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How to Sharpen a Chisel: Complete Sharpening Wood Chisel Guide

by Roman Law 25 Sep 2023 0 Comments

how to sharpen wood carving chisel

If you're a passionate woodcarver, you know that a sharp chisel is your best friend in the workshop. Learning how to sharpen a chisel properly is a fundamental skill for any woodworker. Whether you're shaping intricate details or creating clean cuts, a well-sharpened chisel is essential for achieving precise results. In this chisel sharpening guide, we'll walk you through the process of sharpening wood chisels, ensuring they're always ready for your woodworking adventures. First and foremost, BeaverCraftTools recommends you check out this article on «Wood Carving Tools Your Toolkit Should Have»

What Materials Do You Need to Sharpen a Chisel?

Before we begin, let's gather the materials and tools you'll need for wood chisel sharpening:

    • Chisel. First and foremost, you'll need the chisel you want to sharpen.
    • Sharpening Stones (Coarse and Fine Grit). Sharpening stones are the heart of the sharpening process. Coarse grit removes material quickly, while fine grit provides a polished edge.
    • Lubricant (Water or Honing Oil). To keep your sharpening stones clean and prevent overheating the chisel's edge during sharpening, you'll need either water or honing oil as a lubricant.
    • Leather Strop. A leather strop is essential for that final, mirror-like finish on your chisel's edge. It's worth noting that there are various strops designed for different chisel shapes, including flat chisels, curved chisels, and bent gouges.

leather strop

    • Polishing Compound. Strops can give you even greater results when used with a polishing compound, which adds an extra layer of refinement to your chisel's edge. They come in various grits and materials, allowing you to select the most suitable one for achieving your desired level of sharpness.

polishing compoud

  • Honing Guide (Optional). A honing guide can be a lifesaver if you're new to sharpening. It helps maintain a consistent chisel bevel angle when sharpening.
  • Ruler or Protractor. These tools will assist you in maintaining the correct angle, ensuring your chisel performs optimally.
  • Flat Surface (Workbench or Table). You'll need a stable work surface to secure your sharpening equipment and maintain control during the sharpening process.
  • Safety Glasses or Goggles. Safety is non-negotiable. Protect your eyes from any potential flying debris during sharpening.

Choosing the right sharpener can be tricky if you're unsure about your needs. You can sharpen a chisel with traditional tools or even opt for the convenience of a special electric chisel sharpener, each offering its unique advantages.

Now that we've assembled our chisel sharpening tools and safety gear let's move on to the step-by-step chisel sharpening guide. Don't forget, before sharpening your chisel, take a look at our article on the best wood carving tools for beginners.

Step-by-Step Chisel Sharpening Guide

Sharpening a chisel is a vital skill for any woodworker, and by following these steps, you'll ensure your chisels are always ready for precise carving. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced woodcarver, this guide will walk you through the process, from preparing your work area to achieving that razor-sharp edge. So, let's get started! More about sharpening wood carving tools can be found in our article «How to Sharpen Wood Carving Knives: Completed Sharpening Wood Carving Tools Guide».

Prepare Your Work Area

  • Start by setting up your work area. Your workbench or table should be clean, well-lit, and, most importantly, stable.
  • Don't forget to put on your safety glasses or goggles. Your eyes are precious; protect them!

preparing polishing tools

Inspect the Chisel

  • Examine your chisel closely. Look for any nicks, chips, or excessive wear along the blade.
  • If you spot any damage, it's crucial to address it before sharpening. You can use a sharpening stone to remove imperfections carefully.

wood carving chisel

Set the Bevel Angle

  • Use your ruler or protractor to set the correct chisel sharpening angle. This angle varies depending on the type of chisel and your specific needs.
  • Secure the chisel in the honing guide if you have one. It helps maintain a consistent chisel bevel angle throughout the sharpening process.

Start with the Coarse Stone

  • The art of how to sharpen a chisel with a stone is a valuable technique every woodworker can master. Apply a few drops of your chosen lubricant (water or honing oil) to the coarse sharpening stone.
  • Hold the chisel securely and place it on the stone with the bevel flat against its surface.
  • Maintain a steady hand, keeping the bevel angle consistent, and move the chisel back and forth across the stone.
  • Continue until you've formed a noticeable burr along the entire edge of the chisel.

Switch to the Fine Stone

  • Now, switch to the fine sharpening stone. It is where the magic happens.
  • Repeat the same back-and-forth motion while maintaining the chisel bevel angle.
  • The fine stone will refine the edge, removing the burr and leaving you with a sharp, polished blade.


  • Move on to the leather strop. It is like giving your chisel a spa treatment.
  • With the bevel flat against the strop, make several passes, alternating sides.
  • This step polishes the edge to razor-sharp perfection.
  • For finishing and a mirror-bright shine, consider applying a polishing compound to enhance the refinement of your chisel's edge.

stropping wood carving chisel


  • After stropping, check for any remaining burr by lightly running the chisel along the fine sharpening stone.

Clean and Oil the Chisel

  • Wipe off any metal debris and excess lubricant from the chisel.
  • Apply a light coat of oil to prevent rust and keep your chisel in top condition.

How to Determine If a Chisel Requires Sharpening

Understanding how to sharpen a wood chisel ensures that your woodworking projects will be a cut above the rest. Before each carving session, check if your chisels are in prime condition. Here are some quick tests anyone can perform:

Shaving Method

While you might have heard of the shaving method, where one shaves off arm hairs to test chisel sharpness, there are more reliable and practical ways to assess chisel sharpness for woodworking.

Paper Test

Hold a piece of paper and try slicing it with your chisel. A sharp chisel should easily cut through the paper and leave clean edges, like scissors.

Fingernail Test

Gently run your chisel's edge across your fingernail. If it catches or scrapes your nail, it's sufficiently sharp.

Light Test

Hold the chisel up to a light source. If you see a dull reflection or light filtering through gaps along the edge, it's time to sharpen.

How Often Should Chisels Be Sharpened?

The frequency of chisel sharpening depends on several factors, including the quality of the chisel, the type of wood you're working with, and your carving skill level. High-quality chisels, such as those from BeaverCraft, hold their edge longer.

If you see your chisel struggling during tasks, perhaps not slicing wood as cleanly as before, this is a sign that it might benefit from a quick strop. Stropping is often considered the best way to sharpen chisels as it can significantly extend the time between full sharpening sessions; you can often get away with several stropping sessions before needing to re-hone the secondary bevel.

sharpening tools

How to Maintain and Preserve a Wood Chisel

Proper maintenance ensures your wood chisels remain sharp, durable, and ready for your woodworking projects. Here are some practical tips to ensure your chisels stay sharp and in good condition:

    • Keep your chisels clean and oiled. After each use, remove any wood shavings, dust, or debris from the chisel's blade and handle. Apply a thin coat of oil to the chisel blades to prevent rust and corrosion when storing them.
    • Store them safely. Store your chisels in a chisel roll or rack to protect the delicate edges. Avoid tossing them into a toolbox or leaving them scattered on a workbench, where they can collide and become dull.

wood carving tools

  • Work with precision, not force. Avoid using excessive force when carving. Let the sharp edge of the chisel do the work. Applying too much pressure can lead to chipping or dulling of the blade.
  • Regular inspection is key. Routinely examine your chisels for any signs of wear, damage, or dullness. Pay close attention to the blade's edge for nicks, chips, or irregularities.
  • Promptly address damage. If you notice any damage or dullness during your inspection, address it promptly. Minor issues are often easier to fix than waiting for more extensive damage. Use sharpening stones or other chisel sharpening tools to remove imperfections and restore the edge carefully.

With this comprehensive guide, you now have the knowledge and tools to keep your chisels razor-sharp and ready for your next woodcarving masterpiece.



Roman Law

Wood carving guru

From a childhood enchanted by nature, my passion for wood carving guided me on a path of creativity. With a pocket knife, I uncovered the transformative power of my hands, breathing life into driftwood and forging a lifelong connection with the medium.
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