May 28 2015

If Sharpening Were Easier

Published by at 12:01 pm under Hand Tools,Sharpening,Skill Development,Woodworks Store

If sharpening were easier, we all would likely do it more often.

We are working to help us all do exactly that.

Long story short; the work performed by a cutting edge will cause wear and dulling. A proportion of work must be performed to restore this cutting edge and the time spent is based on the amount of wear, the hardness of the steel and the sharpening abrasives you select.

There are two major ways you can approach sharpening.

Old School, where you run the edges into severe dullness and do a major reworking of them to restore them. (a common practice because people dislike sharpening, and it takes a while.)

New School, which is to sharpen rather continually as you work with fine abrasives so the edges rarely fail and keep cutting nicely.

It might surprise you, that even though the new school method is performed more frequently, it takes less time and effort. It can be done dry and quickly, getting you back to work and in the flow of things.

We make a couple styles of sharpening stations that target quality sharpening using either school, but they are a gateway to using the new school method. There are a few good reasons that our sharpening stations are designed the way they are. These are designs that evolved over time.

Magstrop Four

The Magstrop Four is based on a 15×15 bench hook to optimize efficiency and portability. You can set it on the bench as it is, or it can be clamped in a vise, face, tail or wagon, to facilitate sharpening. It is optimized to help you sharpen tools quickly, and then be taken off the bench to make room for woodworking. It removes the need for a dedicated sharpening station that consumes permanent floor space. Who needs all the space they can get in their shop? Our sharpening stations are effective and save space.

Sandpaper sheets are sized to 9×11 inches and the cutter on our station is 12 inches long. The platens are 3 x 11-3/8. The Sandpaper cutter on board is perfect for loading your platens up quickly.

Magstrop Stations Interchange

Both the leather and glass platens on our stations are quickly interchangeable. They are magnetically held vertically and by dowel pins horizontally. They stay put, but when you lift them off to move them they do so with little effort. Think of them as a long sharpening stone – They are.

Sandpapers typically break down faster than stones and so depending on the sharpening task the need to change sandpaper may be more frequent. The Magstrop 4 allows you the ability to load more stations with sandpaper so your sharpening session can be more productive. It’s glass, it’s hard and dead flat. You can be sure of the edge you are making, always.

The leather stations (we call both the glass and leather stations “StropTops”) are the same size as the glass, and they interchange just as quickly. Again they are mounted on a hard, dead flat surfaced platen so you can be sure of the edge you are making. You never have to flatten these ever. You can arrange them on any station position as you like, but the idea is that you can place the glass for scary sharp or the leather strop in the station position that is most ergonomic for you and sharpen quickly.


The Magstrop One is a single station sharpening station, and uses the very same platens that interchange magnetically. This station is 3-1/8 x 11-1/2 in size so the footprint is not much bigger than a sharpening stone itself. Is there room on the bench for one sharpening stone? If so, this is the one. It can do it all from coarse – medium – fine. It has no sandpaper cutter. You can quickly interchange between grits and strops if you have purchased them, and you can have as many as you like. It is held in place on the bench by setting it over the top of a bench dog. It can also be ordered with rubber feet installed.

Cutting sandpaper for the Magstrop One is easy. Lay it upside down on a cutting board surface. Lay out the lines and cut with a straight edge and sharp knife. Spray adhesives will allow you to use nearly any paper abrasives you like.

The whole idea behind these stations as I have designed them are based on a few simple premises. If a sharpening station is efficient and easy to use, you’ll use it more. If you sharpen more often, it takes less time and your tools stay sharp. If it is a dry system then you’ll not make a mess, and sharpen more. If you don’t have to disassemble the chipbreaker from your iron, you’ll touch up the iron more often, and keep woodworking.

Like I mentioned, this system allows you to sharpen from coarse to fine, but when it’s easy to sharpen more often and you do, you’ll find that the lion’s share of the sharpening you’ll do is on the strops. Soon, you’ll be paying more attention to the cutting edges, how they look, feel and perform. You will feel dullness setting in from how they wield and you’ll move to sharpen them before major damage to the edge or the work sets in. It’s awareness on a good level because you’ll do better work and save yourself time.

Time to think different about strops.

Old School: Strops remove wire edges.

New School: Strops are charged with honing abrasives and actively remove steel.

Stropping with fine abrasives doesn’t create a wire edge, so often all that needs addressed is the bevel. If you need, you can address the bevel but it isn’t necessary every time. It becomes so easy to take a minute and hone up that tools never really get dull anymore. You just sharpen as you work.

Maybe you have read that Scary Sharp methods end up costing more over time because of the sandpaper that gets used up? It depends on your approach to sharpening. Flattening backs is a one time job. Bevel grinding is truly minimal if you keep your tools sharp as you go. We very rarely use anything but the strops. Honing compounds go a long way and last a long time. Compare this with the wear constant flattening causes to a water stone, and the mess you cannot afford to have on your bench or your work.

I have edge tools in my shop that are used regularly, and some have seen nothing but a strop in the last 2-3 years. I have not needed to rebuild the edges at all. If I do need to stone at all it is really minor shaping that takes a few moments. You’ll find that the duller you allow your tools to become between sharpenings, the more steel will need to be removes to remove the wear and align the bevels. The means the longer the work will take to sharpen them. When you get used to sharpening regularly as you work, you’ll feel the dullness and simply take a few seconds to hone up and get back to work.

Are you are tired of the little time you have free to work wood, but always have a long sharpening session awaiting you? Sharpening will always be with us in a constant way. Maybe it is time to rethink your sharpening method, and tool up with a station that will help make it efficient for you. Trust me, you won’t miss flattening the messy water stones for long. Sandpaper abrasive choices are massive. For instance for coarse work, a Norton Blaze 6 x 48 belt can be cut into eight pieces for Strop Tops, and blaze is formulated for long last in grinding steel. Sandpapers and films are available into the microabrasives range. Strops are happy with fine compounds containing chromium oxide, simichrome, autosol, diamonds or CBN, so cutting speed isn’t an issue there either.

Why be like the woodworkers who are waiting to work their projects because they are procrastinating over sharpening? I think you’ll like this method and the tools we offer to help you do it – easily, if you give them a go. They’ll handle sharpening from start to finish. Check out our Magstrop Sharpening Stations and all your options in our Online Store.

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