Uncommonly Sharp: How to Sharpen 13 Tools that Don’t Fit in Your Honing Guide
We’ve got dozens of articles on how to sharpen hand tools like a regular plane blade or a set of chisels, but what about the rest of your tool arsenal? Most of them don’t exactly fit in a honing guide. Here’s a compilation of 13 hand tools that might seem difficult to sharpen at first, and the articles that will help you bring them back to sharp and true without any headaches.
Like any cutting tool, a marking gauge must be sharp to perform at its best. Rousseau prefers the bevel to have a rounded tip, rather than a pointy one, because it can be pushed and pulled. He rounds the tip with a slow-speed grinder, then hones the back and bevel on the edge of a polishing stone.
In this video, Mike teaches you how to avoid the two most common mistakes woodworkers make when sharpening a card scraper.
Peter Galbert uses a curved card scraper as a shaping tool to fair curves and dial in complex shapes on chair seats. With the aid of a simple honing jig, he’s able to sharpen a curved scraper quickly and reliably. Here, he shows how to make the jig, how to use it to create a sharp edge, and how to use the scraper once you have reached sharpening perfection.
The card scraper is known to many woodworkers as the tool of choice for tackling tricky grain and tough woods. But it’s not the whole story. Often, especially on large, flat surfaces, the job can be done easier, faster, and better using the lesser-known cabinet scraper or the scraper plane. Hand-tool expert Chris Gochnour uses all three types in his shop. In this article, he explains what each tool does, what it costs, and how to set them up and sharpen them.
Western-style saws, which cut on the push stroke, have thick blades that can be sharpened easily. And with Gochnour’s approach, any Western-style dovetail saw can be tuned up to perform as well as an expensive, finely tuned saw. Most dovetail cuts are made with the grain, so he sharpens his dovetail saws with a rip-tooth pattern.
There’s a lot of complicated detail out there about the best way to sharpen a handsaw, but professional saw maker Mark Harrell says you don’t really need it. You can sharpen any backsaw using a few simple tools and his step-by-step method. Learn how to turn your vise into a saw vise using a few strips of angle iron and some leather. Then learn how to mark and joint the teeth, and file the gullets for the tooth pattern you want, whether it’s rip, crosscut, or a hybrid of the two.
A router plane is a tool many woodworkers find indispensable for joinery work. But sharpening a router plane blade can be a difficult task if the blade is one of the older-style integral blades. Many of the newer models can be disassembled and put into a honing guide, but the older-style blades are made from one solid piece of metal. Vic Tesolin adds a hollow grind to his blades, giving you two faces to rest on the sharpening stone, making it much easier to get a consistent bevel. This could be done many ways, but as Vic learned from Derek Cohen, the job is made easier by using a V-block to hold the blade steady. Then, a sanding drum chucked into the drill press makes quick work of the hollow grind.
A skew rabbet block plane is a versatile tool. It works as a conventional block plane, but because the skew blade makes super-clean cross grain cuts, it’s the ideal plane for trimming tenon cheeks. The skewed blade may look tough to sharpen, but it’s actually not so. If you are skilled at freehand sharpening, it will take you a bit of practice to get the job done. The trick is not only to maintain a consistent bevel but also to avoid altering the original skew angle. But if you don’t work freehand, here are two surefire methods to sharpening the blade that take all the guesswork out of the equation.
A scrub plane has a blade with a pronounced curve and works something like a gouge, removing lots of wood in a hurry. However, you sharpen the blade much the same way that you sharpen a blade with a straight edge.
Before putting a new shoulder plane to use, it must be tuned and sharpened properly. In this video, hand-tool woodworker Chris Gochnour walks through the process of tuning up a shoulder plane, from flattening and squaring the sole to setting the blade.
Assuming that your blades have no nicks and they match the profile on the sole of the plane, the best way to sharpen them is with slip stones. You might need several stones of various shapes and radii. You also can use sandpaper wrapped around dowels.
Shaping long, flat surfaces, concave cuts, face grain, end grain—it’s all easier with a well-sharpened drawknife. Windsor chair master Curtis Buchanan gives a tutorial on this valuable hand tool, from the different types of drawknives, to sharpening, to whether you need a bevel-up or bevel-down version. He also demonstrates how to hold the tool and how to use it to make complex shapes, smooth surfaces, facets, scooped surfaces, and more.
Sharpening a spokeshave blade can be tricky because the small blade is hard to hold. The solution is to mount the blade in a wooden holder before you grind and hone it. This version by Chris Gochnour can handle both short bevel-up blades and longer bevel-down blades. It’s a style of shopmade holder that’s been around for more than a century, but Gochnour has updated it and made it more user-friendly.
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Fine Woodworking Unlimited members have access to The Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening, an all-in-one reference book that includes photos and instruction for sharping everything, including what’s listed here plus regular planes and chisels, carving tools, drill bits, and more. Subscribe today.