Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 1

I know, I know… I’m supposed to be working on a tool cabinet, right?  And I am, I promise.  This is a side project for me while I work through the planning phase of the tool cabinet, which will be the subject of another post.  It’s the perfect storm:  I have a workflow problem to solve and I’m itching to build something!

The Problem
I don’t sharpen my tools often enough.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve used a dull chisel or hand plane simply because it was too much of a hassle to sharpen it.  If I want to sharpen a plane iron or a chisel, here’s the process I  go through with my current “setup:”

  1. Clear off a space on my table saw’s outfeed table.
  2. Retrieve my waterstones from the drawer where they live.
  3. Go upstairs and fill a container full of water.  Bring said container back into the basement without spilling it all over the floor.
  4. Go get a mop and clean up all the water that spilled.
  5. Go back upstairs and refill the container, and be more careful bringing it down the stairs this time.
  6. Put my waterstones into the water and wait for them to soak.
  7. Keep waiting… they aren’t ready yet….
  8. Retrieve my honing jig, spray bottle, camellia oil, etc, from the drawer where they live.
  9. Set up the honing jig.
  10. Sharpen.
  11. Since I went through all the hassle of setting this stuff up, sharpen all of the other tools, also.
  12. Pack up and put away the waterstones and sharpening paraphernalia.
  13. Carefully bring the container back upstairs and dump out the water.
  14. Go get a mop and clean up all the water that spilled.
  15. Wipe up the water and slurry that is now covering my outfeed table.
  16. Head back to the workbench to pick up where I left off.
  17. Notice that it’s now too late to continue working.  Put away the tools and close up shop for the night.

The Challenge
I plan to build a stand-alone sharpening station with a couple of hard requirements:

  • Provide space to keep my waterstones soaking at all times.
  • An easy-to-clean work surface that won’t be damaged by water.
  • Provide storage to keep my sharpening implements close at hand and ready-to-go.
  • Provide space to permanently mount a small metal-working vise.
  • Provide space to keep a grinder set up (which I don’t currently own… future purchase).
  • Provide space to mount a saw vise (which I also don’t currently own… future purchase).
  • This entire workstation needs to be constructed out of materials that are already laying around my shop.

The Raw Materials

You’re going to think I’m cheating when you see this first item and you might be right, but it’s something that’s laying around my shop right now with no meaningful purpose.  Back in 2003 I saw the plan for this cabinet in a magazine as part of a “dream workbench.”  It seemed like a fantastic idea at the time, so I built the base cabinet, but once I had it together I never bothered to make a top because I knew that it wouldn’t work for me as a workbench.  Ever since then, I’ve been pushing this monster around my shop.  I have to be honest, since I built it so early in my woodworking life, the workmanship on this cabinet is questionable, but it weighs a ton and it’s fairly bomb-proof.  I used it as a miter saw stand for many years.  Unfortunately, I burned out the motor in the miter saw recently and decided to not replace it, so this cabinet now needs a new purpose in life.

The eagle-eyed reader will recognize this next item: it’s an extension table for a Delta Unisaw.  I actually have two of these suckers kicking around the shop.  I bought my Unisaw back in 2006, and when I checked the extension table with a straightedge I found that it was dished in the center.  I called Delta and they were kind enough to send me out another one, no questions asked.  Unfortunately, the new extension table was also dished in the exact same manner.  At that point, I just gave up and built my own, which I’m still using today.  Oddly, when I check these tables with my precision straightedge now they seem more than flat enough.  Maybe my standards have changed.  What I do know is that this table is covered in a laminate that is easy to clean and nearly indestructible, which makes it an excellent candidate for a sharpening station.

One extension table is not enough to cover the entire cabinet.  It covers approximately half the length of my base cabinet, so I need to fill in the other half with another material.  This sounds like the perfect place to use up some of my scrap construction lumber.  I plan to laminate a small wood top that will give me space to mount a small metal-working vise and a saw vise on the end.  Some of these boards have been in my shop for 12 or more years and are actually already glued together (poorly) because I had used them to practice jointing a glue surface with a hand plane all those years ago.

Finally, I present to you a 3/4” S4S mahogany board.  I’ve had this board for so long that the details regarding where and why I procured it are lost to the mists of time.  It’s not particularly attractive and it will be closer to 5/8” thick by the time I get it flat, but it should work well for constructing a tray to hold all of my sharpening implements and tools.


That’s it!  These are the pieces that I’ll be using to assemble a dedicated sharpening station for my shop.  In my next post on this project, I’ll show you how I plan to mount the table surfaces to the cabinet.