Hand Plane blade sharpening

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Blog entry by marcb posted 05-06-2008 08:31 PM 10466 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I read about scary sharp while thinking about hand tools last winter. I then proceeded to purchase a couple old Stanley Baily planes.

The blades on those planes where in OK shape and trued up fairly quickly all things considered. My next plane to fuss with was a Craftsman Rabbet plane. This is from the 50’s, however it came “NIB” so while it needed some work it didn’t take much compared to a much used and abused plane from 10 years before that.

So now I’m feeling good and I end up purchasing a Jointer. Ohio Tool Company #7, this is a massive piece of metal in moderately OK condition for the age and the low price makes up for what does need to be done to it. It has a nice thick iron and I’m feeling good.

I chuck it up in the Veritas honing jig and start to dial it into 30 degrees. WHOA! Hold on here what angle is the blade at now? 20 Degrees? Was this solely used on Pine in a former life?

Thats a lot of metal to remove to get it into the 30 degree range. I’ve had good luck with 30 degrees on my smoothing planes and pretty much standardized on it.

Any comments on the best way to go about it? I’ve only ever used 60 grit to “grind” the iron into a set angle however never this much metal. I went to town with 60 grit and it seems like I only scratched the surface. I’m a bit paranoid about trying the bench grinder or any high speed method.

Broken down Jointer

14 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3984 days

#1 posted 05-06-2008 10:31 PM

Bench grinder and a lot of water. Slow and easy.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3708 days

#2 posted 05-06-2008 11:36 PM

You could use a grinder with one of the grinding wheels that run pretty cool…I think I saw mention of it in Lee’s ‘The Complete Guide to Sharpening’ book.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3709 days

#3 posted 05-07-2008 01:25 AM

hey marc, you could use a tormek and grind it to where you want it. i also have started a love affair with old hand tools,and in doing so have noticed that in bigger planes such as 6 7 and 8 that the factory angle is ok for the work you are doing. my 4 is at 30 degrees but all my big stuff is about 20 or 25 and it works fine. just remember to sharpin all the way to 8000 to get a really good cut.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View Don Mitchell's profile

Don Mitchell

40 posts in 4132 days

#4 posted 05-07-2008 01:42 AM

Check out the latest edition of Fine Woodworking. There is a good article in there about hollow grinding blades on a grinder.

-- Don

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3669 days

#5 posted 05-07-2008 02:17 AM

I use waterstones and sandpaper to sharpen my blades.

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 3968 days

#6 posted 05-07-2008 03:07 AM

Take the time to grind and hone them to the right angle. It will pay off.

-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View Ryan Shervill's profile

Ryan Shervill

278 posts in 3808 days

#7 posted 05-07-2008 04:05 AM

Almost ashamed to admit it….but I have done the initial grind to change the angle on…...a stationary belt sander spinning a 180 belt. I got a big bucket of cool water, attached the blade to a block of maple cut at the 35 degree angle I was after, then ground away. 3 seconds on the belt, into the bucket. 3 more on the belt, back in the bucket, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Straight to the 400 emery after that, then up through 600,800,1000,1500,2000, etc.

or...Lee Valley sells replacement blades for most planes (If you screw up :) )


-- Want to see me completely transform a house? Look here:

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3669 days

#8 posted 05-07-2008 04:26 AM

Thanks for all the ideas.

I split the difference and went with 25 degrees. Swapping the 60 grit out rapidly I was able to “grind” off about 1/2 of it, I’ll get to work on the rest tonight.

Ryan, I was actually thinking – If I only had a belt sander I could do this quickly!

I’m going to stick with the slow but can’t screw it up method for right now.

View Sandro's profile


6 posts in 3496 days

#9 posted 11-08-2008 03:20 AM

I recently bought several old hand planes and now I need to tune them all. The iron in some of them clearly needs to be sharpened. I am wondering if I can grind the irons with a waterstone or sandpaper or I should buy a grinder instead. I don’t expect I will be doing much grinding work in the next few years, after I am done with these planes. I have read that there are benefits to hollow grinding, but if I buy a grinder I may use it just for a few days and then it may end up sitting unused in a corner of my garage for years. What do you guys suggest?

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3669 days

#10 posted 11-08-2008 05:21 PM


I’ve done all my work on plane blades with sand paper. It is a little slow so you need some patience, but I didn’t want to buy special tools just to true up the blades like you.

I’ve taken out skews along the length of the edge, some nicks and a few other defects with 60 and 80 grit sandpaper.

View Sandro's profile


6 posts in 3496 days

#11 posted 11-08-2008 08:41 PM

Thanks, marcb. I’ll try that.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3783 days

#12 posted 11-09-2008 03:31 AM

If you buy a cheap diamond stone set (coarse and medium grit), it will speed up the initial shaping process, after which you can go to the wet/dry paper or waterstones for final truing to square and honing. The diamond stone will save its cost in sandpaper if you are resetting the bevel angle, etc. The cheap ones aren’t usually very flat, but will remove the metal more quickly than just paper or emory cloth without the risk of burning out the temper like a power grinder may do.


-- Go

View OSU55's profile


1666 posts in 1985 days

#13 posted 01-15-2014 08:45 PM

On a bevel down blade, if you want a steeper angle, you only need to get about 0.020”-0.030” of the blade thickness to the new angle. This will provide the reinforcement that the steeper angle provides. It cuts way down on the amount of grinding required. May not help much for a badly skewed edge.

View TerryDowning's profile


1077 posts in 2113 days

#14 posted 01-15-2014 09:28 PM

I recommend getting and reading The Perfect Edge by Rob Hock.

Ron is a metal worker well known and highly regarded for his knives and plane blades. Tons of practical common sense info on sharpening edges of all types.

This book answered all of my sharpening questions/fears. The best part is he does not contradict other “sharpening experts”, he just puts everything into perspective so sharpening now makes sense and is totally relative to the tool and operation to be performed.

This book is totally worth the $15 I spent for the Kindle edition.

-- - Terry

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