Abraham Lincoln once said that if he were given six hours to chop down a big tree, he would definitely spend the first four hours sharpening the ax. Well, the beloved Ex-President of the United States had a point when he said that you should spend more time sharpening your tools, primarily if you are engaged in woodcutting, woodturning, or wood carving. Serious woodworkers believe that honing their tools is necessary to keep them successful in their woodworking tasks. Yet, you cannot perfectly sharpen your tools if you don’t have a functional sharpening system in your workshop.
Given the importance of sharp tools, you should invest in a sound lathe tool sharpening system. A good sharpening system can offer the quality results you would like to get out of your sharpening system. Having an excellent sharpening system could also be the turning point that could kickstart the heyday of your woodworking career. The reason for this is that with sharp tools, you can improve the consistency of your tools in cutting and carving wood. Moreover, your woodworking attitude will indeed improve if you know that your tools are sharp and efficient.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Tool Sharpening System
Given the myriads of sharpening systems in the market today, finding the most appropriate one for your sharpening needs becomes a bit confusing. Of course, the one that will most suit your needs depends on the woodworking type you often engage in, the tool types you want to sharpen, and the time you would spend in sharpening those tools. Below is a rundown of the essential factors to consider when selecting a sharpening system:
No one wants a system that is hard to set up. Similarly, if you search for a sharpening system, you should look for something that allows for a quick setup. It should let you sharpen your tools within a few seconds. You should not spend minutes setting it up. It should also have tool rests as well as jigs that you can quickly adjust. Moreover, it should come with a similar bevel angle for minimizing setup for multiple tools. It should also allow for more than a single setup.
Slower Speed Grinder
When selecting a sharpening system, always look for something with a slower speed grinder. This slower-speed grinder will come in handy when sharpening cryogenic and high-speed steel. Of course, the slower-speed grinder is better than the traditional faster grinders, for they create excessive heat while wasting away unnecessarily your turning tool material.
The sharpening system should come with a sharpening jig. The sharpening jig is perfect for sharpening tools with steel blades. When sharpening your tools, your sharpening system should consistently sharpen bevel angles with few wasted tool materials. If a system doesn’t do these two things, then it is not good. So, it will help if you look for another sharpening system.
With Adjustable Heavy-duty Tool Rest
An excellent sharpening system must have a heavy-duty tool rest. The tool rest should be adjustable likewise. This tool rest usually consists of thin metal brackets that you can flex quickly. The brackets typically have wing nuts that you need to tighten in place, making it difficult to set up. If ever you will select a sharpening system, go for something that comes with a tool rest that is easy to set up.
Most Recommended Wood Lathe Tool Sharpening Systems
Given the myriads of lathe tool sharpening systems, you may get confused when buying. However, you can facilitate the choosing process by being cognizant of the following most recommended lathe tool sharpening systems in the market today:
1) Pro Grind Sharpening System
One of the complete sharpening systems in the market today is the Pro Grind Sharpening System. It comes with multiple setup gauges and other fixtures to facilitate the sharpening of your tools. This system is engineered with one goal, to provide an optimal sharpening experience for woodworkers. Moreover, it comes with a multi-grind attachment along with a multi-grind bar for sharpening your gouges.
The Pro Grind Sharpening System allows for standard, short, and long grind on your bowl gouges. It also lets you do a fingernail grind on your spindle gouges. Moreover, it features a slotted 3″x5″ adjustable platform along with a tool-holding slide. It allows you to grind large scrapers quickly. Besides, you can also sharpen your parting tools with its slotted platform.
With the Pro Grind, you can sharpen skews, standard chisels, and anything you would like to sharpen. It comes with a tool rest bar attachment that lets you get a precise edge relative to your bevels without taking much material off your tool.
The Pro Grind Sharpening System also comes with an array of setup jigs along with accessories to enable you to set it up properly. With this sharpening system, you can achieve consistent and repeatable angles. Moreover, you can produce excellent outcomes every time you use this sharpening jig system.
2) Tormek T-8 Wood Turner’s Package
Another good alternative if you’re looking for a complete sharpening system is the Tormek T-8 Wood Turner’s Package. This set comes with a water-cooled sharpening system along with an entire wood-turning jig and other accessories. It includes a woodturner sharpening kit that includes everything you need to sharpen your various tools.
Moreover, it consists of a turning tool sharpening, with gouge and multi-jigs. It also comes with a turning setter and leather honing wheel (profiled).
The good thing about this system is that it comes with a seven-year factory warranty and other extras like an angle master, diamond truing tool, honing compound, and many more. It is indeed a complete kit.
3) Robert Sorby ProEdge Plus Sharpening System
If you miss the old-school sharpening system, you should check the Robert Sorby ProEdge Plus Sharpening System. This system is perfect for woodworkers who want something relatively easy to set up and use. It comes with a stock tool rest along with 120 A0 with 60-grit Zirconium belts.
With this sharpening system, you can sharpen with precision. It features nine factory-indexed settings that serve as a guide for different types of tools. The set likewise comes with a wide range of grits and accessories available.
Robert Sorby ProEdge Plus Sharpening System lets you sharpen bench, carving, framing, and turning chisels. It can also sharpen your drill bits, knives, plane irons, and garden tools.
4) Straight or Curved Edge Sharpener Tormek SVS-50
The Edge Sharpener Tormek SVS-50 allows you to sharpen tools characterized by curved bladers. It features a jig that lets you sharpen skew chisels with a curved or straight edge, oval section skews, beading tools, parting tools, roughing gouges, straight carving gouges with a maximum of 2″ wide.
This jig comes with housing along with two interchangeable seats, one closed and one open. These features let it swivel and quickly lockdown at any desired angle from 0 to 45 degrees, allowing you to sharpen any blade with precision. It’s likewise reversible. Hence, it enables you to let your skew chisels have symmetrical bevels on either side.
Moreover, it takes less metal off your tools while you sharpen them. Thus, you can ensure that your tools will have longevity of use.
5) PSI Woodworking LCMPLUS
Another complete chisel-sharpening system is the PSI Woodworking LCMPLUS. You can quickly sharpen your chisels and transition from turning to sharpening in an instant. It also provides you with optimum control and complete visibility of the bevel of your chisel. It includes an 8″ aluminum backing disc along with a 1″ hole, with an 8″ self-adhesive hook and loop mounting pad, five 80 grit 8″ hook, and loop sanding discs with a 2-inch hole.
The PSI Woodworking LCMPLUS includes an adjustable chisel “V” guide tool rest and 1″ x 8 TPI spindle nut with three washers 1-2/4″ and instructions. Moreover, this sharpening system fits lathes with around 1″ x8TPI Spindle with a swing of 10″ or more. You can also use this system for most of your general woodworking and woodturning sanding needs.
When Should You Sharpen Your Tool?
When sharpening your tool, you may find it hard to tell whether it is already sharp or not if you are a newbie. To find out if it is already sharp, you can blacken the bevel. Then, when you position your bevel on your sharpening system, you will quickly see what part of your tool is being sharpened. By blackening the bevel, you can quickly adjust its angle.
Now, if you try to use a turning tool again, you will notice how a dull-edged tool will tear at your wood piece and how it leaves a surface that is quite difficult to sand and smoothen. As you become experienced in sharpening your carving tool, for example, you will learn to tell whether it is dulling already and instinctively know whether it needs a bit of touch-up.
You can also try to drag the edge of your tool across your thumbnail. If it creates a curl, then it is already sharp. Another thing is that when you doubt its sharpness, it will be best to sharpen it. So, try to touch up before you even make the final cut on your wood piece.
As mentioned above, you should spend time sharpening your tools to be an effective woodworker. It will also help if you sharpen your carving tools more often because sharp tools allow you to work efficiently. Yet, if you are only kickstarting your woodcarving activities, you may find yourself confused as to when you should sharpen your tools.
There are telltale signs that can indicate that you need to sharpen your tools again. One telltale sign is if you find it hard to remove materials. If you are engaged in lengthy works, it will be best to hone your carving tools every half an hour and sharpen them every two hours. Nevertheless, there is no general rule on when to sharpen your tools because there are many factors that determine your tools’ sharpness like your tool’s steel quality, the wood density you are working on, and the frequency of your use of the tool.