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Copyright (c) 2002-15, Brent Beach

Archive of Jig Designs

There are a number of jigs in the family tree of my current jig. Most had very specific purposes and were simple derivations of my original jig.

If you landed here from a search engine, you could jump to the Sitemap/Contents page which will connect you to pages of interest to you. Start here for an overview of how I sharpen edge tools. If you are interested in jig designs for a variety of edge tools, you are in the right place.

I am currently using two designs almost all the time. For honing, the standard square jig discussed in these pages. In fact, I think I am still using this jig. That picture was taken Feb 27, 2006. These jigs turn out to be pretty durable. For grinding, the same slanted jig used in my grinding video. That picture was taken Sep 17, 2006. Neither jig has been repaired since it was made.

As well as discussion of my jigs, I have included here pictures of jigs made by people who were inspired by my jig. Quite a variety of approaches.

My Jig Designs

The Original

original This is one of my first jigs based on the idea of just sliding the jig on the glass. The screws heads are counter sunk into the short jaw, the nuts on the tall jaw. Tightening the nuts causes the screws to turn, so you need a screw driver and a wrench at the same time as you are holding the jig. I developed a weird screw driver that made this a little easier. I used this jig for years. The F stands for Front, to remind me which side the bevel went on - the jig was not exactly sized. You can see a little wear on the edge at the bottom. Not much wear for having done hundreds of sharpenings.

Grinding Jig

grinding I usually grind my irons using a 1" belt sander. Having limited bench space, I do not have permanent bench top room for the belt sander, so it spends most of the time hanging from the ceiling (joists). Rather than use it, I built this jig to try to use a variation on Quick Lap for grinding irons. Quick Lap is a Scary Sharp variation that uses very low grit Alumina Zirconia belts to flatten plane soles.

This jig holds the iron in the usual way, but rather than slide back and forth in front of the abrasive sheet, it slides on either side of the abrasive. I glued a 2-1/2" wide (?) belt to a piece of glass and tried it out. The abrasive is represented by the blue line in the picture.

Looks like a good idea. I wonder why I have not used it since then?

Side Holding Jig

side holding Got to thinking about jigs on a long drive one day and come up with this version. It is much like the eclipse jig, side holding with the tension provided by a bolt and a nut (well, piece of threaded metal). The difference is that the rod that aligns the jig is on the other side of the screw, away from the blade. This jig has a slightly different geometry - the back bevel angle (you knew it supported back bevels, of course) depends on the blade thickness in this one.

The blade position is shown by the green line. The dowel at the top is fixed on the left side, slides on the right side. This jig works fairly well. The bolt should perhaps be closer to the blade position to reduce racking. In this orientation it is positioned to do the back bevel.

An interesting video showing how to make improvements to the Eclipse jig. If you are using an Eclipse jig, these small adjustments might help.

Skew Jig

skew This jig is used for wood turning skew chisels. Standard idea, but both sides get the same bevel.

Water Stone Version

water stone I tried out water stones (What is all the fuss about?). You can't slide a jig on a water stone, so this took a little doing. I built a pond with wooden sides on which I could slide the jig. The pond doesn't actually have any water in it, just the water stone sitting on a couple of wedges. By sliding the wedges together I could raise the stone to the level of the sides of the pond.

The problem with this jig is you cannot use it to put back bevels on the iron (the short jaw would have to be U-shaped, just like the tall jaw). Didn't get a lot of use. Still don't know why people bother with water stones.

Tiny Version

tiny This is the smallest jig I have made. The tall jaw is only 3/4" tall. This is the size to use for irons under 4" long. I think Steve Knight planes originally came with short irons.

Japanese Irons

Japanese irons Japanese irons are short and tapered. They are short enough to present particular problems for sharpening with a jig. This design attempts to get around the shortness issue by grabbing the iron at the end with a sort of pliers action.

The iron is represented by the green line. The screws pull the jaws together (force along the yellow line), with the jaws pivoting around the small wooden slip on the right end of the top jaw (red arrow). The jig slides on the bottom of the darker piece of wood at the right when working the main bevel.

When doing the back bevel, it slides on the small slip at the right end of the upper jaw (blue arrow). It is adjustable for main bevel angle only by shimming at the back of the iron (right end of the green line) to change the projection of the blade. I still use this jig.

Some other Jig Designs

The Eclipse Style

eclipse eclipse My first jig was store bought. The jig is a side clamping style with a roller. It was bending my wide irons and scratching the glass. It did however have one crucial characteristic - you set the angle by setting the projection of the edge from the front of the jig. It even has the projections in raised lettering on the side of the jig.

George Bell has put the eclipse jig onto a sled and uses it with PSA abrasives. He has slips that allow micro bevels, but has no back bevel option.

Veritas Style

Veritas style Bought this shop made jig from an old coot who made these and a type of Jorgenson style wooden brace and sold them at his garage sale. Grabs the blade top and bottom and keeps the blade flat, but the blade slips and it has a roller. Any jig that holds the blade with a single pressure point in the middle of the blade is probably an error - the blade cannot be held firmly enough to prevent slipping, or turning, during use.

Veritas Mark II

Veritas II Veritas has made significant improvements in the second version of their jig.

As shown here -- with the extension setting attachment in place -- it can be seen to combine many of the features of my jig:

Even with these enhancements, it is still three features short of perfection.

Even though lacking a few essential features, it does well on the Buck Rogers rating scale.

Abrasive jig

Garrett Wade Garrett Wade sells this Diamond Honing Guide.

Quite ingenious, the tool lies flat and the jig, which has diamond hones slotted in, moves past the tool.

If used to hone only, this could be quite a good hone. It would only hone a single microbevel and would not help with back bevels on plane blades, but it might be a quick way to hone and then touch up a chisel.

Notice however that you only use a very small part of the abrasive. If you are honing microbevels, you use just 0.01" of the abrasive. You buy and abrasive that is 0.5" wide and use only 2% of it. Even with diamond, this will wear fairly quickly.

While it side sharpens - uses a side to side motion - it will not put a camber on the blade the way the side to side sharpening using a jig does.

Millers Falls 1905

Millers Falls 1905 Millers Falls listed this jig in their 1905 catalogue. Other similar jigs were made by other companies. I have a General jig that looks a lot like this.

Large Jigs like this that do not roll on the abrasive have two main advantages over the smaller jigs that do.

1912 Stanley 200

Stanley 200

Similar in concept to the Millers Falls, the tool is held near the end in a clamp, the tool and jig riding on the tool edge and a roller. The angle determined by the height of the jig above the roller.

The angles possible are limited by the fineness of the threaded rod.

This image is from US Patent 1,047,126 granted on December 10, 1912, patented by J. M. Hance, but assigned to the Stanley Rule & Level Company.

The patent image is interesting because it shows the tool/jig resting on a round abrasive - a grindstone of the circular revolving type. From the patent, it appears that it was intended that the operator actually spin the grindstone while the tool and jig were in contact. Quite ingenious.

This jig has two ways of adjusting the sharpening angle. You can set the extension - not mentioned in the patent application - or you can adjust the height using the threaded rod.

1870: O. Hanks patent

O. Hanks patent

Early patent for a jig to be used on a grinding wheel.

Again, the tool is held by a screw pressing down on top, the movement of the jig accommodated by a wheel.

Not a lot different from the preceding Hance design.

The only way of adjusting the sharpening angle is by setting the blade extension.

Jigs made by visitors to my sharpening pages

Some designs of shop made jigs, most recently received first.

John Schmidt

John Schmidt knife jig Knives are particularly hard to jig - they are narrow and need small angles.

John used neodymium magnets and "the blade just snaps in."

I have often wondered whether magnets would work in jigs for knives. The problem - some stainless steels are not magnetic. All of my stainless steel knives are magnetic. John makes his knives of O1 steel so they are magnetic.

Check your knives before building a jig that uses magnets.

Because these knives are skewed, John is able run the jig beside the abrasive and still have the abrasive move across (rather than along) the cutting edge.

Michael Ball

Michael Ball Adze This is the first time anyone has reported making a jig for an adze. The problem with handled tools is that the handle bumps into the front of the glass sheet, limiting the range of motion.
sketchup Adze I made a sketchup model of an alternate surface for handled tools. The tool moves into the slot, the jig slides on the sides, the abrasive is on the front surface.

In this model the glass and the abrasive are integral, meaning that you would need an entirely new jig for each abrasive grit you used. It would make more sense to design this so that glass with the abrasive could be switched as needed. Variations on the Stone Vice would work.

Michael Ball Adze Michael wondered about how this would work with a incannel adze - and he has one. He thought of putting the jig on the handle. I am not sure if this would work.
sketchup Adze Just because making sketchup models is fun, I made one for an incannel adze. This looks a lot more like my stone vice. In stead of a stone, the vice captures a tube of appropriate diameter (just less than that of the adze) with adhesive backed abrasive on the upper surface.

Putting a back bevel on the outside of this incannel adze would require that the back jaw be semi-circular. See the jigs made by Tom Culver below.

Chris Hudson

Chris Hudson, tool rest Chris Hudson sent along this picture of a tool rest replacement. You can see my versions on the belt sander page along with an all-acrylic version of this tool rest.

Chris bought the Harbor Freight belt sander and made a tool rest out of 1/4" Polycast acrylic and an angle bracket.

It looks a little big to me - a bit wide on the left side. Chris says it is 4" wide. My fingers are only 2 1/2" long, so anything more than that I cannot reach. You have to move the tool to the right far enough so that the left side of the tool is on the belt. For larger tools, this can be a problem if the tool rest is too wide. My tool rest is about 2 1/2" wide. You should not need more than 3" wide. Nice thing about Polycast acrylic - if it is a little wide you can trim a bit off easily with a hand saw.

I made an all acrylic version of this jig for my belt sander. A variant can be used on my grinder as well (replacing the crappy tool rest from General).

Richard Butts

Richard Butts, tool rest Richard Butts converted my acrylic version of Chris Hudson's tool rest into MDF. He used "1/4 inch MDF and Titebond III". Much to my surprise, the glue holds even though the surface area is quite small - two butt joints.

Richard write: "Works great so far. If it proves out over time I will make one from steel just like it."

If it works in MDF, why not make one in some exotic wood? Why steel? I have some small bits of wood around ...

Bob Jones

Bob Jones jig Bob Jones made a stone vice using plywood offcuts, as well as slanted jigs for grinding. Bob also intends to try using abrasive sheets on glass the same size of the coarse stone to hone in the same setup.

Bob reports that the coarse stone worked well right out of the box - no need to recondition the surface on concrete. He went one step further and rubbed the back face on concrete and found that it did not work as well as the other face! So, before assuming a new coarse Norton stone will not work, be sure to give it a good trial. Let's hope that Bob's experience is the new normal for these Norton stones.

Tom Culver

Tom Culver has adapted the basic jig design to curved carving chisels. I use a straight bodied jig for straight edges. These pages include several designs of jigs with rounded bottom edge to allow honing of rounded (cambered) edges on straight blades. With carving chisels you almost never have a straight (flat) blade, let along a straight edge. You could be putting a straight edge on a rounded blade, or a rounded edge on a rounded blade.

It looks like Tom got the tall jaw height from the extension calculator, then used that as the radius of a circular tall jaw. This is a reasonable approximation to the jig shape. The actual honed angle will vary from the middle of the chisel to the edge, but only by a few degrees. A more complex calculation (with resulting more complex lower jaw shape) is needed if you want precise angles on rounded gouges with straight or rounded edges.

Tom Culver jig Sizing of these jigs works the same as sizing for any jig derived from my basic model. You decide first how much blade you can have extending in front of the jig (the blade length minus the jig thickness) and the angle you want. Take these to the extension calculator. You cannot put the extension into the calculator - you have to try various values for the tall jaw height until you find those that produce suitable extensions.

For very short carving tools you will have the added excitement of making a slanted jig.

This jig is rounded to handle the 1 1/2" gouge. Tom must have spent some time with the extension calculator, using the length of the chisel and the honing angle to find the right size for this jig - which happens to be 1 1/2" radius circle. The base has a V-groove 5/8" wide and 5/16" deep to steady the gouge. Without the groove, the small contact area between the gouge back and the jig means very high pressure with likely burnishing of the wood. Once burnished the wood no longer holds the chisel in place well. The screws go into holes tapped in the base. Tom used Cherry.

Tom Culver jig Same idea but for a much smaller 1/4" gouge. In this case, the radius of the base is 3/4".

These are the only jigs Tom uses for all of his gouges.

Tom Culver jig A little hard to see, this is actually a V-tool. Again, with the size of the tool and the angle you want, use the extension calculator to determine the basic jig size.

The V-tool has a 75 degree angle - so does the jig. The base is notched to accept the tool. The sliding faces are slightly rounded.

Threads tapped into base as in all the other jigs. I have been using a plane iron jig made of mahogany with threads tapped into the base - the threads show no signs of loosing strength.

Tom Culver jig Tom even does incannel gouges. The half-round has the same radius as the gouge, so you need one half round for each gouge radius. One jig works for any gouge.

The upper jig jaw is notched as in the other jigs. The lower jaw has an elliptical indent based on the largest gouge radius. Tom uses flexible plastic on the half-found to raise the jig - flexible plastic slips.

Tom can use his incannel gouge to pare cross-grain on pine and redwood with great results.

Tome spends the last hour in the shop each week sharpening all his tools. He marks any problem tools with masking tape and gives them a little extra jig time in the next sharpening session.

Tom Culver jig For small things - knickers, pencil sharpener blades - Tom uses vice grips to hold the tool and this jig to hold the vice grips. Tom notched the base to hold the back of the pliers. Some adaptation was also required on the upper jaw of the jig.

Because the tool is much larger away from where it is held, top slit the top at the screw in the font of the picture to make a quick release top. It looks like a shadow to the right of the front screw but that is the quick release slot.

In order to work with very small tools like nickers, Tom filed off a bit of the nose of the pliers.

Tom has shown considerable ingenuity.

Scott McLagan

Scott McLagan jig Scott McLagan built some wood/metal jigs - one sized for the short Lee Valley block plane blade. The wooden part is hand-me-down Lignum Vitae - his dad was a ship builder and these bits followed him home. I have some similar blocks of Lignum Vitae I bought from a ship builder who worked on wooden hulled mine sweepers in Vancouver, BC, during the second world war. This wood sits around for a long while before finding just the right use.

Scott appears to have use larger and thicker glass sheets than I use. He is also not using a backing board. The edge of the glass look nicely eased though.

On the short jig for the block plane iron, a narrow jig with a wooden back would probably work well. If the t-nuts partially overlap the blade in the area in which the blade is held, there should be no problems with the wooden jaw flexing.

Scott McLagan jig Scott later sent me a picture. The email said "The pic is of a pine shaving, certainly only a few cells thick." I saw the jig, the two slips and the plane and was wondering where the picture of the shaving was. Wow! The shaving is resting on the plane! Very nice.

George Daiber

George Daiber aluminum jig George Daiber has a complete machine shop - he made this jig out of aluminum.

I think the jig should be made out of wood but George assures me that the jig works just fine.

  1. Glass wear - George assures me there is no wear problem with aluminum sliding on glass.
  2. Blade holding - You can just see that George notched the top of the thick jaw to help keep the blade square - the blade does not turn in the jig even when twisted hard.
  3. Thin jaw - George has no flex in the thin jaw. He made the jig just wide enough for a 2" iron.

thin shaving From George: "I brought a shirt pocket full of chips into the house to measure, with the range of chips being the .0015 down to the .00035. This technique is very effective even right out of the box and me not having the experience with this sharpening method."

George has also made a very good version on my stone vice, again out of machine aluminum. George's version has a couple of important improvements over mine.

Dave Gilbert

Dave Gilbert brass jig Dave Gilbert built his version of my jig using brass! The screw holes were tapped with 8-32 treads. Dave also made a jig from high density PVC.

Running the screws through counter sunk holes in the thin side into tapped holes in the thick side would work for hard woods as well. I suspect that slanted jigs for chisels and for grinding plane irons might be more easily made this way.

Edi Malinaric

Edi Marinaric brass and olive jig Edi Malinaric used brass and olive wood. A 3mm brass plate with square stock silver soldered to that. Edi says he has no problems with scratching the glass. The shaving below is spruce, though it looks like lace. Edi made (is making?) a cello.

spruce shaving 0.0006

Jerry M. Honeycutt

Jerry M. Honeycutt with rare earth magnets Jerry M. Honeycutt added a couple of rare earth magnets to a standard jig design to make it easier to hold the plane blade during extension setting. Shallow holes with a Forstner bit, then epoxy to hold the magnets in place.

The magnets are strong enough to hold the blade in position without any pressure from the other jaw.

Jerry M. Honeycutt with rare earth magnets

Jerry Alexander

Jerry Alexander Jerry Alexander has built a complete set of jigs. Great edges cannot be far behind.

These look so much like my jigs you might suspect that I made them. Jerry lives on the other side of the continent from me and we only met through google!

Wilbur Humphrey

Wilbur Humphrey Wilbur Humphrey made this slanted jig for chisels. Rather than screws and t-nuts, Wilbur uses hex head screws which he glues into the wooden knobs. He threads the hole using a tap designed for use with metal. I have tried this a couple of times and it seems to work. I have actually stripped a couple of t-nuts over the years (on my jig for sharpening saws only, but they are easy to replace) so taping threads may be an option.

Rather than glass as the sliding surface, Wilbur has used a melamine covered board.

Wilbur Humphrey This is how Wilbur makes his knobs.

Randy Klein

Randy Klein Randy Klein made two very interesting alterations to my jigs.

First, notice the rounding on the top and bottom (ignore the extra thickness for a minute). Randy wanted to put a bit more camber on his blades. If you camber the jig the same amount as you want to camber the blade, you can easily get camber.

For example, you might want to have 0.003 camber for a jack plane. By putting this much camber on the jig - both sides - you can easily hone to that profile.

It turns out that for small cambers a flat sided jig works fine. Just press a bit more on the corners of the edge as you hone. It will cause the jig to tilt but will hone to the cambered profile. For larger cambers, this type of modification to the jig works well.

Randy Klein These are Randy's abrasives. He attaches plate glass to MDF of varying thickness. The abrasive is on the plate glass. Having abrasives of known height, where those heights differ by the thickness of the slips you want to use, can remove the need to use slips when honing. The height difference is built into the abrasives instead.

To compensate for the fact that the abrasive surface is off the plane on which the jig slides, Randy thickened both parts of the tool jig. The amount you have to thicken depends on the exact jig geometry. You can see a sketchup model of a modified sharpening jig near the bottom of this page.

David Dack

David Dack David Dack has a metal lathe! This infill jig pinches the blade up against a metal plate. The thin plate is less flexible than a wooden jaw of the same thickness, allowing David to have smaller back bevels.

Mike McClain

Mike McClain Mike slides the jig on a separate plate of glass beside the abrasive, using three different height jigs plus the multi-size chisel jig occasionally. This appears to be part way between side-to-side and front-to-back honing. It has the advantage of long honing strokes, which can produce a much better result in that it is easier to learn to do well. It could result in a slightly less durable edge, but learning to sharpen is learning which tradeoffs work for you.

The box at the top holds the plates, jigs, extra sandpaper.

Jigs designed but not made

Sketchup models of alternate jig designs, most recently received first.

Since there are just models, there is no assurance that they can be made, or if made, that they will work as intended.

Kevin Halbleib

Honing jointer blades to resharpen them makes a lot of sense. This model of a jig that could be used to hone jointer blades was made by Kevin Halbleib.

The thickness of the wood can be varied depending on what you have in hand. The lengths of the sides give you the angle you need, given the height of the jointer blade itself. You have to add screws through the top of the jig that hit the blade to hold it in place. Machine screws will self-tap into most woods if you drill a hole slightly smaller than the screw diameter. Try drill holes on scrap before you do it on the jig to avoid splitting the wood.

The dimensions of this jig will allow you to hone the existing edge at 45 degrees. You could add slips to get microbevels. Slightly increasing the angle would allow you to use a very fine abrasive (3, 1, or 0.5 microns) right at the edge. This would produce a very good edge.

Adding microbevels to improve the honed edge does increase the included angle at the edge - as compared to the original blade. Will it reduce the included angle compared to the dull blade? Wear bevels are rounded, not flat. A worn blade thus has a larger included angle at the edge. Honing these wear bevels to re-establish a flat bevel right to the edge will thus reduce the included angle from the worn condition. It will not return to the original blade included angle.

If increased included angle is an issue, you might try grinding the primary to an angle less than 45 degrees, then add microbevels with the last at 45 degrees. Grinding the primary on a blade that is 4 to 8 or 10 inches long can be a very slow process. If you try this, be very careful that the grinding operation does not reach the existing edge. In that way, you do not shorten the blade. Since these devices rely on all 3 blades being the same height, taking care to change the blade height as little as possible is important. (Magnetic blade setting jigs make this less of a problem, but why make setup any harder than it has to be.)

Honing only the front leaves the blade half sharp - it will still have all of the back wear bevel. You can flatten the back at the edge - replace the rounded wear bevel with a flat microbevel, at 2 degrees or so. This would improve performance. You will need something in addition to this jig though. [I am reluctant to promote side sharpening, but if there is no alternative it might be appropriate in this case. Put a strip of masking tape about half an inch (10mm) from the edge on the back face. Using this as a slip and the edge on a fine abrasive, slide parallel to the edge of the abrasive. Check the back face at the edge - has the wear bevel been removed? You may need 2 or 3 thicknesses of masking tape to get a large enough angle to remove the entire wear bevel. Test first on a blade that is otherwise too dull to use.]

Before going to the trouble of making this jig, check the type of steel in your blades. Some very hard blades may be very difficult to hone. Super hard High Speed Steel or Vanadium Carbide blades will be very difficult to hone.


From a site visitor who wishes to remain anonymous - "Here's a little add-on I'm thinking about. It consists of two glass strips on the sides, and some kind of sled. For the three glass sheets, the strips would be appropriately higher by 2mm/3mm. This would allow to use the whole length of the paper for honing."

So, the cross piece slides on the glass strips on either side. The jig sits on the cross piece and must be able to move side to side as you go back and forth to ensure even use of the abrasive.

The advantage is that you can use the full length of the abrasive without the jig bumping into the abrasive or the tool going off the near end.

The design appears to have a couple of problems.

If someone builds this, send pictures and your experience for others to see.


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