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Updated Bench Knife Sharpening

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

I like to keep you up to date on developments where I might change my point of view on things through time and testing.

A simple tool I ave come to rely on more on more, especially at the bench, is my diamond hone. I use it almost every day now for sharpening tools including even saws and especially do I like it for knives as well  my other refining endeavours. It’s relatively inexpensive, versatile and achieves excellent results on my bench knives. Whereas in times past I always simply touched up my layout knives freehand on bench and diamond stones, and I did this for decades, I found that the blades did tend to lose the kind of refinement a new blade gives with its pristine cutting edge and shallow bevel from the makers. A blog I wrote a year or more ago told of blades that could be had at a fraction of the cost of Stanley blades might seem to be the answer, but, as you will know of me, I try not to advocate throwaway blades of any kind. It’s also quicker to sharpen knives using my system than changing the blade out. Anyway, though the Stanley knife I advocate is indeed a knife designed for throwaway blades, I recommend them because the are the best knives I have come to rely on and you don’t kneed to throw away the blades at all, just treat them like any other pocket knife and simply sharpen them.

Today my system is even simpler than ever. Keep a block of wood marked as shown with a line squared across at 30mm (1 1/4″).

Lock the block in the vise with the line aligned with the benchtop. This ensures the bevel is evenly bevelled.

Line the cutting edge up the edge of the block and use the benchtop to reference the handle of the paddle to.

Use circular motions to hone one bevel and flip over for the other.

One paddle, the medium, is usually enough sharpness, but of you want even sharper use a second grade such as the fine.

I made a video on the knife sharpening system I developed for speed and efficiency and many of you watched and enjoyed but in case you missed it go here. For those who want to follow my original article go here.


  1. Giorgio on 3 January 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Simple and effective!!
    The Stanley pocket knife is a very useful tool now I think it’s time to go for a little sharpening..
    Thanks Paul and happy new year!

  2. Joe on 3 January 2017 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks Paul. I bought the red handled knife you recommended a year or so ago that has disposable blades. I’ve tried other knives as well but I like the red handled on the best. I had noticed as well that free hand sharpening was impacting some of the blade refinement. Your system here should fix that, plus I already have this little diamond stone paddles.

  3. Dave Robbie on 4 January 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks Paul. Perfect timing as my Stanley knife is overdue for a sharpening. I had tried freehand sharpening it on the big diamond stones and did not succeed in getting back to a sharp edge. I already have these small diamond paddles so I will use this process now.
    Thanks again!

    • Bryan McKinnon on 5 January 2017 at 7:24 am

      Great Paul,

      As usual, great feedback. I do the same thing with my knives. I sharpen my pocket knives, so why not my layout knives. I really like the simplicity of this process.

  4. sla on 5 January 2017 at 7:06 pm

    why not using your usual 3 big diamond plates? or why not use this method on chisels and plane irons?

    • Evan on 5 January 2017 at 10:32 pm

      @sla, Paul mentioned this in the article. He used to do just that, sharpen using the normal method, but found the blades were loosing refinement over time. This method is a quick ease way to maintain the particular blade refinement he likes for the knifes.

  5. john on 5 January 2017 at 8:03 pm

    I sharpened a kitchen knife by your basic method a d it came out great!

  6. Bruce Mack on 6 January 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you Paul. it worked well for me.

  7. Hank on 7 January 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Paul, I purchased the Stanley 10-049 and it has the long blade. I have purchased a replacement and would like to replicate the blade you have in the 0-10-958. Can you share the dimensions?

  8. Borys Medicky on 10 January 2017 at 2:57 pm

    A nice refinement to Paul’s earlier system for sharpening the knife. The fact that it’s also simpler means folks are more likely to try it, since it requires so little effort to get a consistent result.

    I’m going to embed a rare-earth magnet in the top surface of the block to make it easier to hold the blade in place.

    • Michael Ballinger on 10 January 2017 at 3:18 pm

      I find the filings stick to everything if they come in contact with magnets.

    • Robert on 1 April 2019 at 6:17 pm

      I absolutely abhor any magnets in my shop. Once something becomes magnetized, it collects filings from everywhere! No magnets in my shop.

  9. Michael Ballinger on 10 January 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Affix a stop block onto the line so you can drop it into the vise without needing to check it’s square and at the right level.

  10. Ilse on 10 April 2019 at 6:22 am

    When your knife starts to blunt, you need a knife sharpener to restore the sharpness. This really interesting article. Sharp knives are needed by us.

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