A few days ago I came to a realization, I prefer to sharpen by hand. Growing up I learned to sharpen knives by hand on a water stone. We didn’t use jigs, just a knife and a stone. After much practice you learned just how to hold the blade to get the right angle to get the knife the sharpest but still hold its edge. I contiuned to sharpened everything this way, including chisels and plane irons for most of my life.
A few years ago I started getting into handtools much more and decided that it was time for me to be more exact in my sharpening methods and started using jigs to set just the right angle. So for the past few years I have used a jig to sharpen and hone my tools. I still sharpen my knives and occasionally hone by hand but for the most part us the “tried and true” methods.
Getting back to my realization, I always enjoyed sharpening but it has now became a process of measurements, angles, and what others have said to do. Sharpening was always an art form for me. It’s a feel with slight adjustments in pressure and holding your hands just right. Angles are important, numbers are not when it comes to cutting wood. Numbers are a great way for others to teach what they have learned, so I am not sudgesting that you ignore all of the great information out there. What I am saying is that it doesn’t matter if I am 31 degrees instead of 30, or whatever the angle you are trying to achieve, instead what matters is the way that cutting edge reacts to the wood.
So with the acceptance that it’s still ok for me to just sharpen by hand. I headed into the shop a few days ago for an evening of sharpening. I pulled out my Norton water stones and put metal to stone. It took me a few minutes to get back into the rhythm of it but soon I was so caught up that before I knew it was 11:30pm. I had a shop full of sharp tools and I loved every minute of doing it. Each of us must decide our own methods wheather it be by hand, jig, or machine but in the end you should use the process that you enjoy and are the most comfortable with.
Be safe, learn something, and have fun!