How to Sharpen Linocut Tools

The art of creating images by carving and printing from a linoleum block is one that has been practiced for centuries. Whether you are an experienced artist or just beginning to explore this fascinating medium, aligning your tools is essential for successful printmaking.

How to Sharpen Linocut Tools

Sharpening the blades helps to achieve smooth lines and crisp imprints with clean edges – maximizing both accuracy and detail. With proper care and detailing, linocut tools can produce some truly stunning pieces of art! In this blog post, we’ll explain the techniques available on how to sharpen linocut tools so you can get started on crafting those beautiful prints right away!

The Importance of Maintaining Sharp Linocut Tools for Printmaking

Linocut tools are essential to the printmaking process as they are used to carve or etch into a lino block. It is therefore vitally important that they remain sharp in order to ensure crisp, clear prints.

A dull blade can make it difficult for you to cut precisely and accurately, resulting in an inconsistent print quality. When carving with dull blades, it takes more time and effort to achieve the desired results, meaning that your prints may take longer to produce.

In addition, when blades become dull they can become dangerously inefficient as they lack the ability to easily cut through lino blocks. This makes them easier to slip and cause accidental cuts or nicks on yourself which can be dangerous if not handled with care. To prevent this from happening it is important to sharpen your linocut tools regularly in order to ensure their continued safety and efficiency.

Sharpening a linocut tool does take some practice but once you have mastered the technique you will be able to confidently maintain the sharpness of your tools, making for smoother and more efficient carving sessions. Regular sharpening also allows you to work with more accuracy and precision, resulting in more consistent prints.

Benefits of Proper Sharpening in Achieving Clean and Precise Linocut Prints

Sharpening Your Linocut Tools Properly

Sharpening your linocut tools properly is essential for achieving a clean and precise print when printing with lino. When blades are sharp, they make a cleaner, deeper cut into the lino. This leads to sharper edges and lines in the final print, making for more intricate and detailed prints that clearly show off all of your hard work.

Sharp tools also require less pressure when cutting, meaning they are easier to use and cause less fatigue on your hands while carving. 

The result is faster overall times to complete linocut designs, allowing you to get multiple prints done efficiently without taxing your body too much. Accurate sharpening can also help you prevent mistakes from occurring during the carving process. Dull blades can slip or wander while cutting into the lino, which can lead to unwanted marks appearing on the design or sloppy lines that don’t look professional. With properly sharpened tools, you can confidently carve and create precise lines that look great in the finished print.

Types of Linocut Tools

  1. V-gouges
  2. U-gouges
  3. Knives and chisels

Anatomy of a Linocut Tool

  1. Blade
  2. Shank
  3. Handle

10 Methods How to Sharpen Linocut Tools

Method 1: Assessing Tool Condition

Before sharpening your linocut tools, assess their condition. Look for signs of dullness, such as difficulty in making clean cuts or a decrease in overall performance. Identifying specific areas that require sharpening will help you focus your efforts effectively.

If the entire tool is dull, you should start by sharpening the cutting edge. Use a whetstone or grindstone to sharpen the edge. Follow the angle of the bevel, and work your way from one side to the other.

Method 2: Gathering Sharpening Supplies

Need a Sharpening Stone or Whetstone

To sharpen linocut tools, gather the necessary supplies. You will need a sharpening stone or whetstone, honing oil or water, a flat surface for stability, and a cloth or towel for cleaning the tools during the sharpening process.

Method 3: Preparing the Sharpening Stone

If using a sharpening stone, wet it with water or apply a few drops of honing oil to its surface. Ensure the stone is adequately lubricated for smooth and effective sharpening.

Method 4: Holding the Tool Securely

Hold the linocut tool securely with one hand, making sure to grip it near the base. This provides stability and control during the sharpening process. Keep your fingers away from the cutting edge to avoid injury.

Method 5: Establishing the Bevel Angle

Determine the bevel angle of the linocut tool. Most linocut tools have a bevel angle between 25 and 35 degrees. Maintain this angle consistently while sharpening to maintain the tool’s optimal cutting performance. Use a bevel gauge to ensure that the angle is accurate. To use, simply place the beveled edge of the linocut tool into

Method 6: Sharpening the Bevel

Place the linocut tool on the sharpening stone at the established bevel angle. With controlled and consistent pressure, slide the tool back and forth across the stone in a sweeping motion. Ensure the entire bevel comes into contact with the stone during each stroke.

Method 7: Checking Progress Regularly

Periodically check the progress of sharpening by examining the cutting edge. Look for signs of improvement, such as a clean and sharp edge. If necessary, adjust the angle or continue sharpening until the desired sharpness is achieved.

Method 8: Using Honing Strops

Refine and Polish the Linocut Tools

In addition to sharpening stones, honing strops can be used to refine and polish the linocut tools. Apply a small amount of honing compound to the strop’s surface, then gently draw the tool across the strop, maintaining the established bevel angle.

Turn the tool over and repeat on the other side. Repeat this process until a sharp edge is realized. Honing strops are especially useful for quickly fixing up a slightly dull or damaged edge.

Method 9: Removing Burrs and Cleaning

After sharpening, remove any burrs or metal residue from the cutting edge of the linocut tool. Use a cloth or towel to wipe away debris, ensuring the tool is clean and ready for use. This is especially important for tools that will be used on a delicate material, such as wood or linoleum. When finished cleaning, use an oil-based lubricant to coat the blade and prevent rusting.

Method 10: Regular Maintenance and Care

To maintain sharp linocut tools, practice regular maintenance. After each use, clean the tools thoroughly and store them in a dry and safe location. Consider periodically checking the sharpness and performing touch-up sharpening as needed.

Some Common Mistakes When Sharpening Linocut Tools

1. Not using the right sharpening stone Your sharpening stone should match the material of your tool, usually either steel or carbide. If you use the wrong type of stone for your tool, it won’t be able to effectively sharpen it.

2. Not maintaining a consistent angle when sharpening. When sharpening linocut tools, it’s important to keep the same angle during each pass of your sharpening stone across the cutting edge of your tool. An inconsistent angle will leave behind an uneven and ineffective cutting surface that won’t produce clean cuts in linoleum blocks or other materials.

3. Over-sharpening or under-sharpening tools. When it comes to sharpening linocut tools, it’s important to strike a balance between over-sharpening and under-sharpening. If you sharpen your tool too much, the cutting edge will become too thin, making it more likely to break or chip during use.

On the other hand, if you don’t sharpen your tool enough, it won’t be able to properly cut through materials.

4. Not taking into account the wear and tear of the tool. Linocut tools need to be regularly sharpened to keep them in top condition. Over time, the cutting surface of your tool will start to wear down due to regular use; therefore it’s important that you take this into account when sharpening your tool, so that you can maintain its cutting performance.

Linocut Tools Need to Be Regularly Sharpened

5. Not using the right hone or abrasive grit for the job. Depending on how dull your linocut tool is, you’ll need to use different types of hones and abrasives in order to effectively sharpen it. For instance, if your tool is very dull, you may need to start with a coarse-grit stone before progressing onto a finer one.

It’s best to do some research into which type of hones and abrasives are suitable for the type of tools that you have.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your linocut tools are properly maintained and will remain in top condition for years to come. Regular sharpening and honing will help you get the most out of your linocut tools, allowing you to produce high-quality prints and artworks.


Linocut tools are incredibly important when it comes to creating amazing and unique prints. Now that you know the steps of how to sharpen them, you are on your way to lino printing unlimited possibilities. 

Whether you’ve been doing linocut for years, or just started experimenting with this art form, having the right technique for sharpening the tools will make sure you’re able to achieve the highest quality results.

A little time spent honing your linocut tools now can make all the difference between a blurry print and a masterfully designed one. Thanks for reading our blog post on how to sharpen linocut tools! We hope you found it helpful and informative.

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Enrique Howard

Hi, I am Enrique. I started my professional life as a handyman and did a lot of external and internal repair of home and office with a little bit of electric and plumbing support. I have extensive experience in tools testing such as drilling, turning, milling, and non-conventional machining like EDM. So let me help you on your journey towards becoming an enlightened DIYer with amazing tools that you can use on your project.

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