"We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us"

Posted: 8/27/09

Review: Work Sharp 3000

Good idea, bad execution?

$199.95 from Amazon.com

I've been on a search for a sharpening system. I have a bunch of tools badly in need of attention. Scary-sharp with the Veritas MkII is great, but can get a little tiring.

So I was really excited to try out the Work Sharp 3000 (WS). It looked extremely easy and repeatable. I really liked the idea of the see-through wheels for turning gouges.

The reality turned out to be much less than my hopes. Flattening the back of a chisel was much more difficult than it looked in the videos and I never felt like I was getting it right. Plus the chisel heats up fast, half my flattening time was spent waiting for tool to cool down again so I could hold it.

The major problem with flattening was picking the tool up off the platen. I found it very hard to lift the tool without the left side catching on the sandpaper and flipping my nicely flattened left corner down into the wheel, ruining it. Asking about this on a woodworking forum, someone said they installed a footswitch to turn off the WS and letting it stop, then lifting the tool off. Given the number of times you have to do this (checking the back as well as cooling off) this was a very unappealing option.

On a side note, the WS is also very messy, thowing metal dust all over the place. Also, the sandpaper gets loaded up with this dust very quickly. WS includes a crepe-type block that can be used to quickly clean it up, but it's tedious when you're sharpening the bevel (you have to stop, remove the wheel, flip it over, reattach it, clean it, remove it again, flip and reattach.

I was also disappointed in the "sharpening port" which holds the tool in place while sharpening the bevel. It easily clicks to several pre-set angles, although there's no provision for custom angles. It also has a little knob to pull over a guide on the left side of the tool. Sounds like a great idea, again, to make things simple. However, if you tighten the guide enough hold the tool straight, the tool will not slide though the guide. You end up having to loosen the guide and just use pressure up against the right side of the guide, the left side is completely unnecessary.

I guess the major issue I had with the WS was the fact that it would not grind a bevel edge square to the side of the blade. The edge was always 2-3° off square, which in my mind was unacceptable.

Some comments I've gotten suggest that the issues I've had are from a lack of practice with the WS and that may very well be true. Perhaps the off-angle bevel was caused by the pressure against the right side of the guide and the guide not being strong enough to resist bending. Maybe with practice I would learn how to whip the tool off the platen without catching the edge. But the major selling point (and my major buying point) was that it was easy and effortless. I found this not to be true for me, so it's time to pack it up and send it back.

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