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.