Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2020.08.02 - New Toy

One of the many thing I have never been able to get the hang of in the workshop is sharpening things. Chisels, knives, plane blades all suffer from rounded ends and less than sharp edges. No matter how hard I try, no matter what gizmo or gadget I buy that is guaranteed to make it a snap to sharpen things, I manage to mess it up every single time.

As a result I gave away my hand planes and just use a power planer and as for chisels, I buy a set, use them until they won't cut properly any longer, throw them away and buy a new set. A chisel that is not razor sharp is a liability in the workshop and it isn't long before the edge is no longer doing the job. I must have spent hundreds of pounds on chisels over the years to the point where I try to use something else, anything else than a chisel no matter how much harder this makes the job.

Until now.

About three years ago I started watching Leo Sampson Goolden as he began the quest to restore the 1910 sailing ship Tally Ho. His website can be found here: and the start of the project is here: This is an amazing project to watch and although Leo is still a very young man he is a superlative craftsman and boatbuilder and well worth watching. If I had the time and money I would volunteer to work for him for a month or two.

However, I digress.

One of the things I noticed about two years ago is that he uses a sharpening system made by Tormek in Sweden to put the edges on all his hand tools and I put this on my list of things to get eventually.

Last week eventually arrived and so did my new Tormek T8.

And here it is and a small but heavy box.

This is the system unpacked on my workbench.

And this is a set of jigs to go with it.

Jigs for axes, short knives, long knives flexible knives (i.e. filleting knives) , scissors and short tools to go with the chisel and plane blade jig that comes as standard.

This is a water-cooled, slow-turning (90 rpm), Aluminium Oxide grindstone with a leather homing wheel.

Does it work.

Oh my, yes it does.

I took my worst chisel to try it out and in about five minutes the end was square again, the bevel was polished and the edge was far sharper than when it was new.

So I tried two of our kitchen knives. I think I overdid it, they are too sharp. You see, the sharper an edge the more brittle and fragile it is. The edge I put on the two knives was suitable for cutting fish or meat but not for chopping, which is their primary use. When I next sharpen these two I'll use a more durable but less sharp edge.

Now, the workbench is too high for the T8 which makes it awkward and uncomfortable to use and I'm not going to spend £800 on the official sharpening station that Tormek make, but I'm a maker and have tools, workshop and wood. So over the weekend I set too and started to build a wooden sharpening station.

I had some spare heavy duty castors, and various pieces of wood and the intention was to build a movable station the correct height for me to use the T8 which had at least two drawers for the tools which, incidentally, come in their own tool trays.

This is the skeleton of the station, glued, pinned and clamped.

This was a good place to stop for a cup of tea whilst the glue went off enough to continue and that Saturday was very hot. My weather station registered 32 Celsius.

Here I have put two screws in each glued joint and screwed the castors on the bottom. I'm using the 160mm (large) wheels since they cope very well with the somewhat rough workshop floor.

By the end of Saturday I had a functional station but without any drawers as yet since I don't have any sliders. I ordered some and will put in the drawers when the arrive.

I will ask Tina to make a canvas cover for the T8 since it is recommended that you don't let fine sawdust get onto the rubber drive wheel as that will make the drive slip. Not that this is a problem since you just remove the honing wheel and take a piece of sandpaper to the rubber after wiping the rubber down whilst it is turning to roughen the rubber surface allowing the drive to grip properly.

It's just a nuisance when a cover will prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Sunday's task was the sides, back and drawers.

Here you can see the completed sides made from some 9mm plywood. Because the plywood was slightly bowed I screwed a batten to each side of the plywood and then screwed the wood to the cross pieces of the frame top and bottom.

The back was done in the same way although it didn't need to have the battens as it was fairly flat, but I put them on anyway.

Next up are the two drawers for the jigs and other paraphernalia. I started with the easy one. Most of the jigs come in a plastic carrying case that has a foam insert to hold the jigs.

As you can see here.

The underside is also plastic so the drawer for this does not need to be a complete drawer, just sides, back and front and something to stop the plastic case from falling through.

The other tool tray is a bit different.

This one consists of just the rigid foam.

Although the foam is quite rigid and would probably would be fine with a similar skeleton drawer as the other tray, I'm not going to risk it when it just means putting a bottom on the drawer instead of just a few supports.

The front and back pieces are glued, pinned and clamped until the glue holds well enough to complete the frame, so this is a good time for a cup of tea.

Once the glue had set up enough to hold the wood together without the clamps I could move on to the next stage.

The side pieces needed to be glued in place. Now, glueing on end grain is a little trickier than normal since the glue is wicked away from the joint unless precautions are taken. This is fairly straightforward, you simply put glue on the end grain, wait a minute or two and then add some more glue to replace that which has been soaked up.

All the parts of the side pieces that have end grain have been glued once. Next I'll put glue on the rest of the joint and then re-coat these pieces again.

All done and clamped. The square was used to check that the sides were, well, square.

This is the second box which is much the same except that it has a full bottom. Glued and clamped down while the glue sets.

The drawer slides arrived during the afternoon and I found that I had made a slight mistake and the slides were too long by about half an inch. But they were usable so I finished off the drawers, mounted the slides and put it all together.

And here's the result. As you can see the drawers protrude out from the station a bit.

The drawer for the jigs.

The drawer for the other tools.

Here's a closer look at the protruding drawers.

Easily fixed with two covering boards one on either side to cover the gap.

Now there's no gap.

So, a very good weekend's work and now I have a sharpening station that I can use to sharpen all my tools.