Just when it seems like there is nothing truly revolutionary in the field of woodworking, along comes Jooltool with the coolest approach to sharpening, shaping and grinding I’ve ever seen. This unique system represents a sea change in sharpening technology, and is so wondrous, it could make you believe that Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and calorie-free chocolate might also exist. They don’t, but Jooltool most certainly does.
Jooltool is the brainchild of Anie and Raffi Piliguian, who partnered with sandpaper giant 3M to develop a radical new system designed to solve all of the problems inherent in sharpening in one shot. It looks to me as if they did just that. “This is not just another sharpening fixture with the same old grinding technology,” Anie explained. “It solves a whole range of problems instead of just one. This one tool can shape, carve and sand wood; or grind, hone and polish metal, carbide, and stone.”
At the heart of Jooltool is the oddly shaped Ninja Disk, which acts as the backing for a wide range of abrasive overlays. The disks themselves have a self-locking quick-change feature, enabling you to replace them in just seconds. Specialized sanding sheets with peel and stick backings go onto the disk, which then mounts on a spinning shaft that can vary from 500 to 5,000 rpm. Cleverly placed slots let you see through the disk while it spins, but prevent even the smallest tools from catching on the voids. Two different slot shapes alternately draw in and release air, creating a vortex that keeps what you grind cool while simultaneously ejecting wood dust and metal particles.
Sharpening and grinding is done on the bottom surface, so you see exactly what you are removing. “You are not grinding blind, as with a normal stone,” Anie explained, “so you can perfectly control the grind shape. It makes it a breeze to do complex shapes for lathe tools and carving chisels and, of course, flat plane irons, bench chisels, knives, axes, scissors and even drill bits.”
Anie, whose hobby is woodturning, is a second generation jeweler, while Raffi’s background is in tool and machinery development. “Jewelers work with very expensive metals,” Anie reminded me, “so there is no room for error when polishing, sanding, or grinding. Hence, the need for a grinder that lets you see what’s being cut is obvious. And because you can see what you are doing, there is no need for complex jigs or fixtures to hold the tools. You do the driving: no seat belts required.
“There’s also no need for dressing stones. As the abrasive surface gets worn or clogged, simply peel off the sanding or grinding media film and slap on a new one. You’ll always have a sharp, clean, flat cutting surface, and you can change from coarser to finer grit in seconds.” All the abrasives are non-loading, which also contributes to cool, fast cutting.
The range of available media is part of what makes this tool so versatile. The many options incorporate a variety of 3M innovations manufactured for Jooltool under an exclusive contract. The coarsest are 3M Diamond Ninja Disks, a cloth-backed abrasive used for cutting carbide and stone for inlay work. You read it correctly: these will let you shape and sharpen your carbide router bits and cutters. A range of purple, cloth-backed ceramic disks going from 80- to 120-grit far outlast normal sandpaper and turn the Jooltool into a wood sander capable of quickly removing wood or shaping even tiny parts safely.
Perhaps most unusual are the film-backed Trizact disks. Look at this abrasive under a strong lens and, instead of bits of stone glued to the surface, you will see something that looks like millions of tiny pyramids embedded with abrasive grit. The unique shape leaves a much smoother surface on metal, and the disks themselves last far longer than normal abrasives. “Trizact moves metal, where common stone grinders merely remove metal,” Anie pointed out. “Because of their consistency, they are known for producing a crisp, clean, precision edge.”
The Trizact disks, which are color coded by grit, go from 35 micron, which is equivalent to about 320-grit paper, down to 5 micron, equivalent to about 1,400-grit paper. After that, you can graduate to lapping films that polish all the way down to one micron, the equivalent of an 8,000-grit Japanese water stone. “The upshot is that you can take a destroyed chisel from rough grinding all the way to a fine polished edge, all on one tool, and in only a few minutes. It eliminates the need for grinders, holding fixtures, oil or water stones, hones and buffs.
“By using less aggressive abrasives, you can copy an angle or profile without changing it,” continued Anie. “This not only lengthens the life of the chisel, it makes it particularly easy to create some of the complex shapes that turners use for lathe tools. Just as important to turners, you can sharpen quickly without jigs or fixtures and be back to the lathe with a much sharper edge than normal grinders. That in turn translates into far less sanding time, because the sharper tool slices wood fibers instead of tearing them.”
Want an even higher polish? There’s a hard felt buffing wheel that you charge with polishing compound to get a mirror surface. Got difficult to reach inside shapes? You can mount a Ninja Finishing Brush, formerly called the Scotchbrite Radial bristle disk, which works on both metal and wood. Made of fingers of soft, flexible plastic with abrasive impregnated throughout, these wheels both sand and polish, conforming to the piece without changing its shape. “Turners and carvers like them for polishing the insides of gouges and veining tools, a job that is particularly challenging with any other form of sharpening tool, either hand or machine.”
Coming soon will be a larger five-inch disk, which makes cutting larger surfaces easier, and a flexible shaft attachment so that the entire system becomes more portable. You’ll be able to move the cutting disk to the work instead of the other way around.
Jooltool is manufactured at a facility in southern California by a crew of about 20 people. It’s just starting to show up for sale at many woodworking specialty stores and jewelry supply stores, but you can also buy direct from their web site. Lately, Anie has been showing off her prized invention at woodworking shows around the country, leaving a trail of very impressed woodworkers in her wake. “We hope people realize that this is the only sharpening system they’ll ever need,” she confided.
I suspect they will. Ralph Waldo Emerson taught us that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. If that is true, Jooltool had better brace for a multitude of footprints headed their way.