Help With Sharpening Please!!!

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
  • Author
  • #313762
    John Phillips

    So, I’m really struggling when trying to free hand sharpen my chisels. I can get them very sharp but I can’t keep the chisel end squared. I’m trying to imitate Paul’s method. I have tried many different ways of applying pressure, etc. I’m stumped. See my attached pic. This is one of the worst examples I have to show. Usually they aren’t quite this bad. But I would love to be able to just get to work without fiddling with the chisels all night. Your help and advice would be much appreciated!!! Thanks!!! 😀


    Hi John,

    I’ve had similar problems in the past, but I think that you’ll find that with perseverance and practice your skill here will develop.

    From the picture it looks like you are applying more pressure on the left side of the chisel when it’s bevel is on the stone. By default, I also do this. If all of your chisels are coming out the same I would shift the fingers of your left hand (Assuming you are right handed) just a touch slightly to the right, or just push down a little more to the right. Also, check the squareness before sharpening and shift the pressure accordingly. You can also mark a line square across with a sharpie to judge your progress. That may help.

    If you are planning to take off a lot of metal to create a new angle or create a new bevel on an old chisel you may consider a honing guide. I’ve used mine on a several old plane blades and chisels that I’ve picked up on eBay, then I move to freehand sharpening when I have a good starting point.

    I’m finding that I really don’t need to take off much metal with each sharpening. Just enough to feel a very very slight burr. If I take too much off, I find that I spend far too much time at the strop.

    Hope that helps and that others with greater experience also chime in.

    M W

    I had the same problem when I started. I turned a 1/4″ chisel into a skew chisel.

    Get a chisel honing guide, about $10-15. They control the angle of grind and the bevel angle.

    They also work for plane irons. Most of these guides have the dimensions stamped on the side for how far out to set the blade i.e., 40mm for 25° and 35mm for 30°. They may require a bit of “fettling” with a file to get working smoothly. Youtube has a few pointers on this.

    I usually set mine for 25° and use 30° as a micro bevel, and follow on resharpenings at 30° until the 30° bevel is about half way up the 25° bevel then I resharpen at 25°.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 4 months ago by M W.

    I have had this problem too when I first started, it is possibly your stance I think, but check your stone or plate are flat first. Then ensure that you are not leaning too heavily towards your stronger more dominant side, and unknowingly putting pressure on this side. once you have eliminated these elements check that you are standing correctly PS offers loads of advice and videos on this problem. learn his technique, it is probably new to you but once you have got this muscle memory, which it basically is you have it for life. You will never learn how to sharpen using a jig, it is like every thing else you need to learn. it takes practice and a fair bit. it took me a lot of inches of chisel steel but I have got it now. I also found regularly blacking the bevel with say a felt tip pen is a good idea this will show if you are going a bit to one side or the other but you need to keep checking. Using a jig will only hide or mask the issue not correct it

    Wheelchair woodworker from Lincolnshire UK


    It would seem that everybody has had these problems, this comes up every once in a while here or on other forums.

    I’d say me too has suffered here
    There are three things I’ve found help a lot, all from personal experience :
    1. Ease up on your pressure !
    If you apply the same amount of forces on a plane iron vs say a 1/2″ chisel, there is a whole lot more pressure on that smaller surface that you are grinding down. If your stance, method isn’t completely level, you’re off into lala land very quickly…
    The smaller the thing you’re sharpening, the less pressure to use! Very easy to forget that…

    2. Check for square before you start. I just offer the edge to my square to see if I’m off already before I start. That way I can shift my fingers towards the high side and correct that skewness. It’s an extra step that saves me from a lot of frustration and it takes no more than 5 seconds.
    Btw most chisels work just as well for most operations with a little skewness… Morticing is an exception maybe.
    I check this every time and gradually get everything back to square. I gave up trying to make it perfect in one go, I’d rather work wood than tools…

    3. Check your progress! If you’re square to begin with, just check that you raise your burr evenly.(you do raise a burr do you?) you’ll be amazed what little difference your fingertips can feel.
    If you’re out of square, check that the burr is higher, coarser, what ever you call it on that high side. But go on until there is a burr accros the whole bevel otherwise you’re not getting the whole thing…

    While I have and sometimes use an eclipse honing guide, you can mess up just as well. The chisel can slip, there is a rather small wheel so you can tip it too… Besides, you can’t get a convex bevel so you have to grind the whole bevel each time… And unless you have a setting jig, it’s hard to set it up the exact same way each time.

    Having said all that, I can still sharpen a plane iron a lot easier than my 1/8″chisel !
    So don’t sweat it to much, just say to yourself : get on with the work, we’ll get it more square next time.



    Are you left handed?

    John Phillips

    @prbayliss Thanks Paul! I will try to adjust my fingers/pressure as you suggest. I appreciate your advice and will let you know what I find that works for me. The one thing I have going for me right now is the desire to learn to free hand sharpen. 🙂

    John Phillips

    @mikewinva Thanks for the advice!

    John Phillips

    @fenfolly thank you very much! I like the idea of blackening the bevel with a marker. I will definitely try that!

    John Phillips

    @alien8 Thanks Diego! All good points and reminders. As for a burr, yes, I do raise a burr all the way across. I’m conscious of this, just having difficulty keeping things square. I will definitely continue to work on my stance and pressure as well. Thanks for your input. That was quite a response and took you some time. Very much appreciated!!! 🙂

    John Phillips

    @ed Hi Ed! I am right-handed.


    @jphillips I wondered if you were twisting / screwing the chisel into the grinding plate rather than simply pushing it forward. Given the direction of the angle, that’s more likely for a lefty than a righty, although it’s still possible.


    Keep on practicing, I think they gave you some good advices, but I also want to add that it seems that you are spending way too much time on the coarse stone, considering all the steel you are taking out.

    Philipp J.

    Just as has already been said, ease up on pressure you dont need much. Its a really common beginner issue, seeing the picture it seems you apply too much pressure with the left hand, or too little with the right, and tilt the chisel in the process.
    Really focus on applying the pressure evenly, might help if you try to only apply pressure with your left hand and soley focus the right hand on keeping the angle.
    It just really depends on whats easier for you, theres no one true method to sharpening, everyone has preferences and develops his/her own style over time.

    Hugo Notti

    Lots of good advise already!

    What helped me, apart from following advise from others: I got a bright light and a pencil, then watched carefully, where I abraded the steel. Like this, I gradually got more control over the process, and I have an idea, what I am doing with each stroke.


Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.