I’ve recently moved from using a honing guide to freehand sharpening. I wish I’d made the move sooner! It’s much faster and less fussy.
One thing I struggle with is keeping narrower chisels square. It’s much harder to feel if they are sitting flat on the stone and after a few strokes I often find I’ve favoured one side and the edge is now tapered. Does anyone have any hints for things they’ve tried? Or is it really just practice?
Sharpening small chisels is hard and for quite a while I pulled out my honing guides when sharpening them. But no more. Like Keith, I now sharpen narrow chisels differently than wide ones. I found skewing them at all was a disaster and lead to the chisel being seriously out of square. No doubt that is because I am not well coordinated, but there it is. Now I generally hold them straight to the stone and move the chisel forward as if trying to carve a little bit out of the stone. And like Keith, I hold the tip of the chisel down with one finger. I actually let my finger touch the stone a bit to help control the engagement of the tip with the stone. I try not to be too aggressive since that little chisel tip can get seriously out of skew with just a few strokes! If the chisel is a bit out of square, I simply put a bit more pressure on one side or the other as a sharpen. And I generally start by taking a few strokes with the chisel at a low angle to take a bit off the belly since it is easy for me to get too much of an angle on these chisels. I then gently ease the angle up till I feel the tip engage and boom, with only a few light strokes — gently — the tip is done. After a lot of frustration, I finally get a lovely camber on the small chisels much as Paul suggests.