Since the mid-1990s I’ve been married to my inexpensive side-clamp honing guide, sometimes called an “Eclipse” guide after the firm that developed it. So when Lie-Nielsen Toolworks began showing its side-clamp honing guide around, I resisted even picking it up – I don’t like to mess with my sharpening routine in any way.
About two years ago, Thomas Lie-Nielsen asked me to test a prototype of his guide, perhaps because I was skeptical. After six months of using it, I retired my trusty Eclipse. Why? The Lie-Nielsen is simpler to use, requires less fiddling and holds tools with a vise-like grip. Plus, a variety of additional jaws (sold separately) allow you to hold odd-shaped tools and get precise edges.
The guide is simpler because it has only one opening to grip both chisels and plane irons. The Eclipse has two. One opening makes setting the sharpening angle easy because you don’t have to decide which opening to use.
It requires less fiddling because the jaws are precisely machined from stainless steel. With the Eclipse guide you must first file the jaws so they are coplanar, then file the opening for chisels to hold small chisels. Even after all that, you must confirm the jig is holding a tool correctly every time you use it.
And finally, I have not had a single tool slip in the Lie-Nielsen guide, even though I tighten it with hand pressure only. With the Eclipse, I have to crank it closed with a screwdriver to prevent tools from slipping.
The bottom line is that even though the Lie-Nielsen is far more money than a $15 Eclipse guide, it is well worth the investment. It won’t make you a better sharpener (only practice can do that), but it will erase a lot of frustrations so you can focus on putting the tool to the stone.
From the November 2015 issue
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