Reply by dfdye

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Posted on Sharping System, Which One?

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372 posts in 3035 days

#1 posted 12-26-2010 12:30 AM

Just to add a little to the discussion, the “buy in” decision can be influenced greatly by your budget. If you don’t care to spend much in the short term, you can get a good Eclipse style jig for ~$15 and a bunch of fine grit wet/dry sandpaper for under ~$20. You can slap the sandpaper on your tablesaw with a little spray adhesive and be up and running for pretty cheap. Upgrading the “scary sharp” system with a couple of flat pieces of float glass greatly improves convenience, and will add a few more bucks depending on where you can get it, but you are still in for cheap.

A1Jim is indeed correct that the Worksharp3000 relies on sandpaper, and can be considered “scary sharp with a motor,” but I use mine quite differently than I ever used sandpaper. The included angle jig saves me a ton of time, and I still have the option of going free hand on the surface of the platter, though this took a good bit of trial and error to get right. Also, the speed of the system allows more frequent sharpening, and the availability of the extra glass platters allows an almost limitless range of abrasives to be used with the system. Case in point, I don’t really like the micromesh pads, so I use the 3M PSA abrasives I used to use with my “scary sharp” system. I REALLY like the finish from the 0.3/0.5 micron 3M abrasives!

The benefit of the WS3K over the scarysharp system, IMHO, is that it effectively eliminates the need for a slow speed grinder. If you already have one, then obviously this doesn’t apply, but I have burned more edges than I care to recall with my cheap 3400 rpm grinder and cheap grey wheel. If you get a slow speed grinder, an accurate tool rest, and a Norton 3X wheel, you can almost spend as much as the a WS3K! If you don’t any sort of a grinder, the coarse grits of the WS3K can do the bulk of you grinding needs pretty well. I have an 80/120 grit plate I use when there are edges in REALLY bad shape, but I almost never have to use this one.

If you are planning on re-grinding edges by hand, this certainly is an option, but I assure you that you will get tired of this quite quickly. I have a few coarse diamond stones that I use for flattening backs of tools, and they work GREAT for grinding edges! The problem is that each one will cost ~$50, and you will still have a lot of work to do polishing out those deep scratches with finer grit sandpaper.

Overall, the WS3K represents a pretty good cost benefit ratio in my book, especially having used a few different systems to sharpen.

Now, if you really think you want to sharpen by hand, I would recommend a slow speed grinder with an 80 grit Norton 3X wheel, a Veritas tool rest (Lee Valley sells those two items in a set), and a 1000, 4000 and 8000 Shapton water stone. I recommend the Shapton stones since they don’t require soaking, and just need a spray of water on their surface to work properly. They also have been heralded as being about as good of a synthetic water stone as you can get, and though I have not tried a bunch of water stones, they certainly have a great reputation amongst those who have. A cheaper alternative that also has a great reputation is the Norton line of water stones. If you are going this way because of budget, you can get a 220/1000 and a 4000/8000 combination stone that will take care of almost all of your sharpening needs and will still be cheaper than the Shapton stones.

I would also recommend either an Eclipse style jig (I actually own two of these and love them!!) or a Veritas honing guide (this is really nice if you have skew chisels or other blades you want to sharpen at an angle). I almost forgot—you need a diamond plate to flatten your water stones. My back-of-the-envelope math brings this to ~$450.

Granted, the Shapton stones are very nice, and leave a fantastic edge, but I actually prefer the edge I get from my 3M abrasives to any other sharpening method I have used (and I have NOT used the Chosera stones, so I may well be missing out on something, but I don’t feel like dropping $250 to find out)

The one thing I would recommend REGARDLESS of the system you end up going with is to stick with it for a while before you decide if you like it or not! The WORST thing you can do is to switch back and forth between systems before you really learn how to use the one you have! Be sure you figure out the best way to get a sharp edge with the system you buy into and USE IT for a while before you even think of getting something else! Otherwise I can tell you that you will end up buying a bunch of gizmos that will sit on your shelf and will get absolutely no use since you never spent the time to make them work properly in the first place.

One last “accessory” that I would recommend regardless of what you do buy is Ron Hock’s book The Perfect Edge which is the best tool sharpening reference book I have read to date (there are a couple of others that are also good, but I like Ron’s book the best). If you have the time, I would actually read this book BEFORE buying any other sharpening widgets since he describes each systems benefits and shortcomings much better than we can ever do here!

Good luck, and happy holidays!

-- David from Indiana --

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