Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review of Work Sharp 3000

I think most of us are weary of hearing woodworkers explain why their sharpening method is absolutely the best option and be assured that is definitely not my intention.  In fact, my own view is that every sharpening method involves tradeoffs and the best method for a particular woodworker depends on the tools they have, the work they do, their preferences and other factors.

I bought a Work Sharp 3000 several years ago.  Why did I buy it?  I was using micro-bevels at the time and had purchased a number of tools with A2 steel.  I had a Norton combination water stone, a DMT combination diamond stone and plate glass for scary sharp, but I found restoring the primary bevel periodically by hand extremely tedious.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't buy tools with A2 steel, but you are where you are.  I began casting about for a power method for establishing primary bevels and restoring the vintage tools I was acquiring.  There are a host of options but I narrowed them down to a slow speed grinder, the Work Sharp 3000 and the Veritas Mk II power sharpening system.   I eliminated the Mk II based on cost, although, as I'll explain, the cost difference isn't as great as it seemed at the time.  I eliminated the grinder out of concern about overheating my tools, not liking hollow bevels too much, and concerns about fire safety.  All of these issues are debatable, but that is where I came out.  So, I bought the Work Sharp.

Right now, you can buy one on Amazon for $182.  When I got mine, I was initially disappointed.  I don't like the sharpening port for chisels and plane blades up to 2", although many other reviewers do.  First of all, I have several planes wider than that.  Second of all, the way you keep the sandpaper disks from clogging is to use a crepe eraser, which works very well.  However, when you use the chisel port, you have to take the disk off and turn it over to use the eraser, or at least that is what I did.  You run through a number of grits, each of which requires removing the disk, so the whole exercise becomes tedious.  The process is greatly simplified with top side sharpening, but I didn't have good luck with the included tool bar and free hand sharpening.

Enter the wide blade attachment an accessory that currently costs $52 on Amazon and includes a table that is coplanar with the disks and a side clamping sharpening jig.  The table is fussy to install but once aligned it works very well.  I haven't used the jig because I have the Lee Valley one I like.  I have found that if you run through all the grits you end up with a precise, very sharp bevel on chisels and plane blades.  If you are rehabbing a blade, that's seven grits in all from 80 all the way up to 6000  so you have to purchase two extra plate glass disks at $19 apiece.  Finally, to address the issue of constantly switching the machine on and off to change disks, I purchased a pneumatic foot switch from Lee Valley for $33.  It works very well and I can now take a damaged vintage blade to very sharp in just a few minutes.  I've gotten really fast at changing the disks, cleaning them with the crepe eraser, and sharpening.  I don't use it all the time though because, on the fly, I freehand a secondary bevel, strop and get back to work, or at least that is my intention.  This is why my sharpening station is the way it is:  to make it easy for me to do it consistently.

I know what you are thinking because it's what I think too.  I've got over $300 invested in this setup.  Does it work well?  Yup.  Would I do it again?  Probably not.  If I were starting fresh, what would I do?  First, I wouldn't  purchase any tools made from A2 steel.  01 steel is so much easier to sharpen by hand and I like the way the tools work better.  I like the Paul Sellers method of going from coarse to very fine on diamond stones every time you sharpen except for a couple problems: I struggle with consistency free hand sharpening, particularly as blades get narrow, so I sometimes need to use a jig and that rules out his convex bevel.  What seems to work the best for me is establishing a primary bevel with a jig and then touching up secondary bevels freehand combined with very frequent stropping at the bench.  In a way, it is a convex bevel.  A part of me wants to go retro and use Arkansas stones though.

Incidentally, you can now buy a tool rest for the Work Sharp 3000 for $39 that will accept jigs from Tormek and other manufacturers.  If you are going to buy a Work Sharp 3000, I think this might be the way to go, although I don't have any experience with it.  That and the pneumatic foot switch might make a very nice power sharpening option at a pretty reasonable price.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I had the 3000 and sold it at a lost because I got fed up with the changing of discs and paper. I tried diamond discs too just before I sold it. I prefer O1 for my tool steel also for your same reasons. I think my problem with not sharpening enough is not having a close by dedicated sharpening station set up. I may do another rearrangement of the shop and make a hole for one.