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How to Sharpen a Curved Woodturning Tool with a Grinding Wheel or Sharpener
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Turning tool Tools like this are vital to woodturning, but keeping the curved edges sharp is very difficult.

“Just grab a piece of black pipe, take it to the grinder and practice putting an edge on it!” is the advice a turning expert gave to his new-to-turning daughter. He said it to address one of the issues a person must confront when they begin turning. Sharpening a flat edge like a chisel (or a skew) is not difficult to master, but when it comes to sharpening curved edges, like the ones you find on the gouges and scrapers, it’s a different story. And, while some folks can master the “freehand” method, others, like yours truly, need a bit of an assist. The good news is there is plenty of help out there.

Three Basic Options

There are three general types of machines and/or accessories to help sharpen those curved edges. Dedicated sharpening machines divide into two categories: wet grinding and dry-abrasive sharpening — those categories are represented here by the Tormek® and the Work Sharp®, respectively. The third general option is a jig attached to a standard grinder; a good example of that is ONEWAY’s Wolverine Jig.

Any of these options will get you past the roadblock of sharpening curved edges — but each has pros and cons.

Tormek sharpener Tormek gives the sharpest blade and can attach to a variety of jigs for different tools, but it's pricey.

The Tormek will give you the sharpest and best edge, hands-down. It is very versatile and has a long track record of quality. But it is also expensive, and its complexity demands a moderate learning curve.

Work Sharp sharpener Worksharp's sharpening system allows you to watch the tool as it sharpens, but requires a constant supply of abrasive discs to stay in operation.

The Work Sharp is also versatile, certainly less expensive and, many think, a bit more intuitive to use. But you need to keep a supply of the abrasive discs on hand, and they cost money to replace.

Wolverine sharpening jig Wolverine's sharpening jig works with any sharpening tool with a specialized grinding wheel.

The Wolverine Jig works with a standard grinder, but to drill down a bit, it works best with a specially purchased grinding wheel and a grinder that has variable speed.

posted on April 1, 2011 by Rob Johnstone
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