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If you use sharp tools, or should be, you need to check out the Tormek SuperGrind 2000!
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Tormek SuperGrind 2000 Sharpening System

The undisputed king of sharp

Text and photos by Tom Hintz

   It's not often that a single machine is almost universally regarded as the best. In fact, the only machine I am aware of which enjoys that level of praise is the Tormek SuperGrind 2000. Now, after using the Tormek in my shop and sharpening everything with a cutting edge, I believe the praise heaped on the Tormek may be somewhat understated.

Simplicity Refined

   The Tormek SuperGrind machine incorporates the tried and true elements of tool sharpening, stone grinding and leather honing, applied with modern technology that assures the ultimate in accuracy and repeatability. Key to the legendary Tormek SuperGrind accuracy are the purpose-designed jigs that present oddly shaped cutting edges to the stone and leather at precise, controllable angles.

   It is this combination of ingenious design and traditional sharpening materials that allows Tormek SuperGrind users to produce highly refined and long-lasting cutting edges with surprising ease and speed.

Instructions

The hard cover instruction manual and video tape are very well done and provide top-quality information for the new and experienced Tormek user.
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   The Tormek SuperGrind 2000 includes a videotape overview of the machine's uses and a very unusual hardcover bound instruction manual.

   The 23-minute video is more informative than instructional. In addition to showing the basic operations of the Tormek SuperGrind machine, brief demonstrations of the Tormek jigs are shown. Despite their brevity, the video segments give new Tormek SuperGrind users a solid understanding of how the jigs are used. The video is an important supplement to the instruction manual that, when used together, make it easy to learn how to use the Tormek SuperGrind properly.

   The 149-page Tormek SuperGrind instruction manual is exceptional. Prepared by Torgny Jansson, the inventor of the Tormek SuperGrind, the manual is written in an easy-to-understand style, enhanced by dozens of good black and white photographs and 524 high-quality line drawings that effectively illustrate what the text describes. The printing is first-class and the slick, hard cover binding puts the Tormek instruction manual far above the norm for instruction manuals in the woodworking world, which are all-too-often found lacking.

   An interesting feature of the Tormek SuperGrind manual is how Jansson devotes short but complete chapters to each of the attachments. These sections provide full set-up and use instructions for each attachment that not only makes using them very easy, it gives the new Tormek SuperGrind owner a solid understanding of the capabilities of the individual jigs. Armed with this detailed information, buying the right jig for your job is simple.

   The simplicity of the Tormek SuperGrind design, combined with the top quality instruction materials mean the learning curve for using this machine is short. Within 15 minutes of setting the Tormek SuperGrind up in my shop, I had reshaped, sharpened and honed my bowl gouge to perfection.

Motor and Drive

The drive system is ultra smooth, consistent and reliable.
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   The Tormek SuperGrind is powered by a small but strong 200W induction motor that turns the main shaft through a nearly silent patented friction drive system. The 9mm motor shaft is held against a large (approximately 6.5"-diameter) rubber drive wheel by a simple but consistent gravity system that needs no adjustment. The differential in size between the motor shaft and drive wheel affords the motor a huge mechanical advantage that produces a smooth, constant 90-rpm at the stone and leather wheels during grinding and honing operations.

Leather and Stone

   Using stone to sharpen tools has been around nearly as long as humans have. Torgny Jansson refined the concept substantially in the design of the Tormek SuperGrind 2000.

   The 220-grit, 10" stone used on the Tormek SuperGrind is machined flat on the edge and side faces. It is also harder than any I have used in the past. While it cuts at least as quickly as softer versions, the Tormek SuperGrind stone loses mass at a much slower rate. This means the Tormek SuperGrind stone wheel holds its shape

(Top) The Tormek 10" stone wheel is machined smooth on the edge and face and has a wear rate far slower than I have encountered with other machines.
(Bottom) The standard honing wheel (right) and the accessory shaped leather wheel (left) allow the user to rid tools of burrs and grind marks, both of which enhance sharpness.
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longer and requires far fewer truing cuts, extending its life far beyond that expected from softer compositions.

   It should be noted that while re shaping tools is possible on the Tormek SuperGrind, removing large amounts of metal is better done on a regular or slow-speed grinder with more aggressive grit wheels. Rough out the shape as close as you can and then turn to the Tormek SuperGrind to finish shaping and refining the edge.

   The Tormek SuperGrind grinding wheel can alternate between 220-grit and 1000-grit with a quick treatment from the two-sided Stone Grader (SP-650). The difference between the two grit states is noticeable both in the feel of the tool on the stone and the grind marks produced. Tormek SuperGrind literature indicates that grading the stone has little impact on stone life, something I have confirmed in my shop as well.

   In addition to the slow speed of the stone, a constant water bath insures there is no heat buildup in the tool. The water bath also removes most grinding debris from the stone surface that could compromise the sharpening process.

   A thoughtful feature of the Tormek SuperGrind water bath system is an easily removed tank. This makes cleaning the tank an easy task and one the operator is more likely to do regularly. Preventing the buildup of debris in the tank keeps the machine operating smoothly and extends the life of the stone.

   To finish the sharpening process, Jansson added a leather-faced wheel on which the ground edge is honed. Honing a cutting edge brings it to another level of sharpness by smoothing grinding scratches, refining the edge even more. On many tools, honing away the burr created by grinding allows it to cut even better. The result is an exceptionally sharp tool with a very smooth bevel (when applicable) that holds its edge longer and "works" easier in the wood because friction is substantially reduced.

A very nice feature is a lift-out water tank that makes cleaning very easily, and more likely to be done.
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   Available as an accessory is a shaped leather wheel (LA-100) that allows honing the inside edges of curved tools like bowl gouges. Using the shaped leather wheel virtually eliminates the need for contoured bench stones.

Jigs and Fixtures

   Where many sharpening machines employ basic universal-type fixtures to sharpen a wide range of tools, the Tormek SuperGrind system uses an array of jigs, each engineered to handle smaller groups of tools with exceptional precision.

   I have used nearly all of the Tormek SuperGrind jigs, and with the directions provided in the instruction manual, found them exceptionally easy to set up and use. Getting a perfect edge on anything from common household scissors to my prized fingernail-shaped bowl gouge was very easy the first time.

   I also put new edges on my jointer and planer knives. Now both machines are cutting better than they ever have. A kitchen knife with a blade so badly dulled and nicked it was destined for the trash was resurrected and now sports the sharpest edge in the kitchen. It's almost hard to create a mediocre edge with the Tormek SuperGrind.

Accuracy

(Top) The very trick, and patented Pro Angle Master makes setting very specific angles easy.
(Bottom) The adjustable support makes fine tuning angles very easy.
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   The Tormek's ability to produce a superior cutting edge is only half of what makes this system so effective. Jansson incorporated the ability to grind cutting edges at very precise angles again and again. To facilitate this, he developed the patented Pro Angle Master (WM-200), an ingenious device for setting the angle of the tool to the stone with dead-on accuracy.

  The Pro Angle Master uses an adjustable eccentric at one end that compensates for the diameter of the stone wheel. On the other end, an indicator can be set to an easy-to-read angle scale. Around the outer edge of the Pro Angle Master are 15 calibrated notches for measuring the current angle of the tool.

   Hold the Pro Angle Master with the compensating eccentric on the stone and then adjust the angle of the tool until the flat foot of the angle gauge rests flush on the tool. This system makes attaining precise angle settings very easy.

   The precision of this angle setting system makes it easy to return a tool to the factory angle or to experiment with your own angle ideas. These capabilities are useful to any woodworker but can be hugely beneficial to woodturners and carvers who often develop custom angles that fit their style.

Price and Value

   Admittedly, the Tormek SuperGrind 2000 is not a cheap piece of equipment but before you write it off, consider the alternatives, all of which represent a compromise in one area or another. Add up the cost of a good slow-speed bench grinder, a sharpening jig or two, bench stones and the other miscellaneous pieces needed to assemble a sharpening system for the average shop and the price of the Tormek SuperGrind starts looking better. Also, consider that many Tormek SuperGrind owners built these "cheaper" sharpening systems and abandoned them to get the real Tormek SuperGrind. As with virtually any woodworking machine, buying a cheaper version "to start with" simply increases the price far beyond getting the best in the first place.

Regardless of how I sharpened my scraper in the past it never cut long curly ribbons like this, until the Tormek.
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   The real value of the Tormek SuperGrind comes in its accuracy and efficiency. Being able to renew a cutting edge in minutes is a great time saver in the shop, but getting that edge right the first time, every time with minimal loss of metal adds life to the tools we sharpen. That saves money down the road.

   Then there is the wood we use, none of which is cheap these days. Sharp cutting tools waste far less wood because they are working properly and predictably, and encourage fewer operator mistakes.

Conclusions

   Getting the Tormek SuperGrind 2000 was the first time I approached a woodworking machine with very high expectations and had them exceeded immediately. At every turn, the Tormek SuperGrind performed better, faster and easier than I anticipated.

   The design, manufacturing and materials used to construct the Tormek SuperGrind are first rate and promise many years of service. All of the parts and jigs fit very well and operate smoothly. The engineering behind the Tormek SuperGrind is inspired, producing a piece of equipment that makes previously complicated sharpening operations simple, highly accurate and repeatable.

   In the shop, the most important thing is how the Tormek SuperGrind sharpens tools. In this regard, it has no equal. The Tormek SuperGrind is simply the best there is, an opinion held by a large portion of the woodworking community.

I doubted how important honing a chisel was, until I used one honed on the Tormek. The difference is remarkable.
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   Combined with the well-written instruction manual, all of the jigs and the machine itself are exceptionally easy to understand and operate. Adjusting the jigs, many of which use the included Pro Angle Master, is simple. Being able to achieve a specific angle is crucial to maintaining factory grinds or experimenting with your own ideas.

   I have sharpened everything with a cutting edge in my shop and found the Tormek SuperGrind quickly produced highly refined edges on each of them. I thought my tools worked well when sharpened on my earlier machines, usually after considerable time and effort were expended. Sharpening those same tools on the Tormek SuperGrind took considerably less time, was markedly easier and resulted in edges much sharper than I thought possible.

   Along with increased sharpness comes better control and smoother finishes left by the honed bevel edges. With my newly sharpened tools, tasks are completed faster with more accuracy. In short, the quality of the work I do with my cutting tools went up a notch or two because of the Tormek SuperGrind.

   If you use sharp-edged tools in your shop, you owe it to yourself to at least consider the Tormek SuperGrind 2000 to maintain them. The long-term savings in tools and materials means there is a payback not so far down the road.

   Perhaps the most telling endorsement of the Tormek SuperGrind is the universal acclaim it receives from woodworkers around the world. After using the Tormek SuperGrind 2000 in my shop, you can add me to that group.

Update - (6-6-2006 )

Though pricey to buy, I continually find it cheaper to have the Tormek jigs and do the sharpening myself. Add to that the convenience of getting the sharpening done when I need it done.
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   After using the Tormek SuperGrind for a couple years now it is a more valuable tool than in the first months during the "holy cow" period.

The Tormek SuperGrind 2000 is used far more often for more things than I ever anticipated. Chisels and turning tools are always sharp with finely refined edges that hold their edge far longer than when sharpened any other way. In addition, my planer and jointer knives are also finely sharpened. Plus, I can freshen them whenever I need and not have to wait to get to the sharpener or to mail them out.

And to all the nay-sayers (nearly all of whom don't use a Tormek SuperGrind) who predicted the wheel would wear out quickly (I still use the original one with lots of material left on it) and that I would tire of the slow speed at which it sharpens tools - a posh on all of you! None of that turned out to be true, as I suspected from the beginning.

The Tormek SuperGrind is pricey but the results, long-term durability of it and its components and the convenience of having sharp tools when I need them is worth far more. I suspect I have saved way more than the price of the Tormek SuperGrind in sharpening bills alone.

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