How Often Should You Sharpen Your Wood Carving Tools


We all know that you have to keep your wood carving tools sharp at all times for both safety and quality of your carving. What not all of us know is how often should we sharpen our tools, how do we know it’s time to sharpen your carving knife or chisel, and when is the right time to hone the edges of wood carving tools.

On average, you should hone your wood carving tools every 30 minutes when using them and sharpen them at least once every 2 hours. The frequency of sharpening your wood carving tools depends on the quality of the steel, the density of wood you are carving, and of course, how much you use the tool.

With that said, if you feel like your tool is underperforming earlier than in the timeframes mentioned above, you should undoubtedly sharpen it straight away. This is very individual from carver to carver, and also depends on the style of your carving. For example, carving in the round will require more frequent sharpening than spirit carving.

One very important differentiation that every woodcarver needs to get right is when to sharpen their tool and when to simply hone the edge. For the remainder of the article, we will be discussing the topic of sharpening vs stropping as well as some

When To Sharpen Vs When To Strop

Although honing is making the edge of your tool sharper it is not considered sharpening. When you hone the steel you are fixing the edge to be straight, you are not actually changing the angle or creating a new bevel.

Honing must be done more frequently than sharpening just to keep the tool in shape, sharpening the knife when the edge is a little bent is wasteful and takes a lot of time, but honing too many times will make your edge a little blunt so it’s good to pay attention to when honing becomes inefficient.

Most times you would hone with a leather strop and sharpen your knife with a whetstone or an oil stone. Although a few carvers prefer to sharpen their tools with a leather strop, and hone with an 8000 grit whetstone.

If you want to hone your skills on sharpening wood carving tools with a whetstone you can check out our article about sharpening with a whetstone.

To conclude, you must first hone your wood carving tool a few times until it loses form, then change the angle of the blade by sharpening it with a whetstone or a strop.

3 Tips To Sharpen Your Tools Better

Here are some important tips you may not have considered that will actually make your sharpening skills better:

1. Sharpen to a specific angle

Every tool you will use in wood carving has a different angle that you will want to sharpen it to. In the next section of this article, we will be covering the best angles for all the primary tools.

Sharpening steel wood carving tools, is nothing other than changing the angle of the edge of the blade. If you don’t know the angle that you need, you are probably not going to get the optimal sharpening result.

Consistency is another issue that occurs at a different angle after every sharpening. Every woodcarver develops their own technique and their personal style of carving, however, this is significantly less consistent if you are required to carve differently every time after you sharpen your knife and it ends up having a different angle every time.

2. Scary sharp edge

As explained in our “6 ways to sharpen a knife” article, you usually want to gradually go up to around 8000 grit to get your knife to the sharpest state to carve wood.

Although this is accurate, it is not very true. You can actually sharpen your knife with the 9000 grit white compound to make it even sharper. It is unnecessary because of how time-consuming the addition of another stage of sharpening is, but it will make your knife sharper.

3. Using the Angle Pyramid

If you are a beginner, you probably don’t have the perfect angle on your knife because it is extremely difficult to maintain the exact same precise angle as you turn your wood carving tool on the whetstone when you sharpen it.

This is where the Angle Pyramid will really help you. It is placed under the knife to maintain the exact angle you need specific to the tool. It costs a couple of bucks, check it out if you want to.

Perfect Angle For Wood Carving Tools To Sharpen To

If you want to be 100% accurate with the edge of your wood carving tools, you can measure your wood carving tool’s angle with the digital angle finder and compare it to the perfect angle for the wood carving tool from this guide (more on the angle below).

The packaging of your wood carving tool will often also say the angle that it comes in, you can choose to follow either one as long as you stay consistent to the same angle on the tool every time.

Whittling knife Sharpening Angle

Different brands of whittling knives actually have a different angle on their blade. It is best you look at the packaging or read what the preferred angle of the manufacturer is on their website.

If however, your whittling knife is unbranded (for example a pocket knife you use to whittle), or you want the same angle on all of your whittling knives, something around 18° is perfect.

With a whittling knife, you actually don’t have to be that precise. Sharpening it is pretty easy and usually, the whole blade fits onto the whetstone, and whittling knives differ anyway. But you still want the same knife to always have the same angle for best results.

A reasonable range is 3° on either side. If your whittling knife is over 22° or under 15° you definitely should at least think about sharpening it and changing the angle.

Chisel Sharpening Angle

Unlike the whittling knife, a chisel has a standard angle that almost every chisel needs to be sharpened at. You need to hone and sharpen your chisel at exactly 30°.

What you may find is that if you buy a new chisel from the store, it will come with a 25°. This is very common and only means that the manufacturer expects you to create a new bevel and sharpen the chisel at 30°.

Gouge Sharpening Angle

This one will purely depend on either how you want it, or what the manufacturer says. Anything between 40° and 70° is normal, outside that is less common but also exists.

This is because gouges can be used for very different kinds of projects. From scooping out a bowl to giving some highlight to a gnomes eyes, the angle will, of course, be very different.

V-tool Sharpening Angle

The V-tool is considered to be almost a chisel, but in reality, it is its own kind of tool and since it is very popular among carvers we thought we’d also share the angle at which it should be sharpened.

The edge of the V-tool should be sharpened at a 15-20° angle with the angle between the two blades to be exactly 90° including the apex.

Final Thoughts

No rule says you are not allowed to experiment with the frequency and the angle at which you sharpen your wood carving tools. With that said, for proven and reliable ways, refer to our guide in the article.

Thank you for reading. We hope you enjoyed, and that your carving tools stay sharp as long as possible. Be sure to surf our blog for a little more and see if you find an article that may be interesting or helpful to you.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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