If you have chisels or planes in the workshop (and I am sure you do), sooner or later you will need to sharpen the blades. You can either buy a tool that will help you do so or you can make your own chisel sharpening jig that will work just as well.
A chisel sharpening jig is a device that helps achieve a consistent, precise, and sharp edge on chisels and plane blades. The key to the jig is to hold the blade at a fixed angle to maintain a consistent bevel, avoiding uneven wear on the blade.
In this article, we will be making an adjustable chisel sharpening jig that can be used to sharpen wood chisels and hand plane blades.
The angle on the chisel sharpening jig is easily adjustable and can be set in the range of 20 – 35 degrees. It can accommodate chisels of different sizes, up to a width of 3,5cm, and can be clamped down to a table or workbench for better stability. The sharpening jig does not use whetstones but sandpapers instead, which can be easily replaced.
To make the chisel sharpening jig I used MDF for the base and Baltic birch plywood for the blade attachment as the go-to material. All the material including other hardware is readily available in any store.
Read on to find out how to build an adjustable chisel sharpening jig, how to set it up, and how to use it.
DIY Chisel Sharpening Jig Video
Watch the video below, if you want to know how to build a chisel-sharpening jig for chisel and plane blades.
Table of Contents
- Chisel Sharpening Jig Video
- The Material you will need
- General Questions
- What is the traditional angle for sharpening a chisel?
- How much pressure when sharpening a chisel?
- Can I use sandpaper to sharpen chisels?
- How to Make a DIY Chisel Sharpening Jig
- Step 1: Build the Chisel Holder
- Step 2: Attach the Chisel to the Sharpening Jig
- Step 3: Make the Sliding Base
- Possible improvements to the jig
- How to Set up and Use a Chisel Sharpening Jig
- Jigs used for the project
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
What you'll need to make a Chisel Sharpening Jig
Sharpening Jig Base
MDF – 350 mm x 150 mm x 15 mm
Chisel/Plane Blade Attachment
Plywood – 80 mm x 75 mm x 12 mm – https://amzn.to/3TPULp2
Plywood 2x – 75 mm x 5 mm x 9 mm
Plywood 2x – 100 mm x 25 mm x 60 mm
Aluminum bar – 70 mm x 20 mm x 4 mm
Aluminum bar – 100 mm x 15 mm x 4 mm
Round Aluminum Tube 2x – length 80 mm (OD 8mm, ID 6mm) – https://amzn.to/41Q4IoD
Table Saw / Proxxon Mini Table Saw – https://amzn.to/47mWiGf
Trim Router – https://amzn.to/3HbQcOg
Corded Hand Drill (Drill Stand) – https://amzn.to/3NSA3Bo
Chisel Set – https://amzn.to/3tHNJrT
One Hand Clamps – https://amzn.to/48jGxkZ
Spring Clamps – https://amzn.to/41Nuh9D
Machinist Square / Speed Square
Dozuki Japanese Saw – https://amzn.to/3NS5viZ
Epoxy – https://amzn.to/3tJ5R4L
M6 Bolts, Washers, Wing Nuts – https://amzn.to/41PodgQ
Drill Bits – 6mm – https://amzn.to/48Kaaf7
Router Bits – 6mm – https://amzn.to/3NQNDVX
Sandpaper Sheets – https://amzn.to/41OMx2p
Threaded rod – Dia 6mm – https://amzn.to/3vnlvDb
Check all the Tools I Use
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What is the traditional angle for sharpening a chisel?
There is no specific angle that must be set for sharpening chisels. The correct angle can depend on a few factors such as personal preference or the intended use of the chisel.
In general, a good angle for sharpening chisels can range from 20 – 30 degrees. For woodworking chisels, a 25-degree angle is commonly used. For heavy-duty chisels, a higher angle, around 30 degrees, may be more appropriate.
Most chisels have 2 bevels on their blades – the primary bevel and the secondary bevel (micro bevel). The primary bevel is large and determines the main angle of the chisel’s cutting edge. The second bevel is slightly steeper than the primary bevel, and its main purpose is to create a sharper cutting edge.
A common primary bevel angle is 25 degrees. The secondary bevel can be set to around 30 degrees.
How much pressure when sharpening chisel?
Sharpening a chisel is not complicated but there are a few important things that need to be kept in mind in order to achieve a sharp and clean cutting edge. One of these things is how much pressure needs to be applied to sharpen the blade.
Generally, it is important to apply only enough pressure to maintain constant contact between the chisel’s blade and the sharpening stone (sandpaper). More pressure is needed in order to get rid of nicks and chips in the blade. If you are refining or honing an already-sharp edge light and even pressure is sufficient. It is also important to apply the same amount of pressure throughout the entire sharpening process.
Can I use sandpaper to sharpen chisels?
Simply put, yes you can. There are a few ways how to sharpen a chisel – you can use a sharpening stone/whetstone, a bench grinder, or even sandpaper. Using dry/wet sandpaper on a flat and even surface can produce an excellent result matching the one from a sharpening stone. Besides, the price of sandpaper is much lower than that of a sharpening stone.
Let's start building!
The sharpening jig consists of 2 main parts – the chisel holder and the sliding base.
The entire build is made of Baltic birch plywood, MDF, and Aluminum bars. The overall dimensions of the jig are 35 x 15 x 7,5cm, thanks to which it can accommodate chisels and plane blades up to a width of 3,5cm.
Chisels and blades are attached to the jig with wing nuts and an aluminum bar. The blades are sharpened using sandpapers and the angle can be adjusted ranging from 20 – 35 degrees.
Chisel Sharpening Jig properties:
- Material: Baltic birch plywood, MDF, Aluminum bar
- Total dimensions: 35 x 15 x 7,5cm
- Replaceable sandpapers for sharpening
- Can be used to sharpen chisels and plane blades
This is not a project for complete woodworking beginners but anyone with some woodworking experience can do it. The most crucial part of the build is to make sure the blade attachment (the stand) is perpendicular to the surface and completely level to ensure a consistent bevel.
How to Make a DIY Chisel Sharpening Jig
Step 1: Build the Chisel Holder
Cut the plywood pieces to size. To make the cuts I am using a small crosscut sled for my Proxxon mini table saw. There are a few other options for how to make the cuts, just make sure the cuts are as accurate as possible.
1. Make the chisel support
Draw the slots on the adjustable piece (8cm x 7,5cm x 1,2cm) and cut them using a router dado jig. The depth of the cut equals the width of the hollow aluminum rod (you can make the cut just a little bit deeper to make sure the rod is flush with the surface). Then drill two 6mm holes in the piece – they serve for attaching the chisel to the jig.
NOTE: Make sure the cut slots are parallel to each other
2. Build the side stands
Cut the side stands according to the design (7,5cm x 5cm x 0,9cm). They include a 6mm hole for pivoting and a cut slot for adjusting the bevel angle. Sand the pieces smoothly and get rid of splinters.
3. Attach the base rails
Attach the base rails (10cm x 2,5cm x 0,6cm) to the side stands using glue and wood screws. Their purpose is to guide the entire jig in the grooves, maintaining a straight direction, and slightly elevate the jig above the surface above the base surface.
4. Assemble the chisel holder
Use threaded rods to assemble the chisel holder and wing nuts to fix all the pieces together. Make sure the front end of the chisel support is perfectly parallel to the table, if not use the side holes for fine-tuning.
NOTE: The holes on the side stands give space for horizontal level adjustments.
Step 2: Attach the Chisel to the Sharpening Jig
Chisels and plane blades are attached to the sharpening jig with an aluminum bar. The bar holds the chisel against the plywood support and is installed from the bottom of the sharpening jig and secured from above with wing nuts.
(Two bolts are firmly attached to the aluminum bar with epoxy)
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Step 3: Make the Sliding Base
The base is made of MDF. It is level and flat which makes it a good material for sharpening.
Cut 2 slots in the base (the best way how to cut a clean and sharp slot with a router is by using a router slot jig). Sand the slots to get rid of splinters. The depth of the slot should be slightly higher than the thickness of the aluminum bar used.
Sand the edges and corners of the aluminum sliders, place a few washers in the slots, and insert the sliders on top of them. Apply epoxy to the sliders and attach the chisel sharpening jig to them. Make sure the jig is perpendicular to the base.
Cut a strip of sandpaper, use spay glue, and attach it to the base between the rails. If necessary, you can simply replace the sandpaper with another one.
Below is a picture of a finished DIY chisel sharpening jig.
Possible improvements to the jig
- Separate bases – make several separate bases (or 1 base with multiple rows) with sandpapers of different grit sizes. Thus, you won’t need to change the sandpapers between each sanding and you can continue directly from one to the other.
- Route a hole for a whetstone – make a separate base with a routed hole for whetstones and you can quickly switch from sandpapers to sharpening stones.
- Water-resistant finish – coat the base with a water-resistant finish for protection.
How to Set up and Use a Chisel Sharpening Jig
The steps provided below describe how to set up this DIY chisel sharpening jig and how to use it to sharpen chisels and plane blades. For a better understanding of how to build it, how to set it up, and how to work with it, refer to the included video.
How to use a DIY chisel sharpening jig
- Set the primary bevel to 25 degrees
- Attach the chisel to the jig and secure it with wing nuts
- Make sure the chisel sits flat on the surface and is perpendicular to the base
- Attach the sandpaper to the base with spray glue
- Mount the jig on the base and start sharpening until the primary bevel is finished
- Set the secondary bevel to 30 degrees
- Sharpen the chisel until you get a clean cutting edge
- Change sandpapers during sharpening
Chisel Sharpening Tips
- Apply only enough pressure to maintain constant contact between the chisel’s blade and the sandpaper
- Apply the same amount of pressure throughout the entire sharpening process
- Grind with the blade of the chisel, not against the chisel
- Change sandpapers from lower grit to higher grit throughout the entire sharpening process. Start with a coarse grit, then move to a finer grit
- Use water as a lubricant and a honing compound
- Hone the edge regularly to maintain the edge
NOTE: If you are planning to use the jig with water as lubricant you should consider coating the base with a water-resistant finish.