I have been looking for a sharpener for a while and came close to coughing up $250 for the Jet clone of the Tormak when the woodworking show was in town last month. I had also seen the Work Sharp on the web. Dan Like had seen one in action and given it his endorsement. There is a video of it on thier web site if your interested in seeing it in action. Wood Magazine has a review of it as well as a video of it in action.
Two weeks ago when I was on my way home from the bay area I stopped in a Rockler store that is along the way an they had a demo model on the shelf. They did not have any in stock. This week I went to the bay area again. I dropped into Rockler and checked to see if they had any in stock. Unfortunately they did not have any, but said that they were expecting some. I put my name on the list (They have been selling lots of them) and dropped back in the next day on my way home.
They did have one for me and I purchased it along with a leather hone and a tool guide used for lathe and carving tools.
The unit and all of its parts were very well packaged. The package contained the following items:
- The Sharpening Machine
- Users Guild
- Assorted Abrasive Disks
- 2 Tempered Glass Wheels
- Slotted Wheel
- Tool Guide
- Crepe Stick
The machine itself is very solid and well made. It has a 1/5 hp motor and rotates at 580 RPM.
The abrasives are adhesive backed. You mount them on each side of the glass plates. This gives you 4 different grits (120, 400, 1000, and 3600) that you can use to hone your tools. They sell a 6000 grit abrasive as an add-on. I will probably purchase some next time I pass by Rockler and try it out. The next part was probably the most difficult part of the entire operation. Getting my finger nail under the plastic backing and it was not really that difficult. You clean the plates with alcohol and then you mount the abrasives on the glass. Basically you bend them into a U shape and match up the center hole.
It was easy to mount all of the abrasives. The only tough part was the 3600 grit plate. I got some bubbles and had to pierce them and roll them out with a dowel. To mount them in the machine they go on a center post with a hand tightened knob. Changeing wheels is a very quick process. You can get any of the grits installed in seconds. I like this feature quite a bit.
The machine is now ready for sharpening.
The first step in the process is to flatten the back of the blade. I started with an old Stanley plane blade and the course wheel. You flatten the back by placing the heel of the blade against the wheel and dropping the blade down onto the wheel. You sharpen a bit and then raise the blade off the wheel to manage the temperature. I immediately felt comfortable with the tool and did not have any trouble with the operation. I quickly moved through the grits and very quickly had the back flattened and polished to a mirror finish. I have been using water stones and this feature alone makes the machine worth owning. Also, when you are using the tool, you can feel the temperature of the blade. It is easy to tell if it is getting warm in any way.
I'm not sure how well you will be able to see these pictures, but they are of the back as I moved through the various grits.
The next step is to hone the bevel. The machine has a unique guide on the side of the machine that is used to grind the bevel. It has a set of stops that allow you to set the angle of the blade. The stops are at 20, 25, 30, and 35 degrees. They are easy to set. The guide also has an abrasive strip on it that is used to remove the burr. There is a small window above the switch that indicates the bevel angle setting.
Basically, you take the blade and set it in the guide and push the blade against the wheel. You hold the blade against the wheel for 1-2 seconds and pull it down into the guide a minimum of 1". This removes any burr on the back side. After a trying it a few times, it was easy to get a feel for it.
You progress through all 4 grits and end up with a nice sharp blade.
The users manual indicated that you can use the guide to create a micro-bevel and it does have a skew adjustment. Cambers could be created free hand using the tool guide or you could go back to waterstones. The guide is limited to 2" in width, which means that larger plane irons cannot be honed using the guide. This eliminates planes such as the 4 1/2, 5 1/2 and 6-8. You can still flaten the back on these blades and also could hone them free hand on top of the machine.
I also purchased the leather honing wheel. You first coat it with mineral oil to help the wheel take the combound.
I also purchased a tool guide accessory for use with carving and lathe tools. I have not tried it yet.
Here it is mounted on the side. It can also be mounted on top where the other tool guide is located.
I sharpened the plane blade for my #3. This blade has an 1892 patent date on it and the back had some irregular wear. I could not imagine how long it would have take me to flatten the back using water stones. Even with this, it took me less than twenty minute start to finish to sharpen the blade. This included flattening the back (the majority of the time), re-establishing a primary bevel and taking it through all grits. I also needed to tune the chipbreaker. I found the tool extreamly useful for this operation. I was able to have fine control of the material being taken off and got great results. I tuned both the surface that mates with the plane blade and smoothed out the face of the chipbreaker. Here is a picture of the results.
Hopefully they will come out with an 8" model that will allow for the larger plane blades to be sharpened in the guide system.
-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov