Sharpening a Cambered Iron By Hand?

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Forum topic by Rex B posted 10-08-2014 12:57 PM 1549 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Rex B

320 posts in 2247 days

10-08-2014 12:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane sharpening cambered iron

A while back I was inspired by BigRedKnothead’s sharpening blog and decided that oil stones was the sharpening system I would invest in. Well, I was finally able to purchase a medium India stone and Hard Translucent Arkansas stone. Over the past week I’ve been sharpening everything I can get my hands on, and have been amazed by the results. In the past, I sharpened my chisels using the scary sharp method with sandpaper grits up to 2000, but man was it a lot of work, and went through a lot of sandpaper.

I have a few old handplanes (nothing valuable that I worry about messing up) and have been able to put a super keen edge on the blades just honing by hand. I may someday get a Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide, but have been getting acceptable results without it.

My question is regarding smoothing planes with a slight camber or scrub planes with a heavy camber. How do people sharpen a cambered iron by hand? I know there must be a way to do it without a fancy Mk. II guide and cambered roller, but I just can’t think of it.

-- Rex

8 replies so far

View JohnChung's profile


408 posts in 2071 days

#1 posted 10-08-2014 02:14 PM

View Tugboater78's profile


2743 posts in 2189 days

#2 posted 10-08-2014 05:21 PM

I sharpen my scrub plane blade in an x pattern on stone. Starting at top left and rolling blade to bottom right as I pull then top right to bottom left. But that’s for an aggressive camber, I use cheap guide for my regular blades with just a camber on side just lean to one side or other near end of stroke.

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

18711 posts in 2564 days

#3 posted 10-09-2014 12:04 PM

I think sharpening a camber by hand is easier than a straight edge. Just twist the cutter as you move forward. Start with the leading edge at a skew, as you slide forward (or back depending on your style) you end with the back edge.

If i’m sharpening a smoother, I just rock to one side or the other to give a rounded edge or camber. the further you “rock” the more it becomes a rounded edge instead of a camber.

Once you’ve learned freehand, you’ll never go back to a honing guide. Its just not worth the setup time and everything has to be perfect with a guide. If your off a degree by hand, it makes no difference.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1932 days

#4 posted 10-09-2014 12:10 PM

+1 to what Don said. It is all about getting a feel for it.

Just a heads up, don’t buy the veritas mkII. I had one for a year and it was a huge hassle to use and the results were not very good. I never use it anymore. Don’t waste your money.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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Rex B

320 posts in 2247 days

#5 posted 10-09-2014 12:39 PM

Thanks for the advice guys. The rocking on the stone method is what I was thinking. That Schwarz method is interesting though.

WoodenOyster, That’s interesting that you didn’t like the Mk II. I’ve heard only good things about it. I guess I’ll stick to doing it by hand for now. I do have one of the $10 generic honing guides which has served me well for sharpening chisels.

-- Rex

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2381 days

#6 posted 10-09-2014 10:25 PM

1. For initially creating heavy cambers (scrub planes), I go free-hand on 60 grit sandpaper, then just sharpen free-hand.

2. I’m going to disagree with Don W. (not a thing to be done lightly)...I learned free-hand first, then got a honing guide ($12 single-wheel thing) after 3-4 years of sharpening free-hand. It makes my sharpending faster and easier because With a few set-up blocks, I can get a repeatable angle and not waste metal and time re-establishing a slightly different angle each time.

3. For smoothing planes, I use the honing guide and simply apply slight extra pressure on the sides to create a slight camber.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

346 posts in 2459 days

#7 posted 10-09-2014 10:57 PM

I’d get a 10 dollar honing guide, hollow grind roughly the angle you need, the make a wood measurement block to help you hit the honing angles you want

Start on your 1k stone, establish a small bevel all the way across … Press slight on each end of the blade in the guide to work a slight camber… Hit the 8k stone, polish the middle them again hit the ends to polish the camber.

That should give you beautiful shavings.

You can do the same thing by hand… If you find it fun and a growth experience, do the same thing by hand that pressure on different points of guide would.

To me, a guide is quick and repeatable. Don’t care how it gets sharp, but for me a guide makes it quick and easy.

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

18711 posts in 2564 days

#8 posted 10-09-2014 11:22 PM

Do what works best for you. I have less of a problem because every once in a while I just hit it on the grinder.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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