Grinding and Honing a Pair of Skew Chisels


I wanted to purchase a pair of skew chisel for paring into tight corners. The price of a good pair was high.... though I love Lie-Nielsen chisels I simply did not want to pay the freight on a pair of chisels with such a specific use.

I decided to make me a pair. The first order of business was to decide the skew angle. I searched the Net and found that the range of skew angles was dramatic...from 20 to 45 degrees. I opted for 20 degrees of skew. The cutting bevel was set at 30 degrees.

In order to properly grind that skew angle I needed a jig that would allow me to set and effectively hold that angle. I did not have a jig for skew angles for my Tormek 7.

So I secured a Tormek SVS-50 jig to do the job.



The jig is designed to hold the chisel in the grooves by tightening knob number 4 to secure the unit.


The chisels that I choose for this alteration were Narex Premium bench chisels. These Czech-made chisels had gotten numerous favorable reviews as being "good for the money." I figured I wanted them cheap enough to not lose much if I trashed them...but good enough to want to keep them if the skew grinding turned out well.

After I held one at Highland Woodworking...I decided that I liked it and bought a pair of the 10 mm bench chisels.

Pretty good value for $14 a pop.



Being newly come to the task of sharpening...I had previously bought a Veritas MKII honing guide to get started learning to hone.

While at Highland I picked up the Veritas Skew Registration Jig for the MK II guide.

It is a very clever device that allows you to set the chisel at a full range of skew angles.


We started the process by putting the Narex chisel in the SVS-50 jig to grind on the Tormek. You must set the skew angle, determine the protrusion of the tool in the jig, and move the universal support. These factors control the skew angle and the bevel angle.

We immediately had a huge problem. The geometry of the Narex chisel was such that it would not sit squarely between the the groove in the side of the open seat housing and the groove of the tighening screw assembly.
The quick work-around was to put a longitudinal goove in a dowel...we did this with a triangular file...this would allow the sharp side bevel edge of the Narex to sit in the dowel slot which in turn sat well in the side groove of the jig.
Iteration #2 of the "dowel thingie" was cut with a fine saw kerf...and this solved the jig issue.

We were able to effectively square up in the chisel in the seating grooves.

Here you can see how the jig is setup. The jig rest is moved to the front of the T-7 and situated so that the grinding wheel is moving away from the jig bar. This makes it easier to control the unit.

This jig simply rests on the jig bar. It does not slide over the bar with fixed holes like the normal chisel jig is situated.

The jig has a little different feel to took some time get accustomed to it...but it did an effective is the unit after grinding the bevel on the left skew chisel.


After setting the bevel angle we secured the Narex into the MKII guide. As James moved through the grit progression all seemed well until it became obvious that the geometry of the Narex was causing problems again. Because of the skew angle and the side bevel angle of the chisel the MKII would lose the grip on the chisel.

A couple of tries showed repeat failure and we were too tired to sort out a fix. The image shows how it failed. The honing caused variable angles on the end of the chisel.

I opted to use a free hand approach to the honing. I am very much a rookie at this but inspired by reading and rereading Maurice Fraser and Bob Mathison's honing guide I gave it a try.

I did all of the honing and polishing by doing the run through the "abrasives on glass" series.

The results were not exceptional...I have a lot to learn...but they were satisfactory.

The image shows the out-of-box Narex and the skew ground Narex.

Now to make the opposite skew to have the pair.

Ground the right skew chisel on the Tormek to ...
Hand honed the right skew on a succession of Norton waterstones that I just bought. (1000x, 4000x, and 8000x).

Finished products. After a bit of trial use I declare them to be a great value. Only time will tell how well the edge is retained.

They will never compare to LN chisels, but they were $28 instead of $130.



Return to Shop Index