How to sharpen chisels by hand

Sharpening chisels with a sharpening jig

In the best case, we will not have used the chisels for any purpose other than what they are designed for. We buy them, use them, store them anyway and don’t remember them until we need them again (well, I speak for myself). It is no longer a matter of storing them correctly, which I hope will soon occupy an entry in this blog as a small carpentry project, but of sharpening them correctly so that we don’t have to buy new ones every time we need them. A chisel has to be properly sharpened to be useful, easy to handle and to do its job properly. So I bought a chisel sharpening guide and let’s see how it works.

In my case I always resorted to sharpening the chisels by hand with a whetstone. Or with a grinder. The problem is to do it by hand, as it takes a lot of practice to get the bevel flat and with the cutting edge at 90º to the sides of the chisel. And I don’t have the necessary practice (so were the results).

Grinder machine with water stone for sharpening.

The best option for sharpening chisels is to use a sharpening kit, which usually does not cost much, which allows us to always have the chisel in the correct position while sharpening it (I have made a homemade guide to sharpen chisels to incorporate it into my collection of carpentry guides is for another time).

I am going to use a sharpening kit consisting of a sharpening guide, a sharpening stone with medium grit on one side and fine grit on the other and lubricating oil. As you will see in the video I post or in others that can be found on the internet, using sandpaper for sharpening instead of the whetstone can be as valid or better than using the stone.

In the videos of thewoodwhisperer you have this one where he explains how to sharpen chisels (45 minutes). Basically both tell the same thing but each one with their own tricks and in a more detailed way than I do in my video, so whether you understand English or not I recommend you take a look at them.

How chisels are made.

I found it curious that on the starwoodworking one they use wet and dry sandpaper (not sure what the name of this type of sandpaper is) to sharpen chisels. As you can see in my video, I tested the chisel sharpening guide on sandpaper. And the truth is that if we are looking for a coarser grain to recover a very deteriorated edge or a finer grain to sharpen the edge a little more, resorting to sandpaper is the easiest thing to do. In addition, sandpaper has the advantage of not absorbing as much lubricating oil as stone, so we use less.

Finally, in this channel you have a video from the Discovery Channel where they explain how these useful and, in my case at least, much abused little tools are made.

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