Sharpening a Plane Iron that has a Pitted Back
David Charlesworth's ruler trick speeds the process.
A blade with a pitted or rough back can never truly be sharp no matter how much you labor over the bevel. But as essential as it is to flatten and hone the back, it can seem like an endless process. If you are in a hurry, you can try a simple trick I learned from David Charlesworth, an English furniture maker, teacher, and writer.
A thin steel ruler slightly elevates one end of the blade, making it easier to flatten the back and produce a sharp edge. The result is a very slight back bevel of less than 1 degree, not enough to affect the blade for general use.
After initial honing on a coarse stone, move directly to a 8000-grit stone. A thin steel ruler placed along one edge of the stone angles the blade very slightly and creates a small back bevel (less than 1°) as the back is honed. This hones the only part of the back that really matters — the part that forms the cutting edge. It is also easy to repeat accurately.
Photos: Scott Gibson