Sharpening Paraphernalia

Sharpening with a Honing Guide is Easy

Hand tools such as knives, chisels and planes can be pretty frustrating and ultimately useless if not sharpened properly and often enough. The problem is that sharpening can at times seem a tedious chore.

I had long been intimidated by the sharpening process and usually kept putting it off as long as I could. The result on my work was obvious but the problem always was the hassle in setting up for sharpening.

I had to first estimate the angle at which a blade had been ground, then set the honing angle, stick sandpaper to glass and then get down to sharpening. The process took time, was tedious and not always satisfactory.

Over the years the sharpening process has become much easier, quicker and even enjoyable. Nothing like the feel of a sharp edge sticking to finger tips.

The transformation has a lot to do with a few sharpening aides I have acquired over the years. Today, I find them indispensable.

Bevel Gauge

Brass Bevel Gauge

This little brass gauge is a quick way to find the angle at which the bevel of a blade was been ground. If the angle is very different from what I want to achieve I head for a coarse stone otherwise I head for the higher grit diamond stones.

The Bevel Gauge quickly finds the bevel angle

Honing Guide

A standard Honing Guide; many companies make these

The more accomplished woodworkers can sharpen freehand; years of practice have set their muscle memories and they can get the exact bevel without thinking. I do not have that level of skill and find a honing guide absolutely essential. Once fixed to the guide, any blade can be honed consistently and perfectly.

Distance Stop

I use these stops to set the blade projection from the edge of the honing guide to set the bevel angle

To set the bevel angle I have made a simple distance stop and it takes just a few second to fix the blade and position it correctly in the honing guide.

Very Coarse Ceramic Stone

Very Coarse Japanese Ceramic stone

Most chisel and plane blades available in India need to be worked on a lot initially. Often the bevel has to be re-ground, blade backs flattened and so on. This can be really slow work so I recently procured a Japanese ceramic stone of 140 grit. I have found that this stone works wonderfully even with the hardest of Chrome Vanadium steels. It is a huge time saver and a delight to use.

Diamond Stone set

My sharpening stones set in a box

Most times I usually head straight to the diamond stones to put the edge back on a blade. A couple of minutes on these stones are enough to restore the edge of any blade. New or re-ground blades of course need much more work.

I have built a simple box with a tray as the base to hold the stones. The stones are set in recesses cut by a router. There is a notch on the side of each recess to take out the stone for cleaning. The top prevents dust from settling on the stone. I store the box with my other tools and bring it out whenever I need to sharpen. I find this takes out all the hassle in setting up for sharpening.

Small Ruler

Some plane blades, particularly the cheaper ones available in India, are made of some sort of incredibly hard steel; some say it is spring steel. At any rate, I have found it impossible to properly flatten the backs of these blades. In such cases or when the back of the blade is somewhat deformed or pitted, the ruler trick invented by British woodworker David Charlesworth is the solution. The idea is simple: a small ruler is placed near one edge of the sharpening stone and the back of the blade placed over it. This brings a thin portion of the blade's edge in contact with the sharpening stone and results in a fine back bevel. This obviates the need for flattening the back of the blade. For more details on the ruler trick read Tom Fidgen's note at

I don't use the ruler trick on my better blades because I can flatten them very well and am quite happy to hone them the regular way. I generally do not use a secondary bevel either. But on poor quality blades, the ruler trick is the way to go. Adding a secondary bevel makes the blade easier to sharpen subsequently as only the two thin bevels (back and secondary) need to be honed. The little steel ruler is very useful in these circumstances.

Leather Strop

Leather strop and bar of green compound

The last step is polishing the blade edge on a leather strop coated with green polishing compound. This made the bevel gleam and brings the edge to a very high degree of sharpness.

Green Compound
This type of polishing compound is readily available in most cities or else can be ordered online from some companies. They cost between 100 and 200 rupees for a big bar that seems to last for ever.


WD-40, the anti-rust spray

After the final polishing, I make it a point to spray the blades with a bit of WD-40 and wipe it down to prevent rusting.

With these aides, I find I sharpen often and enjoy the feel of working with very sharp tools.

Indranil Banerjie
8 March 2015


  1. Very informative post sir. I totally agree with you about sharpening being such a tedious job. I have been putting it of for some time. The main reason being that I can't find the sharpening parapharnelia you have mentioned above. I have been trying to find a honing guide but none of the shops keep them nor the diamond stones or the bevel. Sir where have you procured all the stuff from

    1. Most of these items are not available locally. I purchased them from and

  2. Hi, I've recently started a blog on Jugaad for everyday life in India. Could some of you take a look and give me your feedback? I'm a newbie at blogging so any suggestions/comments most welcome. Thanks a ton

  3. Nice post.
    Honing guide is not easily available in India. Website of Anant Tools has it though of different type. But I could not get one in Mumbai. I wrote mails to them but there was no response. I called them but did not get co-operation. They mentioned to contact the dealer whose address was also not properly given. One of the shop owners told me that since these products don't sell they do not stock them. Ultimately I got one Shobha Tools mentioned they are developing one.
    I did not understand from the picture how the distance stop jig is used. I measure how far the plane iron or chisel is protruding. May be it will not be exactly the same each time, the way I do it.
    I enjoy reading this blog.

    1. Sanjeev: Congratulations on getting a honing guide; your sharpening will be better from now on. I really do not know why no one produces them in India as yet; they are essential. The distance stop is nothing but a piece of wood with lengths measured on them - for instance my honing guide says the blade iron must protrude 30mm from the guide for a 25 degree angle, therefore I measure 30mm on the piece of wood and glue on a stop. This helps me get 30mm everytime I wish to hone.

  4. "I really do not know why no one produces them in India as yet; they are essential."

    You've already answered that in your blog post:

    "The more accomplished woodworkers can sharpen freehand; years of practice have set their muscle memories and they can get the exact bevel without thinking."

    Such DIY kits are hard to find locally as India isn't DIY-friendly yet.

  5. You are right of course. My question was rhetorical, I suppose!

  6. I generally used Sand papers of various sizes to sharpen my chisels , as mentioned in your other blogs , recently i got a honing guide and decided to purchase Diamond sharpening stone for my tool sharpening . However , i am bewilders with so much size ( length) and grit availability in amazon . As this is my hobby , very frequent sharping is not required . So if you could advise me the best size/grit variations of Diamond sharping stone , it would be easier for me to make the choice.

    1. There is no real need to buy the entire range of diamond stones which range from very very coarse to very very fine as in the DMT diamond range which has six main grits. The very very coarse is not necessary except when a blade edge has been damaged or needs to be ground. This could as well be done with coarse sandpaper. The "coarse" and "fine" pair could be a good choice or "coarse" and "very fine". The final polish could be done with a leather strop charged with green rubbing compound (which comes in bar form and is readily available in shops that sell polishing weheels and so on). Most diamond stone makers also sell dual side stone which means there is a sharpening/polishing surface on each side of the stone. These are cheaper and come with a coarse and a fine side. Size is standard - usually 3 inches by 8 inches.

  7. Great article ! the ceramic stones are hard to find , I think i'll make it work with the combination stone available commonly. What do you use for lubrication while sharpening ? or just water ?

    1. Thanks, Mridul. I use plain tap water for lubricating combination stones. When buying a stone make sure it is absolutely flat. Best of luck.


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