A Look At Off-the-Stone Honing Guides
These honing guides may be worth considering, especially if you use sandpaper on glass or diamond plates
In Fine Woodworking #274, I took a look at several honing guides on the market. As I mention in the article, the review covers only guides that ride on the stone even though I also looked at several models that ride off it. These were left out because I found the off-the-stone models lacking in the same serious way. Because the guides’ wheels don’t ride on the sharpening medium, all your stones must be the same height or else your honing angle changes—defeating the purpose of a honing guide. The higher the stone, the shallower the angle on the honing angle on its original setting. Even if your stones start at the same height, they wear at different rates. This is especially true for waterstones, which I use. This means even shimming your stones, as I did in the pictures, isn’t a permanent solution. Still, these guides may be worth considering, especially if you use sandpaper on glass or diamond plates, so I’ve ranked them independent of where their wheels roll. Of the group, the Ultimate Honing Guide by Gerd Fritsche was my top choice.
The Ultimate Honing Guide by Gerd Fritsche
This guide accommodated all the tools except the cabinet scraper. Its biggest benefit is from leverage, however. Since the wheel is so far from the iron, the guide allows you to exert a lot of force on the blade, allowing it to excel at manual grinding. But because of its length and narrow wheels, the guide was a bit tippy.
Sharpening Sled by Alisam Engineering
The Sharpening Sled is a stable guide that’s comfortable to use and easy to set. It excelled at creating an accurate bevel and is capable of a wide range of angles from 5° to 60° thanks to an adjustable wheel with positive stops built into the jig. Tools are secured to the guide with a large, knurled brass clamp. Once set, the blade does not shift. However, the narrower the blade, the less stone you can use before the guide’s side supports bump into the stone.
The Sharpening Sled comes in three sizes to fit different size sharpening media, or you can buy additional side supports to change the guide’s height.
The front wheels can deflect about 0.01 in. so that as metal is removed, the blade maintains contact with the stone. But because of this deflection, the sled allowed blades to dive on softer waterstones, gouging them.
The guide gave excellent results on the chisel, straight plane blade, and the skew blade. It couldn’t hold the mortise chisel, it was unable to camber a blade, and a spokeshave iron was too short to reach the stone with the model I had.
No. 809 Chisel/Plane Blade Sharpener by General
The General honing guide is fairly versatile, but it didn’t perform very well. While it did a good job on both some blades, others I tested—a spokeshave, cabinet scraper, and mortise chisel—did not fit in the guide. It also wobbled in use, as the plastic wheels were a bit out of true. Because of the length of its two hinged parts, you can use more surface of low-profile stones than taller ones.