The Tormek Grinder

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”.