Lee Valley sells 3 types of honing guides. What's the difference?

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Forum topic by Rob posted 03-27-2014 05:07 AM 3628 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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704 posts in 3069 days

03-27-2014 05:07 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening

Lee Valley sells 3 types of honing guides on this page:,43072

From what I can tell…

Vise-type honing guide – This seems to be an inexpensive and common design. Lee Valley has an instructional video to improve/modify this type of honing guide.

VeritasĀ® Mk.II Honing Guide – Has attachments for adding a camber, sharpening skewed blades, etc. Seems to cause most woodworkers to drool.

VeritasĀ® Sharpening System – Looks like an alternative design to the Vise-type honing guide but with a jig to set various common angles. I glanced at the instructions and it seems it’s capable of sharpening skew chisels (not that I have any right now anyway…but maybe someday). It isn’t clear to me whether it’s better, worse, or pretty much the same as the vise-type honing guide.

Is that really all there is to it, or are there other differences?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

12 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#1 posted 03-27-2014 05:39 AM

The ones that ride on the stone dish water stones.

View realcowtown_eric's profile


609 posts in 1935 days

#2 posted 03-27-2014 05:51 AM

I dunno about these devices, really. I’ve got Satanley, MF and a couple of other “honing guides” in the shapening drawer and they ain’t seen the light of day in years.

Why? possibly because it’s a modicum of fuss to get them set up, They ain’t able to cope with a slight curve on the blade.

I think many others may agree with me, and others perhaps not, but when it comes to sharpening, the general perspective I have seen in years of interweb activity is that if yer gonna sharpen yer tools, best to get into the free-hand mode rather than dwell on simple jigs- mostly cause you’ll end up doing free hand sooner or later anyway. .

When it comes to lathe tools, angles on the grinder etc, yep the various jigs initially do make life easier, but I’ll admit to being a tyro on the lathe so will likley take a slam or too for that comment. . , but honing plane blades with one of these gizmos is akin to using crutches when a few threads come loose on your shoes.

At least to me.

And Rob…if you start to dwell on which system is best, I gaurantee you will be perpetually perplexed and spend more money on sharpening tools than is rational. To my mind there will never be concensus. I am a great believer in “scarey sharp” perspectives on sharpening. Totally economical, shop or work-site compatible. Spend some time checking that out rather than scoping out what lV system is beter/

And although I got my Belgian stones, oil and water stones, and a whole lot of other sharpening options available, I find myself tending towards the day-to day tune up on extra fine diamond stone and a touch on the strop. . . The Carving tools, that’s another story….


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#3 posted 03-27-2014 06:24 AM

Check out the Burns sharpening system. I learned it like
15 years ago when I thought it could rescue me from
tearout, then abandoned it in favor of freehand (and
nicked water stones), then came back to it. It’s good
and it is fast because it allows for applying pressure
without gouging the finishing stone. It also eliminates
the dishing of the water stone.

A lot depends on the work you do. Burns makes
flamenco guitars which means a low volume of hand
planing a range of woods to the best finish with
minimal tearout. This is not what cabinet and furniture
making is generally governed by, but with guitars
there are precise thickness ranges that need to
be worked to. I make guitars too, but I use his
sharpening system for furniture work mostly. I suck
it up and use scrapers, razor blades and sandpaper
on guitars, eschewing the tweaking involved in
hand planing to the finest standards.

Nerdy. I know.

View funchuck's profile


119 posts in 3055 days

#4 posted 03-27-2014 11:37 AM

I use a honing guide. I started with the vise-type one, but now, I have the Veritas Mk.II honing guide.

I think the vise type guide can be made to work, but you’ll need to make some modifications to it. I think there is a Lie-Nielsen video on it on youtube. I don’t remember all the steps, but basically, it involves filing some areas to get better contact with the blade. In order to get the same consistent angle in using the vise type guide, you’ll also want to build a simple set of “stops” that will allow you to get the same angle every time.

In my beginner days, I strived for sharpness, so I bought the Veritas Mk.II guide with all the accessories. The good thing about it is that it is ready to go out of the box. You don’t need to build a set of “stops” for the angles you’re going to use and you don’t need to do any filing to get the guide working. The MkII guide has stops for all the angles you’ll ever need. The only problem I’ve had with this guide is that the stops don’t work well on heavily cambered plane blades. You have to kind of eye-ball it for cambered blades.

Now that I’ve used it though, I don’t think it made any difference in the sharpness of my blades. Both guides can get my blades equally sharp. You’ll just want to figure out if you want something more expensive, but ready to go out of the box, or a cheaper alternative that’ll need some work before you use it.

-- Charles from California

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#5 posted 03-27-2014 12:01 PM

I had the MKII and used it for about a year, but abandoned it. I wasn’t really very pleased with it and achieved just as good of results (maybe better) sharpening freehand and it took about 10% as long. The vise-type honing guide in my opinion is a good route for the beginner. It’s cheap, not rocket science, and faster than that MKII. I would advise against the MKII. I drooled over it once and was disappointed.

Loren knows his stuff, so I wouldn’t doubt that the Burns sharpening system is a good one if you want to go that route. I’d say buy the cheapy vise-one first, get the feel of the angle you need to be at, and then go freehand. I love it and haven’t looked back. Some say the edge of a freehanded stropped blade is more fragile than that sharpened with a honing guide, but even if that is so, I’d rather be able to sharpen faster, even if I have to do it more often.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3069 days

#6 posted 03-27-2014 06:25 PM

Thanks guys.

I looked at the Burns sharpening system maybe a couple weeks ago when Loren mentioned it in another thread but it doesn’t look like you can buy just the honing guide and the full system is out of stock (ha, the online “store,” if you can call it that, sucks…but that’s a minor side issue). Maybe I’ll try to make my own version of the honing guide.

So far I’m practicing freehand but I don’t really trust myself to get a square edge. But even if I keep trying to go mostly freehand, I think I’ll end up making some sort of guide or jig to give me a more comfortable grip like what I saw in the Burns sharpening video.

When you sharpen by hand, do you just periodically check square side-to-side with your try square or combination square, then check the angle with a bevel gauge or protractor? Or do you just check your angle when you start sharpening and figure “in the ballpark” is close enough, like Paul Sellers?

Oh, and has anyone used the Veritas sharpening system? At this point I don’t think I would buy it but I’m still curious how people think it compares to the others.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2072 days

#7 posted 03-27-2014 06:39 PM

I bought the MkII jig along with the DMT stones. Tried it all out on an old and quite dull chisel and the combo worked really well. What I do not like however, is that the roller on the MkII rides on the stone when sharpening. Shouldn’t harm the diamond stone much, or the jig for that matter. But it bugs me. Due to that, the Burns system seems to make more sense, to me.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3069 days

#8 posted 03-27-2014 07:58 PM

Thanks for the info, Bill.

By the way, to anyone following this thread, by “Veritas Sharpening System” I mean this one, which is different from the Veritas Mk. II:

I did find a review here on the site so I’ll take a closer look at that too.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#9 posted 03-27-2014 09:13 PM

As far as keeping the cutting edge square when you are freehanding, I honestly have never even thought about it with plane irons and rarely think about it with chisels.

Plane irons more or less reference themselves. Because the cutting edge is relatively large, it sort of keeps itself in check, as long as you aren’t really crooked, it stays pretty straight. I figure that is what the lateral adjuster is for anyway. The MKII made my blades more crooked than freehanding. With freehanding, the iron just sort of floats along straight with even pressure, with the MKII, it’ll grind a new freaking bevel every time you sharpen if it is clamped even remotely crooked.

Chisels I do check every once in a while, especially the little ones. With a tiny cutting edge like a 1/4” or 3/8” chisel, it is easy to get off, so you sort of have to watch it. But again, if you apply even pressure, the chisel willl more or less keep itself straight.

And as far as “training wheels” for freehanding, I just cut a 30 degree block of wood and set my iron on it to get the feel. 30 minutes or an hour with it and I was good. I still keep it around for reference every once in a while if it has been a while since I sharpened.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View SawdustTX's profile


265 posts in 2322 days

#10 posted 03-27-2014 10:35 PM

@Rob -I have all three of the Veritas tools you list, just recently having upgraded to the MkII. Wish I’d done it years ago. My primary sharpening is chisels and square edge plane blades, nothing fancy. For my money and time as a hobby woodworker, the MKII is the best way I’ve found to produce quick, repeatable, sharp tools. The MKII has significantly reduced my sharpening time, so I do it more often and turn out better work. Tried free hand and just can’t get it right and repeatable.

Started with the Veritas vise-type guide and never could get very good results. Worked OK on plane blades, but it was a pain for chisels (which I use way more than hand planes). So….

Upgraded to the Veritas Sharpening system. It was an improvement, but too much hassle to get the chisel in the thing square and the same bevel angle every time, which meant every time I sharpened I was changing the bevel on the chisel a little – which means a lot more work each time. So….

Upgraded to the MKII. Setup is super quick an totally repeatable. The good thing about the roller riding on the stone is I can go through any variety of stones without changing anything. Thickness of the stone doesn’t matter. Not sure about the comments about the roller “wearing the stone”. It’s just rolling, so it doesn’t take anything off the stone. The chisel being sharpened is what wears the stone so it should be flattened regularly anyway. I flatten my stones after every few uses. Done often it takes very little time.

Bottom line (for me anyway) – the MKII is super easy and quick to setup, and I get exactly repeatable bevels and a square end every time.

Now to sell off those two old system I just trashed…...

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1890 days

#11 posted 03-27-2014 10:35 PM

I’d have to agree with realcowtown_eric on his honing guide sentiments.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#12 posted 03-27-2014 11:56 PM

I use a General 810. That’s what Burns originally used. I have
no doubt his guide is better, but it’s a lot more costly than
a used 810 (it’s no longer made). There’s also an old
Stanley version the 810 is a copy of. I don’t know if
either one is especially collectible.

Even is Burns doesn’t have any guides his retailers may –

Also look at Luthiers Mercantile.

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