The Tormek Grinder

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Review by lethentymill posted 07-18-2008 09:47 PM 8242 views 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The Tormek Grinder The Tormek Grinder The Tormek Grinder Click the pictures to enlarge them

If, like me, you use traditional hand tools you know how important it is to sharpen them. The more work you do using your own motive force and wits the more you become aware of the value of a sharp chisel or saw.

A conventional grinder, seen in engineering workshops, is not ideal for sharpening woodworking tools. The razor–edge that you are trying to create quickly overheats, goes blue and the steel loses its temper. It’s too late to dip it in water – the damage is done. The water was there to prevent this from happening not for remedying the damage. The temper (hardness) of the edge is lost and can only be replaced by careful heating to the correct temperature.

The Tormek is a slow running water-cooled machine that comes in two sizes and is far better for this job. When you come to think of it, it is very similar to the ones the old joiners used; large sandstone wheel, sometimes turned by hand, sometimes treadle operated, often running in a water bath. I’ve never used one, but imagine that getting the cutting angle right was a bit of a problem, especially when smoking a pipe with a silver cap on it and trying to look cool for a sepia print.

The Tormek is set up with a jig for helping you to get the appropriate cutting angle for the blade. The stone gets worn but can be levelled and brought back to pristine condition with a diamond truing tool, one of the attachments.

Probably the best feature of the Tormek is the range of jigs that can be used with it; axe heads, scissors, and planer blades are amongst the items that are made easy, but the one I wouldn’t be without on a desert island with a live 3-pin socket is for gouges and turning cutters which, once you’ve remembered which way up it goes, effortlessly gives you a perfect machined edge on a gouge. Try doing that on an old, hand operated stone, while smoking a pipe….Say “cheese”.

The images accompanying this article show the Tormek Supergrind 1206, the Tormek Supergrind 2006 and the Tormek T-7.

-- Allan Fyfe, Lethenty Mill Furniture,

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18 comments so far

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#1 posted 07-18-2008 11:04 PM

I have the green one above and think it’s a great tool. I bought it as a package with all the fixtures figuering I would go ahead and get everything at once.

Works great on everything including my jointer knives.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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13116 posts in 4528 days

#2 posted 07-19-2008 01:30 AM

Ditto what Gary said!

(I haven’t sharpened any jointer/planer knives)


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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2141 posts in 4572 days

#3 posted 07-19-2008 03:28 AM

have you compared this to the jet or grizzly models that are so much cheaper?

-- making sawdust....

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1880 posts in 4764 days

#4 posted 07-19-2008 04:20 AM

I was wondering the same as Mott…

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

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#5 posted 07-19-2008 04:59 AM

Thanks for the review.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

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548 posts in 4841 days

#6 posted 07-19-2008 06:12 AM

The grizzly, tormek, and a few others were reviewed in one of the many wood working magazines I get (somebody jump in here with a reference if you remember which mag).

The magazine review gave the nod to buy to the grizzly. Not because of anything good about the grizzly, in fact the article went to lengths to praise the quality of the tormek and pretty much slammed the poor quality of the grizzly (and most of the others). The article as I remember it said the tormek was head and shoulders above the grizzly in quality on all fronts BUT for triple the price for the tormek over the grizzly they just couldn’t justify the tormek. It sort of boiled down to they just couldn’t stand the price of the tormek so they recommended you fight with the grizzly. They did say they thought by dint of extraordinary effort they believed you could get the grizzly to work out and end up with a sharp tool.

Some of the specific points I remember include that they couldn’t stall the motor on the tormek like they could on the others, the comparatively very high quality of the tormek and tormek jigs compared to the others, the fact that they could get a perfect square bevel using the tormek but had to tweak and tweak the others (one of the grinders never could grind a square bevel), and they slammed the low quality metal stampings of the grizzly jigs.

The tormek is extremely expensive compared to any of the other wet grinders. But the tormek consistently gets the highest ratings for quality and ease of use. If you can afford it it seems clear the tormek is the best answer avaialble, if you dont choose to spend that much money it seems there are less expensive solutions that will yield high quality results.

For slow speed dry grinding both the Veritas and Worksharp systems got nods.

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13116 posts in 4528 days

#7 posted 07-19-2008 05:16 PM

Woodworkers Journal, Aug 2008, page 66

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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1969 posts in 4912 days

#8 posted 07-19-2008 07:01 PM

I had both the JET and TORMEK in my shop within 24 hours. To make a long story short, I thought I had done my research and felt the JET was the best option based on features (extra base with drawers, variable speed and a torque control). It turned out, no matter what I did, I couldn’t grind a plane iron square. I have photos of two plane irons sharpened with both machines posted on my blog comparing the JET and TORMEK. I ended up returning the JET and paying extra for the TORMEK. The TORMEK is more expensive, but you also need to think about the value of the steel you’re sharpening. I just did not like having my plane irons out of square. Good thing I practiced with an old set of plane irons and did not get too excited and put my Lie-Nielson plane irons or chisels on the JET. Turns out the “extra” features on the JET are not as important as quality and precision. The JET was very easy to stall which is not the case with the TORMEK. Just my 2¢!

Comparison of the JET vs TORMEK Wet Grinding Systems


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548 posts in 4841 days

#9 posted 07-20-2008 04:46 AM

David, Your experience seems to be the common thread, the tormek simply is better. Higher quality and better results. Not to say the others cant be made to work, or that for the price that the tormek is a good deal or not, but consistently the tormek comes out on top for quality and performance.

I researched for months before buying the tormek, the difference in price was incentive to be sure one of the lower cost units wouldn’t work just fine. Review after review, professional and private, pretty uniformly put the tormek at the top and consistently complained about various deficiencies in all of the competing wet grinders. In the end I decided the pros of the tormek justified the cost for me.

But again, there are plenty of significantly less expensive methods that experienced woodworkers swear by.

Here’s a link to a thread from about a year ago when I was deciding on the tormek and here’s a link to Karson's sharpening solutions, much cheaper and he’s been around long enough I’d trust him if he says’s they work well.

Search for sharpening or tormek or scary sharp or your pleasure and you’re sure to find multiple solutions at every price point imaginable.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4761 days

#10 posted 07-20-2008 05:50 AM

I bought my Tormek years ago. I am assuming that the patent has run out and that’s why all the clones all of a sudden.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

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1139 posts in 4496 days

#11 posted 07-21-2008 03:53 AM

I bought the green one about four years ago. It was hard to justify the cost, but I love it. I also bought a lot of the jigs, as I found what I needed. Over time the wheel got slightly out of round, but the diamond truing jig fixed that fine.

-- Martin, Kansas

View lethentymill's profile


61 posts in 4382 days

#12 posted 07-23-2008 10:41 AM

As far as I know, the Jet and Grizzly grinders are not available in the UK; it’s been interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts on them, though.

-- Allan Fyfe, Lethenty Mill Furniture,

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39 posts in 4786 days

#13 posted 07-23-2008 03:23 PM

Can anyone speak to the differences between the Tormek and the Worksharp 3000? I have the Worksharp 3000 and it seems to work well at a fraction of the cost. I am new to hand tools and sharpening so I went with the cheaper option. As I get more experienced I’m wondering if I’m missing out on something by not have a Tormek type system.

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram

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Keith Cruickshank

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#14 posted 07-24-2008 04:48 PM

hand work with waterstones has been my method, but sometimes I look at the Tormek and wonder – might I convert?

-- Keith Cruickshank, - on-demand woodworking videos

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548 posts in 4841 days

#15 posted 07-24-2008 07:03 PM


I’ve owned both and my opinion is that the two machines serve an entirely different class of problems. The two machines have a significantly different price point so you can expect some differences in capabilities.

A reasonably configured Tormek system will be triple or more the cost of a WS3k.

I would say the biggest differences are that the tormek is designed for continuous duty across a very wide range of sharpening tasks and the WS is designed for the hobbyist woodworker to sharpen a specific and limited class of tools on an infrequent basis.

The tormek clearly wins on the range of capabilities side of the scale. You can sharpen just about anything with an edge on the tormek. The WS is pretty limited in what it can sharpen, plane irons, chisels, a class of turning tools, that’s pretty much it even with free hand sharpening.

The tormek is continuous duty, you can run the tormek all day long without a problem. The ws is much more directed at the occasional user. The ws motor and housing gets pretty darn hot after less than an hours sharpening. The tormek stone will grind all day long, with maybe a few seconds regrading every now and then. The ws sandpaper wears out pretty quick if you’re doing any heavy sharpening, even using the rubber cleaner.

So if you’re the type who has a wide range of tools and knives to sharpen and you usually wait until once a month or so and then spend all day tuning and sharpening everything in the house, I’ll argue the ws is not going to work for you. This kind of sharpening is bread and butter for the tormek.

So given all the pros of the tormek where does the ws really shine? In my opinion what really sets the ws apart from the wet grinders is ease of setup and ease of use. The wet grinders are messy and have SIGNIFCANTLY more setup for sharpening than the ws. The ws being a dry grinder with a fixed tool rest it is pretty much always ready. You turn it on, you sharpen or hone, you turn it off, and you’re done. The ws takes up much less bench space, you dont have the water mess or cleanup, you dont have to fiddle around setting jigs.

If your class tools is compatible with the ws, plane irons, chisels, some turning tools, the ws is nice. It’s the microwave version of sharpening. If you’re the type who likes to use a tool and then touch it up then use a tool then touch it up, the ws rocks, way more convenient than a wet grinder.

I guess in an ideal world you would have both. The tormek for all your heavy lifting and the ws for touching up your tools between sharpening.

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