Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 5 (Final)

I’ve been using my new sharpening station for about a month now.  It’s an enormous improvement over my previous process.  I hesitate to call the sharpening station “done,” however, because I suspect that it will evolve quite a bit over time.

The left-hand side of the station holds my grinder and sharpening stones.  I have two waterstones:  a 1000/4000 combination stone and an 8000 polishing stone.  I keep both soaking in water in their own dedicated plastic containers so they can be ready for use at a moments notice.  My flattening stone lives right next to the waterstones.  The two blue trays in the front are where I do my honing.  They do a good job at containing the bulk of the mess, and they have grippy rubber feet which keeps them from sliding around on the laminate surface.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a sink in my basement, so I just keep a one gallon jug of water nearby.

The center section is dedicated to storage.  The deep tool tray holds my honing jigs, oil, a spray bottle, and a few rags.  The shallow tray is for smaller items such as my angle gauges, a ruler, etc.  I also drilled a hole in the shallow tray to hold my burnisher.  I’d still like to get a few dedicated screwdrivers for disassembling my hand planes.  I’m shopping around for those; I left some space to drill a few additional holes in the shallow tray to hold them.

The right-hand side of the station is reserved for metal working.  Anything that could produce metal shavings or dust is done here; I don’t want small pieces of metal sprinkled on my primary workbench where they could damage my tools or a workpiece.  I mounted a machinist’s vise to the table, which has already proven it’s worth several times.

Some of you probably think that dedicating this much real estate to sharpening is a luxury or even a waste of space.  I disagree.  Having a convenient and efficient sharpening system improved my woodworking.  In fact, I can’t think of any other use for this cabinet that could rival the positive impact of a sharpening station.  If you don’t already have a dedicated sharpening station, I highly recommend carving out some space.

Project, Shop

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 4

The tool tray on my sharpening station is actually broken into two parts:  a shallow tray and a deep tray.  I plan to drill a few holes in the shallow tray to hold my burnisher and some screwdrivers dedicated to disassembling my hand planes.  There will also be some open space to hold small odds-and-ends.  The deep tray will hold all my sharpening jigs, oil, and a spray bottle for my waterstones.

Tool tray components prior to assembly

While both the laminated top and wood top segments are fixed in place, the two tool trays are free-floating, and can be easily removed.  They both hang between the two top segments, which are mounted at the same height.  The deep tool tray is constructed using simple rabbet joints, and the bottom of the tray is held captive in a 1/4" wide groove to allow for wood movement.  I reinforced the rabbet joints with some 1" brads.  The shallow tray has a small ledge at the back to keep items from falling off and landing behind the cabinet.

I debated whether I should put a finish on the tool trays and the wood top.  In the end, I compromised by applying a single coat of Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish.  This product is a polymerized linseen oil and beeswax mixture; it's my go-to finish for shop surfaces.  I like that this finish is non-toxic and non-flammable, which works well for me since my shop is in a poorly ventilated basement which contains a hot water heater with an open pilot light.  It doesn't offer as much protection to the wood surface as a varnish finish, but it's easily renewable, and makes cleaning up glue drips a snap.  Tried and True is the only product I will use on my workbench top.

Wood top and tool trays after one coat of Tried and True

If you want to give Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish a try, you have to understand what you're getting yourself into.  The product has an unusual consistency... it's essentially a paste.  You must apply it in extremely thin coats and use a lot of elbow grease to rub it in.  Also, don't expect to apply a second coat a few hours after the first.  Tried and True takes a long time to dry, which is the downside of a non-toxic non-flammable formula.  The single coat I applied to the tool trays and wood top took almost four days to dry, but I also applied it during a rainy and humid week.  If you're in a hot dry climate, it will dry faster.

In the end, I decided one coat was enough protection for these pieces.  This decision was part pragmatism and part laziness; time will tell how the trays hold up.  In the next (and final) post in this series, I'll show the final setup of my dedicated sharpening station and how I use it.  Stay tuned!

Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 3

I’ve built several laminated wood tops for my workshop over the years, and every time I complete one I think the same thing: I’m never doing that again.  They’re not difficult to build, just tedious.  The cycles of milling, gluing, and flattening seem to drag on and on and I’m always glad when I finish.  A solid wood top makes a phenomenal work surface, though, so I keep making them.

I wrapped up the construction of the wood top for my sharpening bench recently, and it turned out surprisingly well considering it’s made from random 2x4 and 2x6 scraps.  The finished top is 27” wide, 25” long, and 2.25” thick.  It will be mounted onto the right-hand side of my base cabinet.

After completing the final glue-up, I cut the top to size on the table saw and flattened both sides with my jointer plane.  I smoothed the top side with my #4.  I didn’t bother smoothing the bottom side since no one will ever see it anyway.  I used a router to chamfer all of the edges.  My original plan was to leave the wood unfinished, but I’m wavering a bit.  This top is going to take a beating, so I might apply a couple of coats of Tried and True Original Wood Finish, which is a mixture of polymerized linseed oil and beeswax.  I think it strikes a perfect balance between protection and repairability for a work surface; I used the same finish on my workbench and it’s held up well.

The final step on this project is the tool tray that will mount in the five inch gap between the laminate top on the left and the wood top on the right.  My next post in this series will focus on it’s construction.

Shop, Project

Dedicated Sharpening Station - Part 2

The top surface of my sharpening station will have three components: a laminated top on the left-hand side, a solid wood top on the right-hand side, and a tool tray that hangs between them in the center.  I decided to fabricate and attach the two work surfaces first, and then I can build the tool tray to exactly fit the space in-between.

My cabinet is low since it was originally intended to be the base of a workbench, so I needed to come up with a method to elevate the top to a comfortable working height.  I milled down some 2x4 scraps and created simple cleats that the work surface can rest on.  A few pocket screws were all I needed to lock the laminate top in place.  Both the cleats and the top are mounted flush with the back of the cabinet but overhang a bit on the front, which will make it more comfortable to work at while standing.  The top overhangs the end of the cabinet by a larger margin, so I can also sit down if I wish.  Yeah, I’m lazy.  The one mistake I made here was fabricating all six cleats at the same time.  I found out later that I won’t be able to get my wood top to the same thickness as the laminate top, so the two cleats on the right-hand side of the cabinet will need to be taller to compensate.  Once I know the final thickness of the wood top, I’ll remake those two cleats.

Speaking of the wood top, I also milled down my hodge-podge of construction lumber scraps and started the glue-up.  The wood top needs to be 27” wide.  To make the glue-up a little easier, I created three sub-assemblies.  Once they’re out of the clamps and cleaned up I’ll run them through my planer to bring them all to a consistent thickness, and then I can join them into the final piece.  In the picture here you can see that two are already in the clamps and the third is on the far left-hand side of the bench ready for glue.  I know what you’re thinking… and yes, cleaning up all that glue squeeze out really sucked.

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.