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Sharpening - Leather Wheel

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I have been intrigued by the discussions over the last couple of years about "Scary Sharp" and leather wheels, and cloth wheels, and diamond wheels; so I had a leather wheel made, set it up on my grinder, gooped it up with diamond paste, organized a jig, and sharpened some irons.

(I must say here that for some time I used wet & dry paper in decreasing grit ratings to "do" my plane irons,  and stopped because it was so bloody dirty!)

So, did the leather wheel work?

Sure did!

Was it a good option for me?


I suspect that they will find me dead one cold night with my tiny hand frozen (like Mimi, perhaps, in La Boheme) to my sharpening jig, the whole tableau being forever one with my Japanese water stones.

I must stress, once again, that I am a hobby builder; time is not, for me, of the essence. The origin of the word "pastime" is, after all, "pass time". And if you are not in a hurry,  there is no reason to mechanize your tool sharpening procedure.

I am sure that I can get as good an edge on my Hock irons with my series of waterstones  as can be achieved with more modern processes - not better, but as good. I use 800, 1200, 6000, and 8000,   the last two with a pasting stone (Nawara stones, I think they call them). I lap each stone briefly with the next as I progress through the series, so that they are always flat and ready to use.

I choose to wear a pair of nitrile gloves while I sharpen because it keeps my hands from drying out excessively,  and I don't use the Veritas jig, but a jig of European origin which makes it easier to get the blade angle right.

The whole process is relaxed, relaxing, and enjoyable. I am convinced that my systolic blood pressure is about 20mm lower after sharpening a blade than it was when I started!

I am NOT saying that my way is better, but it's as good, and if you are starting out, it seems to me that it is very easy to become mired in a huge morass of power tools;  and that is simply not necessary.

You can build a very serviceable bamboo fly rod by hand splitting, straightening and node adjusting with an alcohol lamp, beveling with a plane, final tapering ditto, binding  by hand, and wrapping without any mechanical aids.

There is not any particular merit attached to doing it this way; it's just another way.

I don't, in fact, do it in such a purist fashion.  I use a power heat gun, and I turn my cork grips in a chuck in a hand drill.  I am not Jim Payne, but I have now made about thirty bamboo rods  and none have yet broken down, and I fish them pretty hard.

So if you are thinking about building a rod, don't buggerise about for two or three years accumulating the automated workshop.  (Peter McKean)

    You have to consider the source here, since I, with some inspiration from George Barnes, was the original perpetrator of this method, but I respectfully disagree. First, let me say you don't need the diamond compound unless you are dealing with carbide blades. The green honing compound from Woodcraft or other sources works great on steel. Also, if you are only sharpening plane blades, the tool rest is not necessary. See Harry Boyd's page for the simple alternative.

    If you want to spend a lot of time sharpening,  who am I to argue? But for others, who don't want to spend a lot of time and money on sharpening systems the leather wheel is by far the best solution. I can sharpen a blade to our standards in about 30 seconds. I don't know of any other way that can be done.   (Tom Smithwick)

    I agree, 100%.  Best thing that ever happened to my rodmaking.  (Harry Boyd)

    I am sure you are right; I replied earlier to Tony about this, and should probably have put it on the list.

    The wheel works very well, and as you say, is quick. But for me it is not a comfortable thing, as my training is in biological materials  and not in tool use. I have some problems with a Hock blade and a fast-revving wheel IN MY HANDS.  (Peter McKean)


I salvaged the pump motor off of a discarded dishwasher and would like to use it, and some other misc. parts, and transform them in to a Bride of Franken Sharpener.  I think this motor turns at 3600 rpm, is this too fast for sharpening using a leather strop and diamond lapping compound?

The strop is a lawn mower wheel with a 1/8" strip of leather glued to it, all mounted on some scrap lumber, and tool rest will be fashioned from more scrap wood.  (Kyle Druey)

    I've got two wheels, one spins at 1750, the other at 3300.  Both work fine.  In fact, the faster one seems smoother, but that probably has nothing to do with the speed.

    If you're really concerned, just use some pulleys to slow the speed.

    Of course if you want to do things the redneck (read "Harry's") way, you can just hold the blade being sharpened with your hands.  When it starts getting warm, douse it in a conveniently placed dish of water.  The main reason for the slow speed is to prevent heat build up.  Holding the blade by hand does a pretty fair job of the same thing.  (Harry Boyd)

    PS - One more thing, make sure that lawn mower wheel is wider than a plane blade.  Wheels work best when you can sharpen the entire blade without moving back and forth.

    In short, yes.  3,600 rpm is way, way too fast for either grinding or sharpening.  You will want something closer to 900 - 1000 RPMs, or even less. Put some step-pulleys on a mandrel and gear that motor down by at least 3/4.  (Bill Harms)


I learned something today. this may be obvious to everyone but me. I use a stropping wheel like a lot of us and realized I need to use a much lighter touch than I have been. when I apply too much pressure it tends to make my blade less sharp than using a very light touch. actually  it seems I was sort of rounding the edge off, sorta.  (Timothy Troester)


Can anyone explain about any  varieties of leather strops out there.  Pros, cons, bang for the buck etc.  (Mark Bolan)

    I use a piece of leather glued to a piece of poplar. I use the finished side and dab on the residue from my 8000 grit water stone. One or two licks and the blade is a sharp as a blade can get. On the down side I don't think that the "singing" edge that you achieve on the strop lasts more that 2 or 3 swipes on a piece of bamboo. As far as cost, after one purchases the leather, there is no cost. It's glued to a piece of scrap. (John Zimny)

      That is a great tip. I never thought of using the 8000 grit as buffing compound. It has to be better than the green stuff I have been using. Off to the shop.  (Bob Maulucci)

    Barber supplies sell and great strop set, one canvas and one leather that is about 2 feet long and has a clasp to hang on a bench by a hook. I've had mine for 20 years and works like a charm.  (Patrick Coffey)

    My leather strop is an old belt glued to a piece of excess oak flooring. Works great and did not cost anything. I glued it with the rough side up and put buffing compound in it to do the sharpening.

    I think learned this from John Zimny.  (Gordon Koppin)

      Mine is an old belt glued to the top of my sharpening stone box.  I use oil and red rouge for honing compound.  It gets a razor edge in six or eight strokes.  (Neil Savage)

        I use the palm of an old glove while wearing it.  (Timothy Troester)

    I've used contact cement to glue a strip of leather to a wooden paint stirrer.  The smooth side of the leather was up.  Once glued on I wetted it with kerosene and then rubbed rouge on it.  The kerosene helped put an even coat on the leather and allowed the rouge to soak into the pores.  (Tim Wilhelm)


Is there a certain kind of leather you use for your polishing wheel? And when you impregnate the wheel with a certain diamond grit, does that wheel now become strictly for that grits usage? I assume you don't use a coarse grit one time then wipe it and use a fine grit on the same wheel. And lastly, do you moisten the wheel with any oil or water?  (Mark Bolan)

    I'll be glad to answer your questions, but don't take my experiences as gospel -- all I can share is the way I do these things.

    Leather -- I use what I can scrounge.  My former secretary's husband gave me the first piece.  It was leftover from a knife scabbard making project he had.  Tony Spezio gave me the piece for the second wheel.  I suspect most old-fashioned shoe/saddle repair shops will have something suitable.  I seem to remember that when this discussion first came up 8-9 years ago we debated the merits of  oil-tanned versus vegetable tanned leather, but I don't remember the outcome of the debate.  Just guessing, but I suspect any smooth finished leather w/o dye or paint will work fine.

    One wheel per grit -- I rarely use anything other than the yellow diamond honing compound.  I've tried the blue with limited success. When I use the green, I just apply it over the yellow.  The green is coarser.  After using the green, I use a sandpaper block to remove all the compound and expose fresh leather.  The yellow is then applied to fresh leather again.  I do prep the fresh leather with linseed oil before applying the diamond paste, but suspect that other oils would work as well.  Olive oil attracts bugs, ask me how I learned that.

    While sharpening I don't moisten the leather with oil or water.  The diamond paste is in some sort of oil base (help me out here, Darryl H.). The paste itself contains plenty of moisture to make it spread evenly and soak in to the leather.  It's tempting to recharge the wheel far more often than is necessary.  I've been sharpening this way for about 8 years, and have only used two tubes of the yellow paste.  Of course, carbide doesn't require sharpening nearly so often as steel.

    One more word... if you're using steel blades  (Hock, etc.) the diamond paste isn't necessary.  Just get a stick of green honing compound and you'll be amazed how well it works.  A huge stick of it is about $25-30, and is more than a lifetime supply for three or four rod makers.  (Harry Boyd)

      The carrier oil in the diamond paste is silicone based - at least it is with the brand I buy, and the extender fluid they sell with it is also silicone based. So be careful about getting it on your rod when varnishing.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Usage just creates more questions. I seem to me dulling my plane blades when I use the leather wheel. I have purchased the orange, yellow and gray diamond paste. I made one wheel for yellow and one wheel for gray. The wheel is about 6 inches, cut on the lathe. The leather is the smooth side of an old coat, glued to the wheel. I charged the leather by "dotting" the leather at intervals around the hole wheel.  the speed is hard to judge, but the electric motor says it will turn at 1750 rpm. I have a 1 1/2" pulley at the motor shaft and a 4" pulley at the wheel arbor. So the wheel seems to be moving pretty fast.  I have been trying to get the plane blade to lean at the proper angle so as not to cut sharper than the blade angle. How often do you recharge the wheel? How long do you touch the blade to the wheel? Is it a matter of a one of two seconds? Thanks for your help  (Mark Bolan)

        I'm mathematically challenged (only minored in Math in college) but it seems to me you have that wheel spinning awfully fast.  My guess would be somewhere between 4000-6000 rpm's.  Both of my wheels are on the motor shaft itself, spinning at 1700 rpm's and 3300 rpm's.  Though I don't understand why that might cause problems other than excessive heat buildup, I guess it could.

        With a steel blade, I touch the blade to the wheel for about 10 seconds.  With carbide, it takes longer -- sometimes as much as 3-4 sessions of 30-40 seconds each.  When the blade gets too warm to hold, I quench it in water and start again.  Again, initial sharpening sessions may take more time to cut the bevel with the leather.... but subsequent sessions shouldn't take more time than is mentioned above.

        I can't overemphasize how important getting the right angle is.  My guess is that's your difficulty.  Try the Sharpie to the bevel trick I described a few days ago.  You want the center of the bevel to contact the wheel before the leading or trailing edge.  Of course, if you have already fashioned something of a hollow ground bevel with the wheel, that won't happen.  In that case, make sure the leading and trailing edge both make contact at the same time.

        One more thing... don't be afraid to apply a little pressure to the blade.  You don't want to "white knuckle" it, but you don't want it flopping around either.

        A question -- how thick is the leather from the old coat?  My leather started out at 1/4" or more thick, and is now only slightly less.  Can't see why that would make a difference, but you never know.....  (Harry Boyd)

        It sounds like you are doing the whole sharpening process on a leather wheel. I only do the final polish with diamond compound. To establish the bevel and get an initial edge on a blade I use a waterstone.

        It might seem elementary and I'm sure everyone knows this, but just in case - Grind flat and polish the back of the blade. If there was ever a "trick" to sharpening a plane blade, this is it.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    Unless you want to buy half a cow, possibly the easiest and least expensive way is to buy a belt blank from Tandy Leather.  (Sides cost $6 - $7 a square foot and are about 25 sf.  If you go this route you'll need some other projects.)

    Find the belt blanks without snaps and then find one the proper width.  They seem to be in the 10 - 15 dollar range.  I'd oversize it a bit and then trim to the wheel and make sure it is long enough.  On the other hand you might just have an old leather belt laying around that you could use.

    No you don't need moisten the wheel for normal usage.  For handheld strops I've made in the past I dampened them with kerosene before putting rouge on the strop.  Helped it spread more evenly.  Don't think it would be necessary for the wheel.  (Tim Wilhelm)


I just finished making a wood wheel from a 2x8.

  • Cut off a piece, 8x8
  • drew a circle 7x7
  • trimmed the corners
  • again trimmed all those corners
  • trimmed again
  • drilled a 1/2" hole in center, then enlarged it a bit (too tight)
  • mounted the wheel on a buffer, 1750 rpm
  • turned it on, boy did it vibrate
  • grabbed sheet of 60 grit sandpaper and a 1/2x3 board and wrapped the sandpaper around the board
  • applied the sanding board to the wheel
  • this worked very fast and soon had a round wheel
  • put a short level on top of the sanding board and proceeded to sand
  • again keeping the sanding board level

As the wheel became round the vibration went almost to zero

Removed a lot of wood, but it went quickly

Next time wear a dust mask and face shield.

  • Applied plane blade to wood wheel.  Did not do much
  • applied green honing compound to wheel (why not try it?)
  • honed blade on wheel
  • flattened back on sandpaper
  • honed again
  • flattened again
  • Shaves very nice! Arm is now bald.

Will try leather next.

On to wheel number 2.  (Randy Tuttle)


Well people, a couple of days ago I had taken an old grinding disk and cut a strip of thick leather from an old back support belt and glued the leather strip on with old contact cement. Just a few minutes ago I mounted the wheel on a 1750 rpm motor buffer and another grinding wheel on the other shaft (for balance). I then took a blade that needed to have a bevel established and a homemade honing guide block of wood, put some green Micro Fine Honing compound on the leather.  The honing block guide is nothing more that a rectangular block of wood that has been squared up and then cut on a 35 degree angle. This gives me consistency of angle. Using this honing guide I first ground a new bevel with the grinding wheel and took off as much of the burr as possible with my fingers. I then charged the leather wheel with the honing compound and proceeded to sharpen the freshly ground blade. I then flipped the blade over and honed the back side (not using the honing guide) with the blade at a 90 degree angle from the wheel. The I flipped the blade again and rehoned the bevel using the honing guide. I then tried to shave some hair.  Holy Sharp! This is wonderful!

Next I will go back and start by flattening the back of the blade and using sandpaper up to 2000 grit then on to the leather wheel. I will take everyone’s advice and make some wooden wheels since they will vibrate less (I hope).

(I am still going to try making my own, finer grit , honing compound)  (Randy Tuttle)

    Yes, the leather wheel is definitely the way to go, I hardly ever use my diamond and Japanese wet stone anymore, only a touch on the wheel and back to shaving.  (Danny Twang)


There's been lots of talk about sharpening wheels.  Hi speed/Low speed, with leather and without.

My question is this:

Which way is the wheel turning relative to the blade?  Toward the sharp edge or away.  It seems to me that even with a holding fixture or stop block, if the wheel is turning toward the edge, there is a high risk the edge will dig into the wheel.  (Al Baldauski)

    As far as I am aware, you ALWAYS strop away from the edge, whether on a wheel or a flat leather.  Otherwise, as you say, there is a good chance of digging into the strop.  The same applies to the "Scary Sharp" method, at least as presented in "Fine Woodworking" magazine.  (Neil Savage)

    All it takes is ONE TRY with the wheel rotating toward the edge you are sharpening to convince you to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER try that again.

    Wanna ask me how I learned that one?  Ready  for  a  Bob Nunley-esque story?  (Harry Boyd)

      Yeah!  Yeah!  Ol' Blood and Guts Boyd!!!!!  Ahem, why Harry, yes, we would be interested.  (Mark Wendt)

        Not much to tell, Mark...

        Tried things backwards one time.  Leather flew everywhere.  The plane iron bounced off the bench, to the ceiling, and left a pretty fair gash in the wall behind me.  Only scratched my thumb, but it coulda been really ugly.  Imagine that razor sharp plane iron as a projectile, and you'll get the picture.

        But it did scare the &%$* outta me.  (Harry Boyd)

          Oy!  I've had projectiles in the shop before, back in the days when I was manufacturing model airplane kits, and cutting wood on a table saw.  That was before I invested in a band saw to do the production cutting.  Even with feather boards, with the feed rates I was using I would get a piece to fly out every once in a while.  Learned very quickly to stand off to the side of the work piece.  Wit a planing iron launching off of a rotating wheel, I could see it would be just a tad more dangerous.  Having the plane blade ricochet off nearby surfaces makes it a bit harder to stay out of the way.  Danger lurks in the shop when we are the least bit inattentive.  (Mark Wendt)


I found a source of leather at my local Tractor Supply Co, a package of pieces for $2.71.  Looks like it's ideal for honing, one piece is about 1/8" thick, 2" wide and 3' long, the others are narrower and about the same length.  (Neil Savage)

    Oh, by the way, all, someone wrote something to the list the other day about stropping wheels made me think of something then I forgot to respond. The skin side glues to the wheel. Gut side is exposed. They last much longer that way.  (Timothy Troester)

    Stop by any saddle shop where they make saddles and they will be happy to give you their scraps. I got a beautiful piece 1/4 inch thick and about 18" long. Most shops have a garbage can of that stuff they through away weekly.  (Mark Dyba)

      Saddle shops are somewhat sparse around here, and at the price of gas, the $3.00 was a bargain since I was at that store anyway.  (Neil Savage)


Being envious of the fine edges described by users of the leather wheel approach to sharpening, but not really having the space for the setup, not having a motor, etc.,  it occurred to me that I already do have a motor, - on the mini-lathe I have.  It's one of the 7x10 versions, and I found that I could fit a 6" diameter wheel above the bed.  So, I did the discs from wood thing, got the 2" leather belting from Tandy (very quick ship, I might add.  Had it like the next day, practically) and put one together. (OK, 2 actually...)  I used the green chromium oxide stuff since I don't have carbide tipped blades.  Initial use shows it to be every bit as good as others have described.  My biggest problem was getting a decent joint where the leather 'joins'.  Anyone have a cute tip for that?  The waxed paper under the leather did a nice job of allowing me set the leather in place...... on the second one.   ;-)}   I'll pay closer attention to "tips" next time

I still need to work out some type of blade holding fixture, and review of the Tormek system after recent posts has me thinking that maybe something along that line could be worked up to mount off the top of the lathe with a bar, a clamp or two, couple thumb screws, etc. 

Worked for me, and additionally,  offers variable speed control.  So, that got me thinking that a 6" grinding wheel might be adapted to wet grinding, like the Tormek, and use the variable speed control of the lathe to achieve the slow speeds needed to avoid overheating the tools.  Yeah yeah, I know, I could just buy the Tormek, but that would be so 'un-rodmakerish' - the EASY way?  C'mon!  (Ralph MacKenzie)

    Hmmm... Maybe I could work out something like that on my drill press too.  I can't get a 6" wheel on my lathe without a riser... Gotta give it some thought.  (Neil Savage)

    I did the same thing on my 10x20 lathe after seeing Harry Boyd's setup at Corbett 2004. (Actually it was shipped to my house so I had a really good look at it.) I also made a plywood disc on the lathe (mine was 9" diameter) and covered it with a leather belt from Tandy. And I also use the green compound. The ends of the belt were tapered to overlap. I first hone my Hock blades on a diamond 600x/1200x bench stone from Lee  Valley  (item #70M04.11) then touch up on the wheel. I now get the sharpest blades I've ever had. (Thanks, Harry) Also, it is easier to store a plywood disc than a complete motor-driven unit.  (Ron Grantham)

      For motors, try your local refrigerator and washing machine repair shop.  I can get 'em for just a few dollars.  If they don't have mounts, Lee Valley sells a nice mount setup for any round motor.  (Harry Boyd)

        I recall seeing some language in my lathe manual that grinding on a lathe is a really bad idea. The fine grit gets sprayed into the works and ruins your headstock bearings and wears out the threads. I don't know about sharpening, but it seems reasonable to assume that it would be just as bad. I think that machinists probably do it all the time, but may put a cloth over the bed to catch the stuff that comes off the wheel. Anyway, it's what I read, decide for yourselves.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

          You're absolutely right. However, the green honing compound is a waxy stick and stays on the wheel.  (Ron Grantham)

        Grinding in a lathe is a great way to lap all the gears till this are soundless [no teeth left]. A master machinist that I  knew nearly threw a fit one time watching a neophyte using a lathe grinder. Not only are the grinding stuff bad for the gearing but it does ruin the ways etc.  (Don Anderson)

          If that is true then what about sawdust from turning grips and reel seats?  Wouldn't that stuff  get into the gears also?  (Dick Steinbach)

            The difference is that the cork dust and wood chips aren't NEARLY as abrasive as the dust from a grinding wheel.  (Neil Savage)

            Yup.  But sawdust doesn't have the destructive power that the grit and detritus from grinding and polishing operations have.  (Mark Wendt)

            Wasn't that you, that had a problem with "cork dust" blowing a circuit board?

            Why do they sell those expensive tool post grinders? I just finished making an inexpensive tool post grinder. I came up with a system to make hex pieces from round stock. I use diamond wheels. I remember a discussion on the List about tool post grinders, (a pretty long discussion, as I remember it), and nothing was mentioned about the hazards of grinding dust?  (David Dziadosz)

              Nope, wasn't me.  I cover the ways of my lathe, and put an old nylon stocking over the vents on the cover for the circuit board when I'm sanding cork or reel seat inserts.  You can use a tool post grinder, you just have to make sure that your ways are covered, and the vents are too.  But still, the grinding dust doesn't help the lathe's longevity or accuracy if you do a lot of it.  In the commercial world, they have dedicated grinding machines for doing that kind of stuff, and in most shops, if you ever attempted to mount a grinder to one of the "good" lathes, you would, at the very least, get reprimanded for doing that.  Most of the shops that I know of don't even keep bench grinders in the same area as their lathes and mills, because the grinding dust will fly all over the place, and get onto the surfaces of the machines.  I keep both my lathe and mill covered when not in use, and especially so when I'm grinding tools.  (Mark Wendt)

              I was just looking at some Shop Notes and saw where they had a large wooden drum a la Smithwick mounted in a drill press. Had sandpaper around the circumference and leather on the top flat face. More than one way to skin a cat.  (Joe Xiques)

    I have since also bought buffing wheels, and the mini lathe does fine for buffing, also.  I realize that protecting the ways from accumulated grit from grinding is a significant issue to those who also do precision machining, but I don't do much of that kind of work, so I just keep things reasonably cleaned off and so far haven't seen much of a problem.  (Ralph MacKenzie)


I built a leather sharpening wheel, about 6.5 inches in diameter. I glued the leather belt (new from Tandy leather, here in Nashville) with new contact cement, and applied the honing compound. On the 6th or 7th use, the belt delaminated and tried to slap me silly or remove a limb until I could reach the off switch near the motor.

Perhaps I should not have glued the leather with the tanned side face down to the wood? Or should I be using epoxy, though heat build up would be a problem?  Something is not designed properly, and I could use some advice.  (Paul McRoberts)

    Did the leather itself fall apart?  Or did the glue bond between the leather and the substrate give way?

    I'll hazard a few wild guesses.  My guess is you used "modern" contact cement.  I like the old kind of contact cement that stinks to high heaven.  Seems to hold better.  Coat both the wheel and the leather.  Let it dry.  Completely dry.  Then re-coat both pieces and let it dry again.  Once dry, gingerly apply the leather to the wheel.  When it's all lined up, beat the tar out of the leather and wheel with a rubber mallet.  (Harry Boyd)

      As a Baptist minister, I just can't believe you are espousing such violence...  Paul, if you can't find the old fashioned kind of contact cement, you might want to try barge cement.  It's a contact cement used by the folks that repair shoes, and we also use it to glue the felt bottoms on wading boots.  It'll literally take a "barge" to pull something apart that's glued up with it.  (Mark Wendt)

    I don't have a leather sharpening wheel,  and have done limited work with leather.

    Do the ends of the leather  meet as a butt joint? Shouldn't the ends be scarfed, and overlapped, - in the  proper direction?  (Bob Nunn)

      You should overlap at least 3/4 to an inch and bevel or skive  both ends and glue up as I described in the earlier post, I have  found if you let the cement dry completely you loose some adhesion  strength, you can seat the leather by hammering as Harry said, but  hammer on top of a piece of scrap leather laying on top of the wheel  so you don't dent the surface.  Use to repair and make shoes and  would do half soles this way- a lot of flex and they would last a  long time.  (Jimmy Acord)

    I’ve been using a leather wheel glued with contact cement solvent based not water based for a few years with no problem. I glued it rough side down to the wheel. I did cut the leather on a bias so that the end would not catch as easily. I would try more cement if you can.   (David Rinker)

      When your beat the tar out of that leather after gluing it to the wheel, make sure the wheel is off the arbor. Otherwise you can bend the shaft of the motor. It becomes expensive the replace the motor.  (Dick Fuhrman)

    The glue bond gave way, Harry. I will try to find a contact cement that has an older formula. Know any brand names? I got the first bottle at Home Depot. It is a bear to remove it from the wood. Sanding produces a dangerous fume.

    I will apply the cement to the rough side of the leather this next time. I will add the step of beating the leather too, while the wheel is off the shaft, of course.  I did cut the seam at a slight angle, but it probably should be more acute.

    By the way, I have the green micro honing compound (got it at Woodcraft), but I also bought a tube of the Tormek honing paste on eBay (which might be diamond paste but am not sure).  I was using the Tormek stuff, after applying machine oil to the leather as directed, so the paste would absorb. That's the leather that lost it's grip. I might forget the Tormek paste on the next attempt and go to the green honing compound.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Welcome to the club.  I didn't have any de-lam problems with my leather wheel - but I could have jacked around with it until the cows came home and still had slight bumpity, bump bumps in it.  I used it for a while and it was OK but still left micro serrations in my blades.  On the advise of Knife makers I went to a hard felt wheel loaded with simple pink rouge (the others being too oily).  The edge I get now makes the one I got with leather look like a hack saw blade (I exaggerate).  I keep trying to convert Harry but he's unconvinced.  Hard felt wheels are about ~$30, but at least I'm not still trying to get that damn wheel perfectly round.  I got a fist sized chunk of pink rouge at a gun and knife show for $2 - a lifetime supply.  (Darrol Groth)

      Yes, Darrol. I too have found a slight wobble on the wheel that leads to vibration, even before the leather lost it's grip. I got the wheel round on a wood lathe, then transferred it to the motor, sanded some more, and still had a difficult time getting the motor arbor to run exactly true. It is held on the shaft with two set screws and there is no way to get that arrangement perfectly concentric. Perhaps Harry used an arbor that screwed to the shaft? I can't tell from the pictures on the Contraptions pages, but I do like the looks of Harry's arbor more than the one's I can find on the web.

      On the hard felt wheel, did you achieve a 2 inch width by combining wheels? Where did you buy the wheel?  (Paul Franklyn)

    I once had a gun rebluing business and did a lot of metal polishing using soft and hard felt wheels (both are still available from Brownells).  The hard wheels where best on flat surfaces like the side of a pump shotgun but would gouge metal like a grinding wheel if you weren't very careful.  I started to sharpen my stock chisels on the polishing wheels and would finish with a loose buff with Brownells 555 polish on a slow speed buffer I used to polish stock finishes.  I never had any hair on the back of my left hand.  The important thing is the edge speed of the wheel, smaller diameters mean lower edge speed at the same rpm. If you are building your own buffer, look for low speed motors, the buffer is more manageable and much less heat buildup. My stock buffer used a 1050 rpm motor and old cast iron buffer arbor with pulleys that produced about 700 rpm at the wheel.  With 12" loose wheels I could polish Polyurethane stock finish without melting the finish.  (Harry Walters)

    You should really scuff both glue surfaces 100 grit or close, you  want it to be rough glue both sides,( keep the finished or smooth  grain side out) with a thin coat-wait ten minutes and glue again wait  5-10 minutes again and stick them together. Use a good contact  cement, Masters or Barge and if you gluing to wood rough it up also.  Epoxy is not good on leather in my opinion. Make sure your not using  Bridle leather- it has hot stuffed waxes tanned into and is hard to  glue up. Oak tanned-vegetable tanned it is called is best. I make  honing boards for my knives and really work red rouge into the  leather, does a nice job.  (Jimmy Acord)


After bouncing around for quite a while and getting my leather wheel almost round I went to hard felt (refer. motor - 800 RPM) and haven't looked back.  The leather did a seemingly fine job but after trying felt I noticed with the leather that, no matter how sharp, there were still "micro serrations" in the edge.  The hard felt wheel gets the blade so sharp and free of "micro serrations" (or at least much smaller) one must watch out testing the edge because it's hard to tell just when you're  touching it.

The knife guys persuaded me to just use the pink rouge as it's less greasy and doesn't gum up the felt.  You can get a chunk of pink stuff the size of your fist (i.e. lifetime supply) for $2  @ a gun/knife show.  BTW - I notice some of the knife guys use paper wheels.  (Darrol Groth)

    And that, Darrol, defines the difference between "it feels sharp" and "it is really sharp."  Regardless of the method used!  (Larry Blan)


I am trying to make Harry Boyd's wood and leather buffing wheel. The one I have started is appox 2' wide and 7 1/2" in dia.When I mounted it to my 6" grinder (with an arbor extension) I get quite a bit of vibration. Anyone have any tips to eliminate or minimize same.  (Dan Weiman)

    Best wishes on the project, although this should probably be called a George Barnes/Tom Smithwick wheel.  They were the folks who started me down this road.  I now have four wheels mounted to motors, so I guess I have gone overboard.  If someone wants to buy the basics for one of these projects, drop me a note.

    It takes quite a little power to turn a wheel that large.  What hp is the motor?  Is it 1700 rpm's or 3300?  I like 1700 rpm motors best.  An overloaded motor turning at too high a rate of speed might also vibrate quite a bit.

    I suspect that your wheel is out of balance.  Will just the motor and arbor run smoothly?  If the motor runs w/o excessive vibrations minus the wheel,  then the wheel may need to be trued.  You can true it on a lathe if yours will handle a workpiece that size.  Or you can attach the wheel to the motor, turn it on, and have at it with a sanding block and coarse paper.  As long as you are just taking off high spots, the vibrations should continually decrease.  (Harry Boyd)

      I think Harry is correct.  It will be vibration. I turned my wheels on the lathe but when I mounted the wheel on the grinder spindle, it vibrated. Hold sandpaper to the disk to get it balanced them remount the leather belt.  (Gary Nicholson)

    I had the exact same problem. Your wheel is out of round. I took a sanding block with fine grit sandpaper, and, with the wheel running, applied it to the wheel to take off the high spots. In a few seconds the vibrations were gone.  (Mark Dyba)

    This may not be your problem, but its what I ran into when making the leather stropping wheel. When I put it on the first motor it had a considerable amount of vibration so I put it on a different motor and the vibration went to almost none. It turned out that the shaft on the first motor wasn't running true. Not a problem when running a small pulley, but a big wooden wheel is another story. If you have access to another motor, even if its just to pull it off another tool to try it, it can make a difference.    (Floyd Burkett)

    I used a bandsaw to round out the wood wheels to as round as I could get.  Then I mounted the wheels and used a rasp to take off the high spots.  I never did get to a very smooth turn, but smooth enough to sharpen my blades.

    The rasping took me a while.  (Greg Dawson)

      This message takes me back. I made my Smithwick buffing wheels  before I had my band saw. I used a saber saw to cut out the disks. They were then arbor-mounted and rounded with a lot of rasping on an old washing machine motor. The motor is fun . It will run in either direction  when you give it a shove. But quickly! I then rigged a 30 degree ramp and mounted the whole magilla on a 2x10 board. It does indeed sharpen plane irons well. The Caveman strikes again.  (Bill Fink)

      PS: I do have a problem. My lab ate the last of my green buffing compound. Anyone know of a local source for this stuff?

        Veritas Green honing compound, in bar form, can be had from Lee Valley.  (Chris Obuchowski)

        Lab turds.  (Steve Weiss)

    I rounded out my wheel by folding and securing the sandpaper over a 1.5 ft length of wood. You can then rest and hold the one end of the wood firmly on the bench-top and gradually lower the other end onto the wheel. This makes it a lot easier to only sand off the high spots.  I considered making a simple jig for this, but found it was not necessary.  (Stephen Dugmore)

    You might try Woodcraft Supply.  At least, they used to carry it.  As for the vet, no help here.  And merry Christmas to you too.  (Neil Savage)


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