Woodworking Chisel Sharpening


Woodworking chisel sharpening is an important skill for any woodworker in order to achieve a high-quality, accurate cut. Having a sharp chisel is not only critical for achieving the desired cut but also increases safety as sharp tools require less pressure when being used and thus reduce the strength needed by a large amount. Sharpening a chisel allows you to get the best possible performance from your tool and have an efficient workflow as well.

In order to sharpen chisels correctly, one must understand the fundamental principles of sharpening: angle selection, material choice, and technique. An angle grinder or whetstone may be used for chisel sharpening depending on the material it is made from and level of sharpness wanted. Additionally, honing stones can help to refine edges for extra sharpness and accuracy that a grinder or other methods cannot achieve. Furthermore, proper blade protection should always be taken into consideration as going too deep with grinding can leave marks that are difficult if not impossible to remove without ruining the tool completely. Finally, polishing compounds can help restore any wasted steel on the blades making them look normal after resharpening has been completed.

Types of Chisels

There are three major types of chisels that can be used in woodworking: bevel edge chisels, butt chisels, and firmer chisels. Bevel edge chisels are the most common type and they have a square cross-section with a sloping bevel on the cutting edge. Butt chisels look like miniature wood planes, but with a very flat bottom end instead of a cutting edge. Firmer chisels differ from other two in that their heads are square and the sides remain parallel all the way down to their cutting edges.

When choosing a particular type of chisel to use for your project, it is important to consider what types of cuts you will need to make and what type of work pieces you will be dealing with. For finer details like carvings and trimming along intricate patterns, you might choose a bevel edged chisel due to its sharper edge. For heavier duty projects such as mortise and tenon joining or paring down larger boards for joints would require harder materials like butt or firmer style chisel blades.

In addition to finding the right type of blade for your job, making sure you sharpen your blades properly is also essential. Unsharpened blades can cause ragged cuts which can lead to greater difficulties when fixing those mistakes later on in the process. Taking some time before beginning your project to sharpen up your blades will save you much time and hassle by ensuring better quality results throughout the project journey!

Selecting the Right Tools

To start woodworking chisel sharpening, the first tool to choose is an electric or hand sharpener. Electric sharpeners make quick work of the task, but require electricity and are a bit more expensive than manual models. Hand sharpeners require more skill and knowledge about angles and jigs to get a consistent sharpening pattern every time. The number of edges that can be sharpened at one time with an electric or hand machine will vary depending on the model and its capabilities.

Once the appropriate sharpener has been selected, the next step is to understand what type of edge you want on your chisel before beginning to use the tool. It is important to choose whether you want a flat grind, which features a continuous bevel from the cutting edge down to the back of the blade; or a hollow grind which produces a double bevel with a concave shape when viewed from above. This choice will affect how much material must be ground off using honing stones or sandpaper, so it’s important to select this prior to starting in order to accurately assess how much time will need to be spent in order for the desired outcome to be achieved.

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Other necessary tools should include some sort of guide jig — such as Veritas’ Honing Guide — that helps maintain proper angles while grinding, as well as additional aids such as consumable abrasive films cut in custom shapes used during fine-tuning operations that require pinpoint accuracy. Of course, honing stones and polishing compounds should also be kept on hand in order complete all steps properly prior to use of your newly sharpened chisels.

Sharpening Stones and Grits

Sharpening stones are one of the best ways to sharpen your chisels. When it comes to choosing the right sharpening stone, there are lots of factors you should consider. The most important factor is grit size. Grit sizes usually range from 120 – 240 grit and above.

The higher grit a stone has, the finer the finish will be. For example, an 80-grit sharpening stone would be too coarse for a chisel and could damage the edge. On the other hand, a 1000-grit sharpening stone provides an extremely fine finish and can even bring back chisels that were used on tougher materials like steel or titanium.

The two most common types of sharpening stones are oilstones and waterstones. Oilstones work better than waterstones at slower speeds and need to be lubricated with either mineral oil or honing oil before use. Waterstones offer sharper edges on chisels but because they can cut faster, they can also cause more damage if not used properly and take more time to clean when compared to oilstones. Both options do have their pros and cons so depending on your needs (or budget), you may choose one over the other.

Setting the Angle

Once the woodworker has gathered all of the necessary tools for sharpening a chisel blade, they must set the angle before beginning. This is essential because various angles will impact the quality of the edge, depending on the task at hand and which degree works best for that particular job. Generally, a 30-35 degree angle for bevels and a 10-15 degree angle for backs are recommended as starting points.

The purpose of setting an angle is to ensure effective cutting by creating a good edge. It is important to note that while it may be easier to sharpen with larger angles, this will weaken the edge, leading to potential damage during use of the chisel. To combat this issue, opt for better control or accuracy by using smaller angles to create finer finishes with less effort and wasteful material removal. As such, when choosing an angle it’s important to keep in mind what type of work will be done since even slight variations can greatly affect performance. Different woodworking tasks require certain angles as some projects call for more general beveling as opposed to more intricate details that require steeper angles for precision work. Therefore, it’s best to select an appropriate angle specifically tailored towards a particular job in order to obtain optimal results and preserve both time and energy in achieving high-quality finished pieces.

Honing Your Chisel

Sharpening a woodworking chisel can be done in a few simple steps. The first step is to put the chisel blade upright onto a honing block—a flat block of stone or metal/wood with a small cavity sized for sharpening an individual blade. Place the blade so it rests at an angle approximately 25 degrees from the surface, then begin to pull and push the chisel through at that same angle. Continue to stroke the chisel until it produces a smooth, sharp edge on both sides of the blade.

As an alternative to using a honing block, another method for sharpening your chisels is by placing them into a filing cabinet and rubbing against the metal plates inside at an angle of 25-30 degrees. This will help sharpen the blades nevertheless, often filing cabinets lack certain angles needed by certain blades being sharpened, and thus might not be as effective.

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A grinder wheel is yet another choice when it comes to sharpening your chisels. However, use caution when choosing this option as it can heat up your blades too quickly and ruin their temper. Before starting to grind, use eighty-grit sandpaper first so that you will be able to get an effective grind with fewer passes on the wheel and less risk of overheating your chisels. Once complete, make sure you check the edges of your blades because they should not have any burrs or irregularities in them before usage; otherwise they may damage whatever material you are working on which can potentially lead to serious accidents when working with power tools such as saws or drills.

Keeping it Sharp

In woodworking, a sharp chisel is an essential tool. It’s important to maintain the edge of your chisel in order to achieve precise cuts. Here are some tips on how to sharpen and protect your chisels:

1) First, remove any chips or burrs with a honing stone or file.
2) For larger chips and nicks, use a flat file to remove material from the beveled edge before honing.
3) To sharpen the beveled edge use a smooth-surfaced whetstone, preferably with oil as a lubricant. Make sure to hold the angle squarely between the chisel and the stone as you move it back and forth over 0.5-in/1 cm of stone surface in an “S” motion. Make sure not to skip parts of the blade or let it jump off of the stone.
4) When you can feel a smooth bevel on both sides of blade use chromium oxide paste rubbed on leather strops going along with grain edges to reach desired sharpness level while flipping sides occasionally and frequently wetting strop with water or diamonds spray.
5) After sharpening and honing, use either mineral oil or beeswax as protection against corrosion that may occur during storage or transporting, specially in combination with high levels of humidity in working environment. Both require few swipes of a dry cloth and thorough drying afterwards.Although it usually doesn’t take long time (20-30 minutes per job), taking care of one’s chisels keeps them running like brand new for years at end providing better results not only when it comes to carving, but also when removing material from larger surfaces like furniture tops for example due its thinner blade geometry compared to other carpentry tools such as gouges for instance.


Sharpening a woodworking chisel is a skill that takes some time to acquire and perfect, but the process of sharpening a chisel need not be overly complicated. The steps are relatively straightforward: clean the back edge of the chisel; create an angle with a bench grinder; strop the edges with rose oil; de-burr any irregularities, then hone and sharpen with progressively finer grits of waterstones until there is a razor-sharp edge. Reiterating these steps for a few times should give you consistent results that you can draw experience from. With practice, soon you will develop confidence in knowing when your tool has achieved optimum sharpness. Put all that knowledge into practice today by making sure all your tools are properly sharpened before your next woodworking project.

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