|Review by HorizontalMike||posted 01-13-2013 08:12 PM||13970 views||28 times favorited||64 comments|
I had been toying with the idea of getting into Woodturning for some time and the opportunity presented itself, so I started some serious planning. One of the things that goes along with Woodturning is the ability to sharpen your own turning tools. At the time I did NOT own a mechanized sharpening machine/system and had to rely on manually sharpening all of my planes and chisels with the “Scary Sharp” sandpaper to stone methodology. Don’t get me wrong, that system works and works well. It is just that that system takes much more time than an automated machine based solution.
While thinking about all of those new turning skews and gouges that woodturning utilizes, I decided that I needed to step up to something better/faster than I currently had. In comes Harbor Freight and American Woodturner Journal (December 2012, Vol. 27, No.6, pp. 20-23) with an answer. I want to thank Gerry (AKA @TheDane) for pointing this out to me. I had noticed that many/most sharpening systems cost northwards of $600 and some double to nearly triple that price. Those solutions were way out of my price range and I could never justify spending that kind of money for my own little hobby shop. HOWEVER, the Harbor Freight 4×36 Belt Sander is/was on Sale for just $79. Using a 20% OFF coupon and spending another $40 or so, American Woodturner offered to put a fully functional belt sharpening system in my shop for a total of maybe $110-$120. All I had to do was gather/purchase the appropriate accessories and spend the time to put it together. Gee, I could do that! 8-)
OK, off to the review and conversion… Let’s get this out of the way early so that we can get on with it.CONs
- This belt sander is cheap and it is cheaply made.
- It is under-powered for large and/or industrial use.
- This belt sander is cheap, HOWEVER
- This machine does work and work well as a belt “sharpening system”
- Results are above average for what you are asking this machine to do, and that is to sharpen and hone metal bladed tools.
- This machine will handle grits from 80 through 600 grit. I have used up to 180 grit thus far. BTW, 600 grit on a tool or blade that already has the appropriate bevel/angle, should clean up very well with very little metal loss.
- The honing wheel conversion, from removing the sanding disc, truly makes this system shine IMO. The honing wheel turns a bit on the fast side (+1700rpms) but works well with “finer polish” sticks. No need for the coarser grits IMO, though one could readily have multiple honing wheels if they wanted. At $6-8 each, they are readily available.
Here is the leading page of the DIY article by Jim Echter:
Harbor Freight has corrected the machine for a common complaint of “rattling”. Below you can see where, with the belt removed, HF has dampened the tension rod noise with a bushing. It looks like over-sized heat-shrink, however the rod slides up and down into this and there is a small amount of lubricant there as well. Cheap but effective.
I followed the articles instructions for converting to the honing wheel, but I did make some modifications. Besides twisting the motor mount to relieve wear on the “now figure-8” drive belt (reverses direction of belt for safer operation), I also added a couple of washers under the far side of the motor to gain a bit more relief.
CORRECT REPLACEMENT BELT: # 3L220 V-belt that is 3/8in wide x 22in loop
Here you can see the 2in flat bar guard screwed to an over-sized bolt. This gives a good tool rest and protection from over-spray of polish.
For the main SKEW block/guide, I went double-wide and chose to surface mount the T-track in order to use it to keep the Skew block aligned with the belt. I routed the underside of the block instead. Dowel pins made a great and easy bracket for holding the base of your Skews and Scrapers.
Here is where I really diverged from the American WoodTurner article and went with an idea I got from Captain Eddie Castelin . Instead of using the spare HF parts to mount a vertical rod to hold your gouge jig/guide, I decided to use Capt. Eddies suggestion to extend the stock sanding guide and use it to hold the gouge jig.
I do NOT claim to be an expert at this, though I do firmly believe that this cheap little Harbor Freight Belt Sander HAS NEW LIFE as a “Belt Sharpening System” that is worthy of FIVE STARS. I did use this machine for sanding some smaller pieces of wood and found it adequate, though this machine never was designed for industrial use. Make this DIY ”Belt Sharpening System” and you too will find it worthy.
And FWIW, here is my first attempt at sharpening my gouge, using 180-grit. Note that I spent a bit too much time on the front of the gouge and have lost a bit of the profile. Live and learn. The edge came out much sharper than these tools came from the OEM.
ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT ONCE I SAW HOW TO MAKE A HIGHLY FUNCTIONAL BELT SHARPENING SYSTEM ON THE CHEAP,... THE LIGHT WENT ON!
-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."