How to sharpen wood carving knives

Looking for advices to sharpen wood carving knives will always end up with a list of responses. There’s not just one way to do it. There are however simpler ways to do it. Though, before even thinking of sharpening, you first need to purchase a good knife. The implication here is that your knife should be of good steel. It doesn’t matter if it’s branded or not, it should at least be of good quality in order to be sharpened or it wouldn’t last long. Make sure that before you purchase any tools, you research them properly enough.

A proper tool will last longer if sharpened. The next thing you need to keep in mind before you begin to sharpen carving knife or any knives in general is that this process is dangerous. No matter what method you choose to use, you can always slice or cut yourself when sharpening your knife if you are not careful enough.

Sharpening Stones

As mentioned before, there are multiple ways to sharpen your knives from manual to electrical. However using sharpening stones is a cheaper and better method for your knife. First, you need to get yourself some good sharpening stones. These stones are easily available in supply stores and even many departmental stores. You also have a variety to choose from when it comes to stones. Though, it is better to go with the ones that a piece of wood glued to their backs so that you can easily hold them in hand. There are sharpening stones with two different sides made for sharpening and honing as well. There’s a medium side and a fine side where you can use the medium side to sharpen you knife and when you’re done you can use the fine side to simply hone it.

Methods to Sharpen Wood Carving Knives

Even with a sharpening stone there are multiple methods that you can use in order to sharpen your knives. A few of them are as follows.

  • Keeping that blade flat at a slight angle on the stone and moving it in the opposite direct that is away from you
  • Keeping the blade flat at a slight angle on the stone and moving it towards you while trailing the sharp side of the blade
  • Keeping the blade flat at a slight angle on the stone and moving the blade in circular motions

You can slowly take your time to check whatever method works best for you.

The next you need to do after getting your knife as sharp as you possibly can is stropping. Get yourself a leather strop which can also be purchase easily from the market though you can also easily make it at home as well. For that you can look up methods to make a leather strop at home.

The next thing you need to get is a sharpening compound. You can also try out several kinds before you finally work which one is the best choice for you. Then scrape some of that powder on the backside of you knife while letting some of the powder fall on to the leather strop, just enough to coat the leather. After coating it once the powder will last through several stropping so you don’t have to put it over every time.

Lay your knife flat on the leather and keep a downward pressure on the knife. Now draw the knife towards you while keeping the sharp edge trailing away from you. Your strop might turn black while the metal is being cut from the knife. After this, your knife is going to be razor sharp.

Though, you don’t necessarily have to use the stones if you want to strop again. Strop your knife even if it’s beginning to feel less sharp. Don’t wait until it becomes dull. Leather is also a good option and not just with wood carving knives, you can also sharpen whittling knives with leather.

Sharpening Angle

In order to determine what angle to sharpen wood carving knife at, you need to lower it so that the tool is resting on to its heel. Now you can gradually raise your tool while you move it back and forth. Test the angle at while it begins to cut, the angle at which it begins to cut is where it was sharpened.

The angle also depends upon how you want your edges to be. A higher angle will make your cutting edge stronger. Though, nowadays most tools require that you sharpen them at angles of 19 to 23 degrees as this is also how majority of the carvers use their tools. Many carvers also prefer to sharpen at a hard angle of 24 to 29 degrees to have a better scooping control since the cutting edge rises with slight lowering of handle.

How to use an electric knife sharpener

Using an electric knife sharpener is as easy as it can get. It one of the least risk methods out there since all you need is to purchase a device, read a guide and you can get started. This sharpener is basically multi-coarse as it’s like owning a whole wood carving knife sharpening system. It’s a complete set of sharpening tools being diamond, steel and hard tone allowing varying degrees of sharpening. Moreover, it accommodates to the lade thickness so you can not only sharpen serrated knives but also many other types of blades.

In order to sharpen you knife on an electric sharpener you need to position it properly. Hold the knife in down motion while keeping the blade facing away from you kind of like swiping a card.

The sharpening process is quite strong here so only repeated the motion like 2 to 3 times per side for every stone variant that you pass your knife through. The last thing is cleaning the small metal pieces from your knife. After that you can simply hone it and it’s ready for use.

Tools for sharpening

There are quite some options available at hand when it comes to sharpening carving tools.

People usually prefer using sandpaper, diamond laps and polishing compounds.

Sharpening wood carving knives with sandpaper is also a good option. Sand papers are really good for flattening out the rounded areas and removing the metal in order to fix the nicks are broken tips. Sandpapers can also be easily glues to boards in order to sharpen both curved and straight carving knives. Make sure to sharpen away from the edge if you don’t want the blade to cut into the sand paper.

The next option is diamond laps. These come in wide range of grits and are hard. They obviously cost a bit since they last forever and they don’t get gouges worn in them. While using diamond laps you can also sharpen in either direction.

Polishing compounds are also a good option and can be applied on a number of materials. Though, care must be given while sharpening. Only sharpen away from the edge unless you want your blade to cut into the base material.

How to sharpen chip carving knives

Chip carving knives employs a special geometry that makes it a versatile tool for removing chips of various shapes and sizes. It’s actually a simple tool in many extremes but this geometry makes it a little different. The cutting edge of the blade which is cocked forward at a slight angle needs to be perfectly straight. The blade’s point should also be needle sharp so that it can make precise incisions. The sides should also be properly polished in order to reduce friction as the knife cuts and carves the chips away. The edge is sharpened at a shallow angle and quite symmetrically.

First, you need to flatten and polish both faces. The blade’s edge needs to be straight as implied before. You can get this done by using sandpaper. Then you need to establish and hone the bevels. You can raise the blade at 8 to 10 degrees and raise the back of the blade. Hone the bevels that you formed on the coarse grits so that they burnish the surfaces as they cut. While carving, make sure to strop on a piece of leather. This will reduce the need of sharpening.


Sharpening a knife is a risky thing that must be done carefully. If not done carefully you are not only prone to damaging the knife but also cutting yourself accidentally.

Wood carving knives need to be extremely sharp while cutting. Otherwise they could cause the wood fibers to tear out of the wood. There are many different methods to sharpen wood carving knives. You first need to pick out the method which works best with you. You should try practicing on those knives first that you don’t mind damaging. If you still find it too difficult or risky to sharpen a knife on your own then it is better to send it out for professional sharpening than accidentally cutting yourself or damaging a good knife.

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