Sharpening Plane Irons or even chisels can be a difficult task for woodworking newbies. Even pros can get into bad habits and slowly but surely become satisfied with mediocre sharpness.
With my DIY sharpening jig
If this is you then you should consider making you own blade sharpening guide. In this blog, I will show you my easy to build ‘sharpening system’. You could simply buy an of the shelf guide but frankly if you want that crazy sharp edge that you can replicate every time then my sharpening guide is a strong contender.
What is Sharpening?
Sharpening is the process of grinding or polishing a sharp edge to an appropriate angle for the purpose of cutting.
When should I sharpen?
When you buy a new tool, gifted an old tool or just need to refresh that previously sharp edge you will need to re-sharpen that tool.
Once you have given your tools that premier sharpens you will need to re-sharpen them after some use. Having a repeatable system will really make the process of sharpening less scary. When things are convenient people are more likely to do the necessary.
Some tools require sharpening sooner than others. For instance,
- softer steel needs sharpening more frequently than hard steels although hard steels take longer to sharpen.
- Tools used on hardwoods dull faster than tools used on softwoods
- Planing Ironwoods will certainly blunt your edge faster
Sharpening blades is a simple concept
Traditionally woodies employ some elbow grease to a plane iron while stroking your oil stone. Yes, sharpening by hand can be physical and lots of practice is needed. Hand sharpening is ok once you have developed that all so important ‘Muscle Memory’. So Yes, Practice will make perfect.
A honing or sharpening guide will train you for hand sharpening
A sharpening guide or honing guide will ensure some level of repeatable results.
A Sharpening guide increases sharpening accuracy
If you are to experience that arm-hair shearing sharpness to your tools it is important to maintain a good angle.
Can I sharpen my plane by Hand?
When sharpening by hand sometimes it’s very easy to round the planes primary grind. A rounded angle will not produce a very sharp cutting edge.
Sharpening by hand is an art.
Yes, it is an art which is best learnt by doing. You’ve heard the term practice makes perfect and it’s so true with sharpening tools without the aid of machines or jigs. You should not expect to get that perfect edge straight away. If you do not succeed the first time around then try again.
Practice make perfect
If you do not succeed the first time around then try again. When sharpening by hand sometimes it’s very easy to round the plane iron edge over. A rounded angle will not produce a very sharp cutting edge.
So how sharp can I sharpen by hand?
In theory, you should be able to sharpen your tools just a sharp as any other method by hand. Sharpening skills are learnt over a period of time but a good technique is necessary. In this article, I will give you simple tips that will teach the skills required.
Sharpening is Therapeutic!
Sharpening hand tools is a necessary evil? Well, I personally enjoy the process of sharpening my tools so they can peel away micron thin shavings every time I present my plane to the workpiece. Call me sad but personally, sharpening excites me! filling me with anticipation of creating that crazy sharp edge, it should excite you too.
YouTube video of my ‘Sharpening Guide’ in action
My easy plane sharpening jig is a foolproof method of getting a super sharp edge on your plane iron. In this video, I will show you exactly that.
Is there so an easy way to sharpen my tool?
All too often I see people struggling to get a super sharp edge on their plane and wonder why they do not succeed. Just having an oil stone isn’t always enough especially for a novice woodworker. Sometimes a little Help is a blessing mixed with a little practice.
A sharpening guide will help
So why not use a simple sharpening guide? how many options available. You can purchase a sharpening guide. These guides come in many forms from a simple roller guide to complete sharpening systems.
Which honing guide should I choose?
If you decide to go for a simple sharpening guide I recommend the Veritas honing guide For the lee Nielsen honing guide. These tools are expensive but very accurate. If you cannot afford these an eclipse honing guide will work just fine. Otherwise, just make one as we describe in this article. It’s better anyway.
Could I just purchase a cheap Diamond Sharpener?
Yes, you could but if you want to maintain a great crazy sharp edge then our sharpening guide is a great option. But if you want to quickly put an edge on a blade or knife then these may be perfect for you. This set is very cheap but solid and performs well. Toolzone sharpening set in fine/medium/course is demonstrated in the video below. Read our Blog on ‘Sharpening Stones’ as I go into more detail about tool sharpeners.
You can buy the Toolzone Cheap Diamond Sharpening set here on amazon:
We get a small commission and we thank you for your support
Water stone sharpening machines
I know this article is focussed on sharpening using my sharpening guide design but there are other options you might be interested in. The machine in this picture has been used by me but it now spends most of its time on the shelf. I seem to go to my wooden honing guide for most of my sharpening. These Rexon sharpeners are also badged as Makita but are essentially the same thing. The motorised horizontal Waterstone has a very good blade carriage system and a constant water feed to cool and lubricate the edge being sharpened. These are good but there is a cost associated with them and frankly the sharpening guide in this article is very capable so why not just make one of these?
How to make a sharpening system?
My sharpening jig is made out of pieces of wood which will help hold the plane iron (blade) at the correct angle of 30°and 28°. The two angles are required to make the first grind and the secondary sharpen.
- The first step is to have a minimum of 2 sharpening stones. I prefer the Norton India sharpening stones, these are good quality and last a very long time.
- I Screw down the two stones to a board If mounted in a wooden box
- The oil Stones do not have to be in a box, You can just screw down pieces of wood around the oilstone on the baseboard.
- If using 1 Double-sided oil stone; coarse and fine. You can just Flip It Over for each process.
- be aware that the primary and secondary sharpen has a 2 degrees difference.
- An old kitchen cupboard door works well for the baseboard because of the melamine finish.
- waxing the baseboard will lubricate the surface
- Make sure the two stones are aligned with each other and a gap of 50 millimetres or 2 inches between them.
- I used wood and plywood to make the carriage.
- This carriage or Sledge should be glued and screwed
- make a carriage that can struggle the oil stones one at a time
- on the carriage, there needs to be a flat area for the plane iron to sit
- this flat area needs to be 30 degrees to the oil stone
- calibrate your oil stones by adjusting the height with shims (thin packers)
- the stone furthest to your right should be a coarse stone of 400 Grit approximately
- The fine 1000 grit Stone to the left Must be risen slightly, enough to change the angle of the plane blade to 28 degrees
- you can make a clamp for the plane iron but you can just hold the blade if you want
Sharpening system Q&A’s
Can I sharpen my chisels with this sharpening system?
This excellent sharpening system isn’t only for your plane irons. You can use this system to sharpen your chisels and any other flat blade that has a 30-degree primary angle or 28 degrees sharp Edge.
What tools can I sharpen with this sharpening system
- You can sharpen plane irons
- block plane blade
- rebate plane irons
- jack plane Blade
- smoothing plane blade
- bevel chisels
- firmer chisels
- paring chisel
- mortise chisel
- compass plane blade
- bullnose plane iron
- Jointer plane
- Any blade with a 30-degree Primary grind and a 28 degree sharpened Edge
The plane in this video is a Stanley Bailey number 7. It is fitted with a Victor hand-forged plane iron and custom handles. The sharpening method will work with any plane iron.
How do I use this sharpening system?
The concept of this sharpening system or honing guide is very simple. Unlike other honing guides which require more practical skill, this system guides you automatically. Because the plane irons are fixed in a carriage or Sledge at the correct angle the likelihood of use train from that angle is zero to none. Using this system does require some skill but very little. The main thing to remember is that the Oil stone will be only 50 mm wide or 2 in imperial. Some Brands will be wider than this. because of this, you will need to move the carriage during the sharpening process from left to right right to left. Me to you, you to me!!!
The honing guide sharpening step-by-step
- First, clean your oil stone from dirt and old oil
- Insert your plane iron into the carriage and clamp the blade down.
- Start with the course oilstone of 400 Grit approximately
- or choose the correct oilstone grit for your requirements
- Adjust the plane iron so it sits on the oil stone at 30 degrees.
- If you have made your carriage correctly you will find that the blade will just be protruding and of the correct angle. if you push the blade too far through you will create a weak Edge.
- Apply some sharpening oil to the oil stone. this will lubricate and keep the stone clean.
- While applying some downward pressure move the carriage forwards and backwards.
- Control the carriage left to right or right to left as two sharpened the full width of the blade.
- You should notice after a few passes that the oil changes colour.
- Carry on the sharpening process and apply more oil as required
- The oil will soak into the Norton India stone, Buy on Amazon.com
- Lift the carriage of the oil stone and check your Edge.
- Carry on sharpening with a 1000 Grit sharpening stone until you are confident you have a Sharp Edge
- Remove the iron from the carriage
- You no need to remove the burr
- the burr is the folded over metal from the sharpening process
- Place the back of the plane iron onto the fine oil stone
- pull the blade away from the stone removing the burr
- No use a strop to finish the edge similar to Sweeney Todd!
- I don’t recommend it but in the video, you see that I use my hand.
- If you choose this method it is at your own risk.
- Reinsert the plane blade into your plane and jobs a good-un.
A Digital Angle Gauge will help
If you are not sure if you have your sharpening guide set to 28° or 30° then a digital angle gauge will help. You can use a protractor to make your honing guide but you might want to check that you have the correct angle honed onto your tool. With this digital tool you can accurately check the angle by placing the flat of the bevel and checking the angle with the gauge.
Will this sharpening system work with DMT diamond sharpeners?
There’s no reason why you couldn’t use this concept for a system for use with diamond sharpeners. Ideally, the diamond sharpener should be a full-size such as a Norton India oilstone but you could adapt the design to suit any size. Remember that diamond sharpeners use water or some other lubricant such as Windolene instead of oil.
I will be writing an article on Diamond Sharpeners.
Confessions of a woodworker
This system is based on a system designed by the late Bruce Tomlinson a chair designer. I cannot accept all the credit for this design but l have adapted it to suit my needs.
Please note by using this method will result in a very sharp blade. We are not responsible if you cut yourself as a result of using our method.
My conclusion on sharpening a plane blade
Reading through this is so it’s very clickbaity but seriously this is a really good system and works very well for me in my workshop.
Thank you for watching my video and we really appreciate it if you could Like Comment and Subscribe.
www.wallybois.com for more videos and blogs on Woodworking
Buy suitable oil stones or diamond sharpeners on Amazon.com
This blog is narrated on Youtube
I simple terms I have recorded as a vocal the content of this sharpening with a guide blog and uploaded it to youtube. Narration is handy when you too busy to watch or read my blogs.
Narration is new to our Blogs
Listen to this blog via Sound Cloud or Youtube and then you can carry on with what you were doing without the need to read! Don’t forget there is a youtube video on this sharpening guide further down in this blog.