DMT Dia-Sharp Stone Roundup

Over the last year or two I’ve gradually accumulated 6 of DMT’s 8″ continuous diamond sharpening stones.  I started with Coarse, Fine, and Extra Fine per Paul Seller’s recommendation with a leather strop plus green compound for a hair-popping edge.  Then curiosity compelled me to get the Extra Extra Coarse, Extra-Coarse, and Extra Extra Fine models.  I have not purchased the special Medium stone because it costs $20 more than the other models.  I’ll be using DMT’s shorthand for these throughout this post:

Extra Extra Coarse XX
Extra Coarse X
Coarse C
Fine F
Extra Fine E
Extra Extra Fine EE

This post is basically shitting on those last three models.  I feel that with the C, F, and E models DMT has produced some very effective sharpening plates that efficiently remove metal to the advertised mesh.

The lowest two (XX & X) do remove metal faster than C.  But not that much faster, not $50 faster.  And I honestly have not noticed much of a difference between XX and X.  XX has sort of a bumpy, gravelly feel to it not a sharp feeling.  Yesterday I was straightening out the beefy 2-3/8″ blade on my Woodriver 5-1/2 plane blade, starting with the X plate.  You know the drill, 3/4 of the bevel is done but then the remaining 1/4 has this thin triangular section that slowly wears away.  As I spent minutes upon minutes sharpening away I there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the speed at which that triangle disappeared as I switched between XX, X, and C.  No I did not time this or get very scientific but I was frustrated from a consumer perspective.

At the top end is the EE model.  Out of the box it leaves a scratch pattern much more coarse than E and apparently requires a ton of break-in time to get good.  Some folks on have had success, this fellow spent a year breaking in his plate.  Personally I’m not willing to spent that kind of time on a product.  We’re here to make things not sharpen.  Related to this, I recently picked up an 8k Kuromaku Shapton stone and got a mirror finish coming from the DMT E plate in something like 20 seconds.  Super fast and easy.

I did spend some time trying to break in my EE plate, perhaps 15-20 minutes scrubbing with a 1″ square of steel.  It still leaves a pronounced scratch pattern after all that; I’m done with it.

Concluding Remarks

Here’s my quick summary of the plates I’ve used

Extra Extra Coarse Way too slow for something advertised as 120 mesh.
Extra Coarse Slower that it should be, is a bit faster than Coarse.  Also useful for flattening water stones.
Coarse Works quickly enough, leaves a healthy surface
Fine Works great
Extra Fine Works great, leaves a surface that reflects light but is not mirror-smooth
Extra Extra Fine Not worth the time investment

I feel that DMT’s plates belong in the middle of your sharpening progression.  Paul Sellers does C, F, E + strop.  Rob Cosman goes from a 1k diamond plate right to a 16k ceramic stone.

Serious shape changes can be done with the X or C plates, albeit slowly.  Or you could gently perform those modifications on your bench grinder.  Or you could do them on cheap sandpaper and a flat surface.

On the fine end a strop plus honing compound will get you a very sharp edge but you truly do need to hit it for 50 strokes.  Waterstones are an option here too but introduce more cost especially with the need to flatten them.

I’m going to stick with my C, F, E + Shapton for day-to-day tasks.  I’m keeping the X for waterstone flattening.  XX and EE are heading out to eBay.

Veritas Inset Vise Review

Bench before inset vise installation

I recently finished a new workbench with a face vise on the left and Veritas Inset Vise off on the right.  Most of my bench work is on the medium-to-small size and I wanted a means to secure those pieces to the bench top without clamps.  Most operations will be things like holding the work for assembly or sanding.  I don’t do a lot of hand-planing but when I do I use the face vise.

Benchcrafted’s wagon vise looks pretty sweet but it’s also at least $300.  Making one from scratch is an option but I’d still have to spend some money on the hardware not to mention the extra time on making the darn thing.

Vise installed

So I went with the Veritas option because it wasn’t horribly expensive and the installation looked pretty easy; just rout out a channel for it.  Installation was simple, I used my plunge router with a guide fence to make two parallel grooves forming the edges of the channel and then hogged out the middle.  I screwed up the routing process, cutting out the a 3″ wide channel the full depth leaving hollows underneath the two wings.  Oops.  But this wasn’t a huge deal I just made two spacer pieces to fill that void back, in gluing them in place.

The four 3/4″ dogs

I located the edge of the vise about 2″ from the edge of the bench in order to give more support to either side of the clamped piece.  As you can see I went with round 3/4″ dogs, starting them about 1.5″ from the end of the vise and spacing them every 7″.  The vise allows a spacing of 7-3/4″.  I made mine as Paul Sellers shows in this video.



So that is where my vise lives, but how well does it work?  I’d say pretty darn well.  My first test was a piece of plywood clamped up between the vise and one of my dogs.  Yanking on it I moved my entire bench before it budged at all.  So it is not lacking at all in the power department, it would easily snap off one of my oak dogs if I really torqued on it.  The work is very resistant to rocking motion too, but for extra stability there one could install parallel bench dogs for an ultra-sturdy triangular holding pattern.  As I said earlier I’ll be using those for mostly light-duty things so I don’t need to get that fancy.

The little toggle handle is kind of cheesy but it’s necessary for the vise top to be 100% flush.  While a wheel would be easier to use it’s really not so hard to quickly spin it around with your finger.. just not as intuitive.

My only real complaint was with the optional 1/4″ jaw that I ordered along with the vise.  Its locating pegs were a bit too close together, preventing the jaw from fully seating into the vise.  To remedy this I had to file away some material on their inside faces.

So overall I’m very happy with this vise.  It works very well and due to its simple installation it can retrofitted into existing benches.  After spending a few weekends building this workbench I was very glad to be able to install the vise in one evening!


Veritas Canvas Apron Review

I’ve had the Lee Valley / Canvas Apron for a month and have been pretty happy with it so far so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

To test the concept of using a shop apron I had been using a cheapo model from Menard’s but I really disliked the neck loop.  However I did really enjoy keeping things close to hand and up high as opposed to using cargo short pockets; dust collector remote, pencils, ear plugs, etc.

The Lee Valley apron gets 4/5 stars from me.  The construction quality is very good and the pockets are well thought-out, especially the large side pockets.  My only gripe with the apron is the extra webbing that sticks out from the shoulder straps; when I reach back to manipulate the main buckle I often wind up grabbing a stray strap or one of the adjustment buckle.  I need to pin back the excess strapping to keep the back clear as you see in Lee Valley’s product images.

But overall the apron is very comfortable and useful and is worth $40.