How often should I sharpen a chisel

How do you sharpen a chisel?

The chisel is very popular with wood professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. It is used to make notches or to chop pieces of wood. Of course, there are also chisels that are specifically designed for stone or even metal. However, they are all useful only under one condition: they must be sharp. Preferably razor-sharp.

Since chisels are usually used for rather heavy work, the cutting edge often has to withstand a lot. Especially if you use the chisel in combination with a heavy hammer to chop deep into the wood. Depending on how often you use such a chisel, you will have to sharpen it regularly. There are several ways to do this that we would like to share with you.

Sharpen a chisel on a whetstone

We prefer to sharpen chisels on a whetstone. No matter from which side you look at it, this way you will always get the sharpest result. At least if you get it right, because sharpening on a whetstone admittedly requires a certain amount of specialist knowledge. This applies to knives, scissors and of course also to chisels. But it's easy to learn.

Restore cutting edge angle - determining the grinding angle

Just like scissors, chisels can only be ground on one side. You always start with correcting the cutting edge angle. This is the incline of the chisel, i.e. the area with which the chisel does its actual work. The extent to which a repair is required depends on the condition of the chisel. If the last sharpening was some time ago or if you have exposed the chisel to harsh conditions, it is advisable to start with a coarse whetstone (grit 100 to approx. 400). This will remove a relatively large amount of material and straighten the edge.

To start sharpening the edge, it is important to first determine the angle at which you need to sharpen. For chisels, it's usually around 30 degrees, but this varies slightly from chisel to chisel. The shape and size of the cutting edge of a chisel is a great advantage compared to sharpening knives. In addition, the cutting edge is clearly visible. However, it can be more difficult to maintain the angle while sanding. Therefore, there are brackets in which you can attach your chisel. You can also make such a holder yourself, and once you have gained some experience, you don't need any more.

Use the length of the grindstone

Where you use the width of the grindstone to level the flat side, you use the length of the stone to sharpen the edge. So now you're sanding in a vertical direction, from bottom to top and back again. Make sure you are using the entire length of the whetstone. This prevents you from hollowing out the stone at a certain point, which in turn would affect the shape of the cut of the chisel. It's also a good idea to use a fair amount of force when sharpening a chisel - especially if it is very blunt. We strongly advise against using knives, as knife blades are thinner and therefore more sensitive. Chisels, however, are much thicker and can take a lot.

Fine sanding and polishing

After you've restored the edge angle, it's time for the finer work. With a high-grit grindstone, you can make the chisel sharper when it came out of the workshop. Depending on which whetstones are available to you and how sharp your chisel should be, you can, for example, only use one stone with 1000 grit or split the fine-tuning between several stones. After the cutting edge angle has been restored, you can, for example, take an 800 grit and then refine it with 1500, 3000, 6000 grit and so on.

As a finishing touch, use a leather strop with diamond paste to bring the cut to a shine. To do this, place the cutting edge of the chisel on top of the pull-off strap and then pull it towards you. Do not use too much force or make the opposite movement (i.e. pushing). If you have already sharpened your chisel on whetstones, you will easily cut through the leather.

Remove the burr

After sharpening the cutting edge, a burr should have formed on the front of the chisel. You can remove this by lightly sanding the long, flat side of the chisel. In this way you also remove any rust deposits. You place the flat side of the chisel horizontally on the grindstone and move it over the stone with a sliding motion. Then withdraw the chisel and repeat the movement.

Make sure to always keep the chisel flat and not move it diagonally across the sides of the whetstone. This could hollow out the chisel. You can apply some counter pressure by placing your free hand on the back of the chisel. If you should still have difficulties, e.g. For example, because the chisel is much longer than the width of the grindstone and creates a kind of leverage, you should make sure that you at least flatten the end (i.e. the edge of the cutting edge). After all, this is the part that you use the most at work.

Other grinding methods

Of course, grindstones aren't the only remedy for blunt chisels. You can also use an electric belt sander, for example. The Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener and the Work Sharp Multi Sharpener Ken Onion Edition are excellent examples in this category. If you have an Edge Pro sharpening machine, you can use the scissors sharpening accessory, as it is also good for sharpening chisels. A similar tool is also available for Tormek grinders.

Do you prefer to sharpen by hand, but not with a whetstone? Then the well-known Spyderco 204MF Sharpmaker is a great option. An alternative to this could be the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System. As you can already see, there are enough options!

Would you like to learn more about sharpening pocket knives, kitchen knives, scissors, fixed knives or sharpening in general? Then read on using the links at the bottom of this page. Or do you have any questions? Then please ask us!