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Shop Tools #2: Work Sharp - The Wood Tool Sharpener Review

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Blog entry by WayneC posted 2620 days ago 23050 reads 1 time favorited 43 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Would you have passed it up? Part 2 of Shop Tools series Part 3: Chisels »

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.

Worksharp - New in Box

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

Tool and components

The machine itself is very solid and well made. It has a 1/5 hp motor and rotates at 580 RPM.

Machine

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.

Tempered Glass Wheels

Glass Wheel with Course Grit mounted

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.
Ready for Work

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.

After course grit
After Medium Grit
After Fine
After Honing

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.

Side

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.

Blade in guide

You progress through all 4 grits and end up with a nice sharp blade.

Before
Course
Medium
Hone

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.

Honing wheel

I also purchased a tool guide accessory for use with carving and lathe tools. I have not tried it yet.

Tool Guide

Here it is mounted on the side. It can also be mounted on top where the other tool guide is located.

Tool guide mounted

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.

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



43 comments so far

View David's profile

David

1970 posts in 2741 days


#1 posted 2620 days ago

Wayne -

Thanks for posting this well written review. I ahave been looking at the same system – this will give me a lot more confidence when I make a purchase.

-- http://foldingrule.blogspot.com

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#2 posted 2620 days ago

If your using chisels or planes in your work, I would buy one in a minute. I have not tried to sharpen any carving or lathe tools yet.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Karson's profile

Karson

34860 posts in 3002 days


#3 posted 2620 days ago

Thanks for the review.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View foneman's profile

foneman

111 posts in 2696 days


#4 posted 2620 days ago

Wayne,
Thanks for taking the time to post this review. Sure wish it would sharpen the plane blades larger than 2”, but maybe it is just as easy on the top side.

Are there any other accessories you would recommend buying other than the leather plate? Does the paper last very long or should a person order additional sheets from the start?

Thanks again!
John

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#5 posted 2620 days ago

Your welcome John. It came with quite a few abrasive sheets. One of the selling points they list on the web is that the abrasives are commonly available and you do not have to use their product. I have purchased a tool guide and have not been able to check it out yet. So, I’ll stay nuteral on it. I may buy an extra glass wheel and get the 6000 grit paper. I may be able to mount the 6000 grit abrasive on the underside of the leather wheel and as such may not need another glass wheel. I’ve only sharpened a few blades so far. I will work over a bunch of chisels tomorrow and get a feel for how long it lasts. Also, it comes with a Crepe Stick which is used to clean the wheels. This seemed to work real well.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View foneman's profile

foneman

111 posts in 2696 days


#6 posted 2620 days ago

I have been using this 15 micron film that works wonders on my blades after the initial grind. The stuff cuts fast and once worn seems to give a finer finish than initially. I then go to the green rouge for a real sharp edge. The idea of using the Work Sharp with this paper and rouge would speed the process up tremendously.

Here is where I got the 15 micron film. It looks like shipping costs have gone up considerably since I bought it.

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#7 posted 2620 days ago

Almost looks like they are making their money on Shipping and Handling. It costs more to ship it than buy it..

The 15 micron paper is about 1200 grit according to the chart in the user’s guide. The 6000 grit abrasive they sell is 2 micron.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#8 posted 2620 days ago

Also, I have added more text and photos. I’m finished with this post…

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View foneman's profile

foneman

111 posts in 2696 days


#9 posted 2620 days ago

I have some 1/2 micron diamond paste that I have not tried yet. It might cut pretty fast, but not sure what type of platter you could put it on. Not sure it would work on the leather. I might have to try it on a scap piece I have in the shop.

John

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#10 posted 2620 days ago

Wow. That is pretty fine.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View foneman's profile

foneman

111 posts in 2696 days


#11 posted 2620 days ago

Does it look like it would be possible for Work Sharp to come out with a modified tool guide that would handle the larger blades?

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#12 posted 2620 days ago

Not from below. You can do it by hand from above. There is a bar on the top that can be used. I will try one out tomorrow. I’m thinking I will stay with waterstones for the bevel sharpening on the larger blades, but will use this for lapping the back. That is the time consuming part anyway. You can see the bar in the picture of the machine with the blue disk installed.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View foneman's profile

foneman

111 posts in 2696 days


#13 posted 2620 days ago

Does the tool guide you mentioned previously work in conjuction with the bar? (edit: I went back and reread your posts again and can see that the tool guide is independent from the tool bar)
Thanks for all the information!
John

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12255 posts in 2699 days


#14 posted 2620 days ago

It mounts where the Bar is mounted. It can be mounted above and below the machine. The instructions say. Top Mount for sharpening wider chisels, plane irons, spoke shaves, double-bevel tools. Bottom Mount for sharpening with slotted see-through wheel. The guide cost about $10. The leather wheel was about $30.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2688 days


#15 posted 2618 days ago

Good review Wayne…sounds like a winner. HHmmm….what can I convince my wife that we need that would require the Worksharp?

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

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