On Freehand Sharpening

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.


Scary sharp, indeed.

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.


  1. Maybe you’re bad with the jigs and guides, maybe they’re just bad with you? I did the same thing and took the plunge. I haven’t looked back. My plane irons stay way sharper longer, and half the time I take them out all they see is the strop to get them back in shape.

    Liked by 1 person

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