Freehand sharpening out of square

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    I’ve spent a bit of time in the last few days preparing a set of used chisels. The good news is that I’ve found it quite easy to get them flat, develop a nice camber and sharp edge I’m really pleased with. However, varying success with squareness of the edge.

    I’ve been able to correct most of this as I go but am finding the smaller chisels a bit more difficult to control. Does anyone have any advice on keeping a square edge when freehand sharpening? They are just a little out, but visibly so.



    It just takes patients and practice. I struggle witht he smaller ones too.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein


    Its easier in my experience to control the squareness if you hold the chisel to the stone so that it is pointing straight in front of you, not at an angle. I hope I’ve explained it right. This way its easy to put pressure on either side in order to bring it back to square and for smaller chisels I find it easier to put pressure evenly this way.


    Thanks guys. I’m encouraged by the results I’ve gotten regarding sharpness, by far exceeded my hopes in that respect… They’re cutting effortlessly and I’m so surprised by the texture of the surface they leave in the chunks of spruce I’ve been playing around with.

    … I am finding that too, just went to have another go and finding that (now the camber is established) if I take the last few dozen strokes without so much pressure and only use pull strokes that the tools are much more square. My 1/4″ still looks like skew chisel’s cousin though 🙂

    Any more suggestions from others who have overcome this I’d be happy to read em.

    Thanks again


    If, by smaller chisels, you mean about 3/16” wide or les, it sometimes helps to draw the chisel toward you, backward over your stone instead of pushing forward.

    I find that it can give better control of the edge-contact on the stone.
    Alternatively you may need to stand the edge vertically on the stone, drag it backwards to get it square then add bias when honing to remove the excess metal on the out-of-square side until you have a uniform thickness at the cutting tip.

    Dragging backwards takes a bit of getting used to, but it works for me. Try it and see.

    All best

    Michael B

    I’m new to sharpening and woodworking in general, and have run into the same issue with smaller chisels. I spent some time yesterday working on my sharpening technique to establish a square edge on a chisel I had put somewhat out of square, and got a fairly good result.

    The main thing I found was to check squareness often, every three or four strokes. If the edge is beginning to develop an angle, apply pressure on the side opposite the angle. Be careful that the burr on the edge may look like the chisel is still square, but when it’s removed it’s not square at all (this was how I put the chisel out of square in the first place).

    In terms of grip I held the blade quite low down with my right hand (I’m right-handed), with my index finger almost directly over the bevel applying pressure, while my left hand supports the handle at the correct angle. When I was correcting for angle, I slowly rolled my index finger pressure from the chisel edge toward the center. This was done to try prevent the chisel edge developing a central point as a result of applying pressure on opposite sides of the blade.

    I also found it helpful to use a permanent marker to mark the whole bevel face, perform a few sharpening strokes, then check to see if my angle was correct and if I was out of square. At the same time I feel for the burr that is developing, checking it is consistent across the tip of the chisel.

    I’m certainly no authority on sharpening, but the above did work for me (after some trial and error!)

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