How To Sharpen A Chisel

Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by James

A lot of people consider a chisel as a handy tool that is extremely useful for serious woodwork. If you thought sharpening a chisel is a difficult task, it is actually quite easy. Sharpening a chisel requires just a few tools and takes little time, despite how difficult it might seem when you watch someone doing it. All you need is a honing jig and a sharpening stone. To begin with, chisels go through a stage of elementary grinding that helps to give them a beveled edge. When you do that, the cutting edge will become glassy smooth. However, feeling something sharp on your hand does not mean that they will be sharp enough for wood as well.

A simple whetstone with a fine grain should help sharpen any blade, but some people prefer using wet stones because they claim that dry stones promote premature wear on the blade. If you want to sharpen your chisel with a dry stone, pour some water over it before use so that the surface absorbs moisture and softens.

Step 1: Items Required

There are various ways to sharpen a chisel. While a lot of people prefer doing it with their hand, some make use of a honing jig. While some others make use of oilstones, others with sharpening stones such as waterstones, and some others with diamond stones. The options are many but we will make use of waterstone in this guide. Here are the things you will require:

  • Honing Guide
  • Waterstones
  • Nagura Stones

Step 2: Use Of Waterstones

Place your sharpening stones in water for about 10 minutes. You could even keep or store them in a container.

There are two common methods for sharpening a chisel, the bench method and the bar method. Both start with clamping the blade in a vice or in a workbench vise in order to hold it steady while you sharpen. To sharpen your chisel using the bench method, hold the Waterstone so that it is flat on its side and at an angle of about 30 degrees relative to the metal part of the blade. Apply moderate pressure as you push along one side of the blade diagonally from one end to another. Slide over once more at this same angle to sharpen the other side of the blade, then do both edges again at 90 degrees to ensure they’re even sharper than before.

            The bar method is more complicated because you need to sharpen both edges of your blade at the same time. First, hold the chisel flat on the Waterstone with one end pointing left and with about half an inch in between each side of the blade. With moderate pressure, sharpen along one edge from the tip to halfway down then sharpen that same edge again but this time across instead of down.

Do the same for the other edge, then sharpen both edges simultaneously in a different way by holding them together so they are even and overlapping slightly with each overlapping by about half an inch. Sharpen these edges in diagonal motions away from each other until you have created a small ridge along either edge where they meet in the middle of the blade.

Now sharpen both edges at 90 degrees to your previous sharpenings, and you should have a very sharp chisel that is ready to be used in any project!

Step 3: Honing Guide Setup

Put your chisel in the honing guide with the bevel facing downwards. Now tighten the honing guide in such a way that you can hold the chisel. But ensure that it is slightly loose so that you can adjust it if need be. The entire bevel by now will be touching the stone but it is the front part that is important. You do not need to be accurate at this stage, just ensure that the bevel is lying flat against the waterstone. Tighten the honing guide screw so as to lock the chisel in its place.

Step 4: 800 Grit

You can place the stone on a fine grit sandpaper and then set the chisel onto the stone. Apply an even amount of pressure on the back of the chisel blade while you place your thumbs on the jig and give it about five passes. These passes need to be evenly distributed over the stone. Now wipe the blade neatly and see where the blade is making contact with the stone. Ensure that the blade contacts the stone at least for the first ⅛ inch. Do this step a couple of time along with three other things: wipe the blade, check on the progress and rinse the stone of the residues. You can now move up to 1200 grit stone and then upto 4000 grit stone. At this point, you will notice that the blade will begin to shine.

Step 5: Nagura Stone

If the grits of a waterstone is above 6000 then you will need help in producing the slur that is required to sharpen the chisel. So this is where you will need the use of Nagura Stone. Make use of your wet Nagura stone and rub the top of this 8000-grit stone in a circular motion. You will notice that the slurry will begin to form on the top of the stone. With each passing set, make sure that you rinse the stone well and then reapply it again.

Step 6: Add Microbevel

A microbevel is a small bevel that has beveled edges and is used when your chisel dulls out or you just need it to sharpen it. In order to put a microbevel on the blade, slurry the 8000 grit stone with the help of the Nagura stone and then put the honing guide on the stone. Now raise the handle of the chisel and with a nice stroke push forward to the other side of the stone. Now repeat this a couple of times on both sides. After several passes, you will notice a thin line on the end of the chisel blade.

Step 7: Flatten The Back

With all of these steps, the back of your chisel might become slightly burr. In order to get rid of this, you need to flatten the back of your chisel. For this, begin with an 800 grit stone and lay the back of the chisel against this grit stone and make as many passes as you want. It does not matter how much of the back you will place on the stone, it is only the very end that needs to be flattened well. Do this as many times as you want until you move up through 4000 grit stone and there you will have with you a finely honed and powerfully sharp chisel.