Sharpening woodturning tools

If you are a woodturner and have not yet discovered Tormek, there is a big chance you will be surprised to see how big a difference a really well sharpened edge can do to your final result at the lathe. As you know, the sense of control and flow at the lathe starts with sharp tools.

Sharpen Woodturning Tools With Tormek Sharpening System T 8 Woodcraft Woodworking5 1920X885

Sharpen less – turn more!

The Tormek way of sharpening differs from other grinding methods like high-speed bench grinders and belt sanders. Tormek makes a clear distinction between shaping and sharpening. Once the tool is shaped to the right shape, you remove only a minimal amount of steel when sharpening – you just touch up the edge. An important benefit of the minimal steel removal is that the sharpening is fast, in addition, your precious tools will last much longer. 

With the patented Turning Tool Setter TTS-100 every aspect of the set-up is simple and you can be sure to get the exact same shape of your tool every time you sharpen, regardless if the stone diameter changes over the years.

Sharpen Woodturning Tools With Tormek Sharpening System T 8 Woodcraft Woodworking4 1920X885

The high level of control in the sharpening process combined with a superior sharp result, have made many new users report that their turning has improved after switching to Tormek sharpening system. Newly sharpened turning gouges and skews can create the most delicate details and leave the cleanest cuts possible with little or no need for sanding. And, as important, you can be sure that your tool will behave in the exact same, predictable way all the time at the lathe. The fine sharpening surface obtained with the Tormek water cooled grindstone combined with the leather honing wheel makes the edge stay sharp longer. In the end, you will spend less time sharpening and get more time for turning!

Sharpen Woodturning Tools With Tormek Sharpening System T 8 Woodcraft Woodworking 1920X885

The difference between Shaping and Sharpening

When shaping a tool, you remove steel to get your desired shape and edge angle. When sharpening you just touch up the edge of an existing shape to renew the sharpness. The strength of the Tormek method is in the sharpening, which is carried out with an exact replication of both the shape and the edge angle. Since so little steel is removed – you just touch up the edge – the Tormek method is very fast.

If you have a new tool and initially need to change the shape considerably, you can save time by using a high-speed bench grinder together with the Tormek Bench Grinder Mounting set BGM-100. It makes it possible to use the same Tormek woodturning jigs and settings through the whole sharpening process. Once you have created the desired shape on the bench grinder, keep the tool in the jig and simply shift to the Tormek sharpening machine for the final sharpening and honing. After that, future sharpenings will be an easy job, where you just need to touch up the edge on the Tormek water cooled sharpener.

Video: Gouge sharpening - From factory grind to a superior sharpness 

Sharpening with the Tormek system

How long does it take to sharpen a turning gouge?
When you know your settings, it is done in about 30 seconds to a minute.

Why does a Tormek edge cut more easily?
Sharpening on the Tormek stone and honing on the leather honing wheel creates a very fine surface on the edge. A finer edge surface means a sharper edge, which cuts more easily in the wood.

Why does a Tormek sharpened edge leave a smoother cut on the wood?
As the Tormek edge is sharper, it cuts the wood fibres more cleanly and leaves a smoother surface. You do not need as much sanding after the sharpening, in some cases you do not need to use sandpaper at all!

How can a Tormek edge stay sharp longer?
There are two reasons. An edge obtained from a high-speed dry grinder is rough whilst the Tormek sharpened edge is much finer. A finer edge is more resistant to wear. In addition, the Tormek edge can never be overheated and lose its hardness.

What makes the Tormek method so fast?
The answer is the fast setting of the jigs and that you are able to get an exact repeatability. You just touch up the existing edge and only a small fraction of the steel need to be removed. With the right sharpening equipment, you can save a lot of time. It is a myth that the Tormek system is slow. It has arisen because turners have not made a clear distinction between shaping and sharpening. Once you have ground your tool to the right shape, which you normally only need to do once, it is a quick job to touch up and hone the edge to superior sharpness.

How can the Tormek grindstone last so long?
Since you just touch up the edge at each sharpening, the wear on the stone is limited. And since you get a durable sharpness, you sharpen less frequently on the Tormek. The large stone diameter, 250 mm (10") and the generous width, 50 mm (2") has also got significantly more sharpening volume compared to a smaller grinding wheel with a limited lifetime.

Shall I use slip stones after the sharpening?
No. The fine grindstone and the leather honing wheel give you a superior sharpness without slip stones. The inside of gouges is honed and polished on the Profiled Leather Honing Wheel LA-120.

Video: How long will it take to sharpen a gouge? 

Video: Sharpening a roughing gouge 

Shaping a tool

How long does it take to shape a gouge and a skew?
Shaping a tool with the Tormek machine takes between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the original shape of the tool and on how much steel you need to remove. The extra minutes you might spend on the Tormek is an investment to ensure the best performance of your expensive tool; you can be sure that the edge will not have been softened due to overheating and that the durability of the sharpness will not be affected. Bear in mind that you normally shape the tool only once.

Do I need a fast running bench grinder (dry grinder)?
Not necessarily. If you already have access to one, you can use it to save grinding time at the initial rough shaping. If so, grind gently so that the edge does not get burned. Move to the Tormek water cooled stone to do the final shaping and the tip of the edge.

With the Bench Grinder Mounting Set BGM-100, you can now use the Tormek woodturning jigs SVD-186SVS-50 and SVD-110 when shaping tools on your bench grinder. Since the patented Turning Tool Setter TTS-100 works on all stone diameters, the shape and edge angle is exactly replicated even when you go from a smaller bench grinder wheel to the large Tormek grindstone.

Why would Tormek, the pioneer in water cooled sharpening, introduce their jigs also for bench grinders?
We believe that the water cooled Tormek machine is superior in sharpening virtually every edge tool in your shop. However, there is no secret that when it comes to woodturning tools the initial shaping can be done faster on a bench grinder. We know that some woodturners dedicated to Tormek also have access to a bench grinder and use it for the first rough shaping. It is difficult to control by hand and it is easy to remove more steel than necessary. Now you can use the same precise Tormek jigs through the whole sharpening process. There is no longer trial and error in getting the right shape on the bench grinder. You can benefit from the fast steel removal on the bench grinder and also get the finest surface on the Tormek water cooled grindstone and the leather honing wheel – all in one jig system.

If you do not yet have a Tormek machine you can still benefit from the precise Tormek jig system on your bench grinder and easily get the desired shape and edge angle. Since the Tormek system controls these factors, the tools will behave in exactly the same predictable way all the time at the lathe. The principle for setting the shape and edge angle is the same regardless of which machine you use. If you later choose to add a Tormek to your shop, you will already have the jigs you need for your turning tools.

Can an HSS edge be affected with high speed dry grinding?
Yes. It is well known that carbon steel is easily affected when overheated. This is also the case for HSS steel, but the critical temperature is much higher. The very end of the tip, which is very thin, can easily reach the temperature which will affect the temper. You can limit the heating up by cooling the tool in water, but then there is a risk of micro cracks, which are invisible to the eye. 

Will a low speed (4-pole) bench grinder eliminate the risk of overheating the edge?
No. This grinder works without water cooling and the speed is still too high even it being half of the rpm of a conventional 2-pole grinder.

 Kurt -johansson“I use the Tormek system for all my tools. My jigs are set permanently and the sharpening only takes about a minute.

As a production turner I value the short period of time I need to spend on sharpening, which gives me more time for turning. The edges also last much longer than when I was using a bench grinder and slip stones."

Kurt Johansson
Professional Woodturner, Sweden


“I have switched to the Tormek after years of using a conventional dry grinding system to sharpen my turning tools. I find that I get a sharper edge in less time, all the while removing less metal each time I sharpen. 

With the edge being sharper, it lasts longer for any given tool. The edge cuts wood faster and easier, and leaves a smoother surface on the wood. As a bonus, I no longer have to deal with sparks or grinding dust in the shop.”

Bill Grumbine
Professional Woodturner, USA

A few tips when sharpening with a Tormek machine

If you are used to sharpening on a high-speed dry grinding wheel, there are a few things that differ when using a water-cooled grindstone. Here are some simple but useful tips:

1. Apply pressure. Don't be afraid to apply pressure on to the stone, it will speed up the sharpening and nothing can happen to damage the tool. The same high grinding pressure on a high-speed grinder will cause overheating. Press with your fingers close to the edge for best control and you can feel where the sharpening will take place. There is no risk to your fingers since the stone runs at 90 rpm.

2. Move the tool. Try to use the whole width of the stone by moving the tool sideways, and the stone will wear evenly and without grooves. When moving to a new spot on the stone, lighten the pressure or lift the tool for a smooth transition.

3. Refresh the stone surface. When shaping a tool with a large bevel surface, the low grinding pressure slows down the grinding. You can speed up the work by re-activating the stone a few times during the grinding with the Stone Grader SP-650.



Read magazine reviews from Woodturning and The Woodworker.

Extract from an article in Woodturning

In an earlier issue (No 70) of the UK magazine Woodturning, there was an article comparing the sharpening of turning tools on a slow running, water cooled grindstone with high speed grinding on a bench grinder. Click here to read the PDF.

Tormek visit
Nick Agar

Tormek visit Nick Agar

Join us to Devon, UK and let yourself be inspired by this sharp woodturning master.

Go to Tormek Friends

Tormek visit
Kurt Johansson

Tormek visit Kurt Johansson

As one of Sweden's most experienced and skilled professional woodturners, Kurt Johansson knows the importance of sharp tools! Join us to visit his workshop and check out how he can get those really fine shavings.

Go to Tormek Friends

Tormek visit
Glenn Lucas

Tormek visit Glenn Lucas

Glenn Lucas discovered Tormek while teaching woodturning in Germany, now it's his number 1 choice for sharpening. Join us to visit him in Ireland.

Go to Tormek Friends

Go to SVD-186 R Gouge Jig SVD-186 R Gouge Jig

SVD-186 R Gouge Jig

Go to SVS-50 Multi Jig SVS-50 Multi Jig

SVS-50 Multi Jig

Go to SVD-110 Tool Rest SVD-110 Tool Rest

SVD-110 Tool Rest

Go to TTS-100 Turning Tool Setter

TTS-100 Turning Tool Setter

Go to BGM-100 Bench Grinder Mounting Set

BGM-100 Bench Grinder Mounting Set

Go to TNT-300 Woodturner's Instruction Box

TNT-300 Woodturner's Instruction Box

Machine Models

Go to Tormek T-8 Original Tormek T-8 Original

Tormek T-8 Original

Go to Tormek T-8 Custom Tormek T-8 Custom

Tormek T-8 Custom

Go to Tormek T-4 Original Tormek T-4 Original

Tormek T-4 Original