Wood chisels are tools frequently used by carpenters and DIY enthusiasts. They make it possible to make notches in the wood and to even cut pieces of it. There are also scissors designed for stone and metal. They are extremely practical on one condition: they must be sharp. A razor-sharp edge for ultimate precision.
Because you use these tools for heavy, tedious work, the edge is often put to the test. Especially when using your wood chisels in combination with a hammer to go deep. Depending on the frequency of use, you will need to sharpen your tools regularly. There are several ways to do this and we want to help you see it more clearly.
Sharpening wood chisels on a whetstone
As always, we have a preference for sharpening stones. In our opinion, this remains the best way to obtain a sharp result every time. As long as you know how to do it. Because it is true that the use of a sharpening stone takes practice, whether it is for a knife, a pair of scissors, or a secateurs. Having said that, it is very easy to learn.
Restore the fold and determine the sharpening angle
Much like ‘normal’ chisels, wood chisels are only sharp on one side. So you start by restoring the fold. This is the beveled part of your chisel, the one you actually use. The extent of this work depends on the condition of your scissors. If it’s been a while since you last used your scissors or if you have just put them to the test, then a big sharpening session is in order … Start with a coarse stone with a grain size of 100 to 400. This will allow the removal of a large amount of material to restore the fold.
Before you start sharpening, you need to determine the correct sharpening angle. In most cases, this is 30 degrees but this varies between brands and models. The shape and size of the bevel of a wood chisel makes the job considerably easier compared to sharpening a knife. Indeed, the edge is really visible and you can easily see what you are doing.
However, it is more difficult to maintain a constant sharpening angle. You can however use sharpening guides. See even make it yourself. Know that once you gain the experience, you won’t need it anymore.
Use the whetstone to its full length
When you sharpen the flat part of your chisel, you are using the full width of your stone. To sharpen the bevel, you instead use the stone lengthwise. So you sharpen in a vertical movement from top to bottom. Take care to use the stone throughout its length. This is to avoid digging it in some places as this will affect the edge of your chisel. Be aware that when you sharpen a chisel, you will need to exert some force.
Especially when it is particularly damaged. We recommend more softness for sharpening knives due to their thin and sometimes fragile blade, but the thickness of the wood chisel allows you to go more frankly without risking damaging the edge.
Fine sharpening and polishing
Now that you’ve restored your chisel crease, it’s time to get down to the finer work. With a higher grain size stone, you can get a sharper chisel than when it was new. Depending on the stones you have and the result you want, you can either sharpen only with a 1000 stone or distribute the sharpening over several stones by going towards a higher and higher grain size. Start for example with a stone 800 then 1500, 3000, 6000 and so on until you are satisfied with the result.
Then comes the final touch. For this, use a leather strop with a diamond paste to obtain a mirror edge. To do this, place the bevel at the top of your leather then pull it towards you. Don’t put too much pressure on it and don’t go back. Always make sure you move in the same direction. Indeed, your chisel should now be sharp as a razor and could cut leather.
Flatten the edge
After you have sharpened the bevel, a bit will form on the other side of your chisel. You remove it by slightly sharpening the flat side. This allows you to remove any traces of rust along the way. Place the flat side of your chisel horizontally on your stone and move it across the stone in a pushing motion. Then pull it back and repeat the movement.
Be careful to keep your chisel flat and not to move it diagonally to the sides of the stone. You might dig the chisel. Place both hands on your chisel to exert even pressure. If the chisel is much longer than the stone this can cause leverage. In this case, focus on sharpening the edge. After all, this is the part that you use the most when working with wood …
Other sharpening methods
Of course, you can use other sharpening methods other than whetstones. You can use an electric belt sharpener. The Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener and the Work Sharp Multi Sharpener Ken Onion Edition are excellent tools. If you have an Edge Pro sharpening machine, choose the chisel sharpening accessories that are also suitable for sharpening wood chisels.
Prefer to sharpen by hand but not with whetstones? In that case, the Spyderco 204MF Sharpmaker is a great option. Another alternative could be the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System. Spoiled for choice!