Sharpening an Adze


I took some photos tonight while I sharpened my adze.  I wrote about my general sharpening procedure for an axe in this post a while back.  The general idea is the same, but sharpening an adze can be more intimidating due to the curves and geometry of the cutting edge.  I wrote a bit about that stuff here.  But really, its pretty straightforward.  There are lots of good sharpening techniques.  Here’s the way I go about it.


Just slightly convex.

First check for excessive rounding of the outer bevel.  Carefully rock a straightedge down onto the bevel (see below).  It is absolutely acceptable if the bevel is very slightly and gradually convex. It is a tool for hollowing after all, and with this slight roundness, the edge will still bite instantly and glide through the cut.  However, roundness much beyond this — especially any abrupt rounding at all near the cutting edge — is a problem.  If that is the case, the bevel needs to be reshaped/flattened.  Rather than go into that right now, let’s assume all is well in general with the bevel, and the tool just needs to be honed.

I hold the adze in my left hand with the edge pointing up.  This allows me to manipulate the adze and see when the stone, held in my right hand, is flat on the bevel.  I rock the stone onto the bevel, and I’m ready to hone.

I move the stone in small circles, maintaining contact with the bevel throughout. the movement from corner to corner.

The scratch pattern provides feedback on how well contact across the bevel has been maintained.  It may be helpful to blacken the bevel with a Sharpie to see the contrast more clearly.


Once I feel a slight burr along the entire inner bevel, I continue working the outer bevel with a finer stone.  Once I am finished with the extra fine stone, which may be all that was needed in the case of a little touch-up, I move on to the inner bevel.


I use a very fine ceramic teardrop slip at this point, rocking it down onto the bevel, then sliding along the inner bevel until the burr is on the outside.

I can feel the burr on the outside.  Then i use the flat portion of the same slip to lightly hone the outer bevel, which pushes the burr to the inside… This procedure continues until the burr is gone.  Sometimes the wire edge can be seen as it falls away.

Stropping polishes the edge and removes any fine burr that might remain.  I use a slip strop on the inner bevel.

I protect the edge with a good guard or sheath.  This is my favorite, a gift from a friend, and fellow carver, in Indiana who had it custom made.


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6 Responses to Sharpening an Adze

  1. James Kuhn says:

    David…as always spot-on. I’ve managed to collect a couple of tool boxes full of sharpening implements over the years. I have a set of the 6″ diamond hones I’ve been using recently. I use a white ceramic rod on the inner bevel. Actually, it’s a ceramic sharpening steel. After stropping with green oxide I take a piece of softwood, usually scrap Pine (soft Redwood will work, too) and use the blade of the Adze to cut a mirror image of the inside and outside of the Adze blade bevel (it works on Gouges, too). I put some polishing paste in the in shaped-recess. And now, using my new ‘custom-made’ Slip I do the final polishing. They are scary-sharp after that. I don’t always go through the entire process, depends on how much attention the edge needs. And, how incredibly anal I’m feeling.

    Thanks as always,



  2. Wow!! Great Dave!!! All those amazing pictures help show the process. I see three diamond stones pictured in the background. I’m guessing they are coarse, fine, and extra fine? Used depending on how much steel needs to be removed, or how dull the adze is. Thanks for taking the time last night after a long week in the classroom.


  3. James Kuhn says:

    I purchased my set of DMT sharpening ‘stones’ while attending Drew Langsner’s Spoon & Bowl carving class (Country Workshops). I learned very quickly, if Drew recommends a tool it’s because he has used it and it performs to his very exacting standards. The DMT diamond sharpening plates are excellent!

    I can’t remember where I learned the ‘Softwood’ polishing technique. Probably on the InterWeb. It works really well and gets the final polish of both Gouges and Adze blades to that ‘scary sharp’ state. BTW, I use “Autosol” Metal Polish. It comes in a tube and dispenses like toothpaste.

    Best regards,



  4. Pingback: Adze Adjustments | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

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