Interesting Woodworking Link

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Episode #64 - Its true, you get what you pay for!

A comparison of the JET and Tormek Wet Grinding Systems

WMH Tool Group / JET

Tormek


For clarification, I am not a professional woodworker and I have no vested interest in JET Tool or Tormek. I work in a small garage wood shop building custom furniture. I am constantly developing my woodworking skills and consider myself a student of the craft with much to learn and explore.

Anyone interested in building furniture deals with sharpening tools. It is impossible to build good furniture without sharp tools. By definition, a sharp edged tool will require (frequent) sharpening to continue its useful function. There is a huge, if not daunting, array of sharpening options available to the woodworker.

I am blessed with a very supportive family that finds some humor in their Dad’s passion for woodworking. My daughter is very fond of asking when I plan on adding music to my iPod to “round out” my collection of woodworking videos. I guess I really am boring!

Well, I was very spoiled on Father’s Day with a gift of a JET Wet Sharpening System for my shop. My wife knew I had been doing some research on a sharpening system. I knew if I was going to get the most out of my chisels and planes that I would need an easy to use and reliable sharpening system. Based on a number of reviews I had settled on the JET System. Beth and the kids were really excited. I was even more excited when I headed out to the shop to sharpen my chisels and planes in preparation for my next project (actually a Father and Son project, but that is a story for the future!).

Out of square plane iron sharpened on the JET

I feel compelled to share my experience after having both the JET Wet Sharpening System and the Tormek T-7 in my shop all within 24 hours at my own expense. No sponsorship or pressure for a particular review, just a guy building furniture in his garage. Now, just to be clear, I am very particular about my gear and equipment. I also like dependability and reliability. I’m not about to put an expensive plane iron or chisel in a system that will not give me the best results.

JET 708015 Wet Sharpening System

The JET System is a nice machine with some interesting features. The basic package comes complete with everything you need to start sharpening plane irons and chisels. It was very easy to set up. Mine came with the optional stand with two extra drawers to store jigs, honing polish, the diamond-truing tool and grading stone. The printed material, or manual, was little more than a detailed parts list and basic set-up instructions. JET also includes a DVD demonstrating the use of the system. I felt the DVD was well done and organized with chapter markers for rapid retrieval of specific information.

I set up the JET Wet Sharpening System according to the instructions. Trued the wheel and graded it to coarse grind. The leather strop was conditioned with oil and charged with honing compound. I decided to start off with my rehabbed Stanley block and bench plane irons. Both irons ended up super sharp but off square. I went back and checked everything. The stone was square. The support guide was square. The jig however did not align squarely to the wheel and support arm. I sharpened each iron twice with the same results. Additionally, the build of the sharpening jig was somewhat flimsy and the guide bushings kept falling out. The leather strop was slightly out of round with a noticeable bump where the edges were glued. Neither of these attributes lent a quality feel or inspired confidence.

Now, I know that JET has good customer service. I did not attempt to go that route because at this point I had no faith in the accuracy of the system. I was not about to put one of my Lie-Neilson plane irons or chisels on this grinding stone. I returned the JET and paid the difference for the Tormek.

TORMEK T-7

My experience with the Tormek T-7 was completely different. The package is similar to the JET system including everything needed to begin sharpening plane irons and chisels. I immediately noticed the substantial quality of the fit, finish, and build.

Square plane iron sharpened on the TORMEK

The Tormek grindstone ground my plane irons quickly and more importantly perfectly square. The Tormek leather strop is made of thicker leather mounted on a heavier wheel that runs true without a noticeable bump at the glue line. The support guide is stiffer and the jigs’ construction is heavier compared to the JET. Simply put, the Tormek T-7 is a quality machine with a solid build that performs as advertised. The Tormek is more expensive than the JET, however, I feel confidant putting a valuable plane iron or chisel on the Tormek. Just my humble opinion . . .

Do your research and most importantly test drive both machines before making a commitment.

Keep this in mind: how valuable is the piece of steel that you are sharpening?

Folding Rule Stanley Plane Rehab Part I Part II Part III

JET 708015 Wet Sharpening System - ROCKLERWOODCRAFT

TORMEK T-7 Wet Sharpening System - ROCKLER

SOME INTERESTING LINKS

Australian Woodworking Forum

Joe Woodworker

NewWoodworker.com

Sharp Tool USA

JET & TORMEK Comparison Chart

7 comments:

neil said...

Hey David.......thanks!!! I've been looking at the Tormek but always get hung up on 1. containing the water and 2.making the sharpening station mobile (another project... ooy!!!).

I've addressed the water aspect by just accepting the mess and work to better contain it..I'm realitively new to water stones. What are your plans on mounting the Tormek?? Did you keep the Jet stand and is that stand mobile? I'm of the belief and personal preference that the sharpening station is only a body movement away when working your hand tools. Other than that, I'd preferr to wheel it away somewhere.

Also because I guess I'm still a bit up in the air with water stones, I've kept my carving tools to oil stones and only sharpen chisels and plane irons on my water stones. The slip stones have something to do with that decision, therefore, I need sharpen tool storage.

Anyway....where is your thinking on the "sharpening station"????

Neil

Anonymous said...

Paul,

The Tormek sharpening wet grinder is a great machine. You will need to be careful sharpening chisels on it. When sharpening chisels, use a black Sharpie and color the grind are and then place the chisel into the proper jig and tighten up both knobs. You now need to hand turn the grinding wheel to see how the ink from the Sharpie has been removed. More than likely it has been removed more from one side than the other. After determining which is the lower side, loosen that side know about 1/4 turn and tighten the other side by 1/4 turn...then recheck. You continue this process until the ink is being removed from the middle of the chisel blade. Should you elect not to follow this procedure there is a high likelyhood that your chisels will not be square. This method is taught by David Charlesworth.

Chuck

David Pruett said...

Neil -

As usual, a very insightful comment.

I have plans to make a mobile sharpening station so I can keep the Tormek close to my workbench but still be able to tuck everything out of the way at the end of the day. The mobility being more of a necessity for my garage-based shop . . . wish I had the whole garage set-up on a permanent basis!

I've found the water is well controlled with the Tormek. With that in mind, I found the grading stone needs a place to sit where any water draining from its use will be captured. I also still see a use for my flat bench water stones, so my sharpening station will take that into account.

The design elements that I have in mind for the sharpening system are mobility (locking castors similar to my workbench), work height, light, power source and storage. I have a large heavy plastic tray with a low lip tucked away that I plan to use on the top to help contain any stray water. It is sort of like an extra large version of a school cafeteria tray that I saved for "something in the future".

As far as oil and water, I may be wrong but I just view them a the lubricant. I will keep my small set of oil stones at the sharpening station (got to build it first!). However, I think the Tormek will answer most of my sharpening needs. It does have an optional set of profiled leather strops for carving tools.

David Pruett said...

Chuck -

Great advice! I have a large Sharpie permanent marker sitting next to the Tormek just for this use. I found similar advice for adjusting the sharpening jig on the Sharp Tool USA website "Support Resources" section titled "Tips & Techniques". They have a downloadable PDF titled "Keeping Your Edges Square".

SHARP TOOLS USA
http://www.sharptoolsusa.com/index.php

KEEPING YOUR EDGES SQUARE
http://www.sharptoolsusa.com/squareedgeweb.pdf

Shannon said...

David,

Great post. I also have the Tormek and I love it. I am into a little bit of everything so I was looking for something to handle the bulk of my sharpening needs. It turns out great turning gouges (no pun intended), perfectly square chisels and plane blades, and handles my carving gouges very well. I am a bit obsessive about sharpening since I was taught by a japanese man so I follow up the hollow grind with a few quick swipes on a shapton 8000 stone. I looked at the JET but went with the "get what you pay for maxim" as well. It is good to read your review because it quells any doubts I may have had.

Hey Neil, I am tackling the mobile sharpening station pretty soon in my shop. I have put together a design to keep everything together and put it on wheels. Your comments have inspired me to put it up on my blog. I know you know the way, but check it out at rogersfinewoodworking.com/blog in a week or so and I should have my build up on the site.

David Pruett said...

Shannon -

Great comments. I like your process. Sharpening is a fascinating activity.

I will be curious what your sharpening station concept looks like.

David

Vic Hubbard said...

Great comments all!

As I get further along, I definitely need something that I is "at hand"
and can handle as many of my sharpening needs as possible. I don't have good access to a person who does sharpening. Everything will have to be sent off for at least a week. With gas prices, that turn around is likely to get longer.
Thanks David and Neil. I'll look forward to your sharpening station, Shannon.