Turning Archive 2005

more sharpening.....

Keith Tompkins
>The recent posts on the Tormek raised a lot of interesting points. I guess it doesn't really matter which system one uses if the results are acceptable.

I think the real issue is....many turners cannot sharpen their tool properly. This is a problem I see on a regular basis; I ask students to bring their personal tools to the school. I can learn a lot about problems a turner is having just by observing their tool edges. Almost every turner who has attended my classes needed grinding instruction. Faceted bevels, burnt edges, poor contours, etc.

If you cannot duplicate your grind on a regular basis, you will not be able to make consistant cuts. What technique worked yesterday causes catches today. It is difficult to become proficient with your tools if you cannot sharpen properly.....many turners who think they cannot turn well actually cannot SHARPEN well. I have seen expensive tools ruined by grinding away material until almost no flute was left...in an attempt to produce a satisfactory edge.

When I worked in a furniture factory, all tools were sharpened in-house in the machine shop.As a shop foreman, it was necessary for me to learn to sharpen all edge tools. Planer blades, shaper cutters, hand tools, and drill bits. Need a new profile or special tool? Make it. Anything .We used grey wheels on high speed grinding equipment. If you sharpen large quantities of tools every day, year after year, you will become exceeding adept at the task.
Unfortunately, most turners or flat workers don't have that opportunity and dread sharpening their tools.

My personal grinding setup? Don't laugh... 8" high speed grinder. 120 grit grey wheel on one side with a rest made of automotive castings with threaded rod for fine angle adjustment. On the other side is a pink 120 grit wheel with a home-made wolverine style jig. It has adjustable sliding stops, I can bounce between different tools by just moving from one stop to the next. Personally, I think high speed grinding produces a finer finish, and a light touch prevents any blueing of the edge. One rotation of the tool against the wheel is all it takes. You do not have to remove a large amount of material when you sharpen.

I hone my spindle tools by hand, using a stationary bench stone. The tool handle is tucked against my side for control. I generally don't hone my bowl turning tools, it isn't necessary except on very challenging grain. I don't own a Tormek, but would consider one for carving tools.

Watching sharpening videos is no substitute for experience in the shop....eventually we all develop a style that works for us personally. I can't recall how many times someone in the audience at a demo, or during a class will say "That's not how Richard Raffan says it's done!" (negative thoughts edited here.)I don't think there is a right or wrong sharpening technique as long as the results are good. I suggest finding the best tool sharpening person you can , learn from them then practice, practice.

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