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DIY Custom Wood Chisel Honing Sharpening Guides

I don't know about you, but I've had a heck of a time using those chisel honing guides you can buy from woodworking supply places. The problem for me is that you have to do some precise measuring to get the angle right, and then the thing wants to wobble and tip when you're sharpening the chisel. Not to mention that the fact that they're 'universal' means they have to be adjusted for the specific width of each chisel, and they won't stay solidly locked in place.

At least that's my experience.

So I was watching a Dan Erlewine video recently and he mentioned these custom shop-made honing guides for holding chisels for sharpening. "Ah ha!" I said to myself, "THAT is exactly what I need!"

Since I've discovered that I really like making custom pieces and jigs like this, I took a stab at it.

More experienced woodworkers will read this and say "well, duh." It's not a new idea.

I cut up some pine, putting a 30° angle on some small blocks on the bandsaw. I also cut up some small rectangular pieces to serve as guides. Stay tuned - this isn't rocket surgery so the dimensions aren't too critical.

The bevels on my chisels are (obviously) 30°, but you can cut he angle to whatever you need. And read on to see how I made some with a shallower angle.

Here's what I did to make the guides. Really easy.

Put a block in the vise, and positioned two of the guides around the specific chisel. This one is a 6mm chisel, so the guides will be spaced exactly for that width.

If I was a real craftsman, I'd probably have used a hardwood for these, but this was a down-and-dirty proof of concept version. Pine is easy to work with, and it's what I had at hand. It's a jig, not a piece of furniture.

Then glue and clamp down the guide blocks.

At this point, you'll want to slide the chisel back in before the glue dries to ensure the guide spacing is correct.

Before you know it, you'll have a whole selection of honing guides sized for each of your chisels. I have metric and Imperial-sized chisels, so I made a guide for each one.

I applied some Tru-Oil as a finish for these. One thing about the pine, though is that it really sucks up the Tru-Oil - a poly finish is probably better. (And this is about the only thing I'd use the dreaded poly on).

Here are the honing guides after 5 or 6 coats of finish.

Note that I labelled them for each size chisel.

And also note that on the 26mm guide, I had to put a second block on the top - this supports the handle of that chisel since it's longer than the others.

Conversely, I cut away part of the block on the 6 and 12mm guides so it wouldn't interfere with the handle and throw the angle off. In other words, the handle sits clear of the angle on the top of the block.

This is the 26mm guide and chisel in honing position on my Japanese water stone. You can see how that top block supports the handle.

The angle is perfect, and the chisel fits tightly into the guide. Since the bottom of the guide is square, it doesn't want to tip over like those guides with a wheel do.

Oh yeah!

Hone that puppy until it's super sharp!

I found, naturally, that the water and the slurry make a bit of a mess on the bottom of the guides. I'll probably refinish the bottoms with poly so the mixture can't get absorbed into the wood as easily.

Our newly sharpened Two Cherries 26mm chisel.

I finished it with a small (about 1 degree) micro bevel - the bevel isn't perfect because I had originally done it on my store-bought guide - it's not perfectly straight.

And I put a final edge on it with a strop and fine compound. Now I can shave with it.

After I made all of the guides, I discovered that my two smallest chisels - 2 and 4mm - have 10° bevels.

So I measured and marked that angle on the two guides, and cut along that line on the bandsaw.

You can see where there was some tear-out at the ends, but they're still perfectly functional.


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