Making My Sharpening Plate Holder


DSC_0245_1 Recently I posted a blog on making one of these using a tablesaw to cut the recess walls and removing the waste using a chisel and hand router. It was fast and efficient and the holder works just fine. The appearance is less pleasing however. Here are the steps to making one with clean and definitive walls using hand methods I think that you should enjoy. My wood is mere pine, which works just fine and lasts well. I have a couple of these that are now 15 years old. The only thing I did that is important is I let the wood sit in my shop to acclimate. That way, any curl became obvious and I could flatten if needed before I cut the recesses. The method will also work just the same with plywood of you prefer.

DSC_0255_1 I started by laying out the recess positions in the board having cut my board to 11 1/2” long (length of grain) and 9 1/2” wide. The wood was 7/8” thick, but thicker or thinner works fine, but not less than 1/2” I suggest.

DSC_0232 DSC_0231_1 Measure a 3/4” border around the board and then lay the plates against the line to establish the position width of each recess. Equidistant the centre plate in the mid section and get the width. This should be 1/2” from the two on ether side, but plates vary a little in size so best to use the actual plate rather than a measurement.

DSC_0265 Use a knife to delineate the walls and create a knife wall to each of the cross-grain cuts.

DSC_0267_1 Along the grain, in between the borders of the plates, use a marking gauge along the edge of the board and 3/4” in. This gives a fine indent in which to place my chisel edge.


I make in incised cut with a wide chisel into the knife walls on the waste side of the recess.

DSC_0282 This now guides my perpendicular cuts as I chop with the 1” chisel.

I know use my chisel bevel down to chop-cut across the board as shown. This splits the surface fibres and allows me to readily remove the waste.

With the bevel down, I chisel out the waste, estimating my depth at about 3/32”. I want my final depth to be about 1/8”.

DSC_0288 I use my hand router to remove the remaining waste wood using my wooden hand router. You can use an all metal router too, but the wood spans all of the recess walls and doesn’t mare the the narrow dividing surfaces.




DSC_0302 With all of the recesses cut I can now focus on the stop that holds the holder in the vise during sharpening.

First I ran two parallel lines along the long edge at 3/4” in from the edge to the first line and then 3/4” to the second edge.

I ran a tenon saw along the first edge to a depth of 1/8”.

DSC_0300 I then butted my inset piece of wood against this sawn wall and marked the second parallel wall.

I cut just inside this wall with the tenon saw to establish the second wall to the same depth of 1/8”.



DSC_0305 I used hand pressure along the length of the groove with a 3/4” chisel. Bevel up.

DSC_0309_1 I used the same wooden router to remove the waste, progressively deepening the set to the final 1/8” depth.

I fitted my recess stop to the groove with the hand plane.

DSC_0317_1 I glued the stop in place…

…and clamped it in the vise until dry.

DSC_0246_1 The stones are secured in place with a zig zag of silicone. I want to be able to easily remove the stones f I need to and this works best for bedding the stones but gluing them permanently.


  1. nice touch with the holder – my plywood one is holding up real well in function, but leaves a bit to be desired in the looks department. I’m almost finished with the components of the workbench (legs are gluing currently) so soon I will have somthing proper to use it on! Thank you again for what you do Paul and all the team as well.

  2. Hi Paul,

    You’ve recently converted me to your sharpening method, and I can’t believe how easy (and fast) it is to achieve sharpness now. I sure wish I learned this years ago, but at least I finally did.

    I like the idea of mounting my diamond plates as you show here, but then I lose the ability to use them for flattening the backs of my irons, etc. Or at least I can’t get access to the middle plate.

    Do you keep separate plates for your flattening operations?

    Thanks for all you do.


    1. The loss is not that great. I use the coarse plate and then go to my granite block to use wet and dry, which I find all the more effective really. And you can make them a tight fit in the length only, snug, that way you can ease them out of the holder.

  3. Paul, would it make sense to drill a hole in the middle of each of the recesses so you have an easier way to push the sharpening plates out from underneath?

    1. Yes, you could, and that’s a good idea too, but I just flip the holder over and tap on the benchtop and they come out quite readily.

  4. I use your sharpening method and it works great. The cambered edge was a revelation. Another thing that really helped me that people don’t talk about is to sharpen at the same bench and use the same stance every time. I used to move from bench to bench and the different heights or the way I would stand messed up my muscle memory and I would have a heck of a time getting things sharp. Just wanted to mention this for people who might be having trouble and couldn’t figure out why.

    1. I don’t necessarily agree with the muscle memory issues people espouse, but I understand why you are saying. The human body adapts intimately with conditions surrounding it and makes the necessary micro adjustments to get the job done.

  5. I’d just like to say what a difference your blog and videos and have made to a newcomer to woodworking. I never realised how much could be achieved by hand without the expensive tools. One thing I’d like to know it where you can buu something similar to the sharpening plates you use.

    1. Depends on where you are. EZE-Lap are the best and most consistent diamond plates I have found. I use their coarse, medium and superfine plates in the 3″ x 8″ sizes. Amazon seem to be the best source for them as most catalog companies don’t carry EZE-Lap plates.

      1. Thank you very much Paul. This has been really helpful. They look like good stones if a little bit pricey.

        1. Yes, but a set like this lasts many years. they will lose coarseness fairly quickly but then they settle down and should last you a few years.

  6. Hello Sir,

    what kind of plates do you use for it? Could you kindly tell the brandname of them?

    1. I use coarse, fine and superfine but you can also use medium instead of fine if preferred. The best size is 3″ by 8″ and the best make I have found is the EZE-Lap brand made in the USA but available worldwide. There are other brands but I have experienced severe degrade in the electro-plating separating from the steel substrate which I have never had in two decades of EZE-Lap.

  7. Mr. Sellers,

    Can you expand on the way you secure the plates to the wood? I know you stated that you use a “zig zag” of silicone, but can you clarify what you mean by that? I don’t know if you have any additional pictures of this step, but I have just purchased the 3 stones you suggest and was looking to make this holder for them. When you say silicone, do you mean just regular caulk? Or is it something different entirely. I would like to have the stones be relatively secured in the holder but with the ability to remove them if needed. Do you have issues removing and re-inserting the stones?

    Also, do you clean the stones after each use? From your videos it seems that there is a decent amount of window cleaner left on the stones, do you dry this of each time or just let them air dry?


    1. Instead of really wanting to seal the plates in, I like them to be simply cushioned. Silicone in a zigzag gives me six or so 1/4″ dia bands across the narrow width. Press the plates into the recess and leave until cured, usually overnight. Sometimes in the vids it is less expedient to wipe them off. Usually I wipe them because excessive water held under the plates can cause the holder to cup a little.

      1. Thank you for your prompt response, it is greatly appreciated! Do you use just regular paper towels to dry the stones? If you do, have you noticed any remnants or particles from them left on the stones? Because the stones are abrasive, I have noticed that they tend to pull some of the material from whatever it is I use to dry them off, do you think this will affect their performance, or will the blade push it away next time I use it?

        On another note, I thought I heard you say in one of your videos about using the rougher side of a piece of leather for the strop. I have seen a few discussions (and disagreements) on other websites as to whether to use the smooth or rough side of the leather. Is there any difference, and which do you prefer?

        Sorry for the barrage of questions, I am very new to this and really want to be able to sharpen using your method, as it seems quick, easy, and gets great result. I would like to thank you for all of the blogs and videos you share with us amateurs for free. After looking through many many articles and videos (and even paying for some!) on sites like Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking, I was feeling quite down about my chances of understanding the seemingly endless minutia of sharpening. A furniture maker I bought some planes from told me to watch your videos on YouTube, and I have to say, I am very excited to start implementing your techniques!

        1. I just wipe-dab and it sometimes leaves a little paper there now and then. Kitchen paper towels works fine. No it will not affect functionality of residue is left on. Definitely rough side up, ignore the others. Done it both ways and the rough side wins hand down for those who just want to get on with the woodworking and not argue over a gnats whisker.

  8. Hi Paul,
    Been enjoying your books, DVD’s, and the blog. Your clear explanations have been helping me clear up a lot of the questions I had and I’m finding my woodwork a lot more enjoyable because of it.

    I’m about to attempt the sharpening plate holder you show here, but was wondering about adding a fourth section for the leather strop, keeping everything together.

    I’d noticed that you keep your leather strop on a separate block and place this in your vice for use. Is this because it needs a sturdier grip than the plate holder can provide, or just personal preference?

      1. Paul, do you seal the surface with BLO or shellac, to help protect the holder from the wet?

  9. Hi Paul, like so many people I follow your videos and blogs avidly. They are hugely useful. I am about to make a three legged stool for my granddaughter. However, I need to know what is the most suitable glue to use when laminating the wood together to make the seat.

    I realise this is a very basic question but do not want to get this bit wrong.

    Please advise.

    Keep up the good work


  10. Is wiping enough to prevent cupping? Is it reasonable to apply some shellac to the top surface around or even inside the plate beds?
    Best wishes,

    1. In prolonged use the solid wood ones will cup for a while but then they will return to flatness. Mopping up excess works fine and actually mine does not cup. It is only in excessive use, like when I have a class and 14 people are using them throughout the day, that this usually happens and mine, in my own singular daily use, never actually cups at all. The best ones are really plywood though.

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