How to Sharpen a Single Bevel Chisel

While some hand tools come sharpened from the factory, many require some sharpening before use. Because our customers sometimes write with questions about sharpening their new tools, we’d like to offer here a basic method for sharpening a single bevel chisel like the Dastra, Two Cherries, and Buck Brothers tools we carry. We hope this is helpful for you!

Angle-checker

An angle checker helps to determine the angle of the bevel. A single bevel chisel such as this one should have an angle of 20-25 degrees.

Add lubricant to the stone before you begin. The stone you see here is a Tri Hone system with three different grits, but other types of stones will also work. Normally you start with a coarse or medium grit, depending on how much sharpening is needed.

This is an oil stone, but I like to use a mixture of dish soap and water. I mix about a teaspoon of soap into a bottle this size.

Tilt the bevel until the oil or water squeezes out from underneath the blade. The bevel should be flat against the stone. Draw the blade back and forth over the stone as shown.

Move from your entire torso, not just the arms or wrists, to ensure a smooth, even motion.

Turn the blade over and repeat the same motion on the flat side (the side without a bevel).

Repeat the method described above on a finer grit stone. Go from coarse to medium to fine, or if the blade is already pretty sharp, just medium to fine.

A strop gives the blade a polished finish.

sharp3

After sharpening, the cutting edge near the tip of the bevel should be shiny and smooth.

sharp2

The flat side of the blade is also polished near the cutting edge. You can see the shiny area near the tip where the grain-like grinding marks have been rubbed away.

Test the chisel on a piece of scrap wood. It should cut easily without resistance.

More Details on Sharpening

Sharpening Angles

An angle of 20º- 30° is usually recommended for chisels and plane irons. These angles work fine for bench chisels and as a beginning point for bench and block planes. However, increasing or decreasing the angle may yield better results for other tools or applications. Keep in mind these rules of thumb:

  • Heavy mortise chisels will hold an edge better if the angle is increased to  30º or more.
  • A 30° bevel often holds a better edge when working hardwoods  with a bench chisel.
  • A paring chisel with a lower angle  (20-22º) will cut and pare beautifully.

Use the following in applying your judgment to the situation: a higher angle produces a stronger but less sharp edge; a lower angle results in a sharper, weaker edge.

Tool Steel

The characteristics of steel directly affect the quality of a tool: too hard and it breaks, too soft and it won’t hold an edge. What is needed is steel with a high carbon content (.55% to .95%) and added metals such as manganese, chromium or vanadium to improve hardening and wear characteristics. Our edge tools are manufactured from high-carbon (.90%) manganese-enriched steel.