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Rockler's Recommended Sharpening System

Sharp Tools are a Woodworking Necessity
If you enjoy woodworking, you know how important it is to have sharp power and hand tools. With enough use, even the best tools eventually get dull. So, if you're serious about woodworking, you'll need to develop some sharpening skills to keep your tools in good, safe woodworking order.

Three Methods to Keep Tools Sharp
Rockler recommends these three methods to keep your tools sharp:

1. Hand Sharpening
(Least expensive)
Starting around $30
2. The Makita Blade Sharpener
(A good time-saving value)
Around $260
3. Tormek Sharpening System
(A top-line sharpening system)
Starting around $400

1. Hand Sharpening
Cost: Starting around $30
When done correctly, hand sharpening produces very sharp edges. When done incorrectly, it will produce dull, unsafe cutting edges and frustration. If you are committed to developing old-fashioned hand sharpening skills — and have the patience to complete it properly — this system will serve you well. Rockler has a complete line of hand sharpening supplies that will keep your tools in great shape and last a lifetime:

Recommended Hand-Sharpening Tools Cost

Preliminary Grinding (honing will also be required)
Honing Guide
Honing Guide
About $12
White Aluminum Oxide Grinding Wheels
White Aluminum Oxide
Grinding Wheels

About $15

(Purchase in 60 grit and 100 grit for a complete supply.)
Honing Edges by Hand
Water Stones
Water Stones
(About $60 for a set)

The Hand Sharpening Method
Unless your tool is in good shape, you'll want to start with the Grinder. Grinding will give your tool edges a hollow grind, or a concave shape, that will allow you to hone only the back and front length of the tool edge — a faster way to sharpen. It is very important to use an aluminum oxide wheel on your grinder to prevent your tool from overheating. Aluminum oxide wheels run cooler than the wheels that come with most grinders. (Tool steel loses its hardness and its ability to keep a fine edge when it is overheated.)

The angle of the bevel is produced on the grinder (generally, chisels and plane irons are 30 degrees) using the aluminum oxide wheel to prevent overheating. Next, hone your tool using either the Rockler Plate Glass Sharpening System or a series of Water stones, working up through course, medium and fine grits. Oilstones cut much slower with similar results, so we do not recommend them. You can also use Diamond stones. They're not required unless you're sharpening carbide cutting edges, and they are more expensive.

You'll also want to invest in a good Honing Guide to keep your tool steady and at a consistent angle while honing.

Makita Blade Sharpener2. Makita Blade Sharpener
Cost: Around $260
The Makita Blade Sharpener is a 560-RPM, motorized grinding station. It will reduce the time and skill needed to produce sharp edges on a wide range of tools, including jointer and planer blades up to 15" long. The large, slow turning, precision-made aluminum oxide wheel offers a peaceful and quiet alternative for precise sharpening. The continuous water feed keeps your blades cool to prevent them from overheating. The Makita Blade Sharpener is a good value for a motorized sharpening system.

The Makita Sharpening Method
The Makita system uses a horizontal, aluminum oxide water stone wheel. Using the blade holder (included as standard equipment), you hold your tool firmly against the rotating face of the wheel, mounted horizontally in the grinding station. This produces a perfectly flat edge rather than a “hollow grind” produced with a typical 6" grinder. With a few additional accessories, you can sharpen a wide range of tools, including jointer knives and planer knives. The water stone wheel will eventually wear, but it can be easily re-flattened.

Tormek Sharpening System3. Tormek Sharpening System
Cost: Starting around $400
This is the Cadillac of sharpening systems — it's our favorite way to sharpen tools! A vertically mounted, slow turning wet grinding stone gives you absolute control over every phase of your edge grinding and honing. The quiet and vibration-free motor is well built and rated for continuous operation. Included with each system are a straight-edge jig for sharpening chisels and plane irons, a genuine leather honing wheel for producing razor-sharp edges, the 6th Edition Handbook, and a tube of honing compound. With additional honing guides and accessories you can make the Tormek system a virtually goof-proof method for producing razor-sharp edges every time.

Tormek sharpening is a significant advance in the process of edge tool sharpening. With the Tormek system, anybody can quickly and consistently sharpen edge tools to almost surgical sharpness. With the right accessory, all of your tools — even your radiused edge tools like your fingernail turning gouges, spoon-carving gouges, and oval skew chisels — can be sharpened to your exact, individual needs. Previously sharpened edges can be replicated in less than 60 seconds. For serious woodworkers, that means a lot less time sharpening, and more time woodworking!

Tormek Accessories included with the Tormek Sharpening System
Straight edge jig for plane irons
Universal support with micro adjust
Honing Compound 70 Grit (Tube)
Horizontal Base for Universal Support
Video on the Tormek Sharpening System
Pro Angle Master
Grinding stone

Additional Tormek Accessories
(Sold Separately)
Planer/Joiner Blade Jig
Multi Jig
Long Knife Jig
Short Knife Jig
Stone Turning Tool
Short Tool Jig
Scissors Jig
Universal Gouge Jig
Turning Tool Jig
Stone Grader
Axe Grinding Jig

The Tormek Sharpening Method
With the Tormek system, a precision-made water stone rotates slowly and safely through a water reservoir to keep your tool cool as you sharpen and hone. The patented Angle Master enables you to set a precise edge angle. You simply steady the tool in a corresponding guide and let the Tormek do all the work. Because a very small amount of steel is removed, a sharp edge is produced quickly. Once you have ground your tool to the desired shape and edge angle, you can reproduce it exactly in future sharpening. This is even possible for “difficult” tools with unusual shapes. There is a guide or accessory available for virtually any type of tool (including knives and other household cutters), which makes Tormek one of the most versatile sharpening systems on the market. The grinding stone is precision balanced to retain perfect stability and water-cooled to ensure that your tool steel does not overheat and lose its hardness. After grinding an almost perfect edge, you can finish by honing it on the leather-honing wheel for a surgically polished edge. No need for messy, unsafe bench grinders or flying sparks. The Tormek method is a low speed and safe grinding and honing method that allows you to complete your initial grinding and final sharpening on the same stone.

For more information on sharpening techniques, click here for Tormek's Sharpening Basics (pdf).

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Copyright 2009