Bookbinding Plough Sharpening Instructions – Simple and Easy



One of the most versatile parts of my bookbinding plough is that you can easily sharpen the blade yourself. Part of making affordable binding equipment is giving you the ability to service it yourself.  Here are some simple steps to keep your bookbinding plough blade sharpened and operating optimally.

Materials Needed To Sharpen Your Plough Blade

  • One piece of ¼” plate glass about 12″ x 12″… Only use ¼” or thicker glass as it is very strong and thinner glass might break from the pressure of sharpening. It is also very flat which is of utmost importance to the sharpening process. Don’t use anything else. If you buy the glass from a glass supplier, have them “seam” the glass for you so you don’t cut yourself on the sharp edge. If your piece of glass doesn’t have the edges sanded, you can take piece of 100 grit sandpaper on a sanding block and take off the sharp edge yourself. CAREFUL when doing this as you can easily slit your palm while sanding the glass edge.
  • One 9″ x 11″ sheet of 220 wet or dry sand paper
  • One 9″ x 11″ sheet of 500 wet or dry sand paper–it is usually very dark grey in color and usually says “wet or dry” on the back

Extra Steps to Make Bookbinding Plough Blade Sharpening Easier

  • It will help if the glass is placed on a non-skid pad so it doesn’t slide around.
  • This is a messy process so you will want to put down a waterproof covering on your workbench and possibly wear gloves to avoid injury.
  • Doing this near a sink will make it easier and less messy in the rinsing process.
Bookbinding Plough Handle and Blade picture

Plough Handle and Blade

Plough Blade Sharpening Procedure

1. Using a towel to hold the cutter, CAREFULLY unscrew the screw to remove the cutter from the wooden handle. Injury could occur easily if done without caution.

2. CAREFULLY place the screw back through the cutter, place the rubber washer, steel washer and the steel handle, in that order, on the screw and tighten slightly. This now provides you a substitute handle during the sharpening process.  Don’t use the wood handle as it will get dirty from the sharpening process.

3. Wet both sides of one sheet of 220 sandpaper and place on the glass.

4. Put a drop of dish soap on the middle of the sand paper. The soap keeps the metal dust from clogging the paper.

5. Carefully place the cutter down on the sand paper flat (not at an angle) and start sanding with a circular motion. CAUTION: KEEP YOUR OTHER HAND OUT OF THE WAY SO YOU DO NOT CUT YOURSELF WHEN MOVING THE BLADE AROUND. Reverse direction occasionally and try to use the whole sheet of sand paper in your movement. After a few rotations, the sand paper will stick to the glass and you won’t have to hold onto it to keep it from sliding around. Do this for about 100 strokes. Make sure you keep the cutter completely flat during the sharpening process. Press firmly straight down when moving the cutter. Depending on how dull the cutter was, it should be getting sharp again. Test the blade sharpness by scraping the back of your fingernail across the blade 90 degrees to the blade. Without much pressure, if it scrapes off some fingernail, then it’s sharp. (I know that for those of you who paint your nails this isn’t a good test, but I don’t know any other way to test the edge. It is a trade standard for testing sharp edges on chisels, plane irons and table saw blades….. Find a guy who doesn’t care and use his!) Try this on several areas all around the blade. More sanding is better than less sanding;  you can’t do too much.

6. Remove and rinse off the 220 sandpaper (don’t throw this away as it can be used several times) and wash off the glass. Rinse off the cutter. You do not want the coarse grit to get mixed into the fine polishing grit.

7. Wet both sides of the 500 grit paper, put it on the glass, put on a drop of dish soap and start sanding/sharpening as before. This will put on a keen edge on the cutter and when you’ve done approx. 100 swirls, the cutter should be very sharp. Again, you can’t over-do this, so if you feel it needs more, then do so.

8. Rinse off the 500 grit and the glass and lay aside to dry.

9. If you feel the need, you can go to finer and finer grits of sandpaper. I’m not sure what further benefits this will bring as the 35 degree cutting edge will only get so sharp. In my research in designing this bookbinding plough blade, I found that for cutting paper, 35 degrees is a compromise between having a sharp blade and cutting edge strength. A very small angle and the cutting edge would be razor sharp but would not last very long.
It should take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete this sharpening process. The longer you take, the sharper it will be.

10. VERY CAREFULLY, holding the cutter with a towel, remove the screw from the steel handle. Very carefully wash the blade and then carefully dry it; it should now be VERY SHARP. Make sure your wash off all traces of the gray sharpening residue that is now on the blade and screw from the sharpening process or this will end up on your text block. Carefully replace screw and cutter in the plough, with the cutting edge down. The screw does not need to be tightened very tight; but it does need to be enough to keep it from rotating. Too tight and it will warp the blade slightly and possibly dig into your press.

How Often Do I Need to Sharpen the Bookbinding Plough Blade?

During my own testing I was able to cut through 2 complete (6 edges)  ¾” thick paperbacks before I felt I needed to rotate the blade to a sharp edge (and this is with the junk paperback paper).  Thus, a single sharpening will last a long time unless you are doing production or cutting an abrasive paper (glossy).   Sharpening it yourself will save you money and the aggravation of not having the use of your plough while it’s in the mail and being sharpened by me.

Do You Sharpen Plough Blades?

Sorry, but I do not sharpen these blades nor exchange for already sharpened blades.  Sharpening is so easy that that you can do it yourself, without any waiting to get your blade back.

Can I Buy Additional Blades for the Bookbinding Plough?

Additional blades can be purchased at the same time you purchase the plough.  These are available for $85 each.  I do not sell the blades separate from the plough.  See the purchasing page to make a purchase.