181 – My Sharpening System

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Note – This video was captured from a live session back in 2011. It was posted on the site (you may have already seen it) but because Ustream only allowed me to download a Flash version, I wasn’t able to put the video into the official feeds and folks with Apple devices couldn’t see it at all. Let me warn you ahead of time that both the video and audio are not up to my usual standards. But the information is really good so I thought it was worth posting in a more official sense. I hope you enjoy!

For me, sharpening is purely a utilitarian task. Therefore it needs to be both easy and fast. I would much rather spend a little more money on a product that will help me reach those goals than to save a few bucks and wind up making things more difficult for myself. After all, the easier/faster it is to put an edge on your tool, the more likely you are to do it. Unfortunately, many folks tend to over-complicate sharpening and look at it as a skill to be mastered. In my opinion, sharpening is the woodworking equivalent of filling my car with gas. Do it right and the car goes. Do it wrong and I’m going no where. Perfecting my ability to swipe the debit card and insert the nozzle with style and flare doesn’t really change the fact that all I’m doing is filling my tank with gas. The primary goal is to get you back to work with as sharp of an edge as is required for your work. Hopefully this video will give you a few tips that show you how easy sharpening can be, with the right tools.

We’ll talk about water stones, Shapton Stones, the Veritas MKII jig, DMT plates, free-hand sharpening, scary sharp, and a few other topics from the chat room questions. Please enjoy this live presentation. And as always, I have no control over the commercials that show up in this embedded video.

Special thanks to Shannon from The Hand Tool School for helping me field questions in the chat room!

Categories: Live Events, Techniques, Tool Setup


  1. Thanks for recording this. I need to get a sharpening guide.

    • Steve Yandell September 7, 2012

      Great video, i’ve never gotten into self-sharpening, but I think it’s about time! Thanks for the tips on quick sharpening, I always find myself in the middle of using a chisel and I HATE having to stop, but this seems like a method I could have ready to go.

  2. I had a question that got lost in the chat log yesterday:

    I noticed that when you honed your primary bevel it looks skewed on the face of the chisel. I get this as well with my MKII jig. Do you pay much attention to that or is it not that important?



      Generally, you want the tip to be nice and square. So if the original factory bevel is not perfectly square to the side of the chisel, using a jig that DOES keep things perfectly square will result in a new bevel that seems to be skewed. When in reality it is actually now square. The other side of this is if the original bevel is square and you start seeing a skew, that means the jig is slightly off. Personally, I don’t think its a big deal as long as its not too significant. Bottom line is once you start using the jig a lot, all your chisels will be exactly as “square” as your jig. So you’ll be nice and consistent across the board. In my case, my jig is square but some of my chisels have a factory bevel that is not square.

  3. Initially I had mixed results with the MKII. Mostly a result of skewing troubles.
    Lately, I’ve decided that you must really crank down on those knurled knobs or the chisel is too likely to move. With the leverage, just a tiny amount of movement has significant effect.
    Since I notice you really crank on those knobs, seems design-wise, LV should make those knobs twice (?) the diameter to assist a firm hold. Small chisels are more troublesome as there is a small amount of contact area.

    What aspect(s) of the Shapton stones won you over? Compared to say, Norton waterstones?

    Thanks much


      You definitely touched on one of my major annoyances with the jig Tom. After 5-6 chisels, my fingers are pretty darn sore! And if you use pliers to do the tightening, you will damage the knobs. So I just power through the pain like a champ. :)

      As for the Shaptons, what won me over was the fact that they last longer and don’t require any soaking. Just spritz and go.

      • Think I’m a about ready to go Shapton. My initial Norton 1000/4000 combo stone has plenty of material left, but the soaking thing, while no big deal, actually is, because it adds to the time dealing with it. Not a lot of time, yet, it gets in the way. While the Norton?s are not physically worn out, they might not be as efficient cutting as they once were.

        Re: jigs
        At a Lie-Nielsen road show I picked up a Side Clamping Guide. I appreciated this quickness of set up. Knurled knob has fat screwdriver slot so one can get it tight without resorting to pliers. Quicker to set up than MKII. Downside is that about half of sizes of my plane blades and chisels do not fit securely. So I’m still figuring out the when?s to use either jig. As you say, there is benefit to sticking with one method. The Side Clamping jig is not a LN product, they just carry them. Cost of $14 makes cost of experimenting less painful than many of our adventures.

        Thanks for the quality videos and followups. You do good work (ahem, play).

      • John Davidson December 13, 2011

        I’m not 100% sure, but I think you could replace the knurled nuts with ones that you can use a phillips or flat screwdriver to loosen and tighten. These are found on some ceiling fans and light fixtures. If I find a source I will post it. Anyone know the tread count and size of the ones on the MK 2?

  4. Johnathon July 27, 2011

    One question I have, that everyone just touches on, is the flattening of the back of the chisels. I have two different sets: Marples and Lie-Nielsen. My Marples are my “everyday” chisels and the LN are for delicate work. I have spent quite some time trying to completely flatten the Marples but I can never seems to get them flat. On the other hand my LN came from the factory dead flat (I have a Starrett straight edge that I use for reference). So, my (long winded) question is how important is a dead flat chisel? I would like to get the Marples to match the LN but I have literally spent hours trying to flatten them.


      Hey Johnathon. I feel your pain my friend. I pretty much have the same experience with my Marples. This is why I refer to my Marples set as my “utility” chisels. I don’t expect them to be nearly as sharp as my Japanese chisels or my LN mortising chisels. And part of the reason is I tend to have the same issue you do. It seems that you can work the back for ever and it never looks consistently flat like higher quality chisels. So I simply try to focus my flattening effort on the bottom 1″ or so of the chisel back. I can usually get that close enough to flat that sharpening the bevel still produces a decent burr. If that doesn’t work, you can always try the ruler trick. Now most folks say NOT to do the ruler trick with a chisel. But with a utility set, I think its perfectly fine. The ruler trick is usually done with a small metal ruler. Google it for a little more info on it. But I recommend using a set of long feeler gauges instead. This will allow you to prop up the chisel only slightly, putting all of your flattening focus closer to the tip, which raising it up quite as much as a metal ruler. Give it a shot and let me know how it works out.

      • Johnathon September 1, 2012

        Hey Marc, I am stubborn if anything else and I am still trying to get those Marple’s backs flat. Mainly because I want to have a good understanding of sharpening before I tackle the LN’s. I recently got a Dia-Sharp Diamond plate and have been using that. I am still not able to flatten even the first inch of the back of the chisels. One thing I have noticed is that the middle of the Dia-Sharp actually feels less “rough” then the ends. I have only sharpened on it for about an hour, but I don’t think that amount of time would dull the Dia-sharp. You might not be able to answer this, but do you think it could, or can the Dia-Sharp get “clogged” and cleaning it (not sure how) would restore the “roughness”?


          Hey Johnathon. The DMT stone will definitely feel a bit smoother in the areas where it gets used most often. I find just a good water rinse is usually enough. As for your chisel, have you tried using the trick where you prop it up ever so slightly, putting the focus near the tip? That’s why I do with my Marples. Gets the job done.

        • Hans September 7, 2012

          I feel your pain. I dropped my iron from my Lie Nielsen boggs spoke shave and had to fix it. I have a DMT dia sharp d8C and I literally spent 3hrs trying to bring it back. i felt like my stone was dull. I talked to a my local dealer and he told me it’s worth getting the extra course DMT dia sharp d8x. In about 15 min I removed all the damage and moved to the d8c for clean up before hitting the shapton pro’s.

  5. Tobbe Arnesson July 28, 2011

    Hm, Ustream seems to not work with Firefox today but it worked fine in Internet Explorer so no biggie.

    Good info (as per usual), just recently ordered my first planes and chisels along with a double sided water stone. Need to get a DMT and jig as well, I have no interest in the philosophical aspects of sharpening.

    Is the chat log saved? I tried looking at the “Live Chat/Video” pages but could not tell, will I get access to that if I register a Chat Name?

  6. Simple! I love it!

  7. Patrick July 28, 2011

    Mark, have you ever used oil stones and if so what didn’t you like about them. I noticed that the “Schwarz” stated in a recent blog he was going back to them.


      Its all just personal preference really. For me, it comes down to the fact that I absolutely despise anything oily on my skin, and that goes for lotions, chapstick, etc, lol. I’d much rather have my hands in water than the oily residue created by oil stones.

  8. Renzo July 28, 2011

    Hey Marc…

    Can I ask where you got the Shapton stones? I love the idea of spritzing and going rather than soaking.

  9. Chad E July 28, 2011

    Perfect timing. I’ve been wanting to get into using hand tools more but my lack of sharpening knowledge has kept me from doing just that. I’ve got some old stones but didn’t know how to flatten them, thus, anytime I sharpen something, it doesn’t work so well. I’d love to save up for those Shapton ones. They sure have good reviews and I’m a sucker for not buying things twice. I’d rather be patient and save up for the good stuff if it’s something I’d be switching to sooner than later. Thanks!

  10. Glenn Folley July 28, 2011

    Marc, I have used the stones for years with good results. After watching you video I picked up some tips to bring my skills up a notch. Thanks for the help.

  11. Wirenut July 28, 2011

    Never used stones or sharpened a chisel in my life except for that time with the bench grinder ( brrr… brrr… ) which totally destroyed the temper on the steel BTW. Thankfully, that was only a cheapo chisel.

    Now that I have decent chisels, I need to take good care of them and you’ve just demystified the whole process of sharpening with stones and made it simple for me.

    Thanks Marc

  12. TennesseeYankee July 28, 2011

    Jigs make sharpening so much simpler. I am sure there are experts out there that can free hand it down to a bevel that is 1 micro thick, but while they are perfecting the edge, I just finished my first four parings. (Or so I would like to think :^)

  13. DeGauss July 29, 2011

    Do you have any skewed (non squared) blades? If so do you just free hand those?


  14. Jon McGrath July 29, 2011

    I posted this on the google+ stream but I needed to reiterate and expand on my opinion of the chat this week on the topic of sharpening.

    @WoodWhisperer @RenaissanceWW Awesome Sharpening chat tonight, thanks, huge insight on 2 things JUST DO IT and KEEP it SIMPLE!

    Marc, I think this was one of the best ever sets that TWW has produced. It is why I joined the guild, and why I follow the site/your productions. This is what I need, quick informal go at it hands on, focused walk or “show and tell”

  15. Larry Whittington July 29, 2011

    How do you handle your planer and jointer blades? Veritas offers a jig to do smaller jointer blades up to 8″ with that I’ve had pretty good results with. Just curious how you handle yours.


      I package them up very carefully and have them sharpened professionally. :)

      • Larry Whittington July 30, 2011

        Thanks. You taught me more in that 45 minute video than all the other videos combined that I’ve seen on sharpening. Loved it. Keep up the good work.

  16. Awesome as always. Learned a lot and then learned more. You might have said and I missed it, but is this the same thing you do for hand planes?


      For the most part, yes. But there are certainly some additional considerations with plane blades when introducing cambers and sharpening for bevel up vs bevel down planes. But in general, in terms of creating a flat back and a bevel, the concept is the same.

      • Looking forward to more on sharpening as your time and To Do list allows. You covered the basics/concepts in a way that the foundation stuff makes sense and is there to build upon which really helps.

        Also a side comment and question. Nice use of two cameras.

        The sound was not a high as usual, had to cranking it up on my end, might be the Ustream – I say not expecting a answer but just to let you know.

        What is that ball/robot/death star on the tripod?


          The ball on a stick is the reason for the sound, lol. These live demonstrations are always trick to get good quality sound on. I’m working on a solution that should allow me to have top-notch with a much more convenient setup. Although quiet, this is much better than what I had last time where it was peaking out every couple of words. This is why I used to actually film the live sessions with my regular camera and edit them down later. Unfortunately, that’s just too time consuming in setup and post…..

  17. Paul July 30, 2011

    Marc have you tried the Sigma Power brand stones. Lee Valley is the only North American company that I’ve seen carries them. I’ve read good things about them but would like to hear some opinions from someone who actually has one. I’ll be buying my first “real” stones soon and I’m on the fence between those and the Shapton Pro.

    Btw in case anyone is interested chefknivestogo.com has a great deal on Shaptons. If I go with shaptons I’ll probably get the 1k, 5k, 8k set which they sell for $209.

    Thanks for the video Marc. Only wished I caught it live.

  18. PickeringMike July 31, 2011

    Thanks for this one. It just reinforces my need to stick with one method instead of hopping between methods to try and find a quick fix. Cheers!

  19. Paul July 31, 2011

    Hey Marc. Quick question about Japanese chisels. What happens when you’ve sharpened it past the hollow? Is the chisel useless then?

  20. Jay August 1, 2011

    Does anyone know the difference between the Shapton Pro Ceramic Stones and the Shapton GlassStones? The glass ones are a lil cheaper.

    • Paul August 1, 2011

      I’m no expert but this is the info I’ve gathered in preparing to buy my first set of premium water stones. The glass stones are thinner. They’re 5mm useable thickness compared to the 15mm. According to Shapton’s ad though the glass stones are supposed to last most other stones that are 3x thicker. They don’t advertise any such comparisons to their pro model. Also when the pro gets too thin you have to glue it on to a hard surface otherwise it will break. Not so with the glass since it’s already glued on to a piece of glass :D To add to all the confusion there’s also a US and Japanese version of the Pro. :)

      For anyone interested here’s a comparison of many waterstones. Including Shaptons. First link shows how many strokes it took him to get a burr and the 2nd link shows stone consumption. Now this was done by someone who actually sells stones for a living so take that into account. Really nice guy. He goes by Schtoo on woodnet if you have any questions for him. As you can see the glass seems to do better with 02 steel while the pros better with A1. The glass in most cases however seems to wear a little better.


  21. Thanks for this video Marc! This did much to help me understand how I’ll sharpen my new Narex chisels that arrived today (the ones currently on sale from Lee Valley).


      Lots of folks have been inquiring about that set. Be sure and report back with your thoughts.

      • Will do Marc. They should be an upgrade to the basic Craftsman ones I have now. I’ll look to try them out “out of the box”, then again after sharpening.

        • Hi Marc,

          I got a chance to play with the chisels some out of the box – no work done to them yet. From this somewhat new guy’s perspective, they seem like very good working chisels. Comfortable to use, the handles feel nice to me. I should be getting some sharpening stones in tomorrow, which I will use to flatten the backs, etc.

          Since you mentioned other folks were interested in them, I decided to post an “unboxing” video and tested them out on a child’s worktable/desk I’m working on. If folks want to check that video out, it can be found at http://thewoodlab.wordpress.co.....ve-part-1/

  22. tony August 5, 2011

    hey marc,
    do you put a secondary bevel on Japanese chisels or you leave the primary? what primary do you use?
    thank you

  23. Manfre (http://manfre.net) August 11, 2011

    Are there any benefits to water stones compared to wet/dry sandpaper on a granite surface stone?

  24. My impression of this exercise is that the finer grits get you finer polish, which yields fewer/smaller micro jaggies. Fewer jaggies mean less chance of edge failure/breakdown. So if waterstones (or ?) allow you to go to finer grits (i.e., higher degree of polish), your edge lasts longer, which means less or fewer sharpening sessions.

  25. Steve Colvin August 13, 2011

    I found this video just when I needed it. I just bought a set of the Narex chisels from Lee Vally, and I also have Shapton glass stones (1000 & 6000) and the Veritas honing guide. So, I was able to get help on exactly how to use my setup, and have produced some nicely sharpened chisels. Thanks again.

  26. BillyBob August 14, 2011

    Love how you take a “dull” topic and make it entertaining. Must be your dry humor. Thanks for taking the time to make a video on a easily ignored, I’ll do it tomorrow topic. If it’s simplified we’re more likely to keep sharp tools.

    I’d like to know if you find it worthwhile to sharpen router bits with a mini-honing stone?


      Thanks very much BillyBob! I actually do sharpen some of my bits if they have nice, big, easy to sharpen surfaces. But anything complex I don’t really touch. I would probably be worse off after sharpening, :).

  27. Barr Tinney August 17, 2011

    Hi Marc:

    A few months ago I purchased the DMT Duo-Sharp Plate to use as a lapping plate for my waterstones. I made the purchase because I read that the DMT Plate was very flat and I read that a number of veteran woodworkers also use this plate for the same reason. Since purchasing the Duo-Sharp I noticed that DMT came out w/ the Duo-Flat 10″ Plate that is designed to be used as a lapping plate. I called DMT to see what the difference between the two products is. I was informed that the plate that I purchased, which is similar to the plate that you have, was not designed for flattening waterstones due to the way that the diamonds are bonded to the plate.
    How long have you been using your plate for lapping and have you seen a performance decrease over time?

  28. Shapton stones and holders arrived yesterday. Bloxygen case was the shipping carton (from Woodcraft). Nice connection ; )

    I love the Shapton packaging. Realize that we should be sensitive about wasteful packaging, but these are tasteful and sweet.

    off topic: being a graphics person I so love Apple’s packaging. They are cutting back on volume, but so far have managed to (mostly) stand out as packaging marvels. Cool that they’ve been able to maintain that over the years. It is so easy to companies (people) to make the big splash but then wander back to the norm.

    now it is time to make more sawdust.
    with super shape tools
    thanks, Marc and all woodwhisperer readers and viewers

  29. Marianne August 17, 2011

    There is a video, right? Browsing with my iPad I don’t see it – just blank space where it is usually is placed. I’m doing something wrong?

  30. Gerry Rovner August 17, 2011


    Thanks for you clarity. I’ve had more than good results using a Work Sharp system, for my chisels and my planes. There are some limitations, as there are with every system, but, as you have said, getting the sharpening done, and getting back to work quickly, is the objective. The Work Sharp does that for me.

  31. It seems like the 5000 grit is no longer available on Amazon, Japan Woodworker, etc. I was adding the 1k and 5k to my list, but am somewhat stymied now. It seems like the grits available are 120, 320, 1000, 2000, 8000 and 12000. 5000 seems to have gone off the map.

    So…my question is…what grits would you recommend. To me what is available is like sanding wood going from 80 grit (1000), 100 grit (2000) then to 400 grit (8000). I’d like to have an option for the intermediate equivalent of 220 grit. Thoughts?


      Yeah that’s a bummer. I wonder if they are phasing them out and pushing their glass stones more… You might consider going that route then. I believe they have a 4000 grit stone in the glass line.

    • There are credible folk (Mr. Cosman for one, might want to check LN Denebe (sp?) vids as well) who go directly from 1000 to 8000 or even 16000. At least for their microbevel sharpening (1000) then polishing (16000). This is the most common sharpening we do and you are not removing a lot of material once you get a consistent and sharp 1000 session. Think that applies to both waterstones and the Shaptons.

      If you are doing the initial tuning of large surfaces you might want an intermediate stone I guess.

      I agree that it is frustrating to decide on a course of action, only to find that the options selected are not available.

      • Jay October 10, 2011

        Thanks for your input both Marc and Tom. I’m fine going with glass stones if that’s the way of the future, but I don’t want to drop hundreds on something that’s not tried and true. Not that Marc’s recommendations are the be all end all, but I thought if it works for him (and I’ve read other good reviews of the stones he has) that was the direction I wanted to go. I’ve used the sand paper on glass method for some time now and I’m just not getting that true flat quality. Dubbing is definitely an issue. Also, Tom, I’ve found other sources that go from 1k to 8k. Makes sense. I’m ready to make the move to the next step. Anyone have additional thoughts on the Shapton Pro versus Shapton Glass?

  32. Jeremy October 22, 2011

    Marc, which side of the DMT do you use for lapping the shaptons? Will you ever need to flatten the DMT?

  33. Jeremy October 27, 2011

    Ok, I just received my set of shapton stones and the DMT Duo Sharp for lapping the stones. Did you flatten the shaptons before using them for the first time? I am a little apprehensive to damage the shaptons by doing something stupid. I am glad to not have to deal with sandpaper for sharpening anymore…

  34. Jeremy October 28, 2011

    Just finished sharpening my first chisel using Marc’s system. I really like the MKII honing guide. It was easy to setup and use. All I have ever used in the past was sandpaper and this setup was a joy to use in comparison. The water isn’t so fun, but the results were well worth it.

  35. pmelchman October 28, 2011


    These Shapton stones, are they the ceramic or the glass ceramic stones? what is the difference?



    • Jeremy October 30, 2011

      The ones Marc uses in the video are the shapton ceramic stones. I am not really clear on the differences between the ceramic stones and the glass stones.

      • Paul October 30, 2011

        The glass stones are thinner but supposed to last longer. Also since they are backed by glass you can use the entire stone. The ceramics when they get too thin will crack unless you adhere it to something solid. But you’d have to do a whole lot of sharpening to get either that thin.

  36. Jeremy October 29, 2011

    I am noticing one strange thing now that I used the MKII honing guide more. When I rotate the roller knob to put on the micro-bevel, I notice that it is not parallel to the primary bevel. The micro bevel is really the tertiary bevel since I changed the primary bevel to 30deg. When I changed the primary bevel to 30deg, this resulted in a new shiny band that was parallel to the original edge. Marc discussed this in the video, and it should indicate that the chisel was no square to begin with. No big deal. I am very confused by the micro bevel not being parallel though. Anyone have any ideas?

    • Jeremy October 29, 2011

      One correction here:
      “When I changed the primary bevel to 30deg, this resulted in a new shiny band that was NOT parallel to the original edge”

  37. Ron Kellison November 3, 2011

    I started with a set of King stones about 25 years ago, then moved to Norton shortly after they hit the market. The King’s wore very quickly and the Norton’s less so, but the Norton stones didn’t seem to work as quickly. I’ve used the Shapton stones in the higher grits and they were impressive. While considering the amount I would need to invest in getting 3 basic stones I was given a chance to use the Sigma Power Select II ceramic stones. WOW! They are fast, even with A2 steel, and the price isn’t that prohibitive to anyone considering a set of Shaptons. I got the 1000, 3000 and 8000 stones from Lee Valley but they are also available from Stu Tierney at Tools from Japan. Anybody want a good price on a full set of Norton’s?

  38. Ron Kellison November 3, 2011

    I should also mention that I use the Veritas Mk II and love it. Since the Sigmas work so well I’m also considering selling my Veritas Power Sharpener. Going once…going twice…

    • Jeremy November 7, 2011

      Do you have any issues with the micro bevel not being parallel to the primary bevel when using the MkII?

  39. Ron Kellison November 7, 2011


    I’ve never noticed a problem but I will also admit that all I look for is a micro-bevel that goes completely across the blade. I also suspect that the wood doesn’t care…sharp is sharp. I’ll look more closely the next round of sharpening.

    • Jeremy November 7, 2011

      Ron, I suspect your are right about the wood not caring about parallelism! :-) I guess the only real downside is that you have to remove more material when creating the micro bevel. I will say that using the MKII with the shapton stones has given me the sharpest edges that I have ever gotten. I can actually shave with them, which is a first!

  40. John Davidson December 11, 2011

    I can’t get this video to work. Very interested in topic. This one is not on itunes. Help.


      Hey John. This is an embedded Flash video. Make sure you have the latest version of Flash installed and press play on the player above.

      • John Davidson December 13, 2011

        I had 3rd party cookies turned off. Oopsies. That 3rd party better have peanut butter.

  41. John Davidson December 13, 2011

    Ok. Now that I can finally watch this video, I think that was awsome. I think Veritas should probably throw you some sponsor money because that is the best video I have seen on how to use it (or any other guide).

  42. Jason August 11, 2012

    Thanks for the info. Clear and easy to understand in a topic that has as many variations as there are woodworkers. So in preparing a new/old chisel, when does a bench grinder come into play in your sharpening system? Can I use the system you just demonstrated (it may just take longer) and do without a grinder? Can a normal bench grinder be used if one is required (as opposed to a slow speed grinder like tormek or Jet)?
    Thanks for your time!


      I really don’t use a bench grinder at all. I have a wet grinder though, which is much slower. And I use that only when I need to reset a bevel or if I do some serious damage to the edge. Although you can also accomplish the same thing with low grit stones if you wanted to. So no, you really don’t need a bench grinder. Especially after you have your tools at the bevel angle you like, you may never have use of one again. If the chisel comes at the angle you like, or close to it, you’re golden. And regular grinders can be used but you have to be very careful. They heat up quickly and can ruin the blade so you have to be very cautious. I have a variable speed bench grinder that I dial all the way down and it’s still a little too fast. But you could use this setup if that’s all you had.

  43. Jason August 13, 2012

    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

  44. Bob August 31, 2012

    I already seen it but I went through it again. Very well done and easy to follow.
    Marc, Lee Valleys offer planes with either A2 and O1 steel blades. http://www.leevalley.com/en/sh.....px?p=54986

    One is harder and the sharp edge last longer but is harder to sharpen and the other is softer and last less longer but is easier to sharpen. Which would be best for an 1 year hobbyist.



      Well I can’t say either is best. It really is about personal preference. I don’t think sharpening is a hard thing to master when using guides like I do, so I say go with the steel that suits your personality. Do you want to sharpen more often or less often. That’s how I decide.

      • Bob September 1, 2012

        Thank you Marc for the response. I’ll choose A2 type steel as I don’t want to sharpen that often.

  45. Tom Pritchard August 31, 2012

    Sharpening has always been my down fall mainly for my carving tools. I know a diffrent holding method would be required for my tools, but for sure I like the ‘Wet Stone” idea. Thanks for illustrating so well.

  46. Frank (http://deleted) August 31, 2012

    I like how you said debit card and not credit card. :)

  47. TennesseeYankee August 31, 2012

    Now I am leaning towards a Sharpton. You certainly do persuade.

  48. Very cool and so topical as I have a new set of stanley 750’s I’m planning on tuning tomorrow. It’s almost like you read my mind!

  49. EFG September 1, 2012

    i’m fan of your site vewing from japan for long time. and I’m japanese.
    it is fun and also proud to watch japaese chisels in use in Amerian woodworkers shop.
    my grand father was wood ship carpenter, so I know little bit about woodworking, also I am hobby woodworker.
    and just wanted to comment about “when you run out of round shape on back of chisels, how to fix it”
    To fix that we do something called “Ura-Dashi” just meaning ‘Revealing the Back’
    we hammer from bevel side and flaten the other side. it is very hard to tell by written word with my English skills but seached on the net and found japanese site showing picture.
    but you have to know that it’s very hard to do and you might break it.

    if anything i can help(like translating some japanese) you can e mail me.
    thank you for very nice video, and keep it comming!

  50. Andy S. September 1, 2012

    Thanks for posting this again. I have been recently looking at different sharpening solutions. Have you seen or had any experience with the M-POWER DMT PSS SHARPENING SYSTEM? Woodpeckers carry them here http://www.woodpeck.com/dmtpss.html

    Thanks again for all your great work.


      I have seen it, but I have no experience with it at all.

      • Andy S. September 12, 2012

        Thanks Mark. Do you have any thoughts on the parallel vs perpendicular motion to the edge? How about the grinding in one spot on these types of stones? Would they need to be flattened like you do with your stones?I like your setup, but am looking for something decent in an affordable price range.

        Appreciate all you do. Keep it up.


          No input on the side to side vs parallel motion. Never really tried it before. As for flattening, these diamond stones don’t really need flattening. Maybe it’s more accurate to say they can’t be flattened. They are just a metal plate with the diamond grit applied in a thin layer. So all that’s really going to happen is the plate will eventually wear out.

  51. Shannon1066 September 1, 2012

    Thank you so much Marc for reposting this video. I’m one of those users that could not hear your previous video on sharpening. Your information is very valuable to me. Thanks again.

  52. Doug Hoffer September 4, 2012

    Marc, your site is fantastic. I have not found a better collection of videos anywhere. I get sucked in as soon as I press play! Thank you for everything and I hope to join the guild this year! Your new shop is looking awesome and Mateo is growning so fast! Keep it up!

  53. Billiam September 4, 2012

    This is one of my favorite session Mark. I’ve read and read about how to do this many times and I’ve attempted it my self, but actually seeing it done along with your thorough explanation really helped me figure it out. A lot of others explain the right way to do it, but not why the wrong way IS wrong.

  54. John C September 4, 2012

    Mark. One of the biggest issues I am having right now is sharpening chisels that are 1/8″ or less. I’ve tried Veritas MKII, Ecipse Style, Kell, free-hand. Do you have any suggestions that will allow me to re-establish the 2ndary bevel on the smaller chisels?

  55. Thanks for reposting this Marc. I’ve recently been cutting a lot of mortises by hand, and keeping the chisels sharp really makes all the difference to the amount of effort needed. My chisels may not be the highest quality that you can buy, but with a sharp edge, they cut pretty well. I just have to sharpen them a little more frequently. Great info, and very useful to anyone wondering about a method to keep the edge sharp.

  56. Tomfoolery September 4, 2012

    Once of the best things about sharpening is to make it easy so you sharpen often – this really helps to keep your tools sharp – maybe a future project should be a dedicated sharpening station that can “pull out’ from the shelf of the Roubo?

    Just a thought….

    • Jeremy Scuteri September 4, 2012

      I can certainly see that being useful for the people that “sharpen on the fly”. I don’t really fall into that camp (maybe I should though). I rarely stop what I am doing and sharpen a tool while I am in the middle of doing something. I generally realize something needs sharpening, and then make time to sharpen a bunch of tools at once. It seems hard to get myself to pull out the sharpening stones, spray bottle of water and honing jig while I am in the middle of doing something….

  57. Sean September 4, 2012

    Perfect timing I just recieved my first set of chisels and the information about sharping This helps clear things up thanks

  58. Chris September 4, 2012

    Thanks for the reminder! I watched this a while back when I got a new set of (cheap) chisels and it worked like a charm…I’m pretty new to hand-tools and didn’t know you had to sharpen them before using them. I was trying pretty hard to square up some mortises and it just wasn’t working. I took a break, watched the video, sharpened, and got back to it…this time it worked MUCH better!

  59. Sean September 4, 2012

    Hi Marc ,
    thanks for the demo. I had a few thoughts. I am new to wood working,a padawan you might say. Sharpening my hand tools is still a mystery to me. I have only had moderate success. I have done a fair amount of research on the topic and came to the conclusion you have. I know for some it is an art form and a skill that takes dedication and patience, but for me it will be a utilitarian skill. So with that in mind I have been leaning towards buying a wet grinder such as the tormek t7. For me it seems like the way to get the most consistent results with the least amount of skill and technique. I also think it is more versatile than a traditional wet stone. I could be wrong but don’t you almost need a grinder to sharpen turning tools. I know I have watched David Marks demonstrate sharpening his turning tools with a grinder. My only concerns with using a grinder is how you would flatten the back of a chisel or plane iron. Any way sorry for rambling just thought I’d give my 2 cents.


      Hey Sean. I actually do use a grinder for my turning tools. If you do a lot of turning, the Tormek style systems will indeed be a good investment. And these systems are certainly capable of sharpening your chisels and plane blades. But I don’t think the learning curve is any easier and I do think you can get a finer edge with regular stones. Your point about the back flattening is an important one as well. Definitely something to consider.

  60. Jay Brown September 5, 2012

    You always seem to have the information that I am looking for and the correct way to do it. I am in the process of learning hand cut dovetails now. I have been doing it for a couple of days and have been impressed with how well they have come out. I think i have killed enough pine trees and now want to move on to some hardwood and actually try to make something. Sharp chisels are a must on hard woods and speed the process. Your lesson worked for me and made it very quick to get back to the work in progress.

    Thanks you

  61. Great video. Helped me get the nerve to try sharpening my chisels and plane irons myself. I got much better results on them then when I dropped them off to a local sharpening service. Thanks.

    • Peggy Schaefer September 5, 2012

      Thanks, Marc! I have a new set of chisels I received for my birthday last month and have not used them yet since I was so unsure of how to sharpen them properly. Your video has given me the confidence to jump in and hone away! I do have a question about stones. There are five hunters in my family and to say we have a metric ton of different wet and ceramic stones would be an understatement (knife edges are VERY important to hunters) Is there a difference in stones used to sharpen knives? It would be great if I could use what we have on hand but if I must buy something specifically for my chisels, I will.

      Thanks again for all your great videos!


        Hi Peggy. Metal is metal, right? So if these stones can sharpen a knife, they should be able to sharpen a chisel too. The trick is making sure you figure out which stone is which grit. If you can get two or three that span 500-5000 grit range, you’re in good shape!

        • Morgan September 6, 2012

          Replying to Peggy’s question about using ceramic stones that are normally used for hunting knives. Be aware that stone flatness is waaaay less important on knives (yes yes, depends on how you sharpen, but generally speaking), and I’d bet lots of the stones around the house are dished or bellied.

          Before using stones from the kitchen drawer, flatten them really well and then set them aside for your chisels.

  62. Riley R September 5, 2012

    How do you sharpen your jointer / planer knives? I just purchased the Duelen sharpener from Eagle America and i am not 100% satisfied probably because i like carbide tip knives so its even harder to sharpen, any thoughts?? Thanks

  63. Rayk September 5, 2012

    Thanks for another useful episode. I’ve used a basic honing guide for a while now with a 1000/4000 stone and been pretty happy. However you’ve really shown some advantages of the Veritas guide. What about sharpening mortising chisels? When I got a set last Christmas I sharpened them freehand as they wouldn’t work with the basic jig. The Veritas doesn’t appear to handle the thickness of the mortise chisel either.


      Generally speaking, anything i can’t fit into the jig gets sharpened by hand. The mortise chisels are so darn beefy that they are incredibly easy to do by hand so it doesn’t become too much of an issue for me.

    • Jeremy Scuteri September 5, 2012

      Some of the less expensive jigs hold the chisels on the sides. This would work for thick chisels.

  64. Justin September 5, 2012

    The DMT Bench Stone link you have for Amazon points to their “Fine/Extra Fine” which appears to be an equivalent 600/1200 grit. The video makes it sound like you use the “Coarse/Extra Course” for your first step which has an equivalent 220/325 grit.

    Any reason to use a “Fine/Extra Fine” DMT bench stone with the 1200 grit side instead of the Shapton stones?

  65. JGreasy September 6, 2012


    Having just bought my first set of cheap chisels to learn with, I’m considering also buying a cheap 4 sided sharpening block (200 to 600 grit) to learn sharpening on.

    It seems there is always the rule in woodworking of “buy the best you can afford.” Does that apply here or am I just asking for trouble?

    And as many more have said, thanks a ton for what you do!

  66. Don September 6, 2012

    Hey thanks Marc, I picked up a few things that will help me with my chisels. I was having the edge chip and wasnt sure what to do about it. After watching this i’ll try a higher angle.
    I’ll let you know how it goes.

    thanks Don

  67. deltaphisig September 6, 2012

    Marc–Thank you for posting this. It is one of the many important skills that I need to master. I have been looking at all the tools available, and I think I am going to steal your system. It happens that I also share your view on the utilitarian purpose of sharpening. Maybe I will master hand honing over time, but I am not going to make it a focus.

    On another note, do you have any hints for sharpening jointer knives?

  68. John Fitz September 7, 2012

    Great article. I agree that sharpening is a utilitarian activity. I do not take a lot of joy in it, other than enjoying the use of a freshly sharpened chisel or plane iron.

    I also use the MK II and I like it a lot. The knurled knobs are tough though, so I am considering cutting some slots in them to allow the use of a screwdriver. I have seen replacement rollers for it has anyone had to replace their roller?

    I started out with scary sharp and found it easy to get good results. When I got myself a good set of chisels I decided to try waterstones, so I got some Norton stones in 1000,400, and 8000. They are ok – I keep them in a tub of water so getting a quick touchup is easy. I will say though that I get a much more mirror like finish from 2000 grit sandpaper than I do from the 8000 grit stone. I still use both systems, depending on my mood and what I feel is easier at the moment.

  69. Virgil Mullins September 7, 2012

    After watching this video in 2011, I bought this system. At the time, I had a new, cheap block plane that was terrible. I used this system as Marc explained and the results were amazing. The hardest part was getting the backside of the plane iron flat. I too hate sharpening but this system is well worth the investment. Thanks……..

  70. I do not know if I commented on the original sharpening video while digging through the archives. I did want to thank you for this tutorial! While I am not by any stretch of the imagination a serious woodworker. Dull chisels have really been a pain with the few times I have needed to use one.

    While I could not afford the higher end jig that you use. I found a low end get the job done better then freehand jig. Boy what a difference it made on my two chisels!!

  71. rkwoods September 7, 2012

    great video, I use the same method and same jig. I was sharpening my chisels the other day and was trying to use the built in microbevel adjustment on the mkII and was having some difficulty. The micro bevel was not parallell to the primary bevel. It was like i was applying more pressure to one side of the chisel. I played with this for a long time and could not figure out what i was doing wrong. Could the jig itself be faulty?


      My bevel is always off from 90 degrees, but that extends to the micro-bevel as well. If your micro-bevel is off from the primary bevel, that’s a little different. I wonder if we can get LV in here to address some of these issues. I know I really would prefer my bevel be dead on at 90 degrees.

  72. rkwoods September 7, 2012

    Have you ever experienced this?

  73. Tom Collins September 7, 2012

    Great video. Its always nice to have a refresher course. I am going to buy the DMT bench stone to flatten my backs and my stones. Thank you.

  74. Brandon September 8, 2012

    Another great video Marc. This is a great starter video. I think a more in depth sharpening video in the future with better quality would be a good addition to the site.

  75. I like this video – it gets right to the point and emphasizes sharpening and then getting back to work.

    I was wondering if anybody had ever sharpened a straight razor – and shaved with it? I wonder how much trouble that would be?

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