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May 01 2012

Improving Tool Sharpening Capabilities.

Sharpening. All roads in woodworking lead to it, and there seems to be as many ways to accomplish it as one can imagine. Scary Sharp with Abrasives, Water Stones, Oil Stones, Leather, Steel, Powered, which also employs abrasives, stones, leather, et al. All of the various styles have strengths as well as weaknesses. Many woodworkers often decide to mix and match different sharpening media to optimize the best methods for their kit.

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For many years, I have had a continued interested in tool sharpening, as well as how they dull through use, while paying attention to the many trade-offs offered by different sharpening methods. I looked for ways to optimize the sharpening process for better workflow. Along the way, sharpening more frequently, meaning not waiting until blades are unusably dull stood out as very important, and some other ideas became viable as solutions to challenges other woodworkers I spoke with were having. Sharpening needed to be handier, and the sharpening tools tools more effective. The fruits of these studies are coming forth in the Sharpening Aids we are offering through our ‘Woodworks Store’.

We are introducing a Sharpening Station based on Abrasives over Glass, otherwise referred to as “Scary Sharp”. We call it the ‘Sharpening Station 1’ “Scary Sharp”. There are several strengths it brings to sharpening.

Portability is a big strength. Many woodworkers and sharpeners are space challenged, and having a space where this always happens isn’t always possible. This station is designed as a bench hook, so you can either hook it on the edge of the bench, or clamp it in a vise to sharpen. Then remove it so you can use the bench for your projects. It is also very usable on other level surfaces that are not a bench. As a for instance, you could use it on a Workmate, a Festool FMT/3 with the ‘FMT/3 Cleat’ installed, even a table saw if you use one. You could even take it with you as a traveling sharpening solution.

Another strength. Four flat glass surfaces. Many waterstone users lament how much flattening is necessary with them, particularly the coarse grit stones. Much of the stone is worn away flattening, not sharpening. Another downside waterstones have is that as they go out of flat, they transfer whatever shape that is to the tool’s edge. They are also very messy, and have freezing liabilities in cold climates. The coarsest waterstones are mainly used for getting a tool’s bevel established, and to be certain, when good maintenance practices are used in sharpening, the coarse stones are rarely used.

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The Sharpening Station 1 can eliminate the need for coarse waterstones, replacing them with coarse abrasives on flat glass when required. No more flattening ever. These four surfaces are flat and stay flat. They measure 3 x 10 inches and offer a lot of flexibility. They are high enough above the bench top for finger clearance when flattening tooling backs or knife sharpening. Load them up with coarse grit for grinding and flattening sessions. Step the grits for working the bevels up to fine sharpness, set them up with fine micro abrasives when maintaining sharpness during fine woodworking sessions.

Many Woodworkers are resorting to different sharpening methods for different parts of the sharpening process. I still use stones here for some work, both Diamond and Oilstones. I like flat stones for knives, chisels and plane irons. The emphasis here being on flatness, that’s what I value the most. They also work well for out-canal carving tools. My observations have been that abrasives on a flat surface, be it on glass or granite, have some niche areas that are too good to ignore, particularly the flexibility and the flatness. Not having a huge mess to clean up is also a big plus. So whether you use stones or mix power and non-powered sharpening methods, the ‘Sharpening Station 1’ can augment or replace some sharpening tools.

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A sandpaper cutter for sizing the sheet abrasives to the sharpening station is also built in. At the far end of the station, we’ve incorporated a handy cutter big enough to handle most any standard sheet abrasives available, by length and width.

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Simply transfer the size of the glass to the back of the sandpaper, insert the paper, abrasive side down under the cutter, apply pressure with one hand and tear carefully with the other. It’s that simple.

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You can choose from self-adhesive abrasives, or use spray adhesives to adhere the abrasives to clean glass. It’s always ready for work.

Flexibility. Our ‘Sharpening Station 1’ shares sharpening modules with our ‘Bench Strop’. It is part of an interchangeable system of tops that we call “Strop Tops”. Currently our Strop Top line up consists of the Glass which is included as standard on the ‘Sharpening Station 1’. Horse Butt Leather, Cowhide Split Leather, and bare MDF can be purchased separately. That’s a lot of versatility, and all it takes is a 5/32nd hex key to interchange them. If you like finishing with a strop of MDF with fine polishing compounds embedded, we have you covered.

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The station as shown weighs approximately 10 pounds, measures 14-3/4 inches square and is finished with teak oil. It’s a sturdy tool and it shares a lot in common with other tools we make. Because it does, it offers the same precision and durability enjoyed by other tool designs we offer.

It’s available for ordering now, just follow this link to the ‘Sharpening Station 1’ “Scary Sharp” in the ‘Woodworks Store’.

In other news, we have been working on other ‘Woodworks Store’ upgrades, which will help showcase other new tooling we are offering. As many know, our store has been using shopping cart ordering for some time now, and our web store has expanded from our original shooting board, the ‘Deluxe Shooter’, into multiple categories of woodworking tools and jigs. We have also been working to create better descriptions of our tooling so you’ll have a better idea of what our tools are and what they do.

New to the web store is the ‘New Products’ page, where we showcase the newest offerings in our product line. This means going forward, that if you are wondering what our latest tool and product offerings are, just have a look in the ‘New Products’ section of the store!

The New Product lineup currently has the Sharpening Station 1, as well as our latest shooting board model, The ‘Ultra Shooter’. What is the Ultra Shooter? It has all the angles our Deluxe Shooter has, and we added 75 degrees, so it shoots 90, 15, 22.5, 30, 45, 60 and 75-degree angles with fixtured precision calibratability. All the same attention to detail as all our shooting boards have plus an angle that is handy for veneer and other fine work. The ‘Ultra’ is also available in ’51’style shooters as well.

Other new products include ‘The Any Angle Fence’, which allows you a fence that will self fixture at any angle our shooting boards currently fixture, with full calibratability, and will fixture any angle in between 1 – 90 degrees by clamping. It has two fence faces, a tall one and a short one, that have been precision flattened to .001 to place between the fence base and the work piece to prevent damage at the cut. It will work with any of our Deluxe or 51 shooter style models.

The Glass Strop Top too is a new addition to our product line, and it not only fits the new ‘Sharpening Station 1’, but the ‘Bench Strop System’ as well. It can be ordered individually if desired.

We do a fair bit of cooking around here, and found our spice rack organization lacking. The ‘Spice Rack Tiers’ hold 24 bottles of spice on board and allow another six bottles in front, to enable easier workflow when cooking. These tiers are not just for spices, they have application elsewhere too! Maybe in the shop or for other hobbies. You decide. Please check them out.

Also new, are the ‘Medium’ and ‘Small Drill Squaring Guides’. Many times, we need a perpendicular hole and we can’t leave it to chance. There may not be a Drill Press available, or a hole needs to go where a Drill Press can’t reach. Often we want countersink screws to wind up flush to the surface.

These drilling guides can be used with any drill, hand, battery or corded electric, to drill a perpendicular hole and most any angle the work is at. We drill and ream these to cover all the holes from 5/64ths to 15/64, by 64ths on the ‘Small’, and from 1/4 to 1/2 by the 16th on the ‘Medium’. Surfaces are flattened to .001 on certified granite. They are not a steel bushing based guide. They are made from 6061 Aluminum and meant for starting holes in wood and soft materials that are square to the work. Take a look at them in the store.

Another new item is the ‘MFT/3 Cleat’. It is a replacement Cleat that allows our Shooting Boards and some of our other tools to mate to the edge of the Festool MFT/3 Work Table more effectively. So if you are an MFT/3 user, please check them out! Any of our tools with cleats can be user retrofitted. See them in the Shooting Board Accessory section of the store.

Speaking of Shooting Board Accessories, we have some old items with new ordering capabilities. The ‘Standard Cleat’ is the cleat we spec as original on all our shooting boards and some of our other tools. Now you can order a replacement should you like.

Also, we have created more specific ordering for our ‘Standard Fences’, and ‘Double High Fences’ so they can be ordered by the angle. Traditionally we supply the ‘Standard Fence’ and ‘Double High Fence’ with a 90 and 45-degree angle. We now offer both models with 90 and an option of 15. 22.5, 30, 45, 60, and 75-degree angles. This is great if you want a replacement fence for your original, or want to order fences for any specific angle your board model can fixture! Have a look at your options in the store!

If you are ready for your sharpening sessions to become better organized and more efficient, we have the tooling for that. If you have been considering a Shooting Board, we have many options that have most of the angles covered. Ordering is easy in the ‘Woodworks Store’.

Thanks, and as always, please check back often!

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Happy Woodworking!

© Copyright 2012 by Rob Hanson for evenfallstudios.com All Rights Reserved.

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