Tormek Sharpening System and Accessories

OK, hereís my two cents on the subject of the Tormek Sharpening System and its accessories.

I think itís over priced, but I wouldnít want to be without it. Itís easy to set up and use, relatively non-messy, and that encourages me to use it often and keep very sharp edges on my tools.

Over the years Iíve purchased a bunch of the accessories so this could get a bit long.

The Straight Edge Jig is included. Thereís not much to say about it other than it works. One trick with this one. The iron for my Stanley #8 was too wide to fit in the jig. Warren Tucker came up with the idea of removing the center screw from the jig and inserting through the hole in the plane iron. This worked fine, but introduced the additional step of using a square to make sure the blade was aligned in the jig. Normal blades self align on preset stops. Very short stub chisels wonít work with this jig, although they fit fine, with a little fussing for alignment in the Gouge/V-Parting tool jig.

Gouge/V-parting tool jig - Unless you carve or turn you may not need this one. Although it comes in handy for very short chisels. The trick to this one is making sure the blade is aligned with the jig so both halves of the tool are equally sharpened and the centerline of the tool stays in the center. I can eyeball the alignment just fine if I place a popsicle stick across the top edges of the U of the gouge then twist the tool until the stick is parallel with the top of the tool. Sounds silly till you try it, but it only takes a second.

Horizontal Tool Rest - this is a recent accessory that I found pretty handy. The normal tool rest sticks straight up from the top of the motor housing. Itís meant to be used with the wheel rotating into the sharp edge of the tool. This works fine most of the time. Every once in a while I find a tool that wants to dig into the stone. To cure this I turn things around and sharpen with the tool rotating away from the tool edge. Unfortunately, this is awkward because you end up sharpening almost vertical.

The horizontal rest cures this problem. It mounts more like a tool rest on a traditional grinder, and you can work in a much more comfortable position. If you think youíre going to buy one of these see if you can find a newer Tormek. They tell me the newer machines have holes predrilled for this restís mount. On the older units youíll need to drill the mounting holes. Not difficult but tedious to ensure proper alignment.

Fingernail Gouge Jig - if you donít turn you donít need it. For me it was a gift from the turning gods. I could never get a decent fingernail grind until I used it. A classic case of substituting a jig for skill. I spend much more time turning and less time sharpening now.

Knife Sharpening Jigs - I have mixed feelings about these. On days when my hands are very steady I can do just fine without them. Other times Iíd make a mess out of a knife without them. By the way, I donít sharpen the knives often. Just when they have a knick or need a new edge. We have a small ceramic rod in the kitchen drawer that normally keeps the edges just fine.

Turning Tool Rest - They probably name it that because you use it for sharpening turning scrapers. But itís the general purpose rest. Itís just a good size flat plate that attaches to the normal tool guide. This is one I couldnít do without. All the odd shaped stuff that doesnít fit any of the other jigs rests on this one for sharpening.

Scissors Sharpening Jig - After I got this I sharpened almost every pair of scissors in the house. It was an instant hit. I donít really need it, but keeping the scissors sharp is something that doesnít take much time and makes others in the family happy. This one I wouldnít do without.

Diamond Tip Stone Dresser - This is a must have. If you use the stone a lot, especially for gouges and other turning tools you can put a very shallow dish in the center. This is a pain when you return to sharpening straight edges. This works well but costs about twice what it should.

Profiled leather honing wheel - If you donít carve or turn you donít need this.

I used the Jointer/Planer blade jig once at Matt Ver Steggís place. It worked fine, took forever and I wouldnít think of having one. For me, itís easier to buy the replaceable blades or send them out.

I donít have the Axe Sharpening Jig so I canít comment.

Sharpening Tips - Now the only other thing I can say is that if you really want it to save you time, youíll need to make some little jigs and fixtures to help you load the tools into the jigs quickly and easily.

I have a bunch of little blocks of wood to help load tools into the jig with the right edge exposure, at the right angle, etc. Iíve also made some wooden blocks to set the angle of the tool rest for certain tools. I find the plastic angle jig that comes with it awkward.

For the most part the exact angle doesnít make that much difference, but you want to quickly reset the same angle every time. Otherwise you spend a lot of time sharpening new bevel angles onto perfectly good tools.

A black, felt-tipped, laundry marking pen is also very helpful. I blacken the bevel of a tool before sharpening. This makes it easy to verify that the angle is correctly set and watch the progress of the work.

George Sinos - 7/31/98