LJ Challenge: Sharpening & Tuning Hand Planes and Chisels (Deadline May 14, 2014)

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Blog entry by Cricket posted 04-30-2014 03:08 PM 3446 reads 0 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hendrik Varju is a well known furniture designer/craftsman who operates “Passion for Wood” near Toronto, Canada. He also offers woodworking courses and seminars and has been widely published in woodworking magazines in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. In 2007, Hendrik started producing DVD courses and he has offered to provide some of them as prizes in Lumberjocks contests. You can see the full list of all of Hendrik’s DVD courses here: .

This week, the prize is Hendrik’s ninth DVD course called “Sharpening & Tuning Hand Planes and Chisels”. It is almost 9 hours long and focuses on getting perfect edges on chisels and several common types of hand planes. It also covers how to tune an old chisel or hand plane, or even a new one that might not be made to refined tolerances, including working on the chipbreaker and lever cap, flattening the sole, back-bevelling the mouth, etc. The DVD also covers hollow grinding techniques and honing free hand. A long and detailed bonus section covers cambered hand plane blades—why they’re useful and how to grind the camber and hone it freehand as well. You can read more about this 5-DVD set here: It is valued at Cdn. $94.95 + taxes and shipping.

To enter to win this contest, just post a comment giving your answer to this question: “In your opinion, what is the best way to wean yourself off honing guides and develop the skills to hone freehand?” Post a comment before May 14, 2014 and Hendrik will choose his favourite answer. Then we’ll let you know how to claim your prize. Hendrik will ship it directly to your home at no cost to you.

EDIT: The winner is: Mosquito Post #5

-- Community Manager

35 comments so far

View b2rtch's profile


4863 posts in 3247 days

#1 posted 04-30-2014 03:20 PM

Just try it and see that it works.
This is the way I sharpen my blades,it is easier,faster and effective.
Blades have been sharpened this way (with no guide) since they were invented, many many moons ago.

-- Bert

View gdstutts's profile


12 posts in 3301 days

#2 posted 04-30-2014 03:28 PM

Practice and keep practicing the right technique that you can learn about from reading, videos and classes. It is consistency that practice brings and enables you to implement the techniques, without consistency no technique will get you the edge you need.

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1875 posts in 2168 days

#3 posted 04-30-2014 03:30 PM

Maybe drop the honing guide down a sewer and have at it…..I don’t know

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 2067 days

#4 posted 04-30-2014 03:35 PM

Well, I for one, haven’t even mastered the use of honoring guides. So there’s that. I do like watching videos though. ;-)

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Mosquito's profile


9537 posts in 2491 days

#5 posted 04-30-2014 03:35 PM

One thing that really helped me starting out freehand sharpening was to hollow grind first. It was far easier for me to register the “bevel” and keep it in contact when I was only contacting the two edges than it was the whole bevel face. After that, it turns into muscle memory and second nature.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View doorslammer's profile


108 posts in 3768 days

#6 posted 04-30-2014 03:52 PM

This question implies that one does actually need to wean themselves away from honing guides. IMO there is no moral high-ground in sharpening free hand. In the end, it is the edge that matters and how the tool works. If you can do it consistently and relatively quickly with a guide, then why bother learning to do it free hand. I don’t plan to.

-- Aaron in TN -

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4324 days

#7 posted 04-30-2014 03:54 PM

I appreciate Hendrik’s give-aways, but I’m kind of amused that the questions are always the ones that can be best answered by people who are better at these tools than I am. The honing guide lets me make an edge flat, fast.

Honing without a guide is a meditative process, one in which I have to divorce myself from the “get this done” attitude and think about “the journey, the sharpening, is the goal”. I get a better edge when I can do that, but most days I’m in a hurry and just want to shave some wood off.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View WayneC's profile


13783 posts in 4296 days

#8 posted 04-30-2014 03:54 PM

Decide to do it and stick with it. Practice until to becomes natural.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View danofpaco's profile


118 posts in 2116 days

#9 posted 04-30-2014 04:28 PM

My only guess would be to take your time and practice very frequently to develop the touch and muscle memory needed. I still use my honing guide so I don’t speak from experience – I lack the confidence to do so freehand at this point but it would seem very freeing to just pick up a blade and touch up an edge without needing a guide.

-- Dan :: Minnesota

View LeroyTheLips's profile


248 posts in 2446 days

#10 posted 04-30-2014 04:37 PM

I’m a woodcarver and draftsman and I don’t use guides for sharpening or honing. I just use a consistent form with my fingers and movement with my stones. Works for me.

View Dez's profile


1166 posts in 4276 days

#11 posted 04-30-2014 05:14 PM

Practice. Then more practice. Just do it!

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View knockknock's profile


458 posts in 2372 days

#12 posted 04-30-2014 05:26 PM

As I live in an apartment, in my opinion, the best way to wean myself from using a honing guide. Would be to have someone demonstrate a better way to do my coarse grinding, that doesn’t include the use of a grinder or other electric powered, space hogging device.

-- 👀 --

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4123 days

#13 posted 04-30-2014 05:33 PM

Bring the stone as close as you can to edge of the bench and rock the chisel to register the plane iron or chisel flat on the stone, tuck in your elbows and use your body weight to do the work concentrating on keeping the plane iron or chisel flat moving your body back and forth, don’t move your arms. Buy a cheap large bevel chisel to get the feel for what you’re doing then switch to you more expensive tools. Practice Practice Practice

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2267 days

#14 posted 04-30-2014 06:02 PM

Don’t start using a honing guide to begin with. Honing freehand is easy to learn and will save you many hours in the shop. That piece of steel will only get so sharp and will last a long time with minor touch up honing.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View ToddJB's profile


8294 posts in 2329 days

#15 posted 04-30-2014 06:40 PM

As I just bought my first sharpening set up last month, I have not moved away from the honing guide yet, so my best tip would be to enter a contest where the winning prize is a DVD filled with 9 hours of a master sharpener to teach me.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

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