Plane Iron Sharpening


Well-known member
I have been using the David Charlesworth method for sharpening hand planes (e.g. water stones, ruler trick, camber…).  I have a question about a new Lie Nielsen No 6 Fore plane.  David advocates a 33 degree main bevel and a 35 degree micro-bevel.  Would this be the same for the fore plane?  I am assuming it would be.  Also, I recently watched Chris Schwarz’s video, Course, Medium, and Fine.  He advocates for a bigger camber on your jack planes.  He specifically shows a No 7 Jack plane.  My question, to those of you who follow this philosophy, how much more of a camber do you put on your fore or jack planes? 

Also, I see David now uses a curved dressing plate for his camber.  Putting the curve into the stone rather than adjusting pressure points on the iron.  Has anyone tried these curved dressing plates?  I believe they are made by Powell Manufacturing.  Are they worth the money?  I am just trying to get more consistent in my sharpening.

It would be good to hear about other people’s methods and tips for sharpening plane irons.

Thanks in advance,
Personally I just move the iron back and forth on the stone. I think if you spend more than a 1 minute sharpening your thinking about it to much.

I don't bother with a micro bevel, a hollow grind, or any other tricks (I sometimes use one of those cheap honing guides though). When the blade starts to dull, I sharpen it. Takes about 20 seconds. Basically I try to touch up my blades rather than do a full sharpening.

I do put a a slight camber on my blades by applying pressure on the sides while sharpening.

In the end I have no idea what angle any of my edges are, if they are sharp enough to cut the wood and do the wok I'm good. I'd actually be very surprised if any of my tools have the same angle on them at this point.

I agree. Never used a micro bevel. I was never taught that method in my apprentice 30+ years ago. Angle? Whatever works. Don't over think this. Just sharpen it. That's my method and I do a lot of hand planning.

Dennis Bork
Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd.

I sharpen the bevel on all my smoother, fore, and jointer plane at 30 degrees with a 5 degree micro bevel on the finest stone. In this case 15,000 grit. Ruler trick works great but I limit the use to only my Lie Nielsen 4 1/2 A2 blade because this method seams to work best. Most of my planes are Stanley and I don't bother with the ruler trick with them.

For camber on the jack #5 I have the corners set back 3/32 to 1/8 of an inch. This will be a continuous radius. Yet you can do more or less. Seriously there is no one rule that must be followed.

Curved diamond plates I've used at shows and honestly not worth the money. Simply making the curve or applying pressure by hands works just fine.

My sharpening process:

Now I know how to sharpen free hand, and it's important to know how. I know use a Lie-Nielsen honing guide with stops for constant repeatability. I hollow grin on a 6 inch where. Works fine. I than hit the edge on a coarse diamond, 3-5 strokes primary bevel, than I use shapton 1000, 5000, 8000, primary bevel 5-10 strokes, and 15,000 ceramic Japanese stone from tools from Japan. The 15,000is where the micro bevel cones in. Than I debut the back on the 15,000 grit. Takes a minute or two per tool.

Yet there are so many options on stones. So don't go out and buy everything you read.

I than strop regularly with metal polish daily. This keeps the edge for a long time.  I sharpen a lot and regularly.  

Bevel angles are wicked important and I can plane anything with a tight mouth and sharp tool. I sometimes micr bevel at 40 degrees on my block planes for highly figured woods. It's amazing the results! No tear out.  

Today new blood and the younger generations this stuff matters. I find it very interesting and important.  Please ask away if you have anymore questions.


Freddy Roman
Thanks everyone for the tips and advice.  I have been accused of overthinking things from time to time.  I just want to make sure I am getting the most out of my hand planes.  I love the surface a nice sharp tool leaves on the wood...and I HATE sanding!  I did order the Lie Nielsen honing guide so I am looking forward to using it tomorrow. 
Freddy, I'm curious why the blade angle matters. I understand you can't go to extremes.

If I'm going to plane a tough wood like birds-eye or curly grain. I normally sharpen (as opposed to a touch up) before doing so, a light cut and a tight mouth, yield great results.

Does blade angle give longer life between sharpening? I have low angle planes and standard, and honestly I don't really see the difference on the face of a board, on end grain I find the low angle works better.

My normal method for treating a board is: power jointer, power planer, 605 to remove mill marks, 4 1/2 for final surface.
It's all about exotic and figured materials.  If you are planing mahogany, cherry, pine, walnut and the like,  it doesn't really matter too much.  But the minute you start planing tiger maple, Koa, burrs, satinwood, rose woods, ebony, and the like-different angles play a factor for quality of cut, and how fast the edge gets dull. I use to think it didn't matter until I observed a demonstration and it has change my work. I also use Japanese pull planes and make and use Krenov planes. These all are used for dedicated operations.
Thanks Freddy I don't really use the exotics you mentioned. I use Curly maple once in awhile. So that's probably why I haven't had problems. But it's good to know in case I use one, and can't figure out why I'm having bad results.