Text Resize

  • -A
  • +A
  • Your rating: None (2 votes)

    How to Sharpen Handplanes and Chisels: Basic Techniques

    Learn a simple technique for sharpening chisels and plane irons

    You can't build furniture without sharp tools, and while that statement might seem obvious, dull tools remain perhaps the single biggest factor in budding woodworkers' frustrations when building projects.

    Sharpening a plane iron or chisel is generally done in three basic steps:


    1) Flatten the Back of the Blade

    Old, well-worn chisels and plane irons--and sometimes even new ones straight out of the box--usually need to have their backs flattened. A hollow area in the flat back of a blade makes it difficult to cut effectively, that's why the first step in the process is to address any imperfections in the flatness of the back. One simple, and inexpenisve way to get the job done is with a bit of sandpaper glued to sheet of flat glass. By rubbing the back of the tool on various grits of sandpaper, you'll be able to quickly remove material until eventually, you're left with an even, flat, polished back that's ready for sharpening.


    2) Grind a Bevel

    The most effective way to grind a bevel is with a bench grinder outfitted with a tool rest and a white aluminum oxide wheel. But be careful, rubbing the tool steel across a grinding wheel creates a lot of heat, heat that can destroy the temper of quality tool steel. So be sure to grind your bevel bit-by-bit, dipping the tool in water from time to time in order to keep a cool edge. If your steel turns blue, in color, you've lost temper and will have to grind away all the weakened steel.

    3) Hone the Edge

    "Honing" is where the rubber hits the road. This is the step that most folks associate with sharpening. By using a honing guide, coupled with a series of successively finer waterstones, you can put a razor sharp edge on your tools with ease. But remember, as you hone your edge on each grit of waterstone, you'll be creating a tiny burr on the back (flat) side of the tool. Be sure to flip the tool over and hone away the burr between each grit.


    Tools of the Trade

    A basic tool kit for chisel and handplane sharpening 

    honing guide
    Honing Guide
    bench grinder
    Bench Grinder
    aluminum oxide grinding wheels
    White Wheel
    1000/4000 grit combination water stone
    1K/4K Stone
    4,000/8,000 grit combination water stone
    4K/8K Stone