Sharpening Barrel Trimmers

Tired of fighting a dull barrel trimmer head? Sharpening your trimmer is quick and easy -we’ll show you how.

A sharp barrel trimmer is the best tool for accurately flushing and squaring up pen or project blanks with the brass tube. It’s an important step to ensure there aren’t any unsightly gaps between the components and blank. But with use, the trimmer head dulls. A dull barrel trimmer chatters, requires more pressure, and can even leave a heavy burr on the brass tube, and most annoyingly, it takes forever to trim your blanks.

Sharpening barrel trimmers only takes a minute or two, but the results are well worth the effort. I like to use diamond sharpening stones, because they cut quickly. Choose a stone somewhere around 300 to 600 grit with a thin profile to get into tight areas. I use a Trend double-sided credit card stone with 300 grit on one side and 600 grit on the other.

Showing a 300 grit diamond hone.
300 grit diamond hone

Start by removing the pilot shaft so you can sharpen the entire face of the trimmer. Next, lay the diamond stone flat on the edge of your workbench and apply a few drops of lapping fluid to the 300 grit side and spread it around. The fluid will prevent your stone from rust and clogging.

Dripping lapping fluid onto a diamond hone.
Apply lapping fluid to prevent rust and clogging

Now lay the trimmer on the stone and rock it until you feel it lay flat. Then, using only light pressure, take five or six strokes on each face.

Sharpening a barrel trimmer on a diamond hone.
Keep the cutter flat and sharpen using light pressure

ONLY sharpen the flat faces that run parallel with the pilot shaft. Don’t be tempted to sharpen the tops, this can change the geometry of the cutter.

Make sure to take the same number of strokes on each face, ensuring that all the faces are evenly honed. Again, just light pressure, letting the diamond do the work.

You can stop here, but because it takes so little time, I like to flip the stone over to the 600 grit side and repeat the process just to give the barrel trimmer an even finer polish. Wipe off the excess fluid, re-install the pilot shaft, and give it a try.

Barrel trimming the end of a pen blank.
An easy fix that makes a big difference

You should notice a big difference in how much quicker and easier it is to cut through the blank. If it still feels a little dull, just repeat the process

If there are major nicks and dings on the trimmer, it may be time to replace it.

Products used

Trend Double-Sided Diamond Credit Card Stone
Trend Lapping Fluid
Whiteside Barrel Trimmer

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