|Review by Wayne Precht||posted 07-07-2009 10:38 PM||3202 views||0 times favorited||8 comments|
The next purchase was a Work Sharp 3000. Again, this was a Woodcraft special. I had read some reviews, including one by a respected furniture maker. He swore by it as not only effective, but fast in his “time is money” shop. Now, I have tried about every sharpening system known to man and had previously settled on the Norton water-stones as able to get a usable edge before my ADD kicked in. The problem was the mess and bother of water in the shop or of doing the sharpening in the kitchen under the evil eye. That meant that I tended to put off a sharpening session until all usable chisels and plane blades were dull as crap. So it was time for another system. The latest rage in large slow speed water wheels wasn’t appealing (water, $$$, size). The Work Sharp was a little spendy in my mind for what it looked like it was but the recommendations were high and all my chisels were dull so I got it.
The Work Sharp people seem to have join the recent fad of not discounting their stuff below retail, but the Woodcraft box had the leather strop disc and a 3rd glass disc in the package, so while I paid full retail, it didn’t seem as bad. You really don’t need anything else to get started anyway.
I took it home and unboxed it. It was mostly assembled, of course, as there really isn’t a whole lot to this machine. You have to apply the sandpaper to the wheels, that’s to be expected. Warning: pay attention to the manual’s warning about the high grit sandpaper (the 3600). It’s very easy to botch laying that down and there is only one of that grit in the box (and more are…well, see below). I semi-botched it, but managed to recover. Unlike the other grits, it’s cloth backed and somewhat more flexible as a result (and in this case that’s “bad”).
It comes with a thick (for this sort of machine) manual and an instructional DVD. I didn’t watch the DVD, I am sure it’s fine, but I wanted to get up and running. The manual is thorough, but a little hard to understand in some parts until you have used the machine a while. However, every question I had was answered in it and that’s pretty rare.
Out of the box everything was aligned and ready to go. So I slapped down the 1000 grit wheel and grabbed a chisel. To test alignment I blacked the bevel with a Sharpie before inserting it into the port. A quick touch and inspection revealed the alignment was good but the Work Sharp’s version of 25 deg was a bit shallower than my honing guide. I am not sure who is more right and frankly, I don’t care. Even a degree one way or the other (or 3 for that matter) really won’t affect the performance of your average chisel in any noticeable way (certainly not in my hands at any rate). Since I was committing to this system though, that meant a long trudge getting all the chisels fully cleaned up on this angle.
And I wasn’t wrong. It took about 3 hours to take my complete set of chisels (12 or so) up through all the grits and then pop on a micro bevel.
A couple of observations about this process though:
The manual doesn’t specify how to get the wheel off when changing them. They fit into the housing pretty closely and it was hard for my meaty fingers to get a purchase on them. At first I was grabbing the edge of the sandpaper, but this tended to unstick some of them. After a while I noticed that the housing is open in the back and you can pop it up from underneath by reaching around the right side of the machine. Now, they probably show this on the DVD, but again, I didn’t watch it.
You can start a cool fire with this machine. One of my favorite chisels is a 2” Marples bench chisel. Something that wide makes it easy to register on a piece to true up tenons, etc. Of course, it’s also a LOT of metal to remove when changing angles as I mentioned I had to do with all of them. If you have ever wondered how they make steel wool, well, it’s basically grinding up steel stock with very coarse sandpaper (I am sure they use diamond cutters). So using the coarse wheel produced globs of very fine steel wool building up and dropping out of the back. That’s fine, sort of to be expected, really, if you think about it. The thing you might want to know though is that this steel wool is pretty hot. It gets hotter still when the sandpaper starts to load up and you are bored of jamming your chisels into this port and therefore are keeping them in contact longer than is recommended. In fact, you can get a lot of sparks that way. You see what’s coming right? Yeah, so dropping them onto a bench covered with very fine sawdust is probably not a good idea. As it turns out the temperature never got high enough to completely burst into flames, but the steel wool started burning (real cool effect there) and left a couple of charm marks on my bench (not the nice one, the one that’s 3 2×10s nailed to a frame). Again, this is probably covered in the DVD that I didn’t watch, but at least you are warned.
If you are going through all your chisels (as is likely the first time you use this), you are probably going to be stopping a lot to unclog the paper. They only include one each of 6 grits. That’s enough to play, but not enough to really get done a full set. I used 3 sheets of the P1000 paper, for instance. That seems like the workhorse grit, you will want more of that.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the finish on the chisels. It’s certainly a whole lot faster than the water stones. I am not completely convinced the edge is all the way there yet. Though it’s probably has more to do with my mastery of the machine than any specific limitation.
My only complaint is that the consumables are way pricey for what they are. At $14.99 for a set of sand paper discs (TWO in the case of the finest grit set, one each of 3600 and 6000), I am inclined to get out the scissors. I get it that they get the money for the machine and then won’t get much from you ever again because it’s really just a motor and housing and as cool as it is, you still aren’t going to burn out even a universal motor in the course of a typical hobbyist woodworker’s career. But, I am not sure the razor/razor blade model is the right business model here. Even good sandpaper is cheap by comparison and a can of Spray 77 is $9.
The coarse kit comes with 2 P80, 2 P120, 3 P220 and 2 P400 discs. The “fine” kit comes with 4 P400, 6 P1000 and 2 more 2”x2” P400 pieces for the sharpening rest. I would really like something in between. The course kit (which I also bought) has some seriously rough paper. You really won’t need to go under P400 unless you have some real trash to clean up. I used several of the P1000s and wouldn’t mind something between P1000 and P3600. I felt like I went as far as I could on the P1000 and it took forever to polish out those scratches on the P3600.
The tempered glass discs seem OK at $19.99 since it comes with all you really need. I will probably pick up one or two more one of these days so I can have all possible grits available at all times. But that’s not a pressing need to be able to use and enjoy the sharpener. The wide blade fixture (for blades over 2” wide) is a lot at $69.99. You are going to need it and you are going to get it. Probably you, like me, will put it off until you really can’t do without your #4 ½ any longer.
I haven’t had time to try the see through slotted wheel for carving chisels yet. Nor have I used the leather strop wheel. It looks intriguing, I will let you know.
Overall, I am very pleased with this machine. It’s lived up to the hype and all my chisels are all sharp at once for the first time in I don’t know how long. And since it’s a matter of seconds to fire it up and touch up an edge, they are much more likely to stay that way.
-- --- Wayne.