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Camber: Grind And Sharpen A Jack Plane Iron

Updated: May 3

In the last post I finished sharpening my rip saw and was finally able to get to work.


And now that the stock is ripped into two lengths, I'll need to remove a good deal of material from there rough surface to get to my final surfaces.


Doing this with a straight or lightly cambered iron in my low angle jack was going to be a slow process. And we all know how impatient I am.


So I decided this was a perfect opportunity to finally camber the iron of this beautiful old Stanley Bedrock Jack Plane.


When you camber, or sharpen a jack plane iron, you make it easier to remove material with heavier cuts. It's a simple process and a great way to put an old plane back into service.


A Stanley Bedrock 605c Jack Plane rests on a maple workbench

Disassemble and inspect

I'm using a dedicated chipbreaker screwdriver from Lie-Lielsen for this step. You can also use the tip of your lever cap. Just be sure the screw isn't super tight.


Remove corrosion

This should go without saying. But let me say it anyway.


Every time you handle a plane is a good time to take care of any corrosion that's beginning to take hold of the iron. This plane has been sitting under my primary workbench, neglected and ignored, for a long time. At some point a liquid got splashed on the top of the iron and it's begun to rust. A few heavy swipes with a fine hand block was all it took to get it cleaned up and looking good again.


Repeat this step on the on any exposed iron of the plane, including the bed. And wipe everything but the iron down with a lightly oiled rag to keep new rust from blooming right away.


Lay out the camber

I've made a plywood template that has an 8 in radius (about 200 mm) radius cut on the end. I used my favorite fine layout pen to trace the profile onto the back of the iron as close to the edge as possible.


If you've got a chip in your blade, this is a good time to grind it out. So be sure the layout line is behind the damaged area.


Grind the profile

It may seem counterintuitive, but you wan to set the tool rest on your grinder at 90 degrees. This is going to great a fat, blunt edge. And that's exactly what you need if you want to avoid ruining the hardened steel at the business end of the iron.


Dress the wheel

If you've got a friable wheel, grab your diamond wheel dresser and use it to remove any glazing or other build up from the surface of the wheel.


While you're at it, shape the wheel into a slight crown. Grinding across the full width causes a lot of heat build up in the iron. And you don't want that... see above.


Grind the primary bevel

With the profile ground and the wheel dressed, you need to set the tool rest to your primary bevel angle. I use 25 degrees.


To make this easier, you can cut the angle yoyo want on the end of a stick that's about the same thickness as your blade. Put the stick on tool rest and adjust the angle so that the crown of the wheel hits the center of the bevel on the end of the stick.


Don't spend a bunch of time on this. Get close and get to work.


Now it's time to play everyone's favorite sharpening game, "The Grind Is Right!"


As you're grinding the primary bevel, the goal is to remove material right up to the edge of the blade without going past. Move the blade constantly along the cutting surface of the wheel and use as little pressure as possible. My buddy, Greg Pennington, says "Imagine you're trying to grind a feather."


Keep it cool

Dip the blade in water early and often.


This step can get a little controversial. There are those who say you'll shock the steel and ruin the edge.


But if you followed my advice above, you shouldn't get much heat build up between dips. The regular cooling just keeps things from getting out of hand.


Shape the secondary bevel

Back to the bench and the water stones.


Feel the back of the blade for a burr. If you find one, set it flat on your intermediate stone (that's 5000 grit for me) and rub it off.


Now its time to rock and roll!


Every eclipse style honing guide has a single, narrow wheel. The design is barely stable and that's why I like it. I can rock the blade from side to side as I draw it across my stones. The motion takes a little time to get used to, but you'll get it with practice.


I recommend sharpening your bevel down irons at 35 degrees.


And use a pull-stroke-only motion.


Don't get cocky!


Keep going until you can feel a burr on the back of blade, across the entire length of the edge. The closer you got to the edge during guiding, the narrower your secondary bevel will be.


Hone

It's time to switch to your intermediate (5000 grit) stone. Keep rocking and rolling until you've removed he scratch pattern from the previous stone. On a freshly ground edge this should take 10-15 strokes.


Polish

Moving on to your fine stone (8000 grit or higher), you want keep working until the intermediate scratches are gone. The stroke count will vary depending on your stones and the width of your secondary bevel. You should end up with a mirror polish.


Remove the burr

More controversy.


If you've read or talked to anyone about sharpening, you've probably heard some argument about "the ruler trick." One thing everyone agrees on is that the beck of the blade needs to be polished where it meets the bevel on the front.


The ruler trick gets you there quickly.


I use it to both remove what's left of the burr and polish the very end of the back of the blade.


Reassemble

Be sure to dry the blade and wipe it down with an oily rag.


When you're deciding on the set back between the blade and the chip breaker, remember you're optimizing for depth of cut, not surface quality. The blade can stand out much farther than it would on a smoother, or even a Jointer.


Set up and test

Once you've got everything put back together, advance the blade and center it in the mouth. It should cut deeply in the center, and not cut at all on the edges.


If you're removing a lot of material then you'll want to make scrubbing cuts across the grain. Using this technique, you can extend the blade so it will cut almost all the way to the edges.


If you're just cleaning up stock after an ugly rip cut (author raises hand) and trying to get closer to your layout line, you should aim to cut with the middle third (or maybe half) of the width of the iron.


 


Appearing in this video:


Time Timer Home MOD - 60 Minute* https://amzn.to/48RqytT

Lie-Nielsen Chipbreaker Screwdriver https://www.lie-nielsen.com/products/SD4-cherry

Sandflex Sanding Block - Fine* https://amzn.to/4dbUHr8

8” Radius Jack Plane Camber Template - Shop Made

My Favorite Fine Layout Pen* https://amzn.to/3VCPt1p

Rockwell Delta Bench Grinder - Model 23.600

Oneway Wolverine Grinding Jig https://oneway.ca/products-category/sharpening-grinding-jigs/Grinding Jig/Wolverine Grinding Jig (complete)

Grinder Setup Stick - 25 Degree - Thin Iron - Shop Made

Sharpening Gear

Rubber Grids for Boot Trays* https://amzn.to/46hsmLg

Shapton Ha No Kuromaku 1000 - Orange* https://amzn.to/45qea21

Shapton Ha No Kuromaku 5000 - Wine* https://amzn.to/3ZVfxor

Shapton Ha No Kuromaku 8000 - Melon* https://amzn.to/46LIndc

Shapton Ha No Kuromaku 1000-5000 Combo* https://amzn.to/493jF8G

Honing Guide Setup Block Shop Made

Hand Pump Garden Sprayer* https://amzn.to/3Wf5gDx


Items noted with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. You'll pay the same price and support my work when I receive a small commission from the retailer.



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