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Secrets of Sharpening - The Wet Paper Towel  


There are a lot of gizmos used to hold waterstones when you sharpen. And it's obvious that whether the stone is by itself or glued to a stand you don't want it to shift around when you sharpen. A bunch of years ago I saw a video of a master sharpener in Japan. He used a wet kitchen towel to keep his stone from moving about as he worked. Other than the fact I didn't want to have to explain to anyone why a kitchen towel suddenly got grungy it seemed like a great idea to try. I used a paper towel instead of cloth and it worked great! Here is how to do it. 1 - take paper towel. 2 - Lay flat on sharpening table 3 - pour water on it. 4 - put stone on top of it. That's it. It works like a charm. There is a limit to the amount of force you can apply then sharpening with a towel clamp but normally if the stone moves it means I am trying to hard and I need to relax a bit. Try it you will like it.

While we are on the subject of sharpening I want to mention our new stainless steel sharpening table that you can partially see in the pictures. For years I have used a piece of plywood to protect my bench from the mess when I sharpen, with mostly good results, but it meant shifting things around and I wanted a small permanently standing sharpening center. Last year I got a small wood topped table but I never used it for sharpening - it was just too nice to dirty up and I never got around to making a top for the top. Then we found this stainless table. It's pretty small only 18" wide by 24" deep and fortunately it doesn't take up much space, it is rock solid, heavy, and most important it has a heavy gauge stainless steel top. I am loving it because I can make a real mess and it just wipes up and we are using for small messy glue-up and finishing too. And it cost half of what the wood bench cost. So we decided to stock them. Click here for more details and pictures.
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Comments: 8
09/11/2012Mark Gray 
Works just like it says, Great. Keeping the arms and elbows locked is the toughest part of the process, but with a little practice, and patience, you can shave fuzz of a peach and not break the skin, after sharpening.
09/11/2012John Eugster
I like your table and wish I had room for one in my shop. What I've resorted to is an old baking sheet; well it's old now, not when I borrowed it from the kitchen! I clamp it to my assembly table and make all the mess I want without fear of ruining the bench. It's ugly and somewhat rusty now but keeps the mess contained and easy to hose off till next time.
09/11/2012Lawrence P H Bradley
The towel trick works very well. I always put a wet tea-towel under the slab I use for rolling out pastry dough to stop it sliding around on the laminate work surface.
09/11/2012red demaray 
Stainless or stone that has Ben lapped "flat" won't need any help holding down an equally flat stone or sharpening plate. The thinner the water layer the stronger the stiction. I use a piece of Zodiac kitchen counter material, quartz that is flat enough, weighs about fifty pounds, cleans up without scratching or marking like stainless and was free from a local countertop contractor scrap bin. Works with wet abrasive sheets as well as my lapped stone sign plate which was $1500! Holds diamond plates like glue with one spritz of my secret dilute green cleanser and vineger!
09/11/2012Dan DeGennaro 
I have used a glass tray from an old microwave for years. It's very solid and durable, and cleans up easily. On top of that I use rubber shelf liner. It grips my water stones and keeps them solid under pressure.
I got a granite tile from a tile store that was a discontinued sample. This is large and dead flat. I start sharpening with a sheet of wet & dry sandpaper to flatten my waterstones. The wet sheet of sandpaper adheres to the granite tile and the abrasive surface is perfect for holding the undersurface of the stone while I sharpen. Then i just swap stones and flatten on the sandpaper as needed. Its and all-in-one setup that stores away nicely when I'm done.
Great tip! I love inexpensive improvements to my sharpening bench, but now I may have to consider a new sharpening bench! A stainless bench in the workshop would be good for all kinds of things. I also like the no skid rubber drawer liners to put under sharpening stones.
09/26/2012Randy Millar
I have a 4000 / 10000 mesh water-stone that I use to sharpen my spokesave blades. I was running water in the sink now i use a wet cloth. Thanks for the idea.

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