View Full Version : Sharpening your tools

01-20-2013, 02:59 PM
I'm thinking about getting one of the slow speed wet sharpening tools like the Tormek. Jet and grizzly make knockoffs but I've read customer comments and it seems the Tormek might be better in the long run.

Do any of you use tools like this?

It looks handy. Is it worth it?


01-20-2013, 03:13 PM

Paul sellers has a great method for sharpening chisels and planes.
I use wet dry sandpaper sprayglued onto a glass sheet in the same method for now. it really works fast and easy.

01-20-2013, 03:24 PM
A buddy of mine, a pro woodworker, has the Tormek and swears by it. Keeps inviting me over with my edge tools.

Sellers method looks interesting. I am no pro with edge tools, but am handy with knives. My experience is that sharp enough to cut paper isn't a durable edge. If its less than "scary sharp" I can get through a lot more fish, nicking bones here and there, before swapping knives or touching up. Does anyone have experience to relate regarding edge tools made sharp enough to slice paper or shave hair?


landlocked sailor
01-20-2013, 03:48 PM
I have been sharpening with a hand cranked grinder and oil stones for more than 20 years and have always been satisfied with this for chisels and plane irons; for draw knives, knives and axes, not so much. For Christmas I got a set of Del Stubbs' spoon carving knives. I borrowed my buddy's Tormek just to see how it works. Wow! I went crazy and sharpened all my knives (shop & kitchen) as well as my carving tools, draw knives and AXES! It's unbelievable how fast and truly razor sharp everything is now. Since I have one readily available to me I doubt I'll buy one, but boy is it ever a fabulous system. Grizzly also makes a knockoff that I'd be tempted to check out. http://www.grizzly.com/products/10-Wet-Grinder-Kit/T10010. Rick

01-20-2013, 03:58 PM
The Grizzly page you referenced only seems to sharpen to 250 grit.. Thats where Paul Sellers starts. It does take a while to get it right doing it by hand but the edge you get can be amazing. I do all my planes and chisels this way. Its a really simple thing to put a board with the 3 diamond pads back on the shelf or back in a simple tool box to carry with you too.
I know its tempting to go for a machine that will do the work for you but I wonder how much work is there in maintaining the stone. On other stones they need to be dressed fairly often.
Personally I dont have the space for such a tool. I live aboard a 40 foot old fishing boat.

Gib Etheridge
01-20-2013, 04:00 PM
I understand that a person can do an excellent job with the Tormek.

I have a theory regarding that. The finer the edge the more likely it is to roll over when contacting something hard like a fish bone. You can do a quick touch up on that with a steel, stroking it so that you are rolling the edge back into place. If you can find an abrasive steel you can use it to just remove the roll over, in other words sharpen it again quite quickly. Most steels that I see are just smooth.

I sharpen for the restaurants here every 2 weeks. They like their knives just barely shaving sharp. I use 14 degrees on each face for the initial bevel on each side then 16 degrees for the micro bevel. They don't stay really sharp for very long that way (good for business) but they don't squish the tomatoes.

For fish you might try 20 degrees and 22 degrees.

01-20-2013, 04:04 PM
www.joewoodworker.com/tormek.htm (http://www.joewoodworker.com/tormek.htm) is a pretty detailed review of tormek vs jet. Grizzly is cheap enough but I'm a little worried about quality of wheel and guides. I have grizzly's belt grinder/sharpener and its terribly out of whack. The belt has never tracked right and platen/ guide are worthless.
I've got worn out oilstones and diamond stones don't hold up all that well either.

Honing isn't a problem but regrinding edges that get damaged or out of square from honing and creating a nice hollow grind without burning is what I'm after.

I also have one of those old foot pedal sharpening stones about 2' round. But it's badly out of round and it's heavy (takes 2 people to move it) and takes up too much space. I haven't used it in years. Anyone know how to dress a wheel like that?

David G
01-20-2013, 04:22 PM
Nothing wrong with the Tormek, that I can tell. I know folks who own them, and are quite happy with them. All the reviews are good. And... they're quite expensive. It has jigs to do a boatload of different tasks. All of the jigs are expensive too.

My grinding setup is a far less expensive slow grinder with a good wheel, and the factory tool rest. I'm setting up a spar lathe now, and getting back into turning after 20+ years. So I'm looking at adding the Oneway "Wolverine" sharpening jig to that setup for doing the gouges.

If you don't need to do carving or turning shapes... I think I'd be inclined to go with the same sort of machine I have... add a Veritas aftermarket tool rest... some sandpaper on a platen... and call it good.

My general impression of very high-end tools like the Tormek system is that they have two markets. First is the professional who does so much sharpening that the features available begin to make sense. Second is the less experienced hobbyist who is inexperienced enough, and unschooled enough, and flush enough to be willing to shell out for The Answer. My sense is: yes this is the answer... or at least a perfectly good answer. It's well-built, well-supported, well-documented, and well-proven. But it's not the only answer, and it's certainly one of the more expensive answers. Also... it's not an instant answer. Not nearly so turnkey as the videos make it look. It, like any sharpening system, will take some time to master.

I doubt you'd be disappointed if you bought one. If you have deep pockets, I'd say go right ahead. If you are trying to stretch your dollars, like most of us, then you might consider a different route.

01-20-2013, 06:30 PM
I sharpen for the restaurants here every 2 weeks. They like their knives just barely shaving sharp. I use 14 degrees on each face for the initial bevel on each side then 16 degrees for the micro bevel. They don't stay really sharp for very long that way (good for business) but they don't squish the tomatoes.

For fish you might try 20 degrees and 22 degrees.

Thanks, Gib! I will try that.There's a range of sharpness, between freshly sharp and still good, that produce the same results, at least for me. That being the case, why have to pick up the steel more often?

I probably should have asked my question more directly: For woodworking tools, does a "scary sharp" edge blunt too quickly? Is slightly less sharp than "scary" better than having to redress the edge more frequently? Or....

01-21-2013, 08:29 AM
I use sandpaper glued to thick float glass and flat floor tile, and water stones, and honing guide to sharpen tools. These work poorly when you have a bad blade. I get bad blades on hand planes at flea markets and garage sales. I recently paid a commercial sharpener to sharpen my plane irons and he did a bad job. He does not understand the concept of sharpening.

01-21-2013, 11:09 AM
Boat school I attended had a Tormek, worked fine.

In my home shop now I do the sandpaper on glass technique, superb edges possible.

01-21-2013, 12:18 PM
In my timber framing efforts with 15 years of VMI cadets I have finally settled on the Tormek as the quickest, easiest, most fool proof way to maintain a stable of 30+ Barr framing chisels. Cadets quickly grasp the idea of setting up the chisel in the appropriate jig and can produce a sharp edge quickly. And, somehow, somebody always manages to drop a chisel in the gravel....

Prior to buying the Tormek I had tried the various grades of DMT diamond stones. The stones worked fine, but none of the cadets stayed around long enough to develop the muscle memory to be truly successful with the stones. Such is the nature of having students rotate through the program on their way to graduation.

That said, for my own use I'll use the Tormek to re-shape the hollow grround edge. Then I can get away with hand sharpening for several iterations on the DMT stones, finishing with the green one. In either case, I finish with a leather strop charged with the green buffing compound. That final stropping makes the diference between "shaving sharp" and "hair jumping sharp". That's when the hair surrenders and jumps out of the way because it knows a really sharp edge is coming....

Bob Cleek
01-21-2013, 09:47 PM
Once upon a time, Craftsman made a slow speed wet grinding wheel manufactured for them by Double A Products, a division of Brown and Sharpe (which is how apprentice machinists were once taught to keep their noses). I scored one at a garage sale years ago. Mine is darn near in pristine condition and identical to the one below, which looks to have been abused. The whole shebang is solid cast iron. It's from at least somewhere in the late '40's or early '50's. It's in the 1953 catalog. They later sold a similar model which was not a geared direct drive, but rather had a neoprene friction wheel that drove the grinding wheel.

I have mine mounted on a base which can be tee-bolted to the ways of my Craftsman wood lathe. I have the motor mounted on a rail so it can drive a number of arbors and such that mount with the tee-bolt as well as drive the lathe itself.

Mine works like a champ for grinding edged tools. The wheel is big enough to give a nice hollow grind. The water bath and slow speed (about 200 RPM?) makes burning an edge a non-issue. The wheel is sandstone and is an inch and a half wide.

I expect there are more than a few of these out there and can be had fairly cheap.



Hal Forsen
01-22-2013, 09:28 AM
I bought a Tormek nearly 20 years ago. Great tool. Very versatile.
Buy Cheap, Buy Twice. |;)

01-24-2013, 11:38 AM
Well, I did it.

I went to the store and asked about the tormek yesterday. They took me in the back where their's was set up.

Nice.....The salesman showed me all the features.....Back in the store the man showed me the box, listing all the included accesories.

"So how much is that jewel?" I asked.

$&%@$ He said.

Gulp...I wasn't expecting that. I was however able to come home with the T-3, it's smaller brother.:)

I read manual, watched video, tried it out. It does exactly what I wanted. A nice hollow grind without burning. One feature I wasn't aware of is the "grading stone" that supposedly changes the courseness of the wheel from course (220) to fine (1000). I don't quite understand that, but we'll see. The tool clamp/guide is nice and does it's job well on plane blades and average/small chisels.
It wouldn't hold my bigger framing chisels, though. But there's another way of dealing with those.

The wheel isn't perfectly true :confused: but I can buy (should be included!) a wheel truer$$.

I'll fiddle with it more today.

02-20-2013, 11:55 PM
We have a Tormek in the shop I work at and it does a very good job. We still work a secondary bevel down to 2000 grit diamond stone. The edge holds much longer that way.

02-21-2013, 04:16 PM
I expect there are more than a few of these out there and can be had fairly cheap.

Five minutes, one EvilBay search, and I had one of these:

02-21-2013, 04:47 PM
More than you ever wanted to know about sharpening (at least kitchen knives): http://forums.egullet.org/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/

As an aside, the proper edge angle depends on both the use and the steel of the blade. Harder steel (as in e.g. Japanese knives) allows thinner edges, but the trade-off is brittleness.


02-21-2013, 05:55 PM
I just got myself a Scheppach 200. Scheppach is known for woodturning lathes so I thought I couldnt go wrong. Costs half of the Tormek and appears to be nearly identical to the smallest Tormek. Replaced the stone though since I had a 250mm x 50mm Kiruna stone anyway (larger diameter gives less concave bevels on my woodtuning tools). Never had sharper woodturning tools and simply love it. Doing woodturning as a hobby I do not need to sharpen my tools on a daily basis and frankly have better things to do then learning sharpening the hard way by trial an error. Guess that even the Scheppach is more than I strictly need but it keeps the tools sharp in no time so is worth it for me.


02-21-2013, 08:29 PM
Before you can use scary sharp/sandpaper/strop sharpening, you must have pretty good blades. Like approximately correct angle on blade. The wet stone sharpener gets you to the point where you can begin using sandpaper/strop. There are 3 companies that sell the same wet stone/strop wheel like what Grizzly has. The $200 Grizzly wet stone is very similar to the $800 Tomek.

Jay Greer
02-22-2013, 05:02 PM
I have a Tormek grinder and rarely use it unless a tool has been really badly nicked. I do prefer using diamond plates for rough tuning process followed by a series of seven synthetic and natural Japanese water stones. Water stones have a unique quality of cushioning the cutting edge against fracturing as the honing gets finer by producing a lubricating slury on the stone as it wears. For final polishing I use three ultra fine stones that are known is River Brown, Ocean Blue and a stone that is of no name but is so fine as to challenge the finest jewler's rouge. This stone is used in conjunction with a fine soft stone, called a Nagura Stone, which is rubbed over the wet surface of the polishing stone. For the final pass the tool is drawn, flat on it's bevel, towards the user and with a up sweeping motion and the tool is lifted off of the stone, producing a very fine micro bevel. These techniques are more useful for sharpening Japanese chisles and plane blades than other methods as the Japanese steel is tempered to Rockwell 65 and a hard oil stone or sand paper has a tendancy to granulate the cutting edge. However, once sharpened, the Japanese edge tool will stay keen much longer than will its Western counterpart.

02-24-2013, 12:34 AM
I have no experience with the patent sharpeners, though perhaps if I tried one I might convert. There used to be a thread or link somewhere around hear about scary sharp sharpening using a few different grits of sandpaper glued to glass. I am very happy with this method. The scary sharp method can likely be located with a search if you're interested. I'm pretty certain that Wooden Boat is where I found it.

Best regards,

Jolly Tar

Paul Pless
02-24-2013, 07:38 AM
scary sharpmost expensive sharpening technique known to man?

02-24-2013, 01:39 PM
Questions for those of you that use emery paper spray glued to glass.

Do you use wet-or-dry? wet?

What grits?

How do you get the paper off the glass when it is worn out?

I will be sharpening plane irons and chisels.

02-24-2013, 05:14 PM
I find that the sharper I get my tools, the more likely it is that I'll soon drop them on the floor.


02-24-2013, 06:16 PM
I've been planing a lot of plywood lately and it's cruel stuff on edges. For me the trick is to not let edges get blunt, just "not quite sharp enough" is the sharpening point. I use a very hard stone I've owned for 50 years but I have no idea of it's grade but 50 years of use and it's still very flat. A few seconds of that then a quick strop on leather loaded with jewellers rouge and they come up beautifully, good enough to take a fine full width shaving off a plywood scarf.

Grinding and coarse stones are used only after I've found a bit of steel hidden in a recycled board and fortunately that hasn't happened for a while.