Woodworking

When To Sharpen Your Hand Tools

When To Sharpen Your Hand Tools

As woodworkers, we often find ourselves engaged in lively debates over the finer points of our craft. Recently, I had the pleasure of receiving some constructive feedback via email regarding a seemingly innocuous act captured in one of my YouTube videos – the placement of a hand plane sole side down on the workbench. While the tone of the message was a touch snarky, it prompted me to reflect on a fundamental aspect of woodworking: sharpening.

Embarking on my YouTube journey earlier this year, I hadn’t anticipated encountering such feedback so soon, given my modest subscriber count and view numbers. Nevertheless, a viewer took issue with my seemingly casual treatment of the hand plane, suggesting that by placing it sole side down, I risked dulling and damaging the tool irreparably.

Now, to the uninitiated, this might seem like a minor transgression, barely noticeable in the rapid flow of a video edit. However, it ignited a discussion about sharpening practices and the broader philosophy advocated by woodworking luminary Christopher Schwarz.

In his thought-provoking blog post, “You Aren’t Sharpening Enough (And I’m not, Either),” Schwarz challenges conventional wisdom by proposing a proactive approach to tool maintenance. Instead of waiting for a blade to lose its edge, he advocates for regular sharpening intervals, even before signs of dullness manifest. This approach aims to preserve the integrity of the workpiece, minimizing the risk of tear-out or other imperfections caused by a dulled blade.

This philosophy resonated deeply with me, prompting a shift in my own sharpening habits. Now, I sharpen my planes and chisels between each woodworking task, ensuring that they’re always primed for optimal performance. Whether a hand plane rests sole side down or on its side becomes inconsequential in light of this proactive maintenance regimen.

To the individual who kindly pointed out my “transgression,” fret not – I’ll sharpen the plane. But more importantly, let’s use this moment as an opportunity to delve deeper into the nuances of sharpening and its impact on woodworking outcomes.

Let’s embrace a holistic approach to woodworking that prioritizes not only craftsmanship but also thoughtful maintenance practices. By reevaluating our sharpening routines and adopting a proactive mindset, we can elevate our woodworking experiences and achieve superior results in the workshop. So, whether it’s the sole side down or upright, let’s keep those blades sharp and our creations pristine.


I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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