How to Sharpen a Hook Knife for Green Spoon Carving

Having a sharp tool set is an essential part of being able to safely and effectively carve. Today we will continue our green carving series with instructions on how to sharpen your hook knife.

A finished spoon out of Cherry

In my prior article about sharpening a hatchet, I neglected to mention my process for making my sandpaper sharpening paddles. Simple as it may be, it’s worth mentioning that I grabbed a scrap piece of 3/4″ stock from the pile, marked out a shape that looked like it might work nicely, then cut it out on my bandsaw. I made two paddles so I could use 4 grits.

Use bandsaw to cut out paddle shape

I then used spray adhesive to stick the four grits of sandpaper to each of the four sides of the paddles and labeled each one.

Mark your grits

Sharpen your hook knife

Sharpening a hook knife is another seemingly daunting task but is actually very similar to sharpening your axe head. Because the blade of a hook knife is much thinner than that of an axe, there is very little material that needs to be removed to make it sharp, so starting at 400 grit is very reasonable.

Because I’ve already established all my bevels and only need a few strokes to re-sharpen all my carving tools, and because I’ve started carving all over the place and wanted my kit to be lighter and more portable, I made the paddles described above and then made a third paddle and glued on a piece of leather to use as a strop.

Use permanent marker to mark your bevel

I use permanent marker to mark all along the bevel of the hook knife and let it dry. Then I use my non-dominant hand to hold the hook knife bevel facing forward with my hand braced against my hip bone on my dominant side (i.e. right hand to left hip or vice versa), so I can use my dominant hand to push my paddle across the bevel, back to tip of the blade.

Remove marker with push strokes across the bevel

Starting at 400 grit, I carefully remove the permanent marker starting at the back of the bevel, then raise my paddle until it is at the perfect angle to remove marker from the whole back of the bevel all the way to the tip until it all comes off in one stroke.

Another view of hand position

Sometimes I need to reapply the marker a few times just to be sure I’m not pushing my paddle at too high or too low an angle. When I can remove all the marker in one stroke along the whole blade, I move up to the next grit and so on.

Before I strop, I take a dowel rubbed with abrasive paste (the same kind as I use on my strop) to very carefully remove the burr on the inside of the hook knife. I push it, turning slightly as I go, back of blade to tip using the flat blade back as a guide to help keep the dowel flat. You can assume whatever position is comfortable and allows you to see well what you are doing for this part.

Once you’ve removed this burr, resume your initial sharpening position and use your paddle strop to finish your edge. The bevel of your blade should have a mirror polish and be capable of effortlessly shaving your arm hair or cutting a piece of paper.

OK! Now your tools are sharp and you are ready to carve!

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