In woodworking it is sharpness, not cleanliness, that's next to godliness. And despite today's carbide tips and replaceable blades, sharpening remains a bedrock skill. Without sharp tools wood carving is impossible, as is chopping out a mortise or turning a bowl. A dull plane, spokeshave, or scraper might as well be a chunk of scrap iron.

The Basics:
• To sharpen or replace: Are sharpening skills obsolete?
• Sharpening equipment: Stones, jigs, grinder tool rests, and more

To sharpen or replace
Tool manufacturers have noted that we don't want to take the time for sharpening (or, worse yet, that we don't know how to sharpen) and have responded with replaceable planer blades, replaceable utility-knife blades, and carbide tips that we send out to a sharpening shop. None of this, however, lessens the need for sharp tools and the skills to make them so.

Sharpening equipment
It used to be, when you wanted to sharpen a chisel or plane iron, you pulled out the oilstone, squirted a little oil and started honing away. The oilstone is not the only option out there nowadays. Other options include diamond stones, waterstones, ceramic stones, and other materials such as abrasive paper on a piece of glass or tile.

Of course you can buy one of several gadgets available that hold the chisel or plane iron at just the right angle for sharpening. Or you can make a honing carriage right in your shop that does the job just as well.

Turning to the grinder, there are several ways to improve the stock tool rest that comes with a grinder. These aftermarket tool rests are available commercially; they can also be shop built using steel and wood parts.

And if your shop is short of a grinder, you can make do with other tools, such as a belt sander. For example, you can make a fence for your belt sander from a block of wood, and it can be used to grind tool blades.