How to Sharpen Wood Carving Knives?

If you ask 10 different individuals for their opinion on the best way to sharpen wood carving knives, you will most likely receive ten different answers. The following is some extremely basic and in no way scientific advice on sharpening: I am hoping that you have acquired a quality knife made of quality steel.

If not, you should opt for a reputable brand. Ask a wood carver or a respectable knife dealer whether they can vouch for the product’s quality, or conduct some research on the internet if you have any questions. It is not necessary for the knife to have a particularly high price tag.

There are several high-quality knives that can be purchased for approximately ten dollars (or even less) that are suitable for the task at hand. But be careful; there are some people out there looking to earn easy money.

They have come to the conclusion that novice woodcarvers are excited about their newly discovered activity and are keen to purchase carving instruments. Do your homework before making any purchases, particularly when it comes to pricey gear.

Once you have a decent knife, you need always be cautious with it. When sharpening your knife, you run the risk of cutting yourself just like you do when you’re using it for other tasks.

Stones Used for Sharpening

First, buy some decent sharpening stones. These should be available in sporting goods and hunting supply shops, in addition to numerous department stores and other types of retail establishments.

Stones that are affixed to a triangular piece of wood and may be held in the hand are one of my favorite types of stones. On each face of the triangular piece of wood is a different kind of sharpening stone—medium, fine, and ultra-fine, respectively.

If the knife is very dull, you should begin the sharpening process on the medium side, then go on to the fine side, and finally, conclude with the ultra-fine side.

Hone carving knives specifically for wood.

How to Sharpen a Wood Carving Knife Using These Three Methods

The following are three distinct methods that may be used to sharpen your carving knives for wood:

  1. Put the blade on the stone so that it is almost level but at a small angle, and then pull the knife away from you as if you were attempting to remove a very thin layer of the stone. This will help you get a smooth finish.
  2. Place the blade so that it is almost level but at a small angle on the stone, and then slide the knife toward you with the sharp side of the blade in the trailing position.
  3. Place the blade on the stone so that it is almost horizontal but still at a tiny inclination. Then, using the blade, make small circular movements.

The first approach is highly recommended by the majority of wood carvers I know. You should give all three a go, and then stick with the one that gives you the greatest results.


After you have used one of the aforementioned techniques to sharpen your knife to its maximum potential, it is time to get out the leather strop. A strop may be bought, and if you want to, you can spend a lot of money for one.

However, it is not difficult to create your own. This is how I came up with mine: You are able to adjust the proportions to meet your requirements.

  1. Find a piece of wood that is about 16 inches in length, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 3/4 inches thick.
  2. Keep 11 inches as they are, then cut a handle out of the remaining 5 inches using a rounded shape. I just attached a handle to one end of mine, but you may find it more convenient to have handles attached to both ends.
  3. Drill a hole at the very tip of the handle, thread a length of leather through it, and then create a knot to secure the two ends of the leather together. (This is done mostly for aesthetic reasons.)
  4. Find a shoe repair business or a leather craft store and ask for a piece of leather that is 1 1/2 inches by 11 inches. Attach it to the wood using glue. You may alternatively use glue to secure an old leather belt of the suitable size to the board with the completed side facing up. I used a liquid epoxy that cures in 5 minutes and has two parts. It is the type that is packaged in a plastic tube with two barrels that has the appearance of a large hypodermic needle but does not contain a needle. You may get it at any retail establishment that sells clothing.

Obtain some sharpening compounds at this time. After trying a few other brands, my favorite is Herb’s Yellowstone. It is a solid block measuring 4 inches in length by 1 inch on each side and is packaged in a little cardboard box.

The consistency is very much like that of chalk. Use the edge of your knife to scrape off a portion of the powder, and then let it to fall onto the leather strop that you have. Apply a finish to the leather. (There isn’t much of a requirement.) After only one application, the powder will get deeply ingrained in the leather, and it will remain effective even after several stroppings. It is not necessary to put it on every single time.

To strop your knife, put it down as flat as you can on the leather and, while maintaining a downward pressure on the knife, bring it toward you with the sharp edge trailing away from you. This will cause the edge to become more durable. 

When you operate your knife on a Yellowstone strop, the color of the strop will change very fast to a dark black as you continue to use it. You can tell that the strop and the Yellowstone are doing their jobs properly because this is the metal that is being removed from the knife while it is being sharpened. Just a small bit of work on your part, and your knife will be as sharp as a razor and ready for use.

If your blade is showing any signs that it is becoming less sharp, you should strop it again. Don’t wait till it becomes boring before you try it. If you strop it often, you will not need to use the stones very often, if at all.

Wrapping up

I did not go into detail on the degree of the angle at which one should hold the blade or any of the other technical aspects. I don’t know very many individuals who are that mechanically adept that they could keep a knife held at the same angle for the whole of the sharpening process.

You will discover a happy medium for the angle that works best for you if you follow these basic recommendations, utilize common sense, and conduct a little bit of experimentation on your own. You need to get favorable outcomes.

You should now be familiar with how to sharpen blades used for wood carving. If you don’t keep the knife’s blade safe by storing it in a container like a case or toolbox where it won’t come into contact with any of your other implements, you’ll find that the next time you need to use it, it will be dull.

If you have any questions regarding where you may access any of the items that were discussed above, or if you have any other queries, please submit them in the comments box that is located below.

I am happy to be of assistance in any manner that I can. Please use the share buttons included on this page to spread the word about this article if you enjoyed reading it and believe that others may benefit from reading it as well. I hope you like carving!

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