Anyone who owns some decent hand tools know that looking after them properly is incredibly important. There are many different types of hand tool and each needs to be looked after differently. Since I have been using the same chisel for several years, despite fully refurbishing my camper van, I thought I would look at that.
Of course at some point you will need to sharpen your chisels, but the first thing to consider is their proper storage. The best advice with woodworking tools is to hang them on a rack. Its best not to keep them in a draw, but if you must then ensure they arent tossed in together. Use dividers to protect them. When chisels knock against each other then you quickly lose the sharp edge you need to work with it.
Before you start sharpening your chisel get together the things you need, a leather strop, sharpening stones and oil. Oil the first sharpening stone for lubrication. You then need to slide the edge of the chisel gently up and down the first sharpening stone. Hold it at a 20 degree angle while doing this. To get a good edge you will need to work evenly on both sides of the blade. Drag your finger away from the edge of the blade to see if you have formed a burr, when you can feel a roughness to the edge then you move on to the next stone; use the slip stone which you should use to sharpen away the burr that you formed.
Once the burr has been sharpened away with the slip stone you will need to work the edge with the leather strop. Like everything else that you have done up until now it should be applied evenly to both sides. The leather strop will take the last remnants of the burr away and leave the edge sharp.
You can test if the edge is sharp enough by resting it on your finger nail. If it slides across your nail then it is still not sharp enough, if it sticks to your nail though then you know it is sharp enough.
Remember that repeated sharpening of your chisel will eventually damage it, protect the blade as much as you can, the best way to care for hand tools is to look after them in the first place. Make sure that you are only using it for the correct purpose and that it is properly stored. I have used the same chisel for many years and hope to get many more years of use out of it.