Blackhawk - Sharpening System (Rating: 5)

I'm new to turning, and it didn't take long to figure out I needed a way to sharpen tools.

I picked up a slow-speed (1725 rpm) grinder when Woodcraft had them on sale a few weeks ago.

I've been watching YouTube videos posted by Eddie Castelin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdchP8ZYUCc), and decided to try a sharpening system he builds … the Blawkhawk Sharpening System. It sells for a fraction of the price of other systems, and delivers excellent results.

With this rig, you can sharpen Bowl, Fingernail, Roughing and Deep Fluted bowl gouges (Ellsworth type). The rig fits under the grinder, and is supplied with a jig that holds the tool. There actually are two variants … one is the full rig with tubular steel bars, the other ('International') is the hardware you need using your own shop-made bars. I bought both so I could have different setups for each side of the grinder … I used 3/4" red oak stock I had in the scrap bin for the bar on the left side of my grinder.

The jig sits in a 'basket' on the bar … the baskets are 3/8" couplers on threaded rods, which makes it easy to adjust to suit whatever angle grind you want. Castelin provides a template you can use to make an adjustable setup gauge so can quickly place the pocket of your rig in the same place each time.

I have about $210 invested in this setup including the grinder and Blawkhawk components.

I am a pretty happy camper. I have used both the Wolverine and Sharp Fast systems, and while they are a bit more refined and have some options the Blawkhawk does not (e.g. flat tool rest, skew sharpening jig, etc.), the Blawkhawk system is easy to setup and use, and costs less than others. The Blackhawk comes with easy to follow directions, and if you have questions or need help, Eddie Castelin answers emails promptly. If you call the number he has posted on his website, he answers the phone.

A feature worth noting is the 'Accu-Set' devices. They slide over the bar and tighten with a thumb screw so you can quickly set the rig/jig without having to measure or fiddle with the setup … it helps avoid over-grinding and wasting turning tool material every time you sharpen. Each version of the Blawkhawk includes two Accu-Set devices. They are also available separately for other sharpening systems at $12 a pair.

More info: http://www.eddiecastelin.com/products_and_services

-Gerry