on many factors.
- Price: you can buy mechanized systems specifically made for tool sharpening, or you can start out with something as simple and old-school as sandpaper.
- Steel thickness: the rule of thumb here is, the thicker the steel the harder it is to sharpen by hand and vice versa.
- What you want to achieve: different steps in the sharpening process require different tools.
Hand Tools for Sharpening
A word of wisdom before we get into the most common hand tools for sharpening: prevention is key.
- Clean your tools thoroughly after every use
- Store them in a dry place
- Be mindful of corrosion (especially important if you live in coastal areas)
Protecting your tools is fairly easy. One of the cheapest and simplest ways is to coat them in vegetable oil. Go for something like jojoba. Other options include plastic and paper bags with rust-repellent properties and silica gel beads.
Now, on to the hand tools for sharpening.
- Sandpaper: we already mentioned this handyman’s basic. Attach a layer of sandpaper to a flat surface and you’re ready for sharpening.
- Waterstones: waterstones (and other stone types) are flattened stones that are either natural or made of synthetic materials. Waterstones offer quick polishing, but you also have to maintain (flatten) them regularly. Working with them is sometimes messy because you have to spray it with water before use.
- Oilstones: oilstones are cheaper than waterstones. Their disadvantage is they don’t sharpen tools as fast as waterstones, but they will help you protect your tools against rust (because they’re used with oil).
- Diamond stones: a relatively new addition to the tool sharpening family, these are flat tools with diamonds embedded in their surface.
Keep in mind you also have to maintain your hand tool of choice. With proper care, it will last a long time.
Machines for Tool Sharpening
If you have tools that are in heavy rotation or have a business that has to run smoothly, tool sharpening machines are the way to go.
These machines also use a type of stone mentioned above to deliver the best results. Motor-powered and water-cooled, you can be sure they will get the job done.