Below are the supplies I use when sharpening planes and chisels. For my system, all of these parts are required except the permanent markers.
see review). I use three belt grits, 40, 80, and 120.
You could also get a 1" belt sander from Delta, Grizzly, Harbor Freight, or Kalamazoo, but none of those sanders allow you to set the table to 25°, so you will have to rig up your own table. Brent Beach has information on his website on how to modify the Delta belt sander to allow grinding to 25°. If you don't get the Viel sander and have to modify one, I'd probably just get the Harbor Freight sander since it is so inexpensive.
3M Micro Abrasive Film with a PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) backing. I use grits 40 micron, 15 micron, 5 micron, and 0.5 micron. 3M does not make the 0.5 micron with a PSA backing any more, so I would use 0.3 micron or 1 micron instead. Buying the abrasives with PSA backing is worth the extra money. You can get a better, flatter adhesion to the glass than with spray adhesive. I have tried both.
These abrasives cut very fast. They work much better than anything I bought at the auto supply stores. The courser the abrasive, the faster it wears. The 0.5 micron lasts a very long time and the 40 micron wears out pretty quickly.
Are you worried about how much the abrasives will cost over time? Don't be. Buy a sample pack of two sheets of each and see how long that will last. If you run out, then you can decide if you think it is worth it. You'll get many sharpenings out of that sample pack. When I was trying to decide which sharpening method to use, I considered buying Shapton waterstones because "everybody" said they are "the best." You can buy a lot of sandpaper for your down payment on Shapton stones. Just give the sandpaper a shot. You'll like it.
I adhere each abrasive to a separate piece of glass that is 6" x 18". I cut the abrasive sheet in half so I end up with a piece of abrasive that is 4.25" x 11". The glass is stored in the stand pictured here. When I need an abrasive, I pull it out from below and put it on top. The top has a lip on 3 sides which keeps the glass in place. This stand makes the glass easily accessible, protected from dust, and takes up very little space. Make sure you leave one side without a lip because when you sharpen chisels, you will need that side to flatten the back of the chisel.
The best place to find glass is locally. Option one is to go to a glass store and ask them to cut the glass for you. Tell them you don't care what the edge looks like. Make sure and call around because you will find wildly varying prices. Option two is to find some free or inexpensive glass on craigslist and cut it yourself. I had success cutting glass with an inexpensive Fletcher glass cutter and a 5 minute lesson from the glass store. If you cut the glass yourself, remove the sharp edges using 150 grit sandpaper. I used my belt sander, but I won't do that again. Do it by hand.
Brent Beach adheres his glass to a backing board to protect the edges. I don't do that and I haven't had any problems.
I bought a squirt bottle from The Container Store for $0.99 that makes using applying the oil easier.
I use paper "shop towels" to clean up the baby oil. I keep meaning to experiment with a regular cotton towel to cut down on the paper towel waste.
Read more about this jig.
test an edge to see if it is sharp. Just about any paper will do, but for consistency, it helps to use the same kind of paper over time. I usually use left over print outs of my project designs.
The thin marker I use in combination with the square to draw a line on the back of the blade so I have a reference line to grind to.
Let's get started!