Knife Sharpening Jig





Introduction: Knife Sharpening Jig

Here's how I made a jig to hold my sharpening stones.  For years I have sharpened my knives on a bench stone (with the stone resting on a table or "work bench"), and most of the time, I'd hold the stone in my hand. 

I didn't like having the stone flat on the table, so most of the time, I'd hand hold the stone.  After cutting my fingers on more than one occasion, I decided I should figure out a safer way to do this. 

If you are sharpening free hand, many of you already know it's very difficult to get the right angle while sharpening your stone.  So not only is this jig a safer way to sharpen your knife, it also helps you get the right angle every time.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

Here are the supplies and tools you'll need:

1.  Some scrap wood.  Note:  Your main structure of wood should be slightly LESS in width than your stone.  For example, my sharpening stones are exactly 2 inches in width.  My wood is 1 and 15/16 inches in width. 

2.  A chop saw (aka a miter saw).  In order to get the right angle, you really need to use a chop saw.

3.  A drill and a couple drywall screws.  Or some epoxy and clamp.

4.  A jigsaw, scroll saw or similar hand held saw to cut the side supports.

5.  Sharpening stones.  These are the ones I use (See attached):  A Norton's Combination IB8 Coarse/Fine India Stone.  If you're looking for a good all purpose stone, I'd recommend this or something similar.  I paid $16 for it.   I also use a Spyderco Ceramic Whet Stone Fine Grit.  This is probably unnecessary for day to day use, but by finishing up with this stone, I can get my knife razor sharp - sharp enough to shave the hair from my arm.

6.  A good knife.  It's hard to get a good edge with a knife made of poor quality metal.  My favorite knife, the one I carry almost every day, is a Benchmade Griptilian Mini. (See attached)

Step 2: Cut the Base and Main Support

Simply cut a base for your jig.  Length doesn't matter here, but width is important.  You want it the same size as your main support (what I'll refer to as the "stone support").

To cut the stone support, here's where you need a chop saw.  I suppose you could cut this with a miter box or even handheld "freehand" but do yourself a favor and ask a friend to cut this for you if you don't own a chop saw. 

Now a side bar on the "correct" angle for sharpening a knife.  There is quite a debate on what angle you should use to sharpen your knife.  I don't pretend to know the best angle for any given knife.  What I do know is what works for me and my particular knife.  I picked 22 degrees and went with it. 

Why?  Because I didn't know what angle to go with!  And I simply tried to estimate the angle that's worked for me when I've sharpened my knives by hand. 

Here's what I can tell you...I think the whole debate is overblown.  I think you should just try and figure out what angle works best for your knife and your use of the knife, and stick with it.  If you find out later that it's too great or too little of an angle, then make another jig.

Back to the cutting of the wood.  Whatever you decide to be the angle for which you want to sharpen your blades, that's what you should dial in on your chopsaw.  Again, I went with 22 degrees. 

Step 3: Attach the Stone Support to the Base

I used dry wall screws to attach the support to the base.  You could also use epoxy and a clamp, but I didn't want to wait. 

Look at the pic and you'll see where I had to grind down the screws after I attached the support to the base.  If you don't countersink these better than I did, you may have to do the same if your screws protrude above the surface of the wood.  The point is you want the stone to sit flush on the wood surface of the stone support.

Notice also how the support is set back about 3/8 to 1/2 of an inch from the edge of the base.  You want to do this in order to have the base support your stone.  Also be sure to check each of your stones on this before you screw these down completely.  You want to make sure your THINNEST stone sits on here completely without having any of the wood from the base exposed.  More on this later...

Step 4: Cut and Attach the Side Supports

You need to make 2 side supports from 1/4 inch scrap plywood or similar.

These are used for the purpose of holding the stone securely to your jig.

I used a 3 inch bolt and wing nut to securely (and easily by using the wing nut) tighten down the stone on the jig.

I also drilled the holes of the side supports larger than the bolts that I used.  You don't want a tight fit on want a little play so you can position the side supports so they don't protrude above the stone.  (You don't want your knife to be hitting the side supports when you're sharpening.  See pic.

Step 5: Sharpen Knife

To sharpen your knife, make sure you work on the edge of a table.  Take it from me, you don't want to hit your knife on your kitchen table to piss off your wife, but more importantly, you don't want the table to dull your knife as you're sharpening it!

Also a note on safety:  Be careful.  Before you use this jig, please get some instructions on how to actually sharpen a knife blade.  Don't do this barefoot.  Also make sure you have no kids or pets running around while you sharpen your knife.  You can find a LOT of instruction on how to safely sharpen a blade elsewhere.  I'm not giving that here.  The only thing I'll share is this:  What works for ME is the following.  I hold the knife at a 90 degree angle and push downward (I don't pull upward or "backwards"). 

I sharpen my knife about once every 2 weeks.  And in a matter of less than 5 minutes, I have a blade sharp enough to shave hair off my arm.  My dad always taught me, "A sharp knife is a safe knife."  It's counter intuitive but it's true.  If you have a dull knife, odds are, you're going to use it incorrectly or inefficiently and you therefore greatly increase the likelihood you'll injure yourself or someone.



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    27 Discussions

    "hold the knife at a 90 degree angle"-- relative to the bench/table top? How do you maintain that angle consistently or accurately freehand? [At least more effectively than doing it with a stone simply placed flat on the bench, or even holding the jig in your hand.] Isn't there slight variation/wobble in the down-stroke that gives you only a relative angle of 22 degrees? Did you waterproof or finish the wood so water used in honing wouldn't mess it up [or oil runoff be easier to wipe away]? Nice, easy, and effective build! I, too, have your dad's admonition echoing in my ears [and my son probably does as well from me--the gift that keeps on giving! ;) ] Good job!

    3 replies

    Hi, thanks for the comments.  Some follow up...90 degrees relative to the bench/table top? Right, hold the knife at a 90 degree angle relative to the bench/table top.  Or better, hold it "vertically".

    How do you maintain that angle consistently or accurately freehand?   Isn't there slight variation/wobble in the down-stroke that gives you only a relative angle of 22 degrees?  You answered your own question!  You can't maintain the angle perfectly, but certainly, "more effectively than doing it with a stone simply placed flat on the bench, or even holding the jig in your hand."

    Did you waterproof or finish the wood so water used in honing wouldn't mess it up [or oil runoff be easier to wipe away]?  Good question.  I thought about doing this, but realized it was unnecessary for my MO in sharpening.  I read somewhere a long time ago it's simply not necessary to keep the stone wet (with water or oil) while sharpening.  And I've adopted this principle.  However note, if you DO sharpen with a dry stone, you do need to keep the stone clean.  For me, I clean my stone every time, before I use it, under running water.  Sometimes I'll even use scouring powder (especially on my ceramic stone).  If the stone is really loaded with metal particles, then I use a stiff brush or scouring pad.  I then dry the stone off and put in the jig ready for use.  If my knife is really dull, then I might have to stop and clean the stone in the middle of sharpening.  But this is rare. 

    It's funny the sayings you remember as an adult spoken from your parents!  Lately my kids who are all young have been saying, "That's not fair!" in response to whatever they don't agree with.  And I catch myself saying another favorite of my dad's, "Who said life had to be fair?!" 

    Thanks! I had read, too, that it's not necessary to use oil or water during the sharpening process. In fact the article I read I think mentioned that, in the author's opinion, doing so was counterproductive from the sharpening aspect [although it does help keep the stone from getting clogged--but cleaning as you do takes care of that]. I think he mentioned all the metal debris ['swarf' I think it's called] suspended in the liquid damaged the newly forming edge as it was moved through it. I'm not sure that's totally true since I get equally good results either way [can shave my had or arm hairs equally well], but it's messier to be sure. Do you ever try "restoring" [burnishing] the edge with a steel so as to regain the sharp edge without removing metal just to touch up an otherwise sharp edge. After seeing one blade of mine get smaller, and a blade of dad's so worn that it was half the original size] I decided vigorous regular honing was bad until the edge had been damaged. The burnishing works nicely and spares excessive wear on the blade.

    I've read something similar before as well. It depends on the stone and blade steel. Not all stones and steels need to be wet to sharpen. Just remember once you use water or oil on a stone that is a point of no return for that stone. Never go back and forth between oil and water on your stones. Pick one and stay with it. The stone its self will sharpen better and last longer that way.

    Starting project to learn how to sharpen blades. Have 1" vertical belt sander woth collection of grit diamond belts and leather strops Holding that angle by hand is a problem. Any experience with belt sander and fine grit/diamond belts. Wet/dry why to prevent over heating? or remove minute metal particles Would magnet help with metal debris?

    Thanks for sharing,gonna make 2 as I have different sized stones.


    2 years ago

    I'm sorry but, I can't see this simply doesn't make sense and it's going to be difficult to maintain that crucial angle...a stone placed flat is always the best option...the flat option worked for my dad, (and he was a woodsman) and it worked for me as a carver...

    1 reply

    No need to apologize! Sometimes it takes a little faith to see something work you either haven't tried or don't understand. But regardless, you have a method - what worked for your dad and works for you - and that's the point of the instructable: maintaining a sharp blade in a safe manner. In any case, thanks for commenting & Happy New Year!

    Interesting idea. A question though, how does the oil stay on the stone?

    Yes a very good job and your explanations are even good for a f00l. I will be making one soon

    I see that no one's complimented you on having an EDC knife, so I shall. Bravo sir! The Griptillian and its little Brother are excellent knives! (And anyone who doesn't know what EDC means - SHOULD! LOL!)
    Nice job,

    1 reply

    Thanks for noticing! Yes, this my Every Day Carry knife. I've had this one for over 8 years. Often I've misplaced it and can't find it...until ultimately I find it still attached to my pants pocket! If anyone is looking for a good pocket knife under $100, or a good gift for your dad (or whoever) the griptillian mini is a good choice.

    Great instructible! I love keeping my knives in tip-top condition and I'll be making jigs for several angles with your approach. My dad always told me "The only thing a dull knife is good at cutting is you!"

    Now Im having one of those "now why didnt i think of that" moments
    The KISS rule wins again.

    Good idea... I have previously just held stone upwards at a slight angle but this is a whole lot easier...
    Think i will make me one..

    Thanks! Very good project! I do have a question. After I sharpen the left side of the blade, how do I sharpen the right side? If I turn the jig 180 degrees, then I would have to hold the jig with my right hand and hold the knife with my left hand. I'm not very good at using my left hand.

    1 reply

    Sounds like your user name should be "2 right thumbs"! You must be right handed...I don't know what to say other than just give it some time and you'll pick it up with your left hand.

    Looks nice, anything that increases the steadyness will help. I've tried clamping stones into place, sometimes in a vise or sometimes flat on a benchtop. But it's hard to see the edge with the stone flat like that. Tilting it up like you're doing yet still held solid is very nice. I like to use a reversed approach nowdays, I keep the blade still and move the stone across it and with the stone on top I can see the edge. A little black felt tip marker helps to show where the stone is hitting the edge too. Now I have a paper wheel sharpening rig, so at home I make shaving sharp edges in less time than it takes to use a stone.