Wood Carving – How to Make a Gouge Honing Board

Once a gouge has been correctly sharpened, it doesn’t take much afterwards to bring the edge back to absolute sharpness. This refers to the natural wearing away of the edge from use and not as a result of it being damaged. When all it needs is some honing, a bringing back to razor-sharpness, and not a true sharpening, there’s something very handy that you can do about that.

One way to bring your edge back to pristine condition is to make a gouge honing board. Instead of using a fine grade sharpening stone all of the time, you could use your very handy honing board to bring back an edge. These are the things you’ll need:

Solid rectangular block of softwood, 3″ x 2″ x 1″ (l x w x h)

Rouging compound, fine abrasive powder or paste

Bench knife, fixed blade of less than 5″ long

Tool with a non-sharpened edge/an old knife

Gouges for honing

The block of wood doesn’t have to be of the specified dimensions, just close enough. If you want better control, it could easily be longer or wider. The honing section that you’ll create can be placed anywhere on the block that suits you best. After all, that’s what making this honing board is all about: your comfort and ease in honing gouges.

There are many types of rouging compounds. What you want is a material that can coat a surface with an easy application, especially in troughs and tight corners. You definitely don’t want a rouging or polishing compound that comes in the form of a solid block. That would be nearly useless in this application.

A bench knife is preferred because of the small fixed blade. You don’t need much of a cutting edge to make the honing board. You just need something sturdy and sharp. Be sure this knife has been sharpened before you begin.

Here we go. Take the wood block and decide where you’d like to create the honing section. If you follow the given dimensions, just start about a half inch inwards from the width-wise side. Take the gouge to be honed and cut a concave or positive profile into the wood. Using the exact dimensions of the gouge as your guide, be careful not to widen the trough further than the gouge is wide.

Now you’ll cut the convex or negative profile into the wood. Take the same gouge used to make the positive profile. Move further inwards along the block of wood by about a quarter of an inch. That would be a quarter of an inch inwards from the positive profile. Take the gouge and turn it over so that the trough is upside down. In this position, cut the negative profile of the gouge into the wood. Take care not to widen the convex curve further than the gouge is wide.

You have just made a gouge honing board. Well done. Use the bench knife to square the edges between the carved profiles. It wouldn’t be difficult for you to create a special honing board with positive and negative profiles for each of your regularly used gouges.

Now you’ll prepare it for honing. Take the rouging compound and, using an old knife or a tool with a non-sharpened edge, evenly lay the compound all along the trough of the positive profile. When you’re done, apply the rouging compound evenly over the convex surface of the negative profile. Take the overturned gouge to softly pack compound into the tight corners of the negative profile. And now your gouge honing board is ready.

When it’s time to use it, just follow the bevel of the gouge. For the positive profile, lay your gouge in the trough, which should fit nice and tightly with the rouging compound added, and pull your gouge through the trough with the outside bevel flush on the honing board. For the negative profile, turn your gouge over and fit it over the convex surface and into the tight corners. With the inside bevel flush on the wood, pull it smoothly through the profile. Apply more rouging compound when necessary. Only use moderate pressure when pulling your gouges over the honing board.

There you go. You have successfully made yourself a gouge honing board. And you know how to use it correctly. Just remember, it isn’t actual sharpening but it will get an already sharpened, undamaged edge back to good working condition. It’s very simple, yet very effective. Just imagine what other types of quick-fixes could be made for carving tools.