Sharpening the Stanley folding knife + more news

For more information on the woodworker’s knife, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

Here’s how I now sharpen the blade of the folding knife I use in my daily work. I am something of a fanatic about sharpness and this method works with all thin-bladed knives that have straight edges like these. You can change the angle to any you want but I like the 11-degree used by Stanley. So, here we go:

I used a block of wood 7/8″ thick and 4″ square. Mine is maple, but almost any scrap of wood will do.

Before we get started.

Whereas knife sharpening is a basic and essential element to woodworking, personal safety is your responsibility. Knives can slip, get dropped; please take care with what you are doing. If you follow this article, your knife will surgically sharp.


DSC_0007Take an angle protractor like this and set it to 11-degrees. If you don’t own a protractor measure down 3/16″ from the corner one way and 5/8″ the other and connect the dots.


DSC_0009Draw the line to cut to across the two points ON END GRAIN. You will be cutting along the grain.



Use your finger to guide a pencil line along the edge.


DSC_0016With the angle marked onto a piece of wood as shown, saw down the guide lines to a depth that takes the whole cutting edge of the blade. Do exactly the opposite to the other end of the block, so that the blade bevel is presented to the edge of the wood at the correct angle for filing.

Use a fine, thin saw for this. That way the blade will be tight in the kerf and hold as you clamp it. Because the blades are hard, regular files don’t work, but diamond files work well.


DSC_0020Insert the knife into the saw kerf so that the blade is protruding slightly above the surface, I mean just barely, file the bevel using the guide to level the file over the bevel of the blade. Once you have the whole bevel done, switch the blade to the other saw cut of the guide and do the same.

I use a diamond file from EZE-Lap, but most fingernail shaping files are diamond too and these will do the job also, but they are not as fine a tool. The EZE-Lap has a fine diamond face and also a super-fine ceramic face for final refinement. This is the tool and whereas you might not want to buy one just for knives, I use this for saws, bits, and blades of every type around the shop.

DSC_0030Here is where I further improved the whole dynamic of the jig by adding plastic laminate after I had cut the
kerfs in. That way I was able to use the kerf to guide my cuts. This meant a better wear surface and a harder registration face. DSC_0001_1The results were quite stunning, especially after honing on the ceramic side of the shaping plate. I never got a better edge on a knife like this before; it far surpasses the manufactured edge which is also really good.

An Upcoming Pair of Saw Horses Make a Great Working Team
DSC_0033Another of my projects I made this week were some saw horses we needed for the shop here, but I also needed them for a blog because several people have asked for it over the year. The traditional methods, though they appear complex because of the angles, are quite simple, even with fully angled legs. Building a robust sawhorse, fully jointed and with splayed legs for solidity takes about four hours, but you have to build two because they work best in pairs. I have added this to last week’s list of to-do projects and will cover the complexities and simplicities as I work through the list.

Tool Cupboard Build Apology

By the way, the issue with the tool cupboard build was that I agreed to do this as a favour, but when I built them I did not plan on doing it as an instruction so no photo’s were taken to make sense of everything. I still plan to try to do it but being in the middle of a month-long class and my existing commitments makes it difficult.

Current Info on the Month-Long

DSC_0038What can I say! Yesterday we were gluing up some of the coffee tables. In the next couple of days they will all be finished I am sure. Tomorrow we start the Craftsman-style rocker in oak and I just finished milling the wood to get us started. So much going on. Hard to keep track of, but we have had a wonderful workshop with lots of promising new and seasoned woodworkers.

23 thoughts on “Sharpening the Stanley folding knife + more news”

  1. This is going to be really helpful! I have been freehanding them so far and will try this method tomorrow!

    Thanks Paul

  2. Brandon Avakian

    Thanks for posting this. I would be interested to hear your transition from freehand to using a jig. Although I am sure you still freehand sharpen your marking knife depending on your time constraints.

    1. It began like many things because some students struggle to get aspects of sharpening down. Flexing the knife blade on the stones changes the shape as the blades are indeed thin and flexible, something I really like about these knives. The blades can come out some pretty funny shapes. This only came about two weeks ago that I actually came up with this. I used it a couple of times and then I lost it. I found I really wanted the jig because the edge I got was so much better. I hadn’t perfected it then either. So, instead of using mine, I will get them to make one for themselves.

  3. Hi Paul,

    thanks for your suggestions and information you share with us. Im following your blog since you posted your workbench series and i´m very thankful for your inspiration. Last week i build also a pair of saw horses that look similar to yours. As a german carpenter i build them according to old rules we use in roof making we call “Schiftung”. Using these principles it is possible to angle the legs in two dimensions and also having a plain level rectangular to the long axis of the saw horses to attach the boards (See pictures).

    Best regards


    1. I devised this no-math-and-geometry method for simplicity. The legs splay in both directions here too; so that they are ‘no-tip’ saw horses. Also, I used only one angle on the sliding bevel to accomplish all three angles that make the compound seat cut inside the housing recesses.

  4. Paul, do you have a link to, or a model number, for the EZE-Lap file that you use?

    1. Their website is a pain to get through. I just looked at the sleeve it came in and it says its a Diamond Stone Box 20469 but I have a feeling that that may be their PO Box no. They have several file types that will do this work though. They cost about five bucks or so too. Not too much when you can use them for so much.

      1. Hello Paul,

        A new fan and love all your stuff. Can you by chance look at the EZE LAP site again and let us know which one you would buy today if getting one to sharpen these knives with? I have bought these some time ago myself and really like them. Need to know which grit you are using to get these results if you don’t mind.


  5. Paul, I am a huge fan of yours and i think i have gone through almost all the lovely and very helpful material you have put on the internet but have not come across you doing a 3 way miter joint the traditional way. Are you able to put up a video tutorial for the same please?

  6. Thanks for all the updates, Paul. As for the too cupboard, I think even just a drawing or two, and maybe a couple photos of details of the finished piece, would be very helpful. We have all the dimensions for the panels; just need a little guidance as to construction. Thanks again for all you do and share with us.

  7. Chelsea Richards

    The most ideal way to begin is to read about the honing essentials, then afterward utilize a sharpening system that presets the edges. That way, you can start by studying how to raise a burr, feel for the burr, and afterward grind it away, without needing to stress over keeping the plot steady moreover.

  8. Is it just me or is the bevel gauge set to something much higher than 11 degrees? That seems way too shallow and the picture makes it look higher as well.

    1. I suppose you could ask which face of the block did I take my reference from. It could be 101- degrees.

    2. Also, remember that it matches what Stanley has on their blades precisely, as that’s where I took my reference from, and the combined bevel is therefore 22-degrees. Edge retention is excellent on these knife blades also. Since sharpening last weekend I have used the knife consistently throughout the last four days on oak and pine and still the edge and point is good.

  9. David Devereux

    I haven’t got on with method despite Paul demonstrating it to me. I have devised a simpler method which works well, for me at least. Clamp the knife to one of the jaws of a vice with the blade between the jaws (easier ona Workmate than a traditional vice. Place a block of wood between the jaws to support the front edge of the blade and tighten the jaws. File. Turn over and repeat. Any comments?

  10. Arthur Coolen

    Just can’t get my Stanley blade to sharpen. Made the jig and took my eze lap to the blade, but it’s still just not sharp. (I think it’s actually duller than when I started.) Hopefully Paul will make a video for this one day.

  11. Thanks Paul, I tried this tonight and I managed to get my blade much sharper. The tip is able to slice paper no problem; although, I still need to do a bit more on the rear of the blade. At least I’m on the right track now. Using the marker on the knife’s edge made it much easier to see where the diamond file was removing material.

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