Tune Up a Cheap Honing Guide
My favorite honing guide is the one you can find at almost any woodworking store. The guides are inexpensive and poorly made, but you can easily tune them up to make them work.
One of the major faults of these guides is that when you tighten a tool between the jaws, the jaws tilt up a bit and create a bump in the middle. This bump is a troublemaker. The iron can rock side to side on it, and this will spoil the best thing about the guide: its consistency from job to job.
Also, the jaws might come misaligned from the factory and one jaw will be higher than the other. The result: again, a bump in the middle.
For years I filed these bumps flat so that the jaws created a perfect bedding surface for the iron. It was a bit of a fussy process, I admit. But I wanted the iron to be well bedded, like on a frog.
That was stupid.
A couple years ago Deneb Puchalski at Lie-Nielsen showed me how he does it. Forget flat. Think hollow. So instead of trying to file the bed flat like a frog, just turn the bump into a slight concavity. Then the plane iron will rest only on the two long edges of the jaw. Fast. Brilliant.
(Deneb also makes some further modifications to his guides for accommodating shoulder plane irons and the like. Ask him for details.)
This morning I shot a one-minute video on how I file the bed hollow and what the results look like. Take a look if you like. (By the way, the music is Lucas Gonze’s “Frog in the Well,” from the FreeMusicArchive.org.)
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to learn sharpening, the best way is to have someone show you. The next best way is to have a good book. I recommend Ron Hock’s “The Perfect Edge.” Ron has been an important voice in the woodworking community for reasonable and effective sharpening for many years. His book is also a good read.