Vari-Grind jig setup is easy and straightforward, but a couple key factors must be addressed before sharpening a bowl gouge.
When the Vari-Grind Jig Setup arrives, it is not ready to immediately use. A properly adjusted base needs to be created. This base may be portable or fixed to a work surface.
You may be like me when I first started. I thought “do I really need this vari-grind jig system?” After all, some top woodturners say you can learn to sharpen bowl gouges by hand.
Watch Glenn Lucas do his bowl gouge mating dance at the grinder, and his gouge is perfect after only a few magical shifts of his hips. How hard can it be, right?
Well, I do think freehand grinding is possible, but most likely only if you turn every single day, all day, for many years, and most likely on a professional basis.
For the rest of us mere mortals, this Oneway Vari-Grind Jig System is the answer to getting a consistent sharp bevel angle every time.
The Vari-Grind sharpening system is about making the same repetitive angle and quickest grind possible with the least waste. It’s that simple.
What angle your bowl gouge bevel angle is not as important as some people believe. If you’re having questions about what angle your bowl gouge should be, please read my Bowl Gouge Sharpening Angle article. It might be a real eye-opener for you.
The Right Parts
Let’s take a look at what you need to get started before we dig into setting up the Vari-Grind Sharpening System.
I need to say from the start, I like the products Oneway makes, but the way they market them is not so great. There are many individual parts available, and that muddies the waters of what to get and why.
Perhaps there are many parts because of progress through the years, which is great, but for a beginner, it can be confusing.
To clear up the confusion, I recommend getting the Oneway Grinding Jig System. I have provided a link here to the specific Oneway Vari-Grind Sharpening System we will be configuring.
This system comes with two guide bases, an adjustable platform, an adjustable “V” arm attachment. you will need to also purchase one Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind attachment.
Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Attachment
The Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig attachment is the part that holds the bowl gouge at just the right angle to quickly repeat a specific grind angle on your bowl gouge.
The reason Oneway sells the Vari-Grind Attachment separate is that many people like to use more than one attachment for each particular bowl gouge sharpening angles.
Even though the Vari-Grind Attachment is adjustable, believe it or not, it becomes clear that having a dedicated Vari-Grind Attachment for a particular bowl gouge grind angle is more than convenient, it guarantees the exact angle each time.
After grinding away precious metal material and struggling to regain the exact same angle, it’s easier to leave one fixed Vari-Grind Attachment for each bowl gouge bevel angle.
For now, start with one Wolverine Vari-Grind attachment. You can always add an additional Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Attachment at any point later.
I have an article that specifically explains how to use the Wolverine Var-Grind Jig with illustrated details, check it out.
Of course, you will need a grinder for the sharpening station. The Vari-Jig System does not include the grinder, but it is at the heart of this operation.
I recommend this eight-inch slow speed grinder. High-speed grinders are not needed or recommended and can be dangerous for this type of sharpening.
Despite the one-time expense, I highly recommend using CBN wheels instead of aluminum oxide grinding wheels. The CBN wheels require no dressing or balancing and do not potentially blow apart or produce toxic dust themselves.
The other part I recommend getting for your new woodturning and bowl gouge sharpening station is a set of strong mountable magnets. We’ll talk more about these in a minute.
Start by setting up the grinder with the two CBN wheels. Install the wheels and be sure to tighten the outside nuts properly.
I found that the CBN wheels do not fit very well inside the grinder’s protective safety housing. Because of that, I chose to not use the safety cover.
Using or not using the protective cover is a personal preference. You need to decide if you want to use the cover or not.
My reasoning for omitting the safety cover is that I feel the odds of the CBN wheel breaking apart are next to zero.
Please don’t do what I do if you’re not comfortable. Do what works for you. And if you’re using white aluminum oxide wheels, definitely use the grinder’s protective covers.
Aluminum oxide wheels have and can always fracture and break apart. Be cautious when working with these sharpening wheels.
Vari-Grind Jig Setup
Two measurements are critical to setting up the Vari-Grind Jig; the distance below the center of the grinder wheel, and the alignment of the front of the base to the wheel.
Depending on the height of your grinder, you may need to add a spacer to elevate the grinder to the proper height.
The mounting surface for the Vari-Grind Jig base needs to be between 6 1/4” to 6 1/2” below the center of the grinder axle.
For my particular setup using the grinder I recommend above, I needed to make a spacer that is approximately 7/8” thick. I used a piece of scrap cabinet plywood to create a lift for the base of the slow speed grinder.
If the plywood thickness is not enough to reach the 6 1/4” to 6 1/2” space required, try shimming under the grinder with several washers.
Vari-Grind Jig Location
With the spacer under the grinder complete, you need to decide if you want to mount the Vari-Grind Jig sharpening system directly to a work surface or make the unit portable.
The whole Oneway Vari-Grind Jog Sharpening System needs to be set up at comfortable working height and away from any other obstacles. It’s important to have enough room to move freely while sharpening your turning tools.
I decided to make my portable. So I used another larger piece of plywood to form a base. I then bolted the grinder and spacer to the underlying base.
To keep the whole base secure and prevent it from vibrating and moving, I attached rubber feet to the bottom of the base.
The base units that will receive the V-bracket and grinding platform need to be flush to the front of the grinding wheels. Position the base units inline with the front of each wheel.
Vari-Grind Jig Mounts
With the base surface now complete, attach the two Vari-Grind Jig bases directly centered under the CBN wheels centers.
Be sure the front of the base is flush with the front curve of the grinder wheel. Look straight down or use a triangle to confirm the edges are lined up.
There are three countersunk screw holes in each base, ready for wood screws. I found I needed a narrow drill extension to get the screws down into the predrilled mounting holes.
Once the grinder is secured to the base, and the Vari-Grind base tubes are anchored to the base, the Oneway Wolverine Grinding Jig is almost ready to use.
Vari-Grind Jig Depth Gauge
The final critical measurement will need to occur each time you sharpen your bowl gouge.
To maintain consistency, the bowl gouge must be mounted in the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Attachment in the same exact location each time.
The distance the bowl gouge cutting end extends from the Vari-Grind Attachment needs to be precisely two inches each time.
A simple depth gauge can be made from a piece of scrap hardwood. I say hardwood because I made one with cedar and the softwood did not work so well.
With a block of hardwood approximately, 2 “x 3” x 1 1/4”, measure exactly two inches from one end. With a Forstner bit drill a one-inch hole with the back edge on the two-inch line. Make the hole about two thirds the depth of the block.
From the end, drill a hole wider than your widest bowl gouge shaft diameter. This hole should match the bottom depth of the first hole and be drilled to meet the first hole.
Now you have a depth gauge to quickly determine the required two-inch bowl gouge extension from the Wolverine Attachment.
When you’re ready to use the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig to sharpener your specific bowl gouges, read this article to learn about that process.
The grinder will produce very fine metal dust. This metal dust, coming from the turning tools is much more dangerous than wood dust, and that’s saying something.
Please, do yourself a favor and always wear adequate breathing protection when working at the sharpening station.
Another simple idea is to install strong mountable magnets under the grinder wheels.
I recommend only mountable magnets because…well, I learned something the hard way. Loose magnets will jump up and attach to a CBN wheel. Luckily the magnet I had was strong enough to stay attached.
Attach this mountable magnet to the wood base next to the Vari-Grind Jig base with a wood screw.
To make clean up easier, wrap an additional magnet with wax paper and attach it to the mounted magnet. The metal dust will cling to the wax paper.
When the area is coated with metal dust, you can pull the top, wrapped magnet off and unwrap the wax paper over the garbage can. The metal dust does not stick directly to the magnet this way.
To recap, when making the base for the Oneway Vari-grind Jig Setup the three critical measurements are:
• 6 1/4” to 6 1/2” distance between grinder axle and base
• Vari-Grind Jig base face flush and centered with the grinding wheel
• 2” bowl gouge extension from Wolverine Attachment
Setting up the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig System is not complicated, but attention to details is essential.
Once the Vari-Grind Jig system is complete, making consistent sharpening angles at the grinder is a piece of cake.
Sharpening your bowl gouge is a simple, quick, and effortless process with the right setup.
Check out these articles to learn more:
• WOLVERINE VARI-GRIND JIG – ILLUSTRATED SHARPENING GUIDE
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING TECHNIQUES STEP BY STEP
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING ANGLES – SURPRISE ANSWER
Always Happy Turning,