Working with truly sharp cutting tools, as opposed to poorly sharpened and dull tools, can make the difference between a pleasurable day in the shop or an annoying and frustrating experience. It can also be the difference between working safely and efficiently or trudging through a task while putting your fingers at risk. But many woodworkers work with dull tools because they don’t know how to sharpen tools well, or don’t like the mess and bother. After all, as my friend Ian Kirby is quick to point out — sharpening is metalworking, not woodworking. There are some fine sharpening systems on the market that will produce great results, but the folks who make Drill Doctor®. have just developed what is, in my opinion, one of the best: the fully-featured Work Sharp™ 3000 and its more modest sibling, the Work Sharp™ 2000.
Sharpening Straight Edges
A significant amount of research and development were undertaken before these sharpening systems were created. That effort paid dividends as expressed in the eminently practical and easy-to-use natures of these machines. The WS3000 is able to sharpen flat-edged tools like chisels and plane irons with ease. The 150 mm glass wheels accept adhesive-backed abrasive disks, which grind and hone metal to a razor-sharp edge. The tool blows cooling air across the heat-sink and glass wheel to keep the tool you’re sharpening from overheating. You can set up the tool for multiple bevel angles; 20, 25, 30 and 35-degree settings are pre-established (which even allows you to create a perfect 5-degree micro bevel every time, should you desire to do so). The sharpening port with the angle settings and heat-sink accept blades up to 2″ wide. Those tools with more than a 2″ wide edge can be sharpened on the top of the wheel using tool-rest. And if that was all the Work Sharp 3000 could do, it would be a nice tool – but it does more.
Sharpening Curved Edges
What impresses me the most about these new tools is the ease with which they sharpen curved tools — like gouges or other carving and turning tools. These machines (both the WS3000 and the WS2000) offer the simplest and most intuitive means to put an edge on those challenging curved surfaces that I have personally ever used. This ability to easily put a fine edge on these trickiest of tools is the reason that I put the Work Sharp at the top of the class.
By means of clever slotted abrasive disks and a slotted wheel, the Work Shop folks allow you to actually see through the sharpening medium as you sharpen a curved edge. So rather than “working blind” as you grind and hone, with this process you visually monitor the interaction between the abrasive and the tool bevel as you sharpen. You essentially watch the steel as it is being ground. (Especially true if, as recommended, you blacken the bevel with a marker before you start.) I’ve used many techniques to sharpen a curved edged tool with differing results. The results I achieved with my first attempt on the WS3000 were as good as I have ever done. (You will still need to use a slip stone to hone the concaved face of the tool.)
The Work Sharp 3000 is the fully featured (I especially like its geared-down 580 RPM wheel speed) and more expensive version of this technology and, in my opinion, is the proper choice for the active woodworker. At around $200.00 ($199 suggested retail), it is an investment that will save time, effort, frustration and fingers in the long run. Available at rockler.com. The WS2000, available in June, is a scaled-down version that is better suited to a homeowner handy person than a woodworking craftsperson. At $99.00, it is a good value.