How to Sharpen Woodcarving Tools

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Sharpen Woodcarving Tools
Keep a sharpening kit close at hand while in the process of a wood carving project. (oil and grindstone image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Knowing how to maintain sharp woodcarving tools is an essential skill for wood carvers to learn. Carving knives, chisels and gouges all require a sharp edge to be functional. Sharpening stones and leather strops hone a tool's edge. The practice of sharpening tools requires attention to detail and patience. When carving detailed pieces it is a good practice to stop periodically and make sure the tools are sharp. In addition to being more functional, a sharp blade is also safer, because it is less likely to slip while making a cut.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Coarse stone
  • Smooth stone
  • Honing strop
  • Honing compound

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  1. 1

    Hold the tool at the surface of the coarse stone with the back side of the tool approximately -12.2 degrees Crom the stone. Pull the blade across the surface of the stone in a smooth stroke. Repeat this process several times. For knives, sharpen the other side of the blade in the same manner.

  2. 2

    Switch over to a smooth stone. Pull the blade across the surface in smooth strokes. Hold the blade at a consistent angle.

  3. 3

    Sharpen the other side in the same manner. This will leave the blade with a tin edge. The tin edge is a metal burr along the blade. It must be removed for a complete finish.

  4. 4

    Apply compound to the rough side of the honing strop. Pull the blade back and forth across the strop, alternating the blade side with each stroke. Maintain a consistent angle. Make approximately 15 passes along the strop.

  5. 5

    Switch to the smooth side of the strop. Continue running the blade back and forth in the same manner as with the rough side. Make approximately 15 passes up and down the strop.

Tips and warnings

  • Check the sharpness of a blade by holding a piece of newsprint out in one hand. Run the knife blade down from the top of the paper downward. If the knife makes a clean cut without folding the paper, the blade is sharp.
  • Use caution when handling freshly sharpened woodworking tools.

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