Something strange is happening at the
OnlineToolReviews.com workshop, and it is rather scary! Yours truly is
slowly starting to enjoy using hand tools... Yes those ancient form of
woodworking tools that don't need a power cord to operate. Heaven forbid,
what is the world coming too?
But, this transformation in thought
and practice has not come about by shear fluke alone. Oh no, only through
using some of the best hand tools on the market has this hand tool bug
started to bite. If the tools themselves didn't do the job, I'd have no
hesitation in grabbing my power tools and firing them up! But there are a
wide range of high quality hand tools on the market that make using hand
tools a real joy. But aside from the specialty tools fit for one purpose,
there are several others that virtually every woodworker owns. These are
chisels and hand planes. And admittedly, these tools can often give a
better end result than even the finest powered machines.
But when I go to reach for one of my
chisels, it seems they are rarely sharp. It probably doesn't help that I
have been using them in my recent home renovation project in some rather
"rough" carpentry and framing work resulting in blunt, nicked and rounded
edges. Most of them would have a hard time cutting peanut butter it seems.
Now, I have a few sharpening systems
at my disposal, but many of them do not do a terribly good job at
restoring a damaged edge back to square and flat, let alone at the right
bevel angle too. My "Go-To" method for badly damaged chisels and plane
blades (although I look after the plane blades much better) has always
been a quick square up on the high speed grinder followed by my diamond
stone and a basic chisel/plane blade holder. This usually gets me back to
a good starting point for further refinement of the edge, and then on to
honing to finish up. The problem has always been that setting up a blade
in my el-cheapo chisel/blade holding jig has always been a real pain, not
to mention it being difficult to hold and use.
So along comes Veritas and their Mk II
Honing Guide. I never really used the original honing guide they offered
but I had heard great things from this later revision/re-design of the
original. It's not a new product but it's definitely one worth
The Veritas Mk II Honing Guide
Anyone that has ever worked with chisels or plane blades, or even
turning scrapers will know the importance of a sharp edge. Sharp tools are
actually safer to use than blunt ones, but trying to restore your blades
to a sharp edge state is far from most people's idea of a good time. The
Veritas Mk II was made to make this sharpening task quicker, more
accurate, and ultimately to produce a better and sharper edge on chisels
and flat blades.
The Mk II Honing Guide is exactly
that, a guide that holds your chisel or blade in the correct configuration
to produce a consistent and repeatable sharp edge when the cutting tool is
being sharpened on a sharpening stone. You sharpening stone could be a
water stone, an oil stone or even a diamond stone, or perhaps even
sandpaper stuck to a flat surface. No matter what, if you have a flat
sharpening surface, the Mk II can do the job.
There are two components to the Mk II
Both parts are included in the Mk II
Honing Guide box. They are constructed from a mix of die-cast
zinc/aluminum alloy with smaller parts also made from brass and steel.
Needless to say, with the Veritas label attached, you can pretty much
guarantee a solid, durable tool, and the honing guide certainly feels
weighty and well machined in the hand.
It will sharpen and hone chisels down
to 1/4" wide, and will handle blades up to 2 7/8" wide, and everything in
between. It has a maximum chisel/blade clamping thickness of 15/32".
Perhaps the easiest way to explain
this product, and review it is to talk you through the process of
sharpening a chisel and a plane blade, the two most common cutting tools I
use the guide with.
Now as with most honing guides you
first need to set the chisel or blade in the guide and secure it down.
This is where the Veritas Mk II really makes life simple. You use a
combination of settings on both the Blade Carrier and the Registration Jig
to guarantee near perfect angle and blade protrusion distances.
Firstly, before you attach a chisel or
blade to the Blade Carrier you need to adjust the general angle setting on
the Blade Carrier. There are three settings. The first, marked with a "1"
and in red is for high blade bevel angles - 25 - 54 degrees. The second,
marked with the number "2" and in yellow is for standard blade bevel
angles between 15 and 40 degrees. The third setting point, marked with a
"3" in green is for creating back bevels of plane blades with angles
between 10 and 20 degrees. Basically you should have enough scope there to
sharpen just about any bevel angle used with chisels and plane irons. So
you start by setting the Blade Carrier to the position marker appropriate
to the bevel angle you wish to hone/create using the guide. Note that
there is some overlap in angle settings between position 1 and 2 on the
Blade Carrier. You could use either setting for bevel angles between 25
and 40 degrees if you wished, but the overlap is primarily to accommodate
shorter length blades where it may be desirable or necessary to use one
setting over the other for these overlapped angles. For my test blade,
which is a 1" wide Marples chisel with a 25 degree primary bevel, I have
set the Blade Carrier in the number 2 position for "standard angles". With
this set we can now proceed to secure the chisel in the Honing Guide using
the Registration Jig.
The Registration Jig attaches to the
front of the Blade Carrier via a dovetail-like connection with a securing
screw and its onboard marker aligns with scaled markings on the Blade
Carrier to set up for the width of the blade being worked on. This will
basically ensure your blade or chisel is set in the middle of the blade
holding clamp. So with my 1" wide chisel I align the marker with the 1"
setting on the Blade Carrier. It's very easy. Now the next step will set
how far the chisel or blade will protrude out from the Blade Carrier. This
distance will also determine the exact angle at which the bevel meets the
sharpening stone (or surface). So accuracy here will ensure a perfect
bevel angle. On the Registration Jig is an adjustable stop which slots
into pre-defined milled points along the length of the Registration Jig.
These points are marked for the various common bevel angles used in hand
tools. The Jig has three scales that correlate with the numbered setting
used on the Blade Carrier, so since I am using the Number 2 setting on the
Carrier, I will reference the Number 2 yellow scale on the Registration
Jig. I move the adjustable screw stop so it slots into the 25 degree
setting on the yellow scale and lock it down. Now I have set up both the
Carrier and the Registration Jig ready for my chisel. I simply slide the
chisel between the Blade Carrier clamp and with both parts upside down,
and the chisel's bevel now pointing up at us, move it forward in the jig
so the cutting edge rests gently on the adjustable stop on the
Registration Jig (which you will remember is set at the 25 degree setting)
I also ensure the edge of the chisel is firm up against the "fence" of the
Registration Jig which will ensure the chisel is set squarely in the
Honing Guide. If it is not square, you will end up with a skew chisel
rather than a nice flat square ended one. Once the chisel is located
correctly, tighten down the Carrier clamps progressively and evenly on
each side to ensure the firmest grip on the chisel. With that all taken
care of, the Registration Jig can be removed and you are ready to start
sharpening! Well, almost. On the bottom of the Honing Guide is a guide
roller wheel. This is eccentric in design with three adjustable settings.
A brass spring loaded adjustment screw on the end of the wheel allows you
to quickly set the wheel to create micro-bevels of between 1-2 degrees
difference to the primary bevel, without the need to adjust anything else
on the Guide. But for the first part of sharpening a damaged chisel where
the bevel needs to be reset the roller adjustment should be set with the
screw marker pointing to the 12 o'clock position. Also, an important part
of a sharp cutting blade is having a well machined or finished blade back
that is at the very least, perfectly or very near perfectly flat. A flat
blade back, at least close to the front cutting edge, is vital to creating
a sharp cutting edge in conjunction with a honed bevel.
When I first pulled this Honing Guide
out of the box, I looked at it and thought... ok there's got to be a few
hours of study in this before I'll have it creating nice blade edges, but
really, it takes perhaps less than five minutes of reading the
instructions and you will catch on to how it works VERY easily. It is so
straight forward once you know what each part is supposed to do that you
will only need to read and follow the instructions once. You will probably
never forget, like riding a bike. In fact, the process is so quick and
simple it makes setting up of other sharpening guides seem terribly
complicated and a real waste of time and effort, not to mention the
inevitable rise in frustration levels when using them, so hats off to the
architects behind this Honing Guide design. They really know what they are
doing and are obviously woodworkers too!
Now back to the sharpening of my
chisel. The next step is to grab your sharpening stone (I am using a
diamond stone) and place the Honing Guide on top of it. The chisel is
already perfectly set up ready to go so put your fingers on the back of
the chisel near the bevel (which is now pointing down on the surface of
the stone) and utilizing the Guides roller wheel underneath just roll the
Guide forward and back on the stone. The bevel will be ground as required
to meet the bevel angle set. Every now and then check the bevel. You will
be able to see where the bevel is being abraded if you have dirty or rusty
chisels or ones with a damaged bevel face or incorrect bevel angle. The
goal is to have an even grind right across the chisel face, as well as a
nice square cutting edge. You will be pretty much guaranteed a flat bevel
by the way the Honing Guide holds your blade at the consistent angle, and
how fine a finish you require will be determined by the grade of the stone
on which you are sharpening or honing your tools. For my chisel, which
needed a lot of work, I am using a medium-coarse diamond stone. This will
give me an accurate and smooth bevel edge I can further refine or polish
on finer stones or on my slow speed grinder's honing wheel using fine
diamond polishing paste.
So just work your chisel back and
forward until you have that flat, smooth and square bevel and cutting
edge. You will have to ensure the Guide's roller is engaged on the stone
at all times for accurate results. As such, a wide sharpening stone is
recommended - one at least two inches wide would work perfectly well and
make life easier. I couldn't imagine trying to balance everything on a
narrow stone! Once the primary bevel is successfully ground, you can
decide whether you wish to create a micro-bevel on your chisel or blade. I
would recommend it, simply because it will give you an even sharper edge
and a Micro-bevel means you only need to hone the micro-bevel instead of
the hole primary bevel to get the same effect as honing the complete
primary bevel. In essence the actual cutting part of the chisel is right
at the tip and hence a Micro-bevel here will have full effect on cutting.
And there really is no excuse not to have one when sharpening or honing
using the Mk II because all you need to do is rotate the screw adjuster on
the guide wheel from the 12 o'clock position to the 6 o'clock position,
and again work the blade on the stone as has been done previously. A thin
micro-bevel will be formed which will greatly help to increase the
"sharpness" and cutting ability of the blade. Creating the micro-bevel is
quite quick and easy once the primary bevel is properly ground. With
further honing and polishing of both the micro-bevel and the back of the
blade, what you should end up with is an ultra-sharp chisel or blade that
will readily pass the paper cut test and take the hair of your arms, just
like a razor! And if you have never used a chisel of plane blade
that is this sharp before, the difference will almost shock you. This is
part of the reason why I am slowly becoming a convert to hand tools, now
that I can enjoy and use sharp tools like they are supposed to be used.
You will soon find that most chisels and blades that come directly out of
the packaging are really far from "sharp" and a bit of extra honing can
turn an ordinary tool into an extraordinary one.
With regards to sharpening plane
blades, these are done in a similar way to chisels with the same method of
setting up the blade in the Honing Guide and working the primary bevel,
and the Micro-bevel for that matter. However, with plane blades, it may be
desirable to create a back-bevel on the flat back edge of the blade,
especially if working with difficult or cranky grained timbers, or for end
grain planing. A back bevel will increase the effective cutting angle in
most cases and this higher cutting angle is more desirable for planing
difficult or swirly grained lumber. To create the back bevel after the
primary and micro bevels have been created, position the Blade Carrier in
the Number 3 position (the Back Bevel position). Set the blade in the
Carrier using the Registration Jig, referencing the Green Number 3 scale
on the Jig to set up for a particular back bevel angle (10, 13, 15, 17 and
20 degree back bevel angles available). Which back bevel angle you use
will depend on numerous factors. The instructions include a table which
advises which angle might be suitable for which cutting conditions or
specific grain configurations. The plane blade is set bevel up in the
Honing Guide for back bevel grinding and honing operations. To create the
back bevel, just run the blade over the stone as you would normally do.
Only a few passes are required, or desired really, as you only want a
narrow back bevel grind (no point having a large one really) and a small
one is easier to remove if you decide to do that later on. The micro-bevel
roller knob should also be reset to the 12 o'clock position for
back-beveling tasks. I have created a back bevel on one of my plane irons
and it really does make a fair difference to cutting quality when working
on tough grained or cranky grained lumber. Well worth doing, particularly
if you have multiple plane blades you can utilize for the one hand plane.
You can have one standard blade and the other created with a back bevel
and swap them as needed for the task at hand.
Well, the included pictures here should really speak for themselves!
As you can see I now can create pretty much perfect chisel and plane iron
bevels, sharpen dull blades back to a workable condition, and bring
damaged blades back to life. The Mk II is really a work of art in itself
in terms of design and usability, the fact that it works and does what it
says it will do makes it a must-have item for any woodworker with chisels
or hand planes. And let's not rule out tools like skew chisels for
woodturning and any other tools with a common angle bevel... Most of these
can be sharpened and honed using the Mk II Honing Guide as well.
But let's be honest, using this tool
is not all glitz and glamour. there will be some serious elbow grease
involved if you plan on bringing back badly damaged blades to life. It
could take many hours of manual labor if you choose to do the ground work
by hand, as opposed to the rough initial grinding on a high speed powered
bench grinder... However, for those who do not abuse their chisels in
meaningless rough construction and renovating work like I do (hey I do
have two sets of chisels that never go near a renovation project!) then
the Mk II is about the best manual honing tool/guide I have come across
yet. It will quickly hone or touch up a dulling edge in no time and with
accuracy that most other forms of sharpening simply cannot match.
The Veritas Mk II Honing Guide is
available anywhere where Veritas tools are sold, or you can check out
www.leevalley.com online or or more information (if you
can handle any more that is!) surf on over to the Veritas Tools website at
The Skew Registration Jig
Available as an accessory for the Mk II Honing Guide is the Veritas
Skew Registration Jig. This is attached to the Blade Carrier in the same
way as the Standard Registration Jig via its dovetail screw clamp. It is
used to set Skew chisels or Skew blades accurately in the Mk II Blade
Carrier for bevel angle and skew angle. Bevel angles can be set to 20, 25,
30, or 35 degrees fixed and skew angles are available from 10 to 45
degrees in 5 degree increments and special common skew angle settings of
18, 22, and 28 degrees are also marked. You can use the Skew Registration
Jig to match virtually any skew angle you like if you need to, for
example, to match a non-common existing skew angle on a skew chisel or
blade. The Jig has the markings and functions to allow this to be done.
Setting Up a Blade Using the Skew
there are only a couple steps to set up a skew chisel of blade in the
Blade Carrier using this jig. First you set the bevel angle by dropping
the adjustable fence into one of the bevel angle grooves on the jig (at
20, 25, 30 or 25 degrees). Once you have the fence sitting in the correct
groove for the bevel angle, you can then slide the fence left and right to
set the skew angle of the blade. The fence has a blade stop which you can
line up on the tangent for the desired skew angle required according to
the skew angle markings on the jig. For non-standard existing skew blade
angles, you can first secure the fence down then add the blade or chisel
onto the jig referencing one edge against the registration pin on the jig,
then ensure the front cutting edge of the blade is parallel and touching
the fence, then lock the fence down. This will set the blade at the
correct skew angle to match the existing angle on the blade.
Once the jig has been configured, you
can slide it onto the front of the Blade Carrier. The markings on the
Blade Carrier for centering the blade in the Carrier do not apply when
using the Skew Jig, so ignore that step. Slide the blade in under the
Blade Carrier clamp and align the blade with the fence using the
registration pin on the jig as a blade edge locating guide. When the front
cutting face of the blade is parallel to and touching the fence as the
edge touching the registration pin, then move the blade and Skew Jig as
one unit along the Blade Carrier so the blade is approximately centered in
the Honing Guide. This will ensure better balance of the guide when
rolling it over the stone or sharpening surface. Once centered in the
guide lock down the Blade Carrier clamp to secure the blade/chisel in
position. Then unlock and remove the Skew Registration Jig. You are now
ready to sharpen/hone in the normal manner. Again the text description
here probably makes it sound a bit trickier than it really is. In reality,
it is very easy and intuitive to use and setting up a skew angle and bevel
angle using this Jig is really child's play.
Use and Conclusion
The same process applies for sharpening and honing, and setting
micro-bevels and back bevels using the Skew registration Jig as does for
the Standard Registration Jig for square edge blades. This Jig, along with
the Honing Guide make it quick and painless to replicate or recreate a
skew angle. It is certainly a lot easier to do than working with many jigs
on the high speed grinder, and once you have your edge set and sharpened,
you only need to hone it from there on as it dulls to keep it in tip-top
working condition. Again, Veritas have made a potentially complicated
setup procedure for sharpening very simple, as well as maintaining the
highest level of accuracy possible with such a tool. My high speed
grinder, and perhaps even my slow speed wet grinder will probably be
seeing a lot less action now that I have this great tool in my inventory.
The Veritas Honing Guide (which is supplied with the Standard
Registration Jig for square ended blades) retails for US$62.50. The Skew
Registration Jig retails for US$29.50. I find both these prices very
reasonable for what is essentially the best manual sharpening and honing
guide available for the home woodworker today. In fact, after using the Mk
II for many weeks, I would be happy to pay double what they are asking for
the results I am achieving. For anyone who works a lot with hand tools,
and performs their own tool sharpening, this Honing Guide is a must!
Veritas also sell a Camber Roller
Assembly to fit the Mk II Honing Guide. I haven't seen or used one of
these in person, so I wont comment on it directly. I will paste an excerpt
from the accessory product description page regarding this add-on for your
Veritas Mk.II Honing Guide has been designed to produce accurate and
repeatable square bevels on chisel and plane blades. However, when
using smoothing planes on large, flat surfaces, it is desirable to
hone a slight curve, or camber, into the edge of the blade. This
allows the cut to taper out on each side, and avoids plane tracks in
The Veritas Camber
Roller Assembly has a barrel-shaped roller that allows limited
rocking, while still maintaining an accurate and consistent bevel
angle. Simply replace the
standard roller assembly with the camber
assembly and hone, first applying more pressure on one side of the
blade, and then on the other. Blade extension is still set using the
registration jig, and the camber roller includes the standard
eccentric system to allow micro-bevels to be honed.
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Veritas Mk II Honing Guide Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior
written permission prohibited
The Veritas Mk II Honinh Guide with a chisel clamped in
the Blade Carrier.
Three color-coded settings make setup simple for varying blade bevel
This scale will help set the blade in the middle of the guide for
better balanced sharpening/honing.
The screw adjustment for the eccentric wheel, used to set micro-bevels.
The Standard Registration Jig makes setting up square edge chisels and
Aligning and securing a chisel for a 25 degree bevel.
Using the Skew Registration Jig to determine an existing skew chisel
Back and forth motion over the diamond stone to sharpen and hone the
It may be hard to see but there is a perfect micro-bevel on this chisel
edge, created easily using the Mk II Honing Guide.
It is the perfect accessory for hand plane owners. Here the iron from a
#4 Stanley is being touched up.