Scary sharp tools, without the aching arms
If you've read anything about tool sharpening in the past few years, you've no doubt heard about the so-called "Scary Sharp" method. Rather than expensive water- or oilstones, the technique involves plate glass, plain old sandpaper, and patience. (By the time you hone a shave-your-arm-hair edge onto the tool, your arms feel like wet noodles.) Some sharpening purists argue that sandpaper can't deliver a perfect edge, but I'm a big fan of Scary Sharp because it makes my tools exactly that, without spending a ransom on a powered sharpening system.
Now the folks from Professional Tool Manufacturing, Inc.—the same people who brought you the Drill Doctor bit sharpening system—have made Scary Sharp simple with an air-cooled power sharpening system called Work Sharp. The system includes a pair of 6"-diameter, dead-flat tempered glass discs to which you mount the 120, 400, 1000, and 3600 self-stick abrasives. The abrasive-covered glass disc spins; you hold a chisel, plane iron, or turning tool against it; it sharpens. It's just like Scary Sharp, but the sandpaper moves instead of the tool.
How it works
You sharpen tools from three locations on the tool:
1. Top of the glass disc: used for flattening the backs of chisels and plane irons, and the bevel of cutters more than 2" wide. I think the top tool rest is this tool's weakest link right now, but the manufacturer says tool-holding jigs will be coming in the future.
After using Work Sharp to tune-up every chisel and plane knife in the WOOD magazine shop (plus most of mine from home), here's what I like best:
- Accurate set up. Being able to return to a precise bevel angle every time means I spent less time sharpening and more time woodworking.
- It's so easy to restore an edge, I didn't wait until I couldn't use a tool anymore before I sharpened it. (Often, I went through only one or two grits, and I was back in business in less than a minute.)
- Inexpensive sharpening supplies. Just some sandpaper when I need it.
- You can sharpen very short chisels and small plane irons.
If your chisels are really out of whack, the jump from 120 to 400 grit seems a bit much. I would get the optional "Coarse Kit" of 80, 120, 220, and 400 abrasives for initial shaping of the irons, then set up three glass discs: 120/220 on the first for setting the initial bevel; 400/1000 on the second for touching up; and 3600 and the optional leather stropping disc on the last to add a microbevel and hone.
Bottom line: Razor-sharp hand tools make woodworking a joy. But most sharpening methods make it work. Work Sharp removes that drudgery so you can get back to the fun part.
–Tested by Jeff Mertz
- Work Sharp WS3000 Wood Tool Sharpener, $200
- Professional Tool Manufacturing
- 800-597-6170, www.worksharptools.com