Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Sharpening Station, At Last!

Many of my tools will benefit from regular sharpening.  This includes handplane blades, bench chisels, carving chisels and woodturning tools, all of which I use often.  It's well known among woodworkers that sharp tools are necessary to achieve the best work, while dull tools are inefficient at best and dangerous at worst.  My problem was that I had no regular place to sharpen my tools.  Instead, every time I wanted to sharpen my plane blades or chisels, I had to get out my stones and set them up on my workbench, then move them out of the way when I was finished with them.  My woodturning tools are sharpened on a heavy slow-speed grinder that was inconvenient to lift from under my workbench every time I wanted to do some turning.  I use a Koch sharpening system and Shapton stones for my carving chisels and, once again, it was stored in an inconvenient location.

The eventual outcome of all this inconvenient, of course, is that the job of honing gets put off until no small amount of resharpening will suffice to restore the tools to peak condition.  And it means that tools get used when they are dull, poor practice indeed, but one I'll admit to practicing.

Gluing up the drawer
The solution is a dedicated sharpening station, something I've yearned for over the years and even planned but never built.  Fortunately, my good friend and business partner Jeff Fleisher came up with some surplus property that provided a solution.  First was a slightly damaged cabinet with a wide drawer opening and double doors leading to a moveable shelf inside.  Then, a local restaurant was renovating and he snagged some thick Formica table tops for each of us.

With these two pieces in hand, my job became simple.  I attached rotating wheels, pin nailed the table top to the case and built a drawer to fit the opening just under the new tabletop.  Then I added drawer pulls and finished it all with a coat of shellac.

My sharpening tools
Even before the drawer was completed, however, I put the station in operation.  The tabletop measures 48 X 30 inches and is large enough for all my sharpening equipment--a Tormek T-7 water-cooled grinder, a Koch sharpening system for my carving chisels, a low-speed grinder and a tray with my Shapton stones at the ready.  My strop is hanging on one side.  Tormek accessories and other small tools are in the large drawer.  Water jugs (I have no water in the shop) and other large items are accessible through the double doors.  Being on wheels, the whole sharpening station can be easily rolled near the workbench when wanted there and then rolled back out of the way when the floor space is needed for assembly and the like.

The finished sharpening station
I feel certain that this improvement to my shop will greatly enhance the speed and quality of my woodworking.  If you don't have a sharpening station, consider building one similar to this.  If you can get hold of a surplus cabinet or tabletop, so much the better!


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