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.