So, the Work Sharp 3000 has been in my workshop for a few days now. With all the snow and plummeting temperatures this past week, my time spent in the workshop has been severely limited. Still, I’ve managed to have a ‘play’ on my new tool sharpener for a certain period of each day and now, I feel ready to share my initial thoughts and experiences.
This system utilises the now-infamous ‘scary sharpening system‘, where adhesive-backed PSA abrasives are mounted to sheets of float glass and used in place of traditional sharpening stones. These abrasives will simply out-perform aluminium oxide and others when it comes to cutting metal – this also helps to keep the steel cool as you cut. A rotating disc takes the ‘graft’ out of sharpening. It is important that you always work with the disc spinning away from you; not only to prevent the tool from catching and tearing the abrasives but, if you let go, a sharp edge would only be propelled away from you. Below the disc is an adjustable tool rest for accurately grinding edges at 90°. An innovative airflow system helps to keep the steel cool though, you should always follow the instructions and work intermittently; grinding for about a second, then withdraw the tool (and repeat until you’ve got your edge). One feature I really like is that lower port is surfaced with a sheet of fine abrasive – each time you withdraw the tool, this immediately remove any burr on the back face, which does save a lot of work when you’re working a batch of chisels. You don’t necessarily ‘need’ to slide the guide along to hold wider blades parallel. I do find it is handy for narrow tools, where it’s very easy to slip or prevent the edge on a slight skew. Blades less than 12mm in width should be worked from the left-hand side of the rest.
To give this setup a through testing, I grabbed a handful of my chisels (some old, some new) and set about regrinding the primary bevel. Before that though, you should always check that the back is flat. Being able to work on both sides of each disc [two are supplied] is a great advantage here – you can set one up with coarse abrasives, for initial grinding and another with two of the finer grits. Changing between discs is dead simple and fast (remove and re-tighten the knob), which makes this system more easily accessible than others, where you may have to re-grade the stone or remove and fit a different grit altogether. Most of my chisels were in pretty good shape and didn’t require much work at all before I had a perfectly flat back. Some of my older ones were in need of greater attention, though, with a distinct hollow along the blade’s length (which is not strictly a problem on a plane iron). This where I found that the 120g sheets supplied are not coarse enough for heavy steel removal. You can buy sheets of 80g but, this only appears to be available as part of the Coarse Abrasive Kit, at £19.95. I am looking for an alternate supply… I’m prepared to even cut my own discs from full sheets but, Workshop Heaven only stock the finer grades and I don’t know where else to look.
If anyone has any suggestions, please do get in touch. Failing that, I will consider buying AlOx self-adhesive discs from Axminster.
A tool rest is supplied for grinding/sharpening on top of the disc. I’ve found this to be fairly robust and it doesn’t appear to move under load. It is tricky (and quite important) to keep it parallel to the disc as you raise it up. Otherwise, you may find your edges are cut out of square. In addition to the two flat glass discs, the standard kit contains a ‘slotted’ wheel which, as it spins, allows you to view the edge being created from above, as the tool is ground on the underside. This is great for many turning chisels and anything that is too long or awkward to grind on either of the tool rests.
I mentioned in my previous blog post that one big appeal of this machine was the lack of sparking and heat build-up produced. And, on traditionally “thin” (most chisels and older/more affordable hand planes), this is very true. When I came to test the thicker O1 and A2 steels of my Clifton and Veritas irons, not only did it take longer to grind each edge but, every few seconds, I would see a spark shoot out. There’s no threat over-heating or ‘bluing‘ this steel here – they barely even feel warm – but, that does concern me a bit (hence, why I’m ever more keen to find a supply of 60g or even 40g abrasives). It’s also a possibility that these harder metals will have a great effect on the life of these abrasive sheets. Andy King (of Good Woodworking magazine) once mentioned something about noticing the odd ‘glowing ember’ as he was testing this product, a couple of years ago. This is also something I have noticed with the thicker steels. Even thin blades leave a black deposit as you grind the metal away but, I have noticed the odd bright spark flaring up beneath the spinning wheel – always work in a clear space away from any flammable liquids or materials and be cautious. But, that applies to other dry-grinding systems, particularly the cheap, high-speed machines. That’s one of the things that put me off the smaller 2000 model, where every video I could find appeared to show the tool running its own fireworks display!
So far then, my only real gripe is that I feel we could do with a coarser abrasive supplied as standard for heavier material removal on tools that require a fair amount of work. On this occasion, I will probably have to look for an alternate solution for that. Having to grind certain tools freehand above and below the table may not appeal to all… It’s really not that difficult and this is genuinely a very safe tool to use. The abrasives and fine enough not to do you any serious harm should you accidentally make contact with your skin – unlike a belt sander of linishing machine. If you let go on top of the wheel then, the disc is rotating at a speed so steady that it barely rolls over the edge. You’re in little or no danger, here. There is an optional Wide Blade Attachment which fits to the tool rest on top of the machine. Baulking at the price though, I’m sure that we, as woodworkers, could produce something as-convenient from scraps of MDF and whatever we can salvage from elsewhere! In fact, I intend to have a go at this myself, some time. With that, I’d also like to make a purpose-built stand for this new arrival and also to store all the accessories that go with it [refer to the photo at the top of the page!] though, I will need to allow enough clearance around the machine for grinding long woodturning tools underneath.
As part of the current deal at Rutlands (the sole UK distributor of the Work Sharp range), a Leather Honing Kit is also included. Stropping is not something I would usually get involved with when honing by hand so, for the time being, I’ve yet to really use this to see what it can do. Working carefully and efficiently up through the grits though, I can confidently say that the Work Sharp 3000 gives excellent results and has great appeal any woodworker (hobbiest or professional) looking for a fast, clean and reliable solution. I appreciate that it may “look” cheap from the photographs (that was also one of my initial concerns) but, it’s stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it so far and does come with a two-year warranty for extra peace of mind. I would recommend this system to anyone without hesitation, even without having used a Tormek.
Thank you for reading. I sincerely hope you have found this interesting and useful. If you have any questions or thoughts, please, feel free to leave a comment or contact me. I’m sure there are other points I’ve forgotten, which I’ll suddenly remember after hitting the ‘Publish‘ button!! 😉