Sharpen This, Part 1


Read the other installments in the “Sharpen This” series via this link.

After years of working with professional and amateur woodworkers all over the world I have concluded that people who are hostile to handwork tend to badmouth it for a simple reason: They cannot really and truly sharpen.

They might be able to rub a chisel on a rock so their chisels can chop out wood left behind by a router or saw, but beyond that, they are lost.

Think about it: What if your table saw tried to kill you every time you turned it on? (Oh, wait, that’s what it really does do.) OK, imagine if your table saw’s blade had only two teeth on it. You’d hate that saw. You’d tell your students to avoid it. You’d say it was no way to make furniture.

Fixing this ornery saw takes about five minutes, tops: Remove the old blade and replace it with a sharp one. The same goes for a dull chisel or plane blade. Five minutes on the stones (or strop, if you are so inclined) and you are back to perfect.

But if you are unwilling to take a half-hour lesson and perform a few practice sessions to learn to sharpen, then you are going to be forever left with tools that are frustrating, slow, damaging to the wood and awkward.

And that is – I think – the source of hostility to handwork. It’s not that these naysayers think their machines are so fantastic. It’s that they are unwilling to admit they cannot sharpen at a high level.

This is not a supposition. I’ve concluded this after looking at a lot of people’s edges and comparing it to their work and what they say. (The only outliers to my observation are the few people who really can sharpen, but their public personas are based on bashing handwork – yes, these people exist.)

I say all this because today marks a turning point on this blog. Until today, I avoided writing much about sharpening because it is a sticky wicket. There is more misinformation floating around about sharpening than any other woodworking topic (the topic of finishing is a close second).

I have started a new category on this blog: Sharpen This. Articles in this category will show you how I sharpen every tool in my chest: planes, chisels, scrapers, travishers, scorps, moulding planes, awls, spade bits, screwdrivers and so forth. I’ll also attempt to disarm the consumerist economy that has sprung up to capitalize on our craft’s fear of this simple process.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to sharpen. All the systems work. The trick is to pick one system (what I call “sharpening monogamy”) and practice.

And if you are willing to humble yourself before a teacher, admit you cannot sharpen and take a lesson, you can get fixed up with everything you need to know in less than half an hour. (Pro tip: Attend a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event and they will gladly give you a complete and free lesson.)

But if you won’t do this and you continue bash handwork, then I have only two words (and an obscene gesture) for you: Sharpen this.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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60 Responses to Sharpen This, Part 1

  1. steverennells says:

    “I have only two words (and an obscene gesture) for you: Sharpen this.”



  2. Jeff Hanna says:

    It’s a funny thing: once you master sharpening you will find it frustrating to have carbide power tools that you can’t sharpen yourself.


  3. joelkevinjones says:

    I look forward to any articles on sharpening. After much practice with a honing guide and a set of waterstones, I’m finally able to get an edge I like on chisels and plane blades. There a sense of satisfaction in taking a garage sell chisel that looks like it was used for prying up nails and giving it a sharp edge and a shiny finish.


  4. The writings of a brave man. Sharpening is one of those internet topics that easily degrades into all sorts of anti social behavior. There are quite a few topics online that also do this. Tires, oil, mathematics, optics all seem to bring out the worst in a few people. I am all attention to read some good stuff.


  5. ikustwood says:

    Hi Chris! Nothing related to sharpening…
    Just wanted to say that it was superbe to finally meet you at the LN Open House this week end! Thank you for your time, workshop and help: truly a gentleman.




  6. rwyoung says:

    Sharpening. Is. A. Gateway. Skll

    (Also, Hi Marselle!)


  7. Derek Long says:

    If you want to learn how to sharpen, do what I did and start woodworking with a pair of carpenter chisels from HD because that’s what I had in the tool box. Soft steel that goes dull chopping pine gives you lots of practice, believe me. Then you’ll be thrilled with good steel tools and be happy as a clam.


  8. Jim Maher says:

    My name is Jim,

    and I can not sharpen.


  9. Jarrod Dahl says:

    Good stuff. When I teach about sharpening I say its a brutally honest thing. Its either sharp or not. There is no inbetween and no room for lies. Plus you either can do it or not. Funny how the work we do gets into personal psychology. People lie to themselves all the time and sharpening seems a reflection of this. But that kinda stuff might be best discussed over an ale someday.


  10. jayedcoins says:

    Two big things for me on sharpening.

    Make a holder for your stones. An offcut of poplar, carcase saw, 1″ chisel, and router plane, and an hour later I had a holder for my two primary DMT stones. My strop hangs on a hook behind me. Now, everything I need to get any chisel or plane iron tuned up is within arms reach around the bench. This tears down a seemingly silly but large psychological barrier, at least for me.

    The other thing that has really helped me is admittedly a big luxury. I took the plunge on the Lie-Nielsen honing guide. It’s pricey and you absolutely do NOT need one of these. But it helps guarantee consistent results each time so that you get the right edge on the tool the first try and don’t iterate. Woodworking with sharp hand tools is fun. Sharpening is not fun. The LN honing guide maximizes your time doing the former, and minimizes your time doing the latter. Victory.

    One school of thought might say that the LN guide is only a worthwhile purchase if you’re a professional or if you log a lot of shop time and projects as an amateur, because then it can “pay for itself.”

    My school of thought is that if you’re a beginner, a novice, or like me, some weeks only afford you a couple hours of shop time, things like the LN guide are tremendous assets. It saves time, sure as hell. But moreso than even the time savings is that it takes down a mental block — it stops me from thinking… “Well, I have 45 minutes and I could go dress that board, but my jack plane iron was getting crummy and it needs a hone, and I don’t feel like doing that because it’s annoying work that I don’t find fun, etc. etc.” That’s the type of thinking that keeps the beginner, novice, or sporadic woodworker from remaining in the craft and keeping their interest level up. The LN honing guide is a powerful tool to fight that type of problem.

    Maybe this sounds lazy. That might be your judgment. I’m all for having to know how to maintain your tools, and taking that seriously. But I think it is fair to say that this type of thing is a barrier to entry, so I’m a big believer in tools, jigs, methods, etc. that lower those barriers so that newcomers are able to spend more time making shavings and feeling like they’re being productive, because that productive feeling begets more productivity and enjoyment in the craft. And then you get to a point where maintaining your tools and restoring some old ones melds in with it and your round out your skills.


    • Jim Maher says:

      “I don’t feel like doing that because it’s annoying work that I don’t find fun” – and I don’t know what I’m doing (sharpening) anyway!

      I have not found a place to take a one-on-one class. I’ve watched and read many a “simple, foolproof, anyone-can-do-this” sharpening explanation. It don’t matter. I try to do what they say, but I have no idea if the result is “good enough”. Yes, it IS sharper, but have I achieved the goal? (For example, as far as I can tell I’ve never actually formed a burr on the back of the the iron. But I do tend to hone as soon as I suspect dullness is coming, so maybe I don’t really need to. I DON’T KNOW!)

      Several courses I’ve heard about are by an expert – selling HIS sharpening system. I believe I have good enough sharpening equipment; I just don’t know how to use it. I need someone to show me, then watch me, then say “No, no – do this” and “Straighten out” and “Do it a little more” and “Stop!”

      Chris, why don’t use impose on Lie-Nielsen to make it a regular part of their events. I have a Veritas honing guide that’s probably good enough. But I’d buy the Lie-Nielsen – IF – it came with one-on-one instruction. I’ll bring one of my chisels and one of my planes and they promise that I’ll leave with their shiny new guide and two ACTUALLY sharp tools.


      • rwyoung says:

        It has been my experience that the sharpening demos, etc ARE ALREADY a regular portion of the LN HT Events. Might depend a bit on who is working the event but I’ve witnessed Deneb, Curtis, Tim, Danielle and probably every other person they have working do demos and one-on-one with their gear or stuff people bring in.


      • jayedcoins says:

        I feel pretty confident saying if anyone can distill this to the basics and present them rationally, it’ll be Chris.

        I’d highly recommend Peter Galbert’s book, even if you have no interest in green woodworking or chairmaking. The chapters about wood characteristics, finishing, and of course tool maintenance, are well worth the price of the book. Galbert’s illustrations and way of explaining how he maintains/sharpens his edge tools make sense and really helped a lot of concepts “click” for me, even the types of concepts that I knew were important but hadn’t really fully grasped “why.”

        Sharpening is “create a burr and then remove it.”


    • Lee B says:

      One experience in particular made me realize the value of honing guides. I chipped my chisel, it wasn’t too bad and I thought I was getting decent at free hand sharpening (hubris) so I went at it on a coarse stone. I wasn’t making good progress and after a while I realized 1. The chip was still there, and 2. My cutting edge was now skewed.

      Luckily I had done at least one wise thing and got a honing guide, so in short order I had the chip gone and my edge back to square. It not only fixed a problem that would have been really difficult to fix on my own, but it gives me the confidence to go ahead and maybe foul up my chisel again as I continue practicing.

      One thing I’ve learned is that anything you can do to get rid of the intimidation factor and just dive in to using your tools is worth it.


      • jayedcoins says:

        “One thing I’ve learned is that anything you can do to get rid of the intimidation factor and just dive in to using your tools is worth it.”

        This is very well put. It’s exactly my feeling. Starting any new craft or hobby is intimidating, and for most folks, getting early “wins” helps keep them in the craft and keep their interest level up. The LN honing guide isn’t cheap, but it’s a heck of a tool, in my book, for removing that big barrier that keeps a lot of people from sticking with hand tool work — not having sharp edges.


  11. “but their public personas are based on bashing handwork – yes, these people exist.”

    I’ve noticed this fairly regularly from certain sources. A condescending chuckle with the subject of hand tools comes up.

    I definitely believe they’re out there.

    Preaching to the choir here but I found your video on sharpening to be pretty straight to the point and it helped me get a leg up on the learning curve.


  12. johncashman73 says:

    I had learned many years ago to sharpen plane blades and chisels. It wasn’t horribly difficult.

    But I avoided learning to carve for a very long time because I was intimidated by sharpening all of those odd shapes and angles. When I finally had a backlog of things I could only make by learning to carve, I took a class with Phil Lowe. The first thing he did was take a #8 gouge and jab it onto a spinning 80 grit wheel. “Now we are going to learn to shape and sharpen it” he said. At the end of an hour I could sharpen anything outside of a vee tool.

    So, I guess I’m seconding the suggestion to take a class if that’s what you need. It can be intimidating, but it really isn’t hard.


  13. Bill Rehm says:

    I have a mortal terror of power tools, based on high school woodshop class (too much teenage testorerone crammed into one room with power tools and a single instructor) and relatives with missing/shortened digits.

    That said, I finally got around to taking a sharpening class this past weekend at the Woodwright’s School. Bill Anderson is a great instructor. I even managed to successfully sharpen a couple gouges with waterstones.



  14. richmondp says:

    Chris, I could not agree with you more: most folks, who disparage working wood by hand, do so because they have never experienced a sharp tool in their lives, let alone learned how to sharpen one. I landed a job as a finish carpenter a decade or so ago. I had had quite a bit of experience in traditional woodworking (commercial fish boat repair, primarily), but had never worked for a modern construction outfit. I was amazed to be the butt of jokes and ribbing, when I pulled a roll of sharp chisels out of my bag. My colleagues all had chisels but they referred to them as “beater chisels.” Useful for prying metal bits off of old studs, or opening the proverbial paint can. If they did have one quality chisel, they squirreled it away and protected it as if it were a piece of the one true cross, refusing to pull it out except under the most dire circumstances.

    “Why don’t you use that nice chisel,” I would ask. “It’s just the thing for that job.”

    “But that might dull it,” they would answer.

    “Well sure it will dull it. Isn’t that what stones are for?”

    “I don’t own any sharpening stones. I don’t know how.”

    “Well here, let me show you. Only takes a minute or two.”

    “Naaww, that’s alright. Maybe later.”

    I kid you not. Even my boss, who at least is embarrassed about it, has a nice little bronze Lie-Nielsen block plane which he refuses to use, because he doesn’t know how to sharpen it.

    By the way, while I’m on the subject, my bag also contains a Stanley 4A and a Stanley 5A, planes which seem to get a lot of bad press, but which I love. Just the thing for odd positions in carpentry. If modern woodworkers used a plane anywhere besides their benches, like on a boat or a house, I think they might appreciate these aluminum planes more. Sure, I’ve got my heavy smoothers for fun time at my bench, but try using one of those suckers over your head, while on your back, in a tight space…

    Sorry, I digress.


  15. John Hippe says:

    I am glad you are doing this. For me, I think it will be a big help. When I first got into hand tools, I was quite intimidated. I completely bought in to the myth that sharpening is a very difficult task, that can only be accomplished after years of practice or with specialized guides. I spent years being frustrated with mediocre and inconsistent results.

    After much reading and watching of videos, I finally came to the realization that this must be an achievable skill that is doable by all. This realization came through reading your work and listening to others who strive to make woodworking accessible. I set aside the guides (mostly) and committed to getting a good edge quickly so that I can get back to work.

    Now I am finally on the way where I can quickly take my plane iron or chisel to the sharpening station and get a good edge in just a few minutes. I still have much to learn as I just started sharpening hollows and rounds and still have not really tackled saws — well I did one that I called my Saw of Shame. Hung my head and took it to Bad Axe where they did a great job restoring my saw…


  16. samcappo says:

    In the list of tools to sharpen, does “so forth” include saws?


    • rwyoung says:

      Doing maintenance sharpening on small joinery saws and panel saws (Western style of course) is pretty easy stuff. Rehabilitation sharpening of saws is another matter. One simple and direct (and free) video is of Tom L-N sharpening a few small saws. Video can be found on the L-N YouTube channel and is worth a look.

      Other good things to know how to manage are card scrapers, including the gooseneck shapes if you do some simple molding work. And for simple molding work, beading plane blades (also easy). Heck, let’s add a few more joinery planes like router planes, T&G blades, plow plane blades, shoulder plane. Making/maintaining profile scrapers. Drill bits — Jennings & Irwin pattern augers, countersink bits, brad-point bits, and Forsner bits too..

      All of these are pretty simple to learn to sharpen if one takes off the overthinking cap, gets a few basic sharpening tools (sometimes you do need special shapes of files or slip stones & strops) and just study the shapes of the cutting edges.

      Older woodworking books have good illustrations. Newer books like those from Ron Hock and Tom L-N and Mr Lee have plenty of good ideas and solid methods inside too.


      • rwyoung says:

        Oh, should add, sharpening the bits of marking & cutting gauges. It is amazing how much better they work when you touch up the wheel/pin/knife.


  17. Every once in a while a couple of gypsies show up at the shop claiming they have a miracle treatment for never having to sharpen again. They demonstrate with an axe and a piece of steel they bring along with them. In reality I think they just throw the iron in a campfire till it’s blackened and charge you for it. Or just take off with your blades….who knows…


    • Bob Easton says:

      Elliott, you put the true meaning of Laugh Out Loud into one sweet short story. Thanks!

      Maybe better than teaching us, Chris could hire a couple of legions of those “sharpening gypsies” and hire them out to us. 🙂


  18. Bob Easton says:

    It might sound too simple to call sharpening “a gateway skill.” Yet, every time I have learned to sharpen a class of tools (whether bench chisels, plane irons, carving gouges, saws, etc.) I’ve gained confidence and my work has improved. Sharpening well is more than a gateway skill. It’s essential.

    Bring on the lessons!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m the guy you’ll surely bash in future installments; but I’m okay with that. I like sharpening as much as actually using tools. I get excited when I see the smallest hint of tear out or crushing fibers. And I sharpen beyond what is really “necessary”. It’s cool though. I’ve accepted I’m on the fringes. We all geek out about something, right?


    • It’s highly unlikely I’ll bash someone who loves sharpening. It’s the most important skill in the craft (in my opinion) and the thing I am trying to get better at every single day.

      I’m not a fan of the gear in particular. I am a *huge* fan of the skill.


  20. Aquila says:

    My grandfather, a carpenter taught in Germany before he came to this country in 1899, taught my father the trade as well as the school having a shop class. I had the bookshelf/end table my father made as a final 8th grade shop project until I lost everything. My father told about Grandpa having him sharpen everything with an edge for the first month he was working with him. Hand saws, chisels, plane blades, gouges, drill bits, kitchen knives, anything with an edge before he ever touched a piece of wood (except in the school shop class where they too taught basid sharpening). I would sit with him and watch while he sharpened his tools, usually on a Saturday afternoon, some only needed a touch up, some a full sharpening, it depended on how much use each item had the previous week, and sometimes he had already sharpened things at work or at home of an evening. He did some beautiful work. There was one project which required those master carpenter skills, the ceiling of the moot court at University of Illinois Law School at Chicago. I saw it just after he finished it. The architect had designed a ceiling of wood blocks, different lengths and a jigsaw puzzle of various angles and different woods. I don’t know if it’s still there anymore (that was back in the early 1970s if I remember correctly). I do remember him saying it would’ve been impossible to do that ceiling without properly sharpened tools, most of the pieces were cut with hand saws, planed by hand and specially fitted to the specific place in the ceiling. I did learn to sharpen too, you can’t do leatherwork with dull knives, skives, punches etc.


  21. I applaud your good will and daring-do to take on such needed but (mostly) thankless quests. Is it possible this could be a future book title: Sharpen this? If you will forgive the advice: Stay Sharp!


  22. calebjamesplanemaker says:

    I don’t think you could be more right. These articles will be a valuable asset to future (and current) woodworkers. More power to you. 👍🏼 >


  23. tpobrienjr says:

    I anxiously await an article on sharpening auger bits (Jennings pattern, Irwin pattern). Meanwhile, I have de-rusted and polished my motley collection of auger bits.


  24. drbassham says:

    Great Chris!!! I enjoy life as a woodworker because I enjoy a sharp tool. I moved to China some years back and am just now able to find quality tools (tongue in cheek) and wood suppliers. Mainly I have salvaged from what the neighbors throw away to do my woodworking. But concerning the Sharpen this! I have been using diamonds and recently started using an oil stone for my fine edging. I still use diamonds for my 200 < 1000 but then I go to the oil stones up to 20000. (Remember I am using Chinese chisels) I find that I have to polish a little bit more than before why is that?


  25. I like it Chris- I’d recommend keep it simple… If you don’t use it, don’t sharpen it. Or simply put.. How to sharpen everything found in the ATC.


  26. can i vote for myth #1?

    “Exact angle matters.”



  27. Good to hear. I have often wondered why you promoted the carbide tipped easy turning tools in your Roorkhee class besides the obvious reason. It seemed anathema to your regular approach.


  28. I couldn’t agree more that this is a necessary skill and should honestly be the first one learned in woodworking. There is a real void of concise information out there. I too found your video ‘Last Word On Sharpening’ was what got me over the hump. I always hoped for a sequel that included saw blades.


  29. charlie says:

    I hope you don’t do your sharpening at an alter like those folks at Sawcreek Mill.


  30. Look at what you have started !!!


  31. kaunfried says:

    Careful with this one. No matter what system you use there are going to be people who think It’s wrong. In a craft and or Hobbie that has very strong opinions sharpening seems to be the point were wood workers throw the gloves away. When I read your pilot book, I had to laugh when you stated your opinion on sharpening. I agree with it Whole heartily but know you’ve probably still get a lot of slack for it to this day. Can’t wait to read these articles.


  32. ejcampbell says:

    I went to the L-N open house and watched a demo sharpening a chisel and plane blade on water stones. Since I have oilstones, I asked why L-N doesn’t use any. Answer was they don’t work well o the harder A1 steel L-N uses now. But sine I’m happy with my Pfeil Swiss Made bench chisels, I’ll stick with the oilstones.


  33. neitsdelf says:

    Some thoughts on the no-comments-on-further-posts policy in this series:
    – Permitting comments only on the first post in a series likely to foment diatribes would seem a good compromise between allowing people to express feelings, and to provide info (and glean it, like I have here), on the one hand, and the likelihood of Godwin’s Law being proved out yet again, on the other hand.
    – I wasn’t aware of the word “nunga” until I googled it. Everyone should google “nunga, nunga, nunga.”


  34. Niels Cosman says:

    I am commenting about this!


  35. drjohn1963 says:

    I thought hand tools sucked. Then I began using a straight razor (tired of $5 replacement heads), and had to learn to sharpen. Now I think hand tools are great. Funny how that works…

    My biggest barrier was not realizing that you have to flatten stones. Who would have thought that a curvy face on a water stone wouldn’t give a good edge?!


  36. I remember the first time I used a really sharp chisel, and thought, oh, THAT’S how it’s supposed to work. I started sharpening everything like a maniac, using the simple “scary sharp” method.

    One day, while a major remodeling project was going on at my house, I saw a chisel lying around. Must belong to one of the carpenters, I thought, and as they were both friends of mine, I figured I’d put my new skills to use on it. The next day Gary asked me, “Did you sharpen this chisel?” I said yes, and he replied “I thought so. I picked it up to use, and thought, that’s funny. John never sharpens his chisels…”


  37. I suck at sharpening hand tools. I’m getting better with the lathe tools, but that’s largely the easy quick jig and having only a couple different profiles to practice. My problem with hand tools is the wide variety of bevel angles and stuff, and the difficulty/time of disassembling the planes and then putting them back together. It can take 30 minutes or more to get the plane apart (I’d finally gotten the wedge tight enough and the blade at a good set… time to take it all apart and wreck it!), put the iron in the jig, guess at the bevel angle, guess wrong, readjust the jig, guess again, guess wrong, readjust the jig. wonder if it’s right this time, take a couple swipes on the stone, check to see if that did anything, nope, still wrong, readjust the jig, another couple swipes, hey that looks better, more swipes, wonder if I’m done or not, disassemble the jig, put the iron back in the plane, spend the next hour or so grouching and grumbling and tweaking the set (it’s crooked, now it’s out too far, now it’s in too far, now the wedge is loose, now it’s out too far again)… and I still think wooden planes are *easier* to set than metal ones! And by the time I’m done it’s time to go to bed. 🙂

    I’d love to learn to sharpen and get back to working quickly and easily.


    • I usually do not do this, but because I think what Chris is doing here is so important, I am going to chime in.

      Yes Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events feature free one on one sharpening instruction. Please come with any questions that you might have, even bring in the tools that you are having trouble with. No you are not required to use our honing guide, or the waterstones that we recommend. The important thing is that you are able to sharpen. Use Waterstones, oil stones, diamond stones (but always strop afterwards), even a cinderblock if that strikes your fancy. Just know that dull tools do not function the way that they are intended, and sharp tools do.

      Do yourself a favor and give up the machismo that says you have to freehand sharpen. Use a jig because it gives you repeatable, consistent angle. This is only possible if you have a way to set the projection distance for a given angle. Use a stop for setting your blade angles and for most things a secondary bevel of 35 degrees is perfect. You will need a primary bevel angle of about 25 degrees. These do not have to be exact, what is important is that you can repeat YOUR angles.

      One other thing to keep in mind. A finely polished edge cuts better and lasts longer than a lesser polished edge, regardless of what you are doing. A strop gives an edge that is about the equivalent of a 10,000 grit water stone, extra fine diamond stones are the equivalent of about a 4000-6000 grit water stone, as are black Arkansas oil stones. If you are going to use these mediums, do yourself a favor and strop. How you get your tools sharp does not make you a better woodworker, but sharp tools do. So like Chris said, find a sharpening method that you are going to use and master it. That is the gateway. Keep it as simple and fast as you can, and you will never find yourself saying, “It isn’t THAT dull.”

      Cheers to you Chris for opening up this dialogue, I know you have not wanted to go to deep before, with good reason, but this is truly the one skill that every woodworker needs, and most do not have. I will end by saying, don’t forget the wear bevel…………………


      • Thanks Deneb!

        You all are on the front lines. I hope anyone who wants to learn to sharpen knows that you can go to one of these free events and learn it without any sales pressure. It’s one of the (many) great gifts Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has given to our craft.


      • richmondp says:

        Freehand sharpening? Machismo? Could be fightin’ words, if I weren’t a peace loving fellow. Well, perhaps there is a bit of machismo to it but, as one who was taught to sharpen free hand over forty years ago and has only investigated other methods recently, to see what all the fuss is about, let me offer my own take on the issue.

        In 1976 I found myself the owner of a rotten forty two foot commercial salmon troller which needed extensive rebuilding. Among a great deal else, this required the replacement of over half the hull planking, all got out from two inch air dried clear vg Douglas fir, up to 26′ long. After spiling, layout, and sawing close to the line, each plank required that each edge, which curves along its length, be planed to the correct bevel, which changes constantly along the length of the plank depending on the curvature of the hull at each frame. After this is complete, a secondary bevel is worked in, to provide a caulking seam. After rip sawing with a worm drive skilsaw, I shaped each plank by hand with a 06 corrugated Record hand plane, bought new for the project. I worked outside, in the dirt and grime of a commercial marina, often in the Seattle drizzle.

        That’s a lot of hand planing (and a lot of sharpening!). It takes some attention, shaping a hull plank. Mess a bevel up and I’ve messed up over 20 feet of premium wood. What I don’t want is to have my attention taken up with sharpening. The simpler the better. And nothing, to my mind, is simpler than two oil stones and a squirt bottle of diesel oil. No guides or angle stops to misplace, no setting up each time I need to sharpen. As for stropping, I was taught to do it on the palm of my hand, or on the face of my clean fir plank. When the bevel on my iron became to thick to sharpen quickly, I’d regrind it with an old hand cranked grinder which I had clamped to a nearby timber.

        Don’t get me wrong. I don’t claim that freehand sharpening produces an edge any better than other methods, or that free hand sharpening is the best choice for everyone. In fact, theoretically, I can understand the case for guides and stops: constant, repeatable angles. I tried it, but, as a practical matter, I found it too much bother. Too old to learn new tricks, perhaps. Although I did break down and buy a leather strop a few years ago. Works well, but when I’m in a hurry, or out on a job, I still use the palm of my hand.

        By the way, since I am responding to Deneb’s comment: I am sorry not to see plane corrugation offered any longer by Lie-Nielsen. I suppose there isn’t much demand for it, but working outside on damp, sometimes pitchy wood, as often found around boats, or old houses, corrugation is nice to have. Or so I’ve always thought.


  38. is9582 says:

    Chris, Chris, Chris… I just finished the fourth segment of Sharpen This. All I can say is, get out of my head!! Haha. I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that I completely agree with your thesis. I just thought I’d drop it in digital ink, as its spot on. And I’ve always told everyone that I’ve ever shown how to sharpen, that if their current method works brilliantly already, they have no reason to change a thing!

    Cheers buddy,

    Lee Laird


  39. ejcampbell says:

    Regarding part 9: I wish the cheap honing guides had thicker notches so that the narrow chisels would stay parallel to the stone and not roll.


    • A triangular file can open them up as much as you like. I’ve done it many times.


      • ejcampbell says:

        Thanks. That worked. Because my Pfeil chisels have side bevels of increasing thickness as you move toward the handle and they are not uniform from one to the next, I traded my roll for a pitch. But this is a huge improvement. As long as I press down on the blade to keep my angle constant I’m fine.


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