Simple Angle-setting Jig for Sharpening

Our angle-setting guide.

Every time we get questions about our setting jigs, I joke that I’m going to start making them to sell. Had I done it years ago, I could probably now afford that paint job my house needs…or at least afford some fancy cat treats!

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The questions have ticked up recently, due to the publication Christopher Schwarz’s book “Sharpen This.” But I still can’t bring myself to make these jigs, ’cause it’s so easy to make your own. But also because different honing guides require different placement of the blocks (it has to do with how far the blade projects)… and I don’t have time to make these for every guide out there. So here’s how to make the one we use, for our Lie-Nielsen honing guides:

Screw two pieces of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW) to a block of plywood. Done. No magnets. No magic.

OK, OK…here are a few more particulars:

The 1/2″-thick plywood block is 4-1/4″ long x 2-1/8″ wide. (Other sizes would work.) We like plywood because it is unlikely to warp as much as solid wood.

The 1/4″-thick UHWM plastic is left over from another project – but it’s the perfect thing for this. It doesn’t get munged up as easily as a block of wood when you register a blade against it, so it lasts a lot longer. The two little blocks of UHWM are 1″ wide x 1-1/8″ long.

The plastic is screwed in place with brass screws, because they won’t rust.

The 35° block is 7/8″ from the front edge; the 30° block is 1-5/32″ from the front edge.

Those are the only two angles at which we hone/polish 99 percent of our edge tools (and really, we mostly use only the 35°). But if you want a lot of angle choices on your jig, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has a free download for a fancy one. But we don’t do fancy when it comes to tool sharpening – ’cause making them dull is a lot more fun.

To use it, register the blade against the block, then tighten the jig. Easy, fast, repeatable.

But what if you don’t have a Lie-Nielsen honing guide, or you want different angles? Well, you’ll just have to figure out the proper projection to get the setting block in the right place. Here are two ways to do that.

Put a blade in your guide, then put a Tilt Box on the blade and register the bevel against a flat surface. Adjust the guide until the readout matches your goal angle. Tighten the guide, then measure the distance from the body of the guide to the end of the blade. That’s the distance from the guide’s body the setting block should be secured to the setting jig’s base.

The Tilt Box II in use.

Or put a blade in your guide and register the existing bevel against a flat surface. Put a protractor upright on that same flat surface. Align the business end of the blade with the center of a protractor (make sure the 0° on said protractor is on the edge – they aren’t all). Adjust the guide until the angle matches the one you want.



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