Real Woodworking Campaign

As part of a strategy to rediscover real woodworking, we take a look at some core issues in a vast topic

Honing guides for edge tools

For some time I have wanted to address sources of misinformation put out by tool makers, magazines and catalogues, to help guide my fellow enthusiasts on their passage through the uncharted waters we once called charlatanry and now called sales marketing strategies. This is not denigrating the initiators of untruths or do anyone down, but to help you continue growing in various aspects
of your chosen craft armed with true knowledge to help you make an educated assessment of what’s being espoused. This week I read a passage in an email newsletter from a major woodworking tool distributor in the UK. This is the unedited version of the email advert I received.

Dear P,

The secret with sharpening is to keep doing it exactly the same way to ensure that you don’t remove more material than you need, just keep polishing the exact same face over and over again. Generally speaking this is easier said than done, but is actually pretty straightforward with the Veritas honing guide and its additional accessories, allowing exact angles to be achieved with ease, time and time again…

First of all, in the age of mass information to all, there are no secrets to sharpening any more. Secondly, the company issuing the information has only one goal and that is to persuade you that you need a state-of-the-art honing guide, which generally is not true. They state that it is actually pretty straightforward with the Veritas honing guide when in fact it actually takes quite a bit of fathoming and it is quite a clumsy procedure that takes time to work through all of the technical points to understand how to use the guide.

Now as the best engineered product on the market, Veritas hit the mark, and I can recommend this aid to those looking for an engineered product that give a perfected mono and secondary (micro) bevel to edge tools, but that is not really the criteria for craftsman woodworking. Most woodworking requires a more specialized bevel for many aspects of their woodworking. Developing intuitive skill comes quickly by rote practice. Simple.

Now, with regard to honing guides; much simpler guides do give excellent results too, quite comparable to the Veritas guide and for less than one tenth of the cost. This Draper guide, for instance, cost me less than £4 whereas the one offered in the email newsletter advert cost a massive £56 plus shipping and handling. The Draper guide gives a perfectly flat and straight bevel every time, which is fine, but that is rarely what I want on my edge tools. I like a convex bevel for all of my tools, so I use a guide only to establish my initial angle of 30-degrees. I then switch to free hand honing and polishing because I want a large full-bevel convex shape rather than a micro- or secondary-bevel. Also, £56 for a honing guide that actually negates you rounding the corners of the iron and also prevents creating a convex bevel to the iron is a restriction I do not recommend.


  1. My suggestion is to use a standard and inexpensive guide to get the 30-degree bevel or slightly less and then develop the convex bevel over the next two or three sharpenings.

    1. Thanks so much for your prompt response. I think I will get one which is a vise-type guide I saw on the lee valley web site for a great price– about £ 7 ($11). It apparently will work great for plane irons and chisels. It looks like it works just like the Draper. I will develop the convex bevel over the next 2 or 3 sharpenings.

      I’d just like to take a moment to say how helpful your writings here on the blog have been and other published work in providing direction and assurance. I’ve been able to organize my first creative space, that though not ideal, is more than serviceable and functional. Also, have gathered the necessary tools and set up a sharpening station. I feel empowered by the knowledge shared.

      I feel that I understand more and see farther than just a month or so ago…if so, it is only because I have been placed on the shoulders of a giant…Now on to practice..Surely I will have more questions…Once again, thank you.


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