When to apply back bevel on plane iron?

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Forum topic by gauntlet21 posted 11-01-2018 01:02 AM 1075 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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69 posts in 820 days

11-01-2018 01:02 AM

Topic tags/keywords: hand plane sharpening sharpening process

I’ve got many sharpening stones to sharpen my plane irons but have narrowed the process down to 500/1000 grit (depending on condition of the blade), 4000, 8000, and 16000 grit. I usually apply a back bevel to the blade using the ruler trick or the Veritas MKII Jig. I’m wondering if the “proper” way to sharpen is to do the primary bevel, secondary bevel, and then back bevel on a single stone and then move up to the next stone and repeat OR, can I put the back bevel on first using all of the stones so it is polished really well and then do the primary and secondary bevel on each stone all the way to 16000 and then do a final touch up on the back bevel with the 16000 to remove any burr?

I’m thinking as long as the back bevel is large enough to not get removed during the primary and secondary bevel sharpening, the second method I mentioned would work well? Is there a reason to do it the first way or an entirely different way? Side note: this is for bevel down bench planes only and I only spend a second or two on the primary bevel during each stone. I don’t polish the primary bevel until it is as mirror-like as my secondary bevels.



7 replies so far

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 2979 days

#1 posted 11-01-2018 01:32 PM

The ruler trick isn’t intended to apply a back bevel to the blade. It does, but only a tiny amount.

The reason to use the ruler trick is to reduce the amount of time you spend getting a final polish on the back of the blade. Assuming your back is flat, and it should be, tipping the blade up slightly allows you to take a couple of passes on the back of the blade, on your finest stone, to get that final honed edge. You should just be able to see a very fine line of polished edge all the way across the blade after using the ruler trick. You’re not looking for much.

There is no need, or benefit, to doing it with multiple grits.

Without the ruler trick you could spend a lot of time getting the back polished after each honing of the bevel.

At least this is what I understood from the Charlesworth DVD’s from LN.

-- John

View shampeon's profile


1900 posts in 2793 days

#2 posted 11-01-2018 03:00 PM

I think the ruler trick is unnecessary for most blades. If you have a particularly pitted or warped blade, it’s a way of making it useful again.

There’s realistically no need to reflatten the back after it’s been done, even if you have to regrind the bevel. I you spend the time to get the back flat and polished—once—a quick swipe on the back at high grit after sharpening or honing the bevel is all you need to do remove the wire burr from the bevel, and you move on to the next higher grit.

The only time I ever put in a back bevel is if I need a higher cutting angle on bevel-down planes.

I touch up the blade with honing compound on a strop periodically, which is a lot easier to do with a flat back.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Robert's profile


3602 posts in 2090 days

#3 posted 11-01-2018 03:06 PM

Working the primary bevel is really just wasted effort.

As said, the ruler trick is really just done on the highest grit stone and is just a tweaking method as well as removes the burr.

I prefer to hollow grind and go straight to a secondary (or tertiary in some cases) bevel.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 2979 days

#4 posted 11-01-2018 03:37 PM

I think what Ian said is the rub – once you flatten and polish the back once. The ruler trick eliminates the need to polish the back ever. Get it flat, that critical, but no need to go to particularly high grits to polish it.

I believe (it’s been a while since I viewed the videos) Charlesworth flattens the backs to either 1000 or 4000 and stops. He doesn’t polish to a mirror finish.

Using the ruler trick allow you to polish just the leading edge to a high polish (say 8000.) You just do it each time you sharpen, rather than once in the beginning.

Either way works.

-- John

View OSU55's profile


2509 posts in 2599 days

#5 posted 11-01-2018 08:52 PM

Why are you doing a primary and secondary bevel on the same stone? I’ll assume by secondary bevel you mean a microbevel, which I think that jig has an adjust to change the bevel angle by a degree or two for that purpose. Once you move to the secondary, stay there, no need to do both at each grit.

Agree with others that you are really talking about the ruler trick and not a back bevel. I use it on every iron – too many times I thought I had flattened the back only to find it was not truly flat. Only the highest grit that you take the bevel side to, unless you had to do some heavy grinding on the bevel to change angles or remove a nick. Heavy material removal can create quite a burr that needs to be removed before proceeding. I do this with the blade flat, not lifted. Also, for smoother plane blades that you want surgically sharp, stroke the bevel again lightly.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19440 posts in 3177 days

#6 posted 11-02-2018 10:37 AM

sharpened the primary bevel with a flat back and get back to work.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16344 posts in 3228 days

#7 posted 11-02-2018 10:39 AM

+1 to DonW. Flat back and primary bevel here too. Touch ups easy.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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