Battling The Burr

I have been wanting to make a video on plane blade sharpening for some time now.   I know the 20 minute video format we chose just doesn’t leave room for the whole story.  The last time I taught a workshop on sharpening was a two-week sharpening basics class at Penland School of Craft and there still wasn’t enough time to cover everything I wanted to teach.

So for this video, I picked out one aspect where I have seen students struggle without knowing what the struggle was. I am speaking, of course, about the burr or wire edge.

Eliminating the burr that forms with most sharpening techniques can be frustrating.  After all, even a microscopic burr can spoil a blade’s performance. So how do you deal with something too small to see?

In this video, I introduce some techniques for creating a burr-free edge that will stay sharp as long as the blade you’re sharpening can possibly hold an edge. And once you understand what’s happening at the edge, you’ll be able to hone in on the problem quickly.

In upcoming videos, I’ll shed light on lots more finer points, but I think you’ll find this one a good motivator to start improving your sharpening process.
Stay healthy and creative!

9 thoughts on “Battling The Burr”

  1. Another great lesson. The videography has improved a lot as well as your presentation.
    We share a passion for understanding the how and why of the processes we use in our work.

    1. Nathan Borrett

      This was an excellent video. I had not seen or heard about this aspect of sharpening before. Thank you for sharing and showing this information.

    1. There are many schools of thought in the world of woodworking and it is a big enough world for all of us. David Charlesworth has promoted the ruler trick for many years and proven it to be very effective at getting the results he wants. David was one of my students when I taught at West Dean College in England several years ago so I had the pleasure of hearing his rationale for this idea. David and others that use this trick are not using the chipbreaker the way I and many others do. i put the chip breaker too close to the edge to risk having any secondary bevel under its leading edge. With the chipbreaker within 008″ of the edge itself there is a risk of getting chip under the leading edge and clogging the plane’s throat. Many woodworkers think of the chipbreaker as merely a blade stabilizing aid and treat it as such. There are woods that will not plane to a finish with this approach and I often work with such woods (curly and quilted maple for example). So the ruler trick works, you just forgo some of what a chipbreaker can do when you go this route. Correcting a blade with this micro bevel means removing all the metal impacted in the micro bevel. I am not critical of those that choose this route, I just think there is a missed opportunity for chipbreaking tricky woods with the resulting microbevel.

  2. Chris Schwarz likes to see a wire edge when he sharpens. He also uses a honing guide and doesn’t touch the back side of the blade until the very end. Others hone both sides of the blade with each successive grit. I always feel like my wire edge breaks bad if I let it hang too long. On the other hand, flipping the blade over and over to sharpen bevel and back can be tedious, especially with a honing jig attached to the blade. Another problem is the amount of material that has to be removed from the back side compared to the bevel side. Maybe this is an argument for not using a honing guide; It’s much easier to flip the blade from front to back and, no honing guide allows for easy inspection (even with a paper towel).

  3. Brian, thank you for sharing your knowledge! We can’t all apprentice in your shop, so thank you for making these!

  4. Peter Sgorlon

    You have a great way of explaining things. Very good teaching!
    I look forward to implementing this to see how it works for me.
    Thank you

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