New Sharpening System.... Maybe? #2: Initial Tests

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 05-25-2017 12:18 PM 2397 reads 3 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Less Plugging in Leads to Plugging in Part 2 of New Sharpening System.... Maybe? series Part 3: Wide Blade Attachment... meh »

You know how sometimes you buy a tool kinda on impulse and regret it later? I half expected that to be the case with this WorkSharp. I figured I would find that it was kinda finnicky and that when all was said and done I would get a better edge faster using my diamond plates and I would end up selling the WS.

I was wrong.

I was really wrong.

Maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I just really suck at sharpening on stones. Or maybe, just maybe, this thing is a friggin’ gem. Now, I can’t say it’s my end-all, be-all sharpener at this point. But, I can say that I will never, ever flatten another chisel back on a diamond plate. And I’m pretty sure I’ll never sharpen another one on them either. And here’s why…

Now, I did the test like I said I was going to but, I forgot to time myself :-{ I really wish I could quantify the time savings for your benefit. Maybe I’ll repeat the test on another pair of chisels another day and time it. But I can tell you it wasn’t even close. I, without exaggeration, could have done at least 3 chisels on the WS in the time it takes to do 1 on my stones.

Last summer, Aldis had the chisel sets I had heard so much about from Paul Sellers and others online. Well for $8 a set (IIRC), who could resist? They had 3 sets left. I bought 3 sets. I completely overhauled one set at the time, new handles and the works, and I’ve really liked them. I still have 2 sets in the packages so I grabbed the two 24mm ones for this test.

The one with the diamond drawn on it is the one I worked on the diamond plates. The other one was done on the WorkSharp.

First order of business was flattening the backs. I started by putting a straight edge on the faces. They were both hollowed by about the same amount. I was hoping they would be so it would be an apples-to-apples comparison.

Starting with the coarse diamond stone. I work it until the bevel area is flat.

Then onto medium then fine. This is where I stop. I have a hollow left but that’s fine with me. It won’t affect function. Like I said, I forgot to time it but I would guess 8-10 minutes to get here.

Next onto the WorkSharp. For the record, I did this entire first run the way the manual recommends. I started at 120 grit. Not sure how long it took to get here but I am certain it was less than 60 seconds. No, I’m not kidding.

I worked up through 220, 400 and finally 1000 grit. Got here in 3-5 minutes max.

Next onto the bevel. I start with the WorkSharp. Same grits, 120-1000. I marked both bevels with sharpie so I could see the progression.

I’m pretty sure the bevels on these chisels are ground at about 20 deg from the factory. It takes a good bit of removal to get to the 25 degrees I was going for. But, I still cleaned it up in less than a minute. The sharpening port on the bottom of this thing is pure brilliant. It could use some tweaking (which I’ll get to) but it’s so KISS. Here after 120 grit.

I finished grinding the 25 degree bevel up through 1000 grit then honed a 30 degree secondary with the 1000 grit and finished by using the leather stropping disc with green compound on the secondary bevel and back. Got a super sharp edge. More on that later.

Next it was back to the diamond plates.

Well, I didn’t even finish it. It took me longer to work this far on my coarse diamond plate than it did to clean up the entire bevel on the WS. I have no doubt that I would have spent more time on just the coarse plate than it took to work all the way up through stropping on the WS.

And here you can see the back faces. I did the back of the WS chisel again at 1000 and completely worked the hollow out. I also stropped it. The diamond chisel is just after the fine stone.

So, what did I learn? Well I REALLY LIKE this machine. I was a bit skeptical but no more. If this one was stolen tonight, I’d order another one in the morning. So far, I’ve only used what comes in the retail package and for chisels up to 2”, that’s good enough.

The machine comes with 3600 grit micro-mesh abrasive but it wasn’t with this one. I was worried that 1000 grit wouldn’t be fine enough but it left a better polish than my fine diamond stone which has always been adequate for all of my chisels except for the ones I use for paring.

The edge left by the machine is the biggest surprise of all. I assumed that regardless of whether or not I decided to use the WS, that I would still have to hone the final edge on a stone. At least a few strokes. NOPE. It’s hard to photograph how sharp it is but I did the arm hair test, the hanging paper test and the ball point pen test and it passed all with ease.

The edge alone isn’t enough to sell me though. I can get as good on my diamonds and better if I go to lapping paper or ultra fine oil stone. However, the speed that I went from a new, grocery store chisel to a ready to work edge is kinda mind-boggling. AND it doesn’t hurt! I know it’s kinda whiny but when I stand over my diamond plates flattening a chisel back and honing a bevel for 15-20 minutes, my shoulders and back hurt for a while. Now granted, I don’t work a new chisel every day and it doesn’t take near that long to re-sharpen an already-conditioned chisel but it is a consideration.

It’ll take me a while of real-life use but, at this point, I think this will become my way of sharpening chisels. It is definitely how I’ll condition new chisels and do any major bevel changes.

So this machine is perfect, right? Of course not. There are some changes I would like to see and that I”ll probably be working on in the near future.

Here are the things I really dig so far:
  • The chisel port under the machine is just fantastic. It’s quick to set up, easy to use and is pretty much foolproof when it comes to a sharp edge that’s square and straight. If you haven’t seen how it works, here is the manufacturer instructional video or there are tons on youtube.
  • The wheels are flat and the machine is well designed. I meant to put an indicator on it but forgot. There is no perceptible planar runout though. The discs seem to appear to have radial runout but that can be influenced by the retaining bolt and how the abrasive was applied. It’s fast to change out the discs, the abrasive that came with it is high-quality and easy to apply.
  • The low-speed motor is super high torque. I never detected even a hint of any strain.
  • The air cooling works exceptionally well. Even when holding contact longer than recommended the tip of the chisel never got hot. The same contact on my bench grinder, even at slow speed, would have discolored the tip.
  • This thing is user-friendly. It’s a no-brainer to set up and use for even the inexperienced. But the design of the housing and the discs are just begging for homemade accessories, jigs and discs to make it even better for the more “hands-on” user.
Here are a few things I didn’t like as much:
  • The chisel port has a nice feature of abrasive backing that removes the burr on the back side as you plunge/retract the tool from the disc. But, the only abrasive they provide is 400 grit. If I have polished the back up to 1000 grit, I don’t want to put deeper scratches than that in it. No biggie, I’ll just cut some finer grit to use.
  • The chisel port locks into alignment at 20, 25, 30 and 35 degrees. On the plus side, it locks in solidly and holds the chisel dead square to the abrasive. The problem? What if I want to hone at 15 degrees? Or 40? Or what if I want a 2 degree micro bevel? Don’t really see a good fix for this right off. I’ll have to take it apart and see what can be done.
  • Sucka’s dirty. Lot’s of metal being removed fast. You know that slurry you work up on your diamond or water stones? Well it’s dry on this guy and it all congregates under the disc if you’re using the chisel port or on the housing if you’re using the top of the disc. Ill have to figure out some way to remove some of the swarf that doesn’t blow it into my lungs. I’m thinking magnets may be used in some way. On the plus side, the motor seems well sealed so I don’t think the swarf will kill it.
  • Abrasives aren’t easily distinguished. It’s kinda nitpicky but the 220 and 400 are the same color. After some wear, it’s going to be hard to figure out which is which.
  • I’m not sure if I like the stropping wheel. It did fine with the chisel port but I’m not sure I could use it free-hand. I might continue to strop as I always have. That would free another disc up for a couple of finer abrasives too.

So, I like it so far :-) I’m also thinking ahead to mods and jigs for it. I’m pretty excited at the potential versatility of this fella. Not only as a sharpener but as a surface grinder.

The verdict is in on chisels and for me, the WorkSharp has earned a spot in my shop. My diamonds aren’t going anywhere (not yet at least) but they’ll definitely see reduced duty.

Next I’ll try out a plane iron or 2. I have an old Stanley iron I’ve never flattened or sharpened so I’ll see if the WS is as efficient with it as with the chisel. I also have a hock iron for my #7 which will give me a chance to try it out with some harder steel and use the wide blade attachment since the chisel port is only good up to 2”.

I’ll report back when I have some more info!

If you’ve got any tips for me on this WS, please sound off in the comments. I’m really looking forward to utilizing the potential of this machine.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

12 comments so far

View RustyHacksaw's profile


145 posts in 1869 days

#1 posted 05-25-2017 02:38 PM

Yes, i need to hear more about plane irons. Flattening the backs and resetting the bevel of restorations planes would be my primary use of a powered sharpening system.

View HokieKen's profile


11998 posts in 1744 days

#2 posted 05-25-2017 02:53 PM

Yes, i need to hear more about plane irons. Flattening the backs and resetting the bevel of restorations planes would be my primary use of a powered sharpening system.

- RustyHacksaw

I’ve pretty well filled out my plane till now but I’ve probably done 10 or so restorations in the last couple years. I was thinking last night about how much time was spent lapping the backs of those irons and how much I might have saved with this machine. In fact, I think I got so tired on some of those irons that I quit before getting flat anywhere but the bevel. If this works as well on plane irons as on chisels, I’ll go through and check every single one and rectify my laziness :-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Northwest29's profile


1688 posts in 3096 days

#3 posted 05-25-2017 04:56 PM

It would be nice if WS added a switch so the motor could spin in the other direction for knife work. IMHO Any electrical engineers out there?

Otherwise it’s a very useful tool for sharpening.

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View EarlS's profile


3425 posts in 2954 days

#4 posted 05-25-2017 05:11 PM

I have a Work Sharp and really like it. It works great on my flat chisels. I also use it for the outside of my corner chisel and then hand finish the inside edges and corner. I also have the M power sharpening system (Woodpeckes) for those times when I need to sharpen a single chisel and don’t feel like getting the Work Sharp out and set up.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View dschlic1's profile


464 posts in 2575 days

#5 posted 05-25-2017 05:20 PM

My method for different grits is to use one grit per disk and label that disk with the grit number.

View HokieKen's profile


11998 posts in 1744 days

#6 posted 05-25-2017 05:21 PM

It would be nice if WS added a switch so the motor could spin in the other direction for knife work. IMHO Any electrical engineers out there?

Otherwise it s a very useful tool for sharpening.

- Northwest29

Can’t you just work the bevel on the other side of the disc facing the same direction?

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View HokieKen's profile


11998 posts in 1744 days

#7 posted 05-25-2017 05:24 PM

My method for different grits is to use one grit per disk and label that disk with the grit number.

- dschlic1

That’s either a lot of extra discs or a lot of changing out abrasives isn’t it? I wrote the grit and and arrow pointing to which face it was on on the sides of the discs with a sharpie. So I can tell, but it would be nice not to have to look for the writing and eventually I’m sure the writing will wear off. I may just start writing it really small right on the paper next to the center hole. Not likely to be using that portion of the paper anyway.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3992 posts in 1883 days

#8 posted 05-25-2017 06:49 PM

I recall stumpy nubs had some interesting modifications for the worksharp.

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View HokieKen's profile


11998 posts in 1744 days

#9 posted 05-25-2017 07:16 PM

Yes, he did Don. I watched his youtube video on it. The main thing he did was to make a table flush with the top of the disc to use a regular honing guide and to add a bar to use with jigs and accessories. Mine came with both. He also made mdf discs and used compounds rather than abrasive paper. Not sure I like that idea… have to be way too careful about tools digging into the mdf. Also, not sure mdf will be/stay nearly as flat as the glass, especially when load is applied.

I do plan to copy the stand he made for it though!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View PPK's profile


1639 posts in 1415 days

#10 posted 05-25-2017 08:40 PM

Is this the Worksharp 3000 model?

-- Pete

View HokieKen's profile


11998 posts in 1744 days

#11 posted 05-25-2017 09:51 PM

That’s the one Pete!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3410 days

#12 posted 06-04-2017 12:31 PM

Very nicely detailed educating post. Thnx Ken

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

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