Keepin’ them sharp – Linocut blades

Essentially the lino blades that you use regardless of brand etc are a metal blade or knife designed as gouges. Continual use of the carving linoblocks will make them blunt and like any knife they need to be maintained and sharpened. this can be a delicate process and has taken me a good while to develop the skill of honing the blade to achieve a good cutting edge for my blades. On the end of each lino blade is a beveled edge that I feel needs to be maintained and kept sharp. You must be careful to not damage this edge nor significantly change the bevel/angle as you sharpen it. Like I said it can be a tricky process. Fortunately for me my Dad is really good at such things and has helped me out. So it may be helpful to find someone experienced with sharpening blades to help you at first until you can manage to work it out for yourself.

The method I use is as follows:

1. Being careful to maintain the angle or bevel of the blade I work the blade gently across (usually in a figure 8) a super fine sharpening stone and a good quality machine oil – I use this sparingly.


2. I then follow this up by using by a very fine sandpaper for inside and outside the V gouges – that I use occasionally whilst carving to sharpen particularly the inside of the V gouge. You can see the lines on this piece of sandpaper from folding it to work inside the V gouge.

3. Finally I use of a strong, thick piece of leather (you can attach it to a block of wood if this is easier for you) and either with or without a super fine grinding paste – I use this fairly often whilst carving to maintain a nice sharp edge for neat lines. Always work the blade by pulling it towards you at the correct angle for the bevel – it can take a while to ge the hang of it but as they say ‘practice makes perfect’ – well anyway it will get easier.

I find that as I carve and the blade becomes less sharp it is both harder to carve and more difficult to cut fine lines or edges – so if you are finding that once the carving seemed easier and is no longer that this is the time to look at sharpening your blades. For me the No 1 blade is the main blade I need to keep sharp as I am carving.

If you keep your blades well maintained and sharp you will find carving easier, neater and for me more rewarding.

Copyright – Lynette Weir

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