I was reading Journeyman’s Journal blog this week (if you don’t follow him, you should) and he had a quick post about someone who submitted a tip to a woodworking magazine about sharpening a block plane blade with a drill press. The tip shows a block plane blade in a drill press vise with a drum sander attached in the chuck. You would raise and lower the handle grinding a bevel on the blade while sharpening it at the same time. I looked at the tip and laughed thinking there’s no way that would work. But after thinking about it for a minute, I wanted to see if it actually would work. I knew I could try it but instead of using a drill press, I could use my oscillating drum sander. So, I grabbed an old plane blade and gave it a go.
I have this old Ryobi oscillating drum sander. It’s nothing special. In fact, I think I bought it at Sears about 30 years ago. It still works fine so I’ve never bothered buying a new one. I decided to sharpen the blade with 150 and 220 grit papers.
I wanted a 25 degree bevel on the blade so I clamped the blade into a hand clamp and set it up to the sander at 25 degrees to the table. This actually didn’t work because of the diameter of sanding sleeve changed the angle of attack. I probably should have used a larger diameter of a drum in order to get a more accurate bevel on the blade but I really didn’t care since I wasn’t going to use the blade full time in a plane anyway.
I carefully sanded the blade taking it on and off the drum every few seconds so not to burn the edge. After I ground the bevel with 150 grit, I switched to 220 grit paper and repeated the process.
Here’s the edge after I took it off the sander. You can see the heavy burr on the back side of the blade however, the grinding is nice and consistent.
I then took the blade and removed the burrs and honed the edge with my oil stone. It turned out well enough to see how it performs.
As you can see, the bevel turned out to be 35 degrees. I don’t care as I was just trying to determine a proof of concept. If I did care, I would have played with the angle of attack at the sander until the end result was 25 degrees.
I stuck the blade in a Stanley a No 5 plane and tried it out. Sure enough, it took a nice shaving even though the cutting edge was a little too high for my liking. Even though it works, I’ll still stick to my water cooled sharpening machine for grinding a bevel on blades for it’s ease of use.
On Salko’s post, one of his followers posted that a popular woodworking blog-gist, Derek Cohen, sharpens his router plane blades with a drum sander so I had to try that out as well. Below is the blade I’ve been using in my router plane for years but never bothered to sharpen it properly. I sharpened this blade the same way as with the block plane blade. I did this just free hand and didn’t bother to make a jig or holding device for it.
After a few seconds grinding the bevel, I honed the edge on my oil stone and stuck it back in the plane.
Sure enough, it worked like a champ. The router has never cut so nice. Who knew!