Edge sharpening has always been a weak spot for me. While I took to saw sharpening very quickly, my chisels and plane blades were never been perfect. I used micro bevels and wide-wheeled guides and even tried the ruler trick, to no avail. My edges were sub-par and short-lived and almost always out of square. So I gave up on all of that and went in a different direction.
It’s no secret that Paul Sellers has been a great influence on me over these past few years. I consider his YouTube channel to be the best free resource for a woodworker just starting out in the craft. Paul advocates freehand sharpening and none of that micro bevel nonsense.
I already had the diamond plates, so I figured I’d give it a try. And it’s worked for me thus far.
I started with my chisels (easier to correct if I made the edge worse) and instantly noticed that the “macro camber” approach of freehand sharpening lends itself to a stronger, longer-lasting edge. Since then, I’ve freehand sharpened both my No. 4 1/2 smoothing plane (pictured above) and my general purpose No. 4 and gotten instant results.
No more fussing with stop blocks or fumbling with guides means I just spritz some window cleaner on a diamond stone and work until I feel the burr. Freehand sharpening has actually decreased my sharpening time.
Maybe I’m just bad with guides and sharpening jigs. Or maybe this is just the next step in hand-tool only woodworking.