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Solid woodblocks for relief printmaking, in various hard & soft woods, hand made using traditional skills using mainly hand planes etc., by David Rodgers in the UK.

Notes on Sharpening Woodworking Handplanes

> Blog > Woodworking Hand Tools > Notes on Sharpening Woodworking Handplanes
Mon 26th Apr 2021

I work using hand tools - in making my blocks, I predominantly use wood working hand planes. I don't own floor stand planers or thicknessers, nor do I wish to.

Blades out of plane
Taking blade out of plane ready to sharpen

Having used a Veritas Mk 2 Sharpening Jig happily for many years, it is now starting to show signs of wear - a reflection of how much I've used it, rather than it's quality. So decided to try some old 2nd hand Eclipse Honing Guides for some blades - in this pandemic, replacement parts for Veritas tools are very hard to come by.

I get extremely sharp razor edges using some 800, 1200 and 2400 grit sharpening paper, stuck down to our old bathroom mirror. I don't use machines, except when regrinding an edge if I've sharpened too much material away.

Eclipse honing guide
Eclipse honing guide on my 800, 1200 and 2400 grit sharpening paper, stuck to our old bathroom mirror. Very effective, and ensures an absolutely flat surface, even though I'm sharpening a 10" crown on here.

Eclipse honing guide
This may be an old 2nd hand tool but it works perfectly well. Depth for different sharpening angles cast on side, which are quite readable - I use a simple jig to quickly set these measurements out (not shown).

In planing wood, I strongly subscribe to the 'Coarse, Medium, Fine' tool setup methodology which has been re-popularised by people such as Christopher Schwarz (Lost Art Press) in the past 15 years or so. As he will tell you though, this is the methodology hand down over centuries, not something new.

To achieve this, I 'crown' some of my blades - i.e. make the working edge round, not flat. This makes initial coarse and medium planing much easier, and quicker. Only my final planes ('Fine') are very nearly flat - but not absolutely (final very fine sanding on my blocks creates the complete flatness). This ensures a quick, efficient, and accurate way to get very flat boards.

Wooden templates for blade crowning
In crowning / rounding blade ends, I use wooden templates to get curve correct - from 3" (scrub plane) to 20" (which is hardly noticeable). Above that I use an accurate metal working square and feeler gauges.

Old isn't bad. This beat up old tool may look old, worn out and useless, but to me it is priceless. Had it for years, and was old when I bought it, but done so much work with it - it works like a dream

Record 5 1/2 Jack Plane
Record 5 1/2 Jack Plane (blade removed), works like a dream despite it's age

Note: I occasionally use a battery powered hand planer to remove initial rough surfaces. As I don't wish to damage surfaces (avoiding tearout) I take very shallow cuts - the machine and process is therefore quiet, and has dust bag which efficiently collects all dust, which I get rid of immediately (I have dust allergies)



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