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Place the steel ruler on one long edge of the stone – friction from the water will hold it in place. Place the blade on the stone with the cutting edge off the stone. With light pressure bring the blade about 5⁄8″ onto the stone. This short stroke removes the wire edge and polishes the back of the blade.

The first time I used David Charlesworth’s “ruler trick” on the backside of a plane iron it took an act of sheer will to do it. I had watched David’s groundbreaking 2004 video with Lie-Nielsen Toolworks “Hand Tool Techniques Part 1: Plane Sharpening” and had thought about the ruler trick for a few weeks before I could muster the courage to try it myself.

I couldn’t come up with any reasonable objection to using the ruler trick on a plane iron. So I sharpened my block plane iron. First the bevel. And then I put the thin ruler on my finishing stone and looked at it for a bit.

The only thought going through my mind was: I’ve spent hours and hours polishing the back of that iron. Why would I want to undo all of that work with a ruler?

And then I realized I had answered my own question. With the ruler trick, you don’t need to spend “hours and hours” dressing the backside of an iron. So I ruler tricked the snot out of that plane blade and have never looked back.

What About the Resistance?
When in mixed company, some people sneer at the ruler trick. When I ask their specific objections, they become vague.

“You don’t need it.”

“It’s bad for the plane iron.”

“It’s sloppy work.”

“It creates a back bevel, which is a problem.”

These are all false or silly reasons to avoid the ruler trick. And so I am asking – honestly and sincerely – for you to post your objections in the comments below. Not someone else’s objections – your objections.

Note: People get emotional about this topic. Don’t fall into that trap. One famous woodworker, who shall remain nameless, got so mad about the ruler trick that he exclaimed: “I would not sell that…. To a Monkey!!!!”

This is just a woodworking technique, not something important (like putting mayonnaise on French fries). Give me a sentence that explains why the ruler trick is not a good idea for you (not for others, for you).

Once I understand your objections, I think I’ll be able to sleep better at night. It has been bugging me.

— Christopher Schwarz


The Last Word on SharpeningThe Last Word on Sharpening
By Christopher Schwarz

Grind, Hone & Get Back to Work

– Learn how to grind straight & curved edges
– Hone perfect micro-bevels
– Pick the right stones for you
– Achieve polished edges like a professional the first time out
– Dispelling the Myths

Sharpening an edge has one purpose – allowing you to quickly get back to work. Christopher Schwarz has devised a system of sharpening that is simple and intuitive. By following his clear instructions, you will be able to sharpen your edges quickly and get back to your bench.

What is Sharp? Understanding the answer to this simple question will clarify a lot of the misinformation about sharpening. Chris walks you through the life cycle of an edge, and teaches you the techniques of sharpening so you achieve excellent and consistent results. You’ll learn the different types of systems for grinding, honing and polishing so you can choose the best system for your needs and budget. Plus, you’ll learn how to sharpen both curved and straight edges, and the best angles for grinding your edges for woodworking.

Pick up a copy today.


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Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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