Cutting Edge

I was able to find a space for, and set up, the new TiGer 2000 wet sharpening machine this weekend. While this machine is, by no means, new on the market, or even readily available anymore, my initial impressions may interest someone else interested in purchasing a similar machine by one of any number of other manufacturers.

First off: set-up. As has been mentioned in all of the reviews since the machine was introduced in the US, the – for want of a better word – “manual” is, shall we say, concise. Not much to it, but enough to set-up and start working, with a few tips sprinkled in. The machine comes fully assembled with the exception of the blue aluminum oxide grinding wheel. Bolt it onto the shaft, snip the twist tie securing the electrical cord (for shipping), fill the tray with water and you’re off. Have plenty of water available (I used distilled; I don’t know if it makes a difference from tap, but I had some on hand.), the dry stone will soak up quite a bit initially.

Flattening the back of the iron or chisel is done on the side of the stone. I find I much prefer to hold the tool steady against a moving wheel than having to move the iron on a stationary stone. A sharpening jig for flat chisels and plane irons is included, as well as an angle gauge. Make sure you have the iron/blade snugged up against the jig so that you get a true 90° angle.  Slide the jig onto the guide bar and grind away. The water definitely keeps things cool; it also makes go slower than grinding on a dry wheel. But, of course, that slowness is what helps to avoid overheating the steel and blueing the edge, ruining the temper. If you are not changing the angle, it won’t take too long; even grinding a new angle, as I did with an old mortising chisel, isn’t too bad. After all, you’re not likely to need to regrind the angle too often, once you have it where you want it, you’ll just be honing or doing light touch-up grinding. Here is where a minus showed up. When moving a wide plane iron back and forth over the stone, the water gets pushed over the edge of the stone. On the outboard side it, of course, goes into the tray, but on the inboard side it cascades over the machine’s outer case onto whatever work surface you’ve placed the machine. I may need to get some melamine to protect the plywood of my utility bench.

After grinding, you smear some polishing compound onto the leather wheel for final honing. This removes the burr and puts a nice polish on the ground bevel. The result is a VERY sharp tool. After sharpening the iron of my bog standard, WWII vintage, Stanley No. 3, I clamped down a small elm board and tested the result. I got a very satisfying “sssssshhhhhick” as lovely thin curls emerged from the plane with little effort. It made me want to keep planing. I then turned to the freshly sharpened mortise chisel (again, just an old, no name, chisel) and chopped out a 7/8″ deep mortise in the elm with no trouble at all. Even more impressive was the fact that AFTER chopping out the mortise, the chisel seem to be just as sharp as when I had started. 

So the verdict. Is it a miracle machine? No. It can get messy, and it still takes some time. The finished result is not a flawless mirror finish, although it is quite shiny and VERY, very sharp. But then, does every tool NEED a mirror finish to the edge? For regular planes and chisels, this will give me an extremely sharp edge that seems to be quite durable. For those tools like a final smoothing plane or paring chisel, I can go my waterstones after the initial grinding to remove ALL of the stone marks, before final polishing. Am I glad I bought it? Most definitely. For me, I like the fact that I can get a consistent edge with the jig. I don’t have to worry about rocking the steel as I move it over the stone and getting an edge that is not quite perpendicular. As long as I set it up correctly (and that is not too hard to do), the jig keeps the steel steady while the STONE moves, and you can’t help but get an even edge. It is the cutting edge that counts, after all.

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