A Simple Home-made Honing Guide for Plane Irons and Chisels. Part 2 - To the Workshop!

This method is to enable the beginner at sharpening to get a feel for the correct sharpening angle by using a home-made low-cost guide.

Me and my shadow - sharpening chisels and planes 

How to make the guide


I screwed the  MDF board to a piece of timber so that it could stand vertically on its flat edge on my workbench.

I supported the flashlight horizontally between the laths of a fruit crate at the same level as the top face of the sharpening stone.  The 30° line on the board was coincident with the light path from the flashlight. To get a sharp shadow you will need to position the stone about 100mm (4") from the board.


How to use the guide to sharpen tools

When I turned on the flashlight the shadow cast by the stone was clearly visible on the board and the 30° line could be easily seen. 

As I placed the chisel tip onto the stone surface, the shadow cast by it could be seen on the board. I then aligned the shadow with the 30° line.

I could now start honing. By keeping on checking the line of the shadow with the 30° line on the board I ensured that the angle was maintained at each pass of the chisel.

As the honing progressed, it was very simple to change to the finer grit of the diamond-faced sharpening stone. Even changing to an oilstone would not alter the relationship of the chisel angle to the stone face. 


Obviously, you need to ensure that during the honing process the long axis of the tool is square to the face of the stone so as not to produce a sharp edge that slopes across the tool's width. 

 Here's the film: 

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All the best and Happy honing! Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


  1. Hi Andy. Thanks for sharing a great idea that I hope to make a permanent installation in my workshop:)
    I've inherited 5 wonderful wood planes of various sizes from my wife's grandfather who was a joiner as well as a fine Yorkshireman. Some are so worn there are indentations where he used to hold it!
    Just wondering if you have any tips or recommendations on the angle for a proper wood plane? Would this be different from any modern plane?
    Thanks - Christian

    1. Hi, Christian,
      Thanks for your comments.
      You are fortunate to be the beneficiary of such well-used tools. Putting the finishing edge on the plane iron is usually at an anlge 5º steeper than the more visible ground angle of the iron. It is fair to say that the honing bevel is made so as not to have to work harder and longer sharpening at the more acute ground angle. I've had a look in a couple of my books and there seem to be some planes that have their irons ground to 35º and honed to 40º.
      At the end of the day you can always hone at the ground angle of the iron which, although it will take more time will produce a much sharper edge, because the angle is lower.

      Good luck, I'm sure these tools will give you many years of service.
      Best Wishes, Andy.

    2. Thanks for your answer. I will see if I can guess at the angle that they have already, although there seems to be no real consistency and some of them are a bit convex.
      I've heard of methods for doing a more acute concave ground angle on an automatic wetgrinder with a medium grit (which I do have) and then level out or flatten the hone on a finer benchstone, producing a flat-concave-flat profile. I might try that for one of them and see if there's a difference.
      I actually got a couple of really great bench-stones as well, one fine grit and a slate stone which is for the final polish. I've done a couple of fishing knives on there freehand to a hair-popping edge, although it does require patience and a steady hand.