My day job at a woodworking magazine forces me to try out new sharpening equipment all the time, which drives me bonkers. No matter how long you have been sharpening, it takes some time to get tuned into a new stone or guide or system.
However, sometimes all this agony results in some ecstasy.
For example, I’ve become fond of the small Kell honing guide for chisels. No honing guide I’ve ever used can produce such accurate edges. Why? Two reasons. The jig clamps from the sides, which prevents your chisel from shifting. However, my old Eclipse-style guide also clamps from the sides. So what’s the big deal?
Where the Kell excels is that you can secure the chisel with its unbeveled face against the Kell’s guide bars. Brilliant. While my Eclipse guide tends to make my chisels twist, the Kell does not. As a result, it’s far easier to hone a straight secondary bevel on chisels (and on straight irons for joinery planes).
The irony about the Kell is that I was introduced to the guide by Joel Moskowitz, the owner of Tools for Working Wood. Joel is an advocate of freehand sharpening. But now I’ve even more attached to my honing guides because of him. Thanks Joel!
My other favorite bit of sharpening equipment is the little block of wood shown in the photo. I mark common honing angles on it using my daughter’s protractor. Then I set it on the end of my bench and use it to set the chisel to the proper angle for sharpening in the guide.
I have tried myriad devices and techniques for setting angles. I have marked up my workbench with dozens of lines for setting a wide variety of irons to a wide variety of angles. Nothing works as simple and brilliantly as a direct reading from my block of wood. And it’s portable and I never – ever – have to compensate for the thickness of a tool or its taper.
I had to make up this new block of wood recently because I lost my old one at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking. My old one was fancier – it had the radius of my fore plane’s blade shaped into the back end. That way I could just trace the shape onto a fore plane blade and grind to the line.
— Christopher Schwarz