How to Sharpen Woodworking Tools

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Have you tried sharpening your woodworking tools using sandpaper? At first, you may be skeptical about it. However, as this guide will show you, this is an effective strategy. It may not really be the best out there, but it is one method that you definitely have to take into consideration.

One reason why sandpaper is an effective tool is cost. While other sharpeners, such as water stones can cost you up to $100, sandpaper only costs less than $2 for every sheet. The use of sandpaper is very easy, and if performed carefully, it will help in producing the sharpest woodworking tools you could ever have.

Materials Needed

  • Sandpaper
  • Honing compound (final finish)
  • Smooth, flat surface (for mounting)
  • Honing guide


Step 1: Prepare your materials

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The main material that you will be using in this procedure is sandpaper. The current condition of your woodworking tools, as well as the quality of edge that you would want to achieve for your tools will determine the type of sandpaper grits that you will need. You can prepare three sandpaper grits (600/1200/2000 or 800/1500/2500).

You will also need a honing compound for the final finish. Before starting with the process, it is assumed that the bevel of the blade is in good condition, and does not need grinding using a power grinder.

Step 2: Mount your sandpaper on a smooth, flat surface

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The purpose of placing your sandpaper on smooth and flat surface is to avoid the blade tearing it if it is not tightly placed. As a good option, you can choose to purchase sandpaper sheet that comes with self-adhesive backing, though they may be quite difficult to find.

As a solution, you can glue strips to a ¾ inch MDF piece. A thin coat of wood glue or spray adhesive can also be used. Afterwards, place a different MDF piece on top of the sandpaper, clamping the sandwich using a vise in order to make the sheet flat, while making sure that it is attached smoothly.

Step 3: Use a honing guide

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This tool will serve as your guide as you hold your tool at the right angle. While you may do a “freehand” honing, using a honing guide gives you precision.

Step 4: Begin at the back of the blade

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It is always recommended to start with the back side of the blade first. Before doing so, flatten it first, polishing it afterwards. This process is referred to as lapping, which is a very important part of the process. The cutting edges of the blade, on the other hand, is the area where the two surfaces will meet, and both of them needs to be sharpened.

The initial grit may depend on the actual condition of the surface at the back of the blade. Rusty, scratched or uneven back may need an initial grit using a 400 sandpaper, then 800, going up to 2000 to the tip.

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Step 5: Hone the primary bevel

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Now that the blade is at the right angle, start honing the primary bevel. Most blades usually have either 25 or 30 degree angles. The grits that you need to use may also depend on the blade quality. However, just like what you did at the back, start with a lower grit first, especially if you notice that the blade is in bad shape.

As a general rule, you may also work in doubling up the grit number in every step after. Therefore, if you started with a 400 grit, you can double it up later to 800, then 1500, reaching to 1500 after.

Step 6: See your honing progress

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Tracking your progress can be quite difficult after the bevel turns shiny. In order to do so, you can mark the bevel area using a felt tip marking pen, then, look at the bevel after some honing strokes. The area that is shiny is where you need to remove the material. If the shiny part at the tip is a thin band, you are accurately honing at the right angle, getting ready for honing the micro bevel.

Step 7: Hone the micro bevel

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Honing the micro bevel is the last part of this honing process. The micro bevel is usually slightly steeper at the tip. At the same time, it is also the sharpest, and the most finely honed portion of the blade. As you re-sharpen later, this part only needs retouching.

Step 8: Final polishing

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In order to give your blade a final finish, you can use a honing compound. Scrape the honing compound to an MDF scrap, polish the bevel, particularly the tip. As you further increase the angle, it will start to dig deeper into the MDF. Therefore, you have to polish by holding your blade at a specific angle just right before it starts to dig deep into the MDF.


As previously mentioned, there are other methods that you can also implement. However, with the use of the sandpaper method, you can expect a less costly approach in sharpening your woodworking tools. It’s also easy to complete, as the steps have shown.

Perhaps you have other suggestions and thoughts, please feel free to comment below. You may also share this article if you liked it.

  • August 28, 2017
  • DIY