Chris Schwarz's Blog

Video: Sharpen a Router Plane Blade

Router planes are the Starsky. Handsaws are the Hutch.

These two tools work together all the time in my shop. In fact, all the sawing classes I teach are actually classes on the router plane in disguise. So I have seen a lot of woodworkers struggle with sharpening the router plane’s L-shaped iron.

Some woodworkers use slipstones, little pieces of sandpaper stuck to blocks of wood, emery boards or even buffing wheels. (“Ya just jam the edge into the wheel and go,” they told me. I forgot to mention that this was preceded by: “Hold my beer for a second while I sharpen this.”)

Here’s how I do it: I sharpen the entire bevel to make it easier to maintain the correct angle. First I prop up my sharpening stone on a 2×4 so I can hang the iron’s post off the stone. I press the bevel to the stone, angle the iron and drag it toward me. Then I angle it the other way and push it away.

This morning we shot this short video that shows how to deal with the bevel. It’s better than words.

Once I pull up a slight burr on the bevel I flip the iron over and sharpen the flat area on the stone, too. This is a key part of the procedure, and I do it on both my shaping stone (#1,000) and my polishing stone (#4,000). Here’s why: It’s hard to remove metal on the bevel without a lot of strokes. By sharpening the flat area of the iron on my shaping stone, I can more easily chew away the dull steel and get a fresh edge.

Once I am happy with the sharpness of the iron at #1,000 grit, I switch to #4,000 grit and repeat both procedures.

Once last piece of advice: Keep your router plane’s irons sharp and touch them up often. You don’t want to grind the iron unless you absolutely have to because that’s a difficult operation. And that’s another great reason to sharpen the entire bevel on this tool instead of using a micro-bevel.

- Christopher Schwarz

Other Resources on Handplanes and Sharpening

- We have two good books in our store that should set you straight on the tricky topics of handplanes and sharpening. “The Perfect Edge” by Ron Hock is a great text that really explains the sometimes-confusing world of sharp and dull. Also, my book, “Handplane Essentials,” talks quite a bit about router planes and other joinery planes.

- Have you visited Ron Hock’s Sharpening Blog? You should. It always has some good stuff for beginners and experts.

- Another excellent sharpener is David Charlesworth. His DVD on sharpening plane irons changed the way that thousands of woodworkers prepare their plane irons.

11 thoughts on “Video: Sharpen a Router Plane Blade

  1. Derek Cohen

    Hi Chris

    Many of the irons I have come across in the wild are rounded over, which is probably the result of failed attempts to keep the bevel face flat on the sharpening medium. I suspect that many end up adding a microbevel after this as they no longer have a flat surface on which to hone.

    Consequently, the method I use is to add a slight hollow grind to the bevel face. This may be safely done with either a Dremel or 120 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. Of course, if you are as crazy as I (!), then use the round end of a belt sander.

    The hollow does not need to be more than slight – just enough to reduce the area to be honed, and to ensure that the bevel face does not round over.

    The remainder of the process is the same as yours, with the one exception that you can create a (coplanar)microbevel (this just depends on how big the hollow is). The advantage of this method is that re-sharpening is reliably easy, and does lead to very sharp edges.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  2. Mark Holderman

    Chris, thanks for the sharpening advice. Now I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to sharpen the blade on my new Veritas router plane on my Tormek. BTW, is that grunge-encrusted box you’re sharpening in your version of a dedicated sharpening station? I like the idea of just using my workbench but containing the water and slop so I don’t ruin my bench top. How’s that box working for you and what are the holes for? Got some recommended specs for it?

  3. Richard Dawson

    The sharpening method is interesting and a valuable addition to woodworking knowledge. This information is very useful

    I think I already knew the approach that Chris demonstrated on the video. Knew it because what I’ve learned from this blog, in concert with several others Chris recommends, and built my own body of knowledge that I am applying to new (for me) problems and issues. The real value of this blog comes from standing on the intellectual shoulders of those who precede me, using that base to expand my knowledge, and appreciation of a very interesting and consuming interest.

    Thanks. Thanks for the video, and for the shoulders.

    Richard

  4. James Watriss

    It’s common enough, and for a plane that has no lateral adjust mechanism, it makes proper sharpening and tuning a pretty important thing.

    The fix is more involved than a simple response to a blog post, and I don’t have a new-to-me 71 to demonstrate with. But it’s not too involved, and I’ll draw a few pictures soon to email to you, if you’re interested.

  5. James Watriss

    While I think that’s a good start, it’s not the whole picture.

    While (I hope) Lie-Nielsen and Veritas blades come from the factory in such a state of fine tuning that the blade will actually cut a surface that’s parallel to the sole of the plane, the truth is that older models need to be tuned up. And while grinding them is difficult, it’s part of the process of getting the edge to be parallel to the sole.

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