How I Sharpen a Drawknife

Drawknives are a challenge to sharpen because the handles invariably get in the way.  Many woodworkers have found ingenious ways around this, but as with so many techniques in woodworking, there’s no one “right way” to sharpen a drawknife, though there are probably a few wrong ones.  Here’s a technique that’s worked well for me.

Instead of placing the stone on a stable surface and drawing the tool’s edge across the stone, I reverse the process.  I cradle the drawknife as shown above and rub the stone (I use a DMT Dia-Sharp coarse stone) over the edge, using a circular motion.  Just watch your fingers!  It’s easy to get carried away and run your knuckle right into the edge.

I use the coarse stone on the bevel side only.  Then I switch to my fine stone and go over both the bevel and the back.  Finally, I strop both sides.

My strop is merely a piece of leather glued to a scrap of hardwood and charged with Veritas honing compound.  Starting on the far end of the blade, I draw the strop gently but firmly across the whole edge.  I avoid pulling the strop completely off the edge, as I don’t want to dub the edge over.

There are other methods of getting the handles out of the way.  For example, you can put the stone up on a riser so the handles of the drawknife can clear the bench.  A block of wood works, but so does a really thick book.

And who doesn’t have a 6″ thick dictionary lying around?

Regardless of how you do it, I think it’s important not to let the edge get too dull between sharpenings.  Because of the extra effort involved in sharpening, frequent honing is more economical in the long run.

Taking curly shavings from a piece of pecan.

However you do it, a sharp drawknife is a pleasure to use.

This entry was posted in Tutorials, Wood and Woodwork and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How I Sharpen a Drawknife

  1. Steve Massie says:

    Steve …….. Thank You for the tutorial as I have one that needs sharpening and wasn’t quite sure on how to approach this safely. I enjoy your blog very much as I have learned a lot, Thank you for taking the time.


  2. Glad I could help out, Steve. As I said in the post, there are several ways to go about it. If you don’t happen to like my method, Brian Boggs has some great suggestions here:

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Steve,
    Love the blog. I’m in the process of reading all past posts.

    I’ve been thinking of moving to using diamond stones, rather than sandpaper (oil and water stones are just too messy for my likes). Are those diamond stones from Lee Valley?,43072

    If so, do you find the 3″x8″ to be big enough? Have you noticed them wearing out quickly or do you think they’ll stay effective for a long time? I was thinking of getting the 600, 1200, and possibly 8000 grit. What grits do you have?


    • Yes, Chris, the stone I have is a 3X8 DMT Dia-Sharp. I have had it for about five years now, and it’s still going strong. I love the 3X8 size, and have never found it too small. I don’t use any sharpening jigs, but I think it would be long enough for most jigs.

      You need to know that diamond stones cut very aggressively when new, but once you break them in, they lose their initial sharpness and cut at a slower, but very consistent rate for a long time thereafter. That means that you should err on the side of coarseness when getting a stone.

      The stone you see in the post is the “coarse” one, which I believe is something like 325 according to DMT’s grit chart on their website: I wouldn’t want anything finer for my basic coarse stone, which does the bulk of the work.

      My fine stone is actually a soft Arkansas stone, but if I were going to get a fine diamond stone, I would get a fine stone, or maybe an extra-fine, and keep finishing on the strop. You could get the extra-extra fine (8000 grit) instead of a strop, but the strop is a whole lot cheaper.

  4. How much for the dictionary?

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