Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sharpening Efficiently and Effectively

by Pat Hennin

A carpenter’s, cook’s, landscapers, artisan’s . . . well, EVERYBODY’S recurring frustration is a tool that fails to cut. For forty years I’ve sharpened on virtually everything, even a concrete sidewalk while trying to mow a lawn I had been dropped off to do with a dull blade! Over the years, a slowly growing income and faster growing knowledge have led to better alternatives: sandpaper pasted to glass, seemingly cheap – but it doesn’t last and it is not too portable since the glass breaks; oil stones from slimy gritty to awkwardly short slimy Arkansas (do you rub the stone on the tool or the tool on the stone?); Japanese wet stones with honing guides that either ride on the stone and ruin it or guides that ride off the stone and need to be readjusted; diamond stones clogging with invisible rust and costing . . . well, like diamonds. For awhile I tried the flat plate circular electrics – leaving all of my clothes soaked at waist-level and turning all of my tools into skew chisels! Lurking out there was this magical tool, the Tormek, which I refused to buy because it cost so much! When my son joined the business he insisted I grow up and buy the Tormek. It paid for itself in a month! While our crew used to spend hours sharpening their timber framing chisels and slicks, the job is now done in minutes, right on site with very little interruption of work. Combining a 220 grit vertical wheel spinning at just the right speed not to spray water, both the grinding and the conditioning is done in one step instead of two and in a minute instead of forty. The buffing wheel is extraordinary, it puts a razor edge on in seconds. The convenience, speed and accuracy of this tool make my former concentration on short-term savings foolish . . . penny-wise and pound foolish as they say. By spending a little more (a good set of wet stones and guide start at about $250). We have saved thousands in time and labor. The Tormek has also proven far more durable than stones. With a long list of accessory guides, virtually every shape can be sharpened on the Tormek. It turns with such a steady fortitude that I find I can usually sharpen things free hand and certainly easily touch up anything! Life is SHARP, life is GOOD!

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