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2 Equipment

Here's the question: What do you want to do? When you know the answer, you can seek out the means to reach those ends.

I've added more notes about power sharpening and Cratex wheels in the download - link below.


Subscriber download: Notes on Power Sharpening


| 25 February 2024 10:08

Ajit - The Tormek is both slower, therefore you can be more precise, and the water you cannot turn the edges of your tool blue, nor breathe in any dust. So, yes, many carvers prefer to work with this machine.
It takes time to become efficient and precise with the whole power sharpening approach, but it the skill does come if you work at it; have enough practice. We're mainly talking about getting 90% of the metal away at the beginning of the tool commissioning. After that, when the tool is properly sharpened, you will hardly ever need to take the tool back to the grinder.

| 23 February 2024 17:13

Hi Chris: Hand sharpening is slow and precise. Using a grinder for shaping speeds up the process but has the potential for mistakes, which can happen very rapidly. Too, the grinder is messy, with dust (and sparks) flying everywhere. Is a water-cooled slow grinder like the Tormek a good compromise?

| 19 November 2023 19:50

James - The Tormek is a very 'safe' machine in that the water makes the risk of turning your edge blue negligable, which is great for beginners, and the buffing wheel can be useful.
On the other hand, it's slow, and the soft stone wears quickly, especially with the narrow bevels we offer side-on to the wheel.
So do use it, keep the surface true and see if it does what you want it to do.

| 17 November 2023 18:36

Just became a member and naturally have a question. I own a tormek and was wondering what your thoughts are as to sharpening with it. Thanks

| 24 September 2022 15:16

William - Personally, I'm not comfortable that orientation and wouldn't recommend it:

First, there's the possibility of kickback if you forgetfully present a tool to the top and into the felt wheel as if it were a stone wheel. (At CFC I heard of a student who did just this and ended up with a chisel in their face from a dig-in). But, it's YOUR workshop and hopefully you will always be aware of the danger.

Second, I can't see what I'm doing! I much prefer to be at the top of the wheel for accuracy of presentation but, again, you might very well be able to work this way.

Is it possible either to:
(a) Reverse the motor? It makes no difference which way the stone wheel turns. You'd need an electrician of course...

(b) Turn the machine around - back to front - and swap the guards across? This usually puts the switch at the back but you can turn the machine on and off at the wall or through another, in-line switch.

| 23 September 2022 16:37

I have only space in my tiny shop for one bench grinder—one course stone wheel and one hard felt wheel. In order to have the stone wheel turn against the tool, as you recommend, I have decided to buff my tools from the "bottom" of the buffing wheel —thus buffing with the wheel running away from the tool edge. Is this OK? any downsides?

| 29 June 2022 08:12

Imran - Yes, I have the wheel spinning normally and place a vacuum nozzle to catch the dust - there will be quite a lot of that! - and wear a good face mask.
To shape the wheel, all you need is something that is harder than the wheel itself. Although wheel is very hard, it's not solid; the grit particles are bonded together and it's easier to break the bonds and wear the surface down than you might think.
You can buy 'grinding wheel dressing stones' - but any hard metal: old screwdrivers, bolts etc. will do.

| 28 June 2022 12:33

Hi Chris. Thanks for the video. my question is regarding the wheel profile you created on your 2 wheel grinder for the inner bevels. How did you get the material off to get to the profile? Did you do it as the wheel was spinning on the grinder? Thanks

| 22 June 2022 10:24

William - I think around 1800rpm is a good speed.
You can certainly go faster but the friction and thus risk of overheating quickly increases; slower and you don't feel like you are getting anywhere fast...

| 21 June 2022 17:57

Chris. What RPM should one look for in selecting a power grinder? My bench grinder/felt wheel unit does 1800 RPM. Is that rate acceptable?

| 22 October 2019 23:39

Hi Chris, what is your opinion on using a small rotary tool such as a Dremel to sharpen, with a bench stone to finish?

| 26 February 2018 09:36

Bill - The problem is finding the appropriate slipstone. (Oh, and having good eyesight!)
There are narrow slipstones to be had out there and don't forget you can alter the shape of any stone by abrading it on a grinder or other surface to get the working surface the right sweep, or if it has become worn.

| 21 February 2018 15:47

Hey Chris Bill Ellen here from Missoula, Montana Chris I have some new very small gouges that I need to commision. I am having trouble with the inside bevel. Two in particular are a 5/5 and a 3/3. I haven't worked on the 3/3 but when I tried to put an inside bevel on the 5/5 I basically wiped out the sweep. These are so small that I have nothing that can go inside to form that bevel. Can you help me with this?

As an aside, next week I am heading back to the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. I have been accepted as a fellow an will be there for two months.

| 16 October 2016 09:53

Marshall - One thing to understand here is that carving gouges work off the (outside) bevel, rocking on the heel in a scooping motion. This is the opposite of a bench chisel, which is used flat side against the wood, bevel UP, and pushed in a straight line.
Although a hollow bevel suits the action of bench chisel, in a carving gouge the edge would be weaker against the cross forces of scooping and give a bumpy ride.

But do feel free to prove me wrong; grind in a hollow bevel and see what the tool is like to use. I trust you'd find a single flat or slightly rounded bevel with a softened heel and low cutting angle works best (along with the inner bevel).

| 06 October 2016 22:50

Dear Chris,

Sorry, I must have missed the part where you mentioned that in this video. Just re-watched it, and saw that.


| 06 October 2016 22:46

Dear Chris,

After sharpening several tools using bench stones, I have started looking into powers sharpeners. In the bench chisel video, you mentioned that the grinding wheel makes a hollow in the tool's bevel. My question is, will this hollow affect the outer bevel on a tool in a good or bad way?

Thank you for you in advance,

| 24 July 2016 11:22

Bert - I know that some people convert grinders to 'honing' machines (ie with soft wheels) by reversing the direction of rotation either mechanically or electrically, but I have to make the disclaimer here that I haven't, don't know how to, and don't recommend it!

Practice making perfect is not for the real world. What's 'perfect' anyway? However, practice will make familiar, will give confidence. A good idea is just to take one tool, perhaps a middle gouge (#6 x 1/2in. 14mm) and work on it until you get it right, which means it has those criteria that I keep banging on about. If you are a little out, chances are it won't matter; you can tune it next time you go to a stone. And stones are perfectly good way of sharpening our tools.
Once you get a feel of a correctly sharpened carving tool, how great it feels as you use it and how it sings in its work, you'll never accept anything less. And with one tool under your belt, you'll find the next one easier and quicker to do.

| 23 July 2016 15:40

Hi. I suppose a honing grinder would cost somewhat more, being a scarce beast. The poor man's solution would be to buy a cheap 'ordinary' grinder and swap the wheel covers around and mount the machine back to front on the bench. If you feel unsafe reaching over to get to the switch you could (with a bit of luck & depending on what you bought) turn the motor around on its base and bring the switch back to the front.

Not that I'm going to... I've ruined enough tools to have learned that for me, hand sharpening is the way to go. I know that 'practise makes perfect' and it's probably sentimental rubbish but it seems the tool just feels happier too for not being subjected to all that noise and vibration and dust and stuff. They have their feelings too...

| 21 July 2016 19:42

William - In the Beginners Course I make the point that for hundreds of years carvers have sharpened with bench and slipstones only. (If they were luck they may have had a hand-cranked, grinding wheel in a trough of water.) Me too, for many years only did hand sharpening - and here's an odd thing, which may not make sense and may not be true, but... I really believe that my hand-sharpened edges last longer than those sharpened on power wheels. They are certainly more accurate, though the power method is accurate enough. Just want to encourage you not to feel any sense of lack, loss or inferiority sharpening by hand!

| 20 July 2016 18:57

At last an explanation of your sharpening techniques. Thank you so much. For those of us who have limited shop space, your suggestion to retain some level of hand methods is helpful. With space a problem, I am limited to bench grinder, bench stones, strops, Andy a soft felt wheel on the bench lathe that adapts well to inner surface curves. Have you any opinion on the use of more flexible felt wheels?

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