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September 15, 2006

Tuning Metal Bench Planes for the Rest of Us

Metal Bench Plane

by Chris Black


It's an unfortunate reality that most metal bench planes don't work to their full potential right out of the box, and that a certain amount of tuning needs to be done by the end user. With apologies to all engineer/machinist woodworkers, I will endeavor to explain how to tune a metal bench plane without involving a machine shop or taking up vast amounts of your valuable woodworking time or money. I'll leave out the small stuff like after market blades and accessories. This is by no means the final word on this subject, but maybe you can pick up a thing or two from my many years of making a living with these wonderful tools. If you find my methods rudimentary or crude, let me paraphrase Jim Krenov who said at some point the engineer and artisan must part ways.


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Turning Contest Winners Announced

Scratch Awl Turning Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the Highland Woodworking Scratch Awl Turning Contest. We had such a tough time judging the last contest that this time we let YOU join in the fun and pick the winners this week via an online voting form.


Due to the slim margin between the two contestants receiving the most votes, we decided to award prizes to both of the top two entries. You picked:



  • 1st Place (with 28% of votes): Brian Watson, Dawsonville, GA - $50 Gift Certificate

  • 2nd Place (with 23% of votes): Kathleen Kruse, Covina, CA - $35 Gift Certificate


Thanks to all who participated!


See all the entries in Highland Woodworking's Turning Contest Gallery

JoolTool Sharpening System

JoolTool Sharpening SystemThe JoolTool is a versatile freehand grinder, sharpener and polisher. Since your work piece is applied underneath the spinning abrasive, the process is in your direct line of sight. Abrasives are attached to perforated backer discs so you can see the workpiece while the discs are spinning.

Think about the complex geometry of a carving/turning gouge. Just paint the bevel edge with a black marker, bring the gouge under the JoolTool's abrasive disc and grind until the mark disappears. You won't have to remove the tool from the machine to check your progress. It's surprisingly intuitive to use even though your hands are the only jig.

A variable speed motor adjusts to your comfort level from 500 to 5000 RPMs. The unique shape of the abrasive's back pad creates enough wind current to sufficiently cool your tool's surface as you grind. The JoolTool's housing tilts forward 17° for ease of use. Its spark shield has a 1-7/8" OD - 1-1/2" ID vacuum port, but we recommend using it only for nonsparking materials.

Included with the JoolTool Special:

  1. The JoolTool
  2. Informational/instructional DVD (the instructional part is quite good)
  3. 1 Ninja back pad
  4. 3" Ninja buff/polish felt wheel
  5. Small block of green honing compound
  6. 1 each 3M Purple Ceramic 80, 120 and 200 grit
  7. 1 each 3M Triact 35, 20, 10 and 5 micron
  8. Tapered spindle for attaching accessories

We recommend getting some additional back pads so you won't have to remove the paper each time you want to switch grits.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.

September 1, 2006

Tormek vs. Jet and Standard Bench Grinders

Woodworking Tool QuestionI'm looking to purchase a means to sharpen my chisels and turning tools. Is the Tormek or Jet "sharpening system" worth the money over a simple bench grinder?

Woodworking Tool AnswerMany woodturners use bench grinders (low speed is preferable so as not to heat up the tool's edge and ruin the steel's temper) to sharpen their turning tools. However, a bench grinder by itself does not provide a way to consistently jig the turning tool to the stone to grind a predictable and repeatable edge.

Tormek SuperGrindThe Tormek provides a proven and reliable way to jig all the tools in your shop (not just turning tools) to grind predictably on the stone. For a bench grinder, you would need to get a Wolverine Jig to use with the grinder to jig your turning tools. There are other jigs, like one we offer from Veritas that can also allow you to jig chisels and plane irons to a bench grinder stone consistently. (Most of the tool rests that come in the box with a bench grinder are not very functional for precise grinding of an edge).

The Tormek can also final hone your tools, which you need to do with a skew or your bench chisels and plane irons. A regular bench grinder can't final hone an edge and you would need to move to a finer hand stone to finish the hone/polish of an edge.

We think the recent arrival of the imitator unit from Jet is a poor substitution for the quality, functionality and proven reliability of the Tormek sharpening system. We do not offer the Jet sharpener as we do not think it would be a wise use of your money to buy one.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.

Mid West Tool Collectors Association Meeting

Just wanted to let everyone know that the fall semi-annual Mid West Tool Collectors Association meeting will be held on October 26 - 28, 2006 in Chattanooga TN at the Holiday Inn Choo Choo. We are expecting over 400 people to attend.

This meeting will include great programs, a lot of tool buying & selling, incredible displays, an auction, a What's It session and fellowship with others that share an interest in antique/traditional tools. The meeting begins on Thursday with the famous parking lot sale that starts when you still need a flashlight. On Friday, we move inside to a large trade room through noon on Saturday. Early Saturday afternoon there is an auction. All during this time, there are programs of interest for both men and women.

You have to be a member of M-WTCA to attend. All M-WTCA members should have already received a registration package. This year, members can also select the Saturday Only Option which only allows access to the trade room, What's It session and auction on Saturday.

If you are not a member and want to attend, you have two alternatives. First you can join now and attend all three days by going to the website at mwtca.org and getting an application and mailing it in ASAP. Let me know and I will get you a registration form and let those running the meeting know you plan to attend. This must be done now to avoid a late registration fee.

A second alternative for non-members is to attend on Saturday only. If you join at the door (starts at 7:00 am) for the normal $25 yearly membership fee, you will get in to the Saturday activities (trade room, What's It session, displays and auction) plus be a full member through 2007. This is a great way to find out what M-WTCA has to offer and experience an incredible day of "tooling". If you are within 250 miles of Chattanooga, why not consider making this trip, as it will be one you won't forget.

If you have any further questions, please contact me at hobbsed@portbridge.com or call 919 828-2754.

Hope to see you in Chattanooga,
Ed Hobbs

Shop Sign with Saw Hanger

Shop SignHang a shingle outside your Olde Shoppe with a custom cast sign. This double-sided, aluminum sign suspends from a symbolic handsaw that fastens to a wall with two screws. You can personalize the sign portion with up to 2 lines of text with a maximum of 17 characters/spaces per line. The sign itself measures 15" wide x 8" high x 7/16" thick. Overall dimensions, including the handsaw hanger, are 17" wide x 17" high. The raised characters are 1-1/4" high.

The sign background is powder-coated brown with gold raised letters while the handsaw blade is pewter color. Makes a handsome gift.

Visit Highland Woodworking for more information.