Sunday, December 30, 2007

Video Review

Review: Tormek’s new TNT-300 Woodturner’s Instruction Box $24.99

I bought a copy of the Tormek's Woodturner’s Instruction Box from Hartville Tool the other day. Is it worth the $24.99? I think so, especially for a beginning wood turner (like me) or a beginning Tormek user. It’s nicely packaged in a clamshell cardboard box and contains a spiral bound manual (most of which is free on Tormek’s website) and a very nicely done DVD. I have to admit I’m a fan of Jeff Farris. I bought my Tormek from him when he was an "independent" seller of Tormeks. Now he is a Tormek employee/evangelist. He is a very good communicator/instructor and after watching the video, a pretty good craftsman as well. (I have to admit, I wondered if all he could do was sharpen tools, or if he can actually turn wood. He does turn and quite well.)

The video shows how to use each of the Tormek jigs as applied to lathe tools. It also shows how each of the tools are used. This latter feature was the most interesting to me. I’ve watched other lathe videos (I’ll review another time), but this one makes the cuts very easy to see and I found it useful. In fact, I was thinking of selling my copy after watching it once or twice, but I’ll keep it for future reference.

If you are an experienced turner and understand how to use the Tormek jigs, this probably isn't for you. On the other hand, as a Tormek user, I found it useful to watch Mr. Farris set up the jigs and use them.

Tormek Article Beta

I just created my first blog, "sharpenit" and uploaded a white paper about using Tormek Jigs on a belt grinder. I need to finish the paper, maybe tonight, but if you happen to see it in the meantime, let me know if you have any questions.

Using the Tormek Jigs with a 2 x 72” Belt Grinder

A Better Tormek

The Tormek wet sharpening system is an expensive sharpening solution ($399.00 without jigs, approaching $700.00 with a full set) with just one advantage and many disadvantages over dry grinding using the same Tormek jigs. The main value of the Tormek is not its wet abrasive wheel, but the various ingenious jigs that allow for precise and often repeatable tool sharpening.

I’ve experimented with the Tormek jigs on dry grinders but have not been satisfied with the results. Dry wheels need dressing, balancing, change size, are normally less than an inch wide and allow only two grits (per grinder). I have also tried “paper wheel” systems which share the same deficiencies as the dry grinders, except the wheels don’t change size much. Metal removal is very aggressive on dry grinders unless you turn the machine around (removing the safety guard) and grind with the wheel spinning away from you. (This is a must for safety reasons with the paper wheels).

Finally, I adapted my Grizzly 2 x 72” Knife (Belt) Grinder (G1015 Knife Belt Sander / Buffer $395.00 + 74.00 freight for use with Tormek jigs and the results are outstanding.

Here is a table showing the pros and cons of the Tormek versus using the Belt Grinder + Tormek jigs, which are widely available without having to buy the Tormek machine.



Belt Grinder+Tormek Jigs

Water Cooled



Wheel remains true

No; wheel must be maintained with expensive diamond truing device which is also needed to remove and inevitable uneven wheel wear.

Wheel is always true, and is therefore not a variable.

Wheel needs constant grading from coarse to fine

Yes, this is a most tedious chore: wearing away the expensive grindstone with a handheld stone ($20) switching back and forth between the two grits.

Never, just change belts. As belts wear out (which takes a very long time) they can be used for finer operations or even polishing.

Wheel remains same diameter at all times

No, jigs have to be reset (using a nifty plastic tool) to take into account the ever-decreasing wheel diameter.

Yes. Diameter is a constant, not a variable.

Abrasive Cost

High ($139.99). When the wheel goes from 10” to 7” it becomes a paperweight. At that point the jigs don’t work but the stone has 2/3 of its original area!

Very low (Belts are range from $1.80- $10.00, with very good quality ones at $3.00)

Wheel width

2.0 inches

2.0 inches

Overheats steel


Yes, with a heavy hand; you need to develop a light touch, which isn’t hard to do using the Tormek jigs.

Grits Available

2 (Coarse and medium depending on when you graded the stone. After truing it with the diamond, it also has a very coarse finish).

Dozens of belts ranging from garnet to zirconium to cork, leather, blank cloth and a Scotch Brite type of material. Grits from 36 to polishing.

Mirror finish

Very slow and never truly mirror; removing the scratch marks from the steel is basically impractical using the slow leather hone. The “fine grading of the stone still leaves very visible scratch pattern on the tool edge.

Easy using two or three belts. True mirror finish with no visible scratch pattern.

Use as a hone on the sharpened face.

Yes, but very, very, slow and if done freehand can round over the freshly sharpened tool, undoing your sharpening. Also available are some leather disks for honing the inside of the gouges.

Easy using blank cloth belt and green chrome oxide buffing compound. The jig setting remains the same. To hone the inside of a gouge, I take a piece of stiff leather charged with buffing compound and give it a couple rubs; that’s all.

Resetting jig to hone

Yes; honing wheel is 8.75” which is not the same size as the ever- diminishing grinding wheel which means you have to continually reset the jigs or do it freehand.

No, just change belt, jig remains at the exact same setting.

Reshaping tools

Yes, but painfully slow and uses up wheel quickly. Even Tormek recommends using a dry grinder for preliminary shaping.

Very easy; a new profile on a HSS bowl gouge or skew can be shaped in 2 minutes and brought to a mirror finish in another minute. A scraper takes a few seconds.

Shortens Tool Life

No, once shaped the tool can be sharpened quickly with very little steel removal.

No, once shaped the tool can be sharpened quickly with very little steel removal. A fine belt after the tool is shaped guarantees this. A very fine belt might even remove less steel than the Tormek.



Very fast


Very safe

Safe if used properly; safer than a paper wheel or dry grinding wheel, but more dangerous than a Tormek. On the other hand, much safer than using a lathe or table saw.


10” foot print, 35 pounds.

36” foot print; weighs 100 pounds (due to heavy duty motor)


About $400.00 w/o jigs

About $400.00 w/o jigs

Other uses


Many additional shop uses. Can be used as a sander for sanding or shaping any material (wood, metal, composites, aluminum etc.), removing burs, polishing.

Setup and Cleanup

A pain. Fill the container with water, wait for the stone to be saturated (a few minutes), check if the stone is true, check whether it is graded coarse or fine.

Cleanup is also a pain; empty the water, clean the water tray of some sticky sludge.

No set up. No clean up.

Add-ons to make life easier

A cafeteria tray to hold the Tormek to keep the water from getting on your bench.

A momentary foot switch (search Linemaster on Ebay) so you can keep both hands on the tool and if you need to slow down, you can let the grinder coast.

A dust mask is also good, though as I have it set up, the belt is grinding away from the tool, which makes for much cooler grinding and the dust is flung away from me.


Incredibly good manual by Tormek inventor/genius Torgny Jansson; a must have and well worth the cost.

Basic machine set up. No instructions on sharpening.

Note to Mr. Jansson: Make a 2x48” belt grinder that is fully compatible with the Tormek jigs. Two speeds (a slow and medium) that would be great (variable speed would be even better, though costly). Sell Tormek belts at twice the cost of the 2x72” belts and make a good and continuing profit on consumables. Tormek’s market would expand to include knife makers and other metal and wood craftsmen.

Adapting the Tormek Jigs to a Belt Grinder

I use the Grizzly Knife Grinder. There are other nicer grinders available such as the Beaumont Metal Works (about $800.00, beautiful and elegant). However, the Grizzly is a bargain at half the cost and very solidly built. It also has a spindle for a buffer or wheel.

Get the machine situated on a cart or bench so that the belt can be used in horizontal mode. I made a crutch to hold the head rather having to lock it with the allen screw. Take a good look at the Tormek to see how the Universal Tool Rest is situated (the horizontal position). Make a bracket to hold the tool rest. I made my first one out of wood to test the geometry. It worked fine, so I welded some scrap steel angle material, drilled a couple holes in it and the Horizontal Base (SKU2241) and attached it. Once in position, you can easily slide out the Universal Support Tool and use the grinder in any position as well.

Buy the following parts at,, Hartville Tool or Advanced Machinery on the website, or any other Tormek dealer.

Name or Tormek SKU




Horizontal Base (Micro Adjust Universal Support Tool) or Tormek XB-100 Horizontal Base for Universal Support


Micro Adjust Universal Support Tool



Pro AngleMaster




Torlock Tool Rest and Lock Knob (Tool rest/table attaches to Universal Support) for grinding chisels, scrapers etc.) Also sold by dealers for $26.99.




Fingernail Gouge Jig (Vital jig for holding turning tools)



Tormek Turning Tool Setter (Must have, works with Fingernail Gouge Jig SVD-85)


Other Jigs

You can also get several other jigs to handle chisels, knives and other tools. They are detailed in the Handbook with very complete directions and diagrams.


Handbook (very well worth the money) Edition 9.5


Using the Tormek Jigs With the Belt Grinder

I have to say using the Tormek Jigs + belt grinder is a joy. No more setting up the machine, adding water, cleanup, grading the darn stone back and forth, keeping the stone true, changing the setup jig to take into account the ever diminishing stone, changing the setup for honing, no free hand honing. It’s wonderful.

I use a coarse belt (36 or 80 grit) to achieve a shape on a knife, turning tool or other tool. Once that is done, it’s done. After that I can use a 120 or 220 grit belt to keep the edge fresh with just one or two quick passes. This would never work without the jigs, but the amount of steel that is removed (after initial shaping) is tiny, (about 1/64th to 128th of an inch) so the tools will have a long life. (That means 64 sharpenings before an inch of steel is used up). In addition, since there are only one or two passes, the tool doesn’t have time to heat up. (Some tools, particularly ones with tiny blades could heat up, so use a very light touch). I have reshaped a bunch of gouges, scrapers and skews with my $3.00, 36 grit blue belt and it doesn’t seem to have appreciable wear.

I found that using the grinder with the belt moving away from the tool rather than into the tool solved two problems: heat build up was minimized and the cut or grind was much less aggressive. The jigs hold the tools firmly so there is no possibility of the tool getting away from you or even grinding the wrong part of the tool. If you are using a blank cloth belt charged with buffing compound, it is essential that the belt move away from the tool to prevent it from digging into the belt and shredding it.

The Tormek Turning Tool Setter (TTS-100) along with the jig for gouges and skews (SVD-185) is the most important element of the system. It makes it completely fool proof to keep a razor sharp mirror polished edge on lathe gouges, with the belt moving away from the tool. The original Tormek ProAngle Master (WM-200) is also a must for setting the angles on knives, scissors, scrapers and other tools. The Tormek Manual, written by Mr. Jansson, inventor of the Tormek, is also a must; without it the jigs are impossible to understand.

List of Suppliers

USA Knifemaker Supply -- Excellent source for all sorts of knife making supplies and abrasive belts.

McMaster Carr-- The "be all" and "end all" of of every sort of machine, part, raw material, etc. A truly amazing company with no minimums and reasonable same day shipping.