The sharpening station is as important as the lathe in a wood bowl turner’s shop. Without sharp turning tools, not much is going to be accomplished.
Another fact about the sharpening station is it needs to really be only created once. A good sharpening station is an investment and will last a long long time.
Because the sharpening process of wood bowl turning is so important, I did not want to cut corners. I chose not to use the less expensive white aluminum oxide wheels for a couple of reasons.
Oxide wheels are made of materials compressed into a wheel-shaped cake, they can come apart, sometimes violently. They need to be “dressed” or ground smooth because they wear unevenly and they create additional toxic dust.
All that being said, I went with the higher-quality, less-maintenance CBN wheels at the heart of my sharpening station.
Please read these articles about Setting Up The Vari-Grind Jig, Bowl Gouge Sharpening Techniques, and Bowl Gouge Sharpening Angles?
Here is the rundown of my Recommended Sharpening Equipment. Each item has an Amazon product link so you can check the current price.
Slow Speed Grinder
The Slow Speed Grinder is at the heart of my sharpening system. The need for a slow speed grinder is important when grinding and sharpening high speed and cryogenic steel. Traditional faster grinders are not recommended as they build up excessive heat and waste away turning tool material needlessly.
CBN stands for Cubic Boron Nitride. CBN wheels are balanced wheels coated with abrasive that last a very long time. I wanted to say forever, but that probably isn’t the case. But even with regular use, they will most likely outlive me, unlike the cheap oxide wheels that need to be replaced frequently.
I have two CBN sharpening wheels on my slow speed grinder. One wheel is a 180 grit CBN sharpening wheel, and the other is an 80 grit CBN for shaping wheel. The 80 grit wheel is used to shape tools and the 180 grit wheel is used for a finer sharpening finish.
As I outlined in my article Vari-Grind Sharpening System Setup, I recommend attaching rubber feet to the base of your sharpening system if it is a mobile unit. The rubber feet will reduce vibration and prevent the system from moving around.
Also, a great addition to help clean up the metal filings easily are magnets. These strong magnets can be directly attached to the wood base on the sharpening system. Wrap an additional magnet with wax paper and attach the mounted magnet to easily remove the metal dust later over the garbage can.
If you have mastered the art of hand sharpening your bowl gouges, I admire you. This is not a task suited for mere mortals. When I sharpen my tools I want two things; a consistently sharpened bevel angle, and little-wasted tool material. This system does both very well. I can go to the grinder and with a couple rotations of my wrist, my bowl gouge is perfect with little effort or waste.
I use the Oneway Vari-Grind Sharpening System, which consists of rails and guides that attach to the grinder to maintain consistent experiences each time to sharpen wood bowl turning tools.
Along with the Oneway System, I use the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Attachment to get the perfect sharpening angle each time I come to the grinder.
The entire Oneway Vari-Grind Sharpening System is available in a kit which includes everything needed to set up the sharpening jig.
Oneway also makes a larger diameter Wolverine Jig for larger diameter bowl gouges. This is a must if you’re turning with 3/4″ or larger bowl gouges.
Robert Sorby ProEdge Plus (Deluxe) Sharpening System
The Robert Sorby Proedge Plus sharpening system is an excellent sharpening system option. This unit is self-contained and very straight forward to use.
I recommend purchasing the Long Grind Jig and the Sorby Proset guide to sharpen swept-back bowl gouge profiles.
Also, because this system uses belts that will need to be replaced, I recommend purchasing at least one extra 60 grit shaping belt and one extra 120 sharpening belt.
Tormek Sharpening System
Another option for a turning sharpening station is the Tormek T-8 Wood Turner’s Package. This sharpening system incorporates a wet-wheel for fine, precise sharpening results.
While this is a higher end system, many turners find good results sharpening with a Tormek.
In addition to the sharpening station, handheld sharpening hones are essential to return a shape edge to a given tool easily. Sharpening hones are a great alternative when the tool needs just a touch of sharpening rather than returning to the grinder each time, which removes more steel from the tool. Sharpening Stone Diamond Hone
Another important tool to have on hand to get the most out of your scrapers is a burnishing tool. The burnishing tool is made of hardened steel and simply by “pulling a burr” across the edge of the round nose scraper, you can change a scraper into a cutting tool that makes super clean smooth cuts.
Oneway Easy-Core Coring System Cutter Sharpening Jig
The Oneway Cutter tip needs to be sharpened frequently and the easiest way to properly hold and present the small cutter tip to the sharpening wheel is with the aid of this specific cutter sharpening jig.
If you’re looking for more information about Coring Equipment, be sure to see the Recommended Coring Equipment page.
Carbide Tip Sharpening
A high-grit Diamond Stone can be used to sharpen carbide cutter tips. Never try to sharpen carbide tips on CBN, stone, or aluminum oxide sharpening wheel.
Lapping Fluid is also needed to lubricate the diamond stone surface when sharpening carbide cutter tips.