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The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening Wood Carving Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening Wood Carving Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening Wood Carving Tools

The scent of wood shavings ushers in memories of your grandfather’s old shop—the one where you developed your love of wood carving. And to this day, your life’s greatest moments are filled with wood carving projects that generate that same scent. But what happens when your wood carving tools suddenly lose their sharpness?

High-quality wood carving tools already come sharpened by their manufacturers. However, the reality is that if you constantly use these tools, they will inevitably dull over time.

Unfortunately, dull tools can turn an enjoyable carving project into a tedious and frustrating one. Fortunately, with the right strategies for how to sharpen wood carving tools, you can easily keep your tools functioning at their optimal levels long term. Here’s a rundown on the top tips for sharpening wood carving tools. We also have resources about general tool sharpening or more on sharpening tool edges.

man craving elephant illustration in wood

Sandpaper Approach for Sharpening Carving Tools

If you’re wondering how best to sharpen wood carving tools, consider adding sandpaper to your arsenal. Sandpaper is an extremely affordable solution for sharpening wood carving tools,making any tool razor sharp in minutes.

40-to-50 grit sandpaper is coarse enough to use for knives that are very dull. 60-to-100 grit sandpaper is a good medium-grit option, whereas 120-to-220 grit sandpaper is a fine-grit option for knives that are only mildly dull.

To use sandpaper, you’ll want to slide your carving tool’s cutting edge across your sandpaper repeatedly at an angle (about 11 degrees). If a nickel can pass under it, you know you’ve got the correct angle. Once you’re done, test the carving tool by dragging its blade against one of your thumb nails. If you feel some resistance, this means the blade still has some imperfections, in which case you’ll need to repeat the blade sharpening process using a larger-grit-size sandpaper.

Leather Strop Approach for Sharpening Carving Tools

Sharpening wood carving tools is also possible using the hand stropping approach. Hand stropping involves using a flexible leather strip, or leather strop, to remove small burrs that are left behind after honing and grinding. The stropping strategy should be used only on knives that have already been sharpened, as its purpose is to further increase a blade’s sharpness.

Not sure how to sharpen wood carving tools using a strop? First, lay your blade flat on the piece of leather. Then, apply pressure to your blade and strop. Afterward, perform repeated strokes gently by moving your blade away from where you’re standing. When you see your strop begin to turn a black hue, this means that your blade is getting sharper.

Stone Approach for Sharpening Carving Tools

Consider sharpening wood carving tools, such as flat wood carving chisels, with a sharpening stone. Stones that are in the 400-to-600 grit range are ideal for initial sharpening. A stone that is between 2,000 grit and 3,000 grit is perfect for final sharpening or finer polishing.

To use a sharpening stone, you’ll first want to get your stone wet to ensure smooth gliding. Then, hold your blade against the stone at an angle (90 degrees), making sure that the cutting edge is facing down. Afterward, move your blade so that it is at a smaller angle to your stone (closer to 45 degrees). Finally, make the angle even smaller (about 22 degrees).

Next, draw your blade over your stone, going forward and then backward, to sharpen the carving tool. During this process, one thumb should be on your knife’s spine, and you should guide your blade with the other hand. Pressure should be applied when you’re moving your knife forward, and it should be released when you’re bringing your carving tool back toward you.

This process will eventually expose your knife’s wire edge, or burr—material that has been worn out. Once you see the burr form on your cutting edge’s opposite side, that’s when you need to start sharpening this side. Finally, you’ll have a sharp curving tool that’s ready to use.

Sharpening Approaches for Gouges Specifically

If you need to learnhow to sharpen wood carving tools like gouges, note that wave-shaped diamond sharpeners can be used for these. These sharpeners work better than shorter slip stones that are curved, perfect for sharpening this type of wood carving tools. With 600 grit (fine/medium) and 1,200 grit (extra-fine) sharpeners, you can achieve longer strokes for efficient sharpening every time.

You can also use leather strops to sharpen gouges’ inside and outside edges. You’ll simply need to roll your gouge’s edge as the gouge moves backward and forward along the strop.

Shop for the Best Devices for Sharpening Wood Carving Tools at Garrett Wade Today

At Garrett Wade, we take pride in offering top-tier tools for gardening, workshop, and home use. We also offer durable products for sharpening your wood carving tools, like sharpening stones and leather strops. If you have questions about how to sharpen your wood carving tools, check out our tool guide for the expert guidance you need.

Experience the Garrett Wade difference by ordering your favorite tools today!

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Written by Garrett Wade


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