Do you even sharpen?

Eventually, every woodworker needs to prepare and sharpen a chisel. Take your sharpening skills to the next level with the right instruction and a little practice.

Welcome to the age-old topic of chisel preparation and sharpening. Before I talk shop, as I was doom scrolling through YouTube looking for the specific videos that taught me how to sharpen years ago, I came across videos that are now ten years old and shared the same techniques on sharpening as videos created last month.  It’s always interesting how much woodworking hasn’t changed with as much technological advancement as we’ve seen in woodworking techniques and tools. That’s part of what I love about woodworking. It’s timeless. I digress. 

Back to chisel preparation and sharpening.  Talk to any woodworker, and they will all agree that every woodworker’s journey will need a chisel at some point. However, once they begin using a chisel, they realize that it only leads to frustrating results if not correctly prepared and sharpened. 

How do you prepare and sharpen a chisel?  Like all answers in woodworking, there are many.  Ask for advice from two people, and they’ll be different. However, one thing that will never change when learning to sharpen is that you have to achieve a flat back and a bevel that works for you and the application you are performing. There are no shortcuts, chisels from the factory are full of machine marks, and you have to do the work to prepare and tune before launching into a project.  

The purpose of this blog post is to do just that, take a new chisel and prepare and sharpen it so it will deliver excellent results in your next project. There is one important takeaway.  Find a method and process that works for you and become good at it.  Pay no attention to naysayers that say you have to sharpen freehand or that you should use a honing guide to achieve a perfect 25° bevel.  You do you!  

I’m a hybrid. If I have the time, I like to sharpen freehand. However, if I need to get sharp quickly with good results, I’ve found throwing the chisel in a honing guide is easiest. So again, see what works best for you.  

Below are a few videos by trusted woodworkers that provide detailed instruction on different methods to prepare and sharpen a chisel.  I hope it will help you find a process that works for you.  

Lastly, the feeling of a sharp chisel pairing through wood feels like no other.  Smooth like a hot knife through butter!

Rob Cosman is one of the many great hand tool woodworkers. Rob also has excellent videos on hand plane setup you should check out. Like Dovetails? Rob does dovetails too. 

We’ve all come across Mark Spagnolo, the Wood Whisperer. Mark is great at explaining woodworking in easy-to-understand and straightforward ways. He has more than one video on sharpening, so you can see how his methods have evolved over the years.

Who doesn’t love Paul Sellers? Paul is truly one of the great woodworkers with timeless instruction that spans generations.

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