Step 3: Honing the Edge
The third and final step is the establishment of the cutting edge. Honing can be done freehand or using a guide. Freehand sharpening, while quicker, requires regular use and practise to maintain the muscle memory necessary to get optimal results. Use of a honing guide is highly recommended to achieve consistent and repeatable results.
To hone the primary bevel, properly mount the blade in the guide and work up through the grits from coarse to fine. When finished with the finest grit, polish the back on the finest stone to remove the burr. To create a secondary bevel, if wanted, increase the angle slightly and do a few passes on the finest stone. Polish the back of the tool again on the same stone to remove any burr and the tool is ready to go.
Knowing when to hone a blade comes with experience. When a chisel gets harder to slide through end grain or a plane starts to drag a bit while smoothing or jointing a board, you know it’s time for honing.
To help streamline the process, most opt to hone a secondary or micro-bevel on their blades so that you don’t have to regrind the entire primary bevel every time. You can achieve a micro-bevel by increasing the blade’s angle relative to the sharpening medium by a degree or two and polishing just the end of the bevel. By polishing just the first millimetre, an extra fine stone will remove enough material in a few passes to create a very sharp edge. It should require only a few passes to raise a burr on the back of the blade. Once the burr is raised, remove the blade from the guide. Lap the back on the same stone and back to work.