Chris Schwarz's Blog

Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 9: Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide


Every year I recommend one tool that is a bit spendier than the rest, and this year it is the Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide. Thomas Lie-Nielsen first showed me the prototypes about eight years ago, and it was a long and involved path for the company to get this tool into production.

Like the company’s chisels (which took just about as long), the wait was worth it.

So you don’t like honing guides? I don’t care. I sharpen a lot of tools freehand, but for my workaday plane irons and chisels a honing guide is faster and more accurate. I hate to be a jerk here, but the worst edges I’ve seen were freehanded. The best edges I’ve seen were made with a honing guide.

Why buy the Lie-Nielsen and not the cheapie Taiwanese-made one? The Lie-Nielsen is better made, holds the tools tighter without slipping, doesn’t need to be tuned up, isn’t covered in gloppy paint, offers accessory jaws for oddball tools and is made in Maine by people who care deeply about hand tools.

And it’s shiny.

I have some of the accessory jaws offered for the guide, but I don’t use them much. I just use the standard jaws and freehand the other tools. The accessory long jaws are the most useful because they can hold the short tools (think spokeshave blades) that can give you fits when freehand sharpening.

I will say that if you own the Lie-Nielsen 140 skew block plane or skew chisels, you should spring for the skew jaws. Those will help correct any odd sharpening angles and make these tools work like new again.

I use very few jigs in my shop. And when it comes to commercial jigs, I think this might be the only one I own. Totally worth it. Totally awesome.

— Christopher Schwarz

For Day 1 of this year’s gift guide, click here.
Day 2 is here.
Day 3 is here.
Day 4 is here.
Day 5 is here.
Day 6 is here.
Day 7 is here.
Day 8 is here.
For my gift guides from 2013 and 2014, click here.

8 thoughts on “Anarchist’s 2015 Gift Guide, Day 9: Lie-Nielsen Honing Guide

  1. James3one

    One item worth mentioning is that the Eclipse(and modern equivalent) is taller than the Lie-Nielsen. You can get the right angle on shorter blades with the LN. I get my spokeshave blades in there without the replacement jaws. Can’t do that with the cheaper one.

  2. danejohnson

    I have the Veritas and others… the Lie-Nielsen is much more useful, easy to camber without changing wheels, fast setting that will not change. It is small, easy to pack for a traveling sharping kit. I got the long jaws because I was having a lot of problems sharping my spokeshaves, I now have *sharp* spokeshaves, what a difference!
    The only ‘problem’ I have had was, using Thomas’s method of sandpaper on a granite plate, to re-establish a primary bevel on a narrow(1/4) chisel… on the 80-grit paper the grit and swarf would get between the wheel and body, but now that I know this I just brush it clean after a few strokes to prevent flat-spotting the wheel.

  3. KirbyKrieger

    Fwiw: I am a complete woodworking novice. I am generally skilled with tools. The Lie-Neilson honing guide is worth every penny they charge. My chisels (I’m restoring old German and Spanish sets) and plane blades (I purchased 3 to try to set me up for most planing needs with the L-N low-angle jack plane all fit; in all but one case (a seemingly malformed chisel) they fit well. I was able to get “scary sharp” edges by hand, but there was always a small camber to the bevel on the back of the blades, and slight variations from 90 degree edges. The edge-to-back camber kept me from full controlled use of the tool. “Haven’t I spent enough,” I thought, and clicked on the order button for the L-N honing guide. It works. It works well. You should be able to get very very very sharp, accurate, repeatable edges with it. The pricey L-N honing guide, in simplifying and perfecting my sharpening, has turning this “gateway skill” into a path to making things. I love using my plane and my chisels.

    One note: I have not found it easy to put a large (side to side) camber on a 2″ blade (for removing wood quickly without plane blade edge tracks) using the guide.

    Learned hints: tighten the jaw plates hard. Separately, use a large screwdriver on the brass fitting, or better yet use the slot in the other end to tighten the grip on the blade being sharpened.

  4. Wood5200

    Hi, I have a hard time believing that this tool works more accurately than the . Veritas® Mk.II Deluxe Honing
    Guide Set… But if you say so it must be…. John in Maine

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      All side-clamp honing guides are superior to all top-clamping honing guides (regardless of brand).

      Why? Your tools won’t skew as you sharpen. I’ve never encountered a top-clamping guide that did not slip and skew.

      So yes, this is superior. And yes, I have years of experience with both (I was a beta tester for Lie-Nielsen, but I purchased this guide at full retail etc.)

  5. Sneed

    Papa raises a question I have had. Their web site does say the guide is designed for their tools, but I am fairly certain you use other brands of chisels. Is this correct? I expect the statement about fitting LN tools is more significant on for things like the skew planes, but it would be nice to know for sure. Thanks for the Holiday buying guide and I am looking forward to the new book.

  6. Sullivans Papa

    enjoy your blogs your generous help to relative newbies however you should mention this jig is for LN irons and chisels or so it is stated on their website!

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