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i recently bought a Tormak T7 and found it excellent for sharpening, the only drawback is you can easily over sharpen and loose the shape of the edge, I’m a complete beginner and found it easier than by hand as that is a skill I’m yet to master.

Hi Stephen,

When I first started carving, my teacher, Konstantinos Papadakis, had me sharpening tools by hand for over a month before I really began carving. I think the reason was so you get "in touch" with the gouges and get to know them well. After that much time, you definitely know your tools, and it also built confidence in the sharpening technique. I suppose this was part of the original "apprentice" mentality of repeat, repeat, repeat until it becomes second nature. I believe as a result, I have always gone back to hand honing and sharpening, as machines can often be too aggressive, and as you mention "over sharpen", and what I have often found is that the bevel gets rounded. I have heard the Tormak is a good sharpener, but I have not used it. Try using it at the finest grit they have. It may take longer to get the edge you want, but it is so worth getting that slicing, sharp edge. Someone else may know more about the Tormek that can give you more advice on this.

I didn’t give it much thought but after reading your reply it makes sense to become aquatinted with your tools as they will become almost an extension of your arm, at the moment it does feel like a foreign object in my hand. As for using the Tormak I only used the leather wheel as I tried sharpening by hand once (after watching your video) and 20mins literally of blood, sweat and tears later I had a piece of metal that couldn’t cut butter! But you are the voice of wisdom, so I will practice practice practice, thank you so much for replying. Steve

My father in-law will be sitting at my side on Saturday showing me exactly how to hand sharpen. He has the machine and gave it me but, told me I must learn to hand sharpen to be a true carver. ?

Our carving club has a tormak that I find very useful for heavy profiling of a new tool.  Many cheap commercial tools are dull and need to be reground to the proper shape.  I have not had good results when trying to get a good sharp edge with the Tormak.  I always finish up with some diamond plates, stones and strop.  I really like the "Blue Velvet" powder on my strop.  It cuts and polishes very fast giving a great edge with little work.

I have a Tormek clone, its the Scheppach unit that Grizzly sells. Its actually a pretty good unit all things considered. I have most of the jigs that go with it and there's a couple of Tormek jigs out now I intend to get too.

I tried my hand at sharpening a cheap Chinese gouge today and it went pretty well. I know its probably kind of funny, but I bought this Chinese set of carving tools for the sole purpose of learning to sharpen carving tools. I'd rather learn the techniques on something inexpensive than good tools.



That seems to make some really good sense to me.  Using something inexpensive to learn on is a good idea.  And, you may wind up with something good when done, or not.  Either way you have learned something and not messed up your best tools.

Yeah, Rick, sometimes fear can be quite a motivator. As for these Chinese gouges and chisels they're kind of sad, while some of the profile grinds are decent some of them are atrocious. Obviously quality control isn't much of a thing in the factory these are made. I also wonder about how long these will retain an edge. As easy as they were to grind and strope I'd imagine not long.

Yes, I agree with Rick about inexpensive practice sharpening.  I rely on the Tormek to get consistent results with minimal removal of cutting tool.  It is good to get acquainted with tools in use as Mary and her mentors point out.  Perhaps they will admit that hand sharpening has its limits regarding consistency and there is a new "getting acquainted" experience after each sharpening because the angles have likely changed albeit minutely. There is a delicate "feel" to using the tool and those tiny changes can be felt. I found it distracting to relearn the tool after sharpening. It is a rare lifetime skill that can sharpen a 30 mm #11 spoon bent with the same consistency as a 3 mm #11 spoon bent so that they end up with the same attack angles all around the curve.  With labels on the tools that tell what jig and what settings, it is easy to quickly repeat a given setup.  The leather honing wheels save so much time getting a mirror polish as the burr is removed. While I have all the diamond plates, honing glass, leathers, compounds and micro abrasives, this power sharpener has "upped the ante" in my carving experience.