Stephen H Blenk

is a professional turner in Washington state and founder of the Olympic Peninsula chapter of the American Association of WooJt urners.

When it comes to equipment for sharpening lathe tools you have a lot of choices. There are "sharpening systems" with low-speed wet wheels, sanding drums or belts. There are bcnch grinders and buffing wheels, water stones, oil stones, diamond hones and combinations of the above. Someone, somewhere, doubtless has a sharpening system which uses a starship's phasers to zap up an edge. The trick is to find sharpening equipment that is suited to both your purpose and your budget. (See article, page 48)

For the sake of simplicity, I'll try to lump equipment into recognizable categories.

Grinders—Grinders can be either low or high speed, and may run wet or dry. Some grinders have both wet and dry wheels on the same machine. Other grinders may have a stone on one arbor, and a buffing wheel on the other.

Dry, high-speed grinders usually have relatively coarse wheels (80-100 grit), remove metal quickly, and generate lots of edge-burning heat. Wet wheels are generally finer (220 grit), slower, and better suited for touch-up and polishing rather than removing large amounts of material. Wet wheels do not generate heat—a big advantage—so they can be used without the fear of ruining the temper of a chisel.

A cloth or felt buffing wheel on a high-speed arbor is useful for polishing off the wire edges produced by grinding.

Abrasive Belt Systems —

Abrasive belt systems can do the work of grinders and polishers. These systems can use cither a coarse belt for quick removal of large amounts of material, or a finer belt for polishing.

Many turners I know prefer a belt grinder with a 2-in.-wide abrasive belt on either a platen or a drum. Most turners favor zirconium abrasive belts (also called zirconia).

These bluc-colorcd belts are covered with alumina zirconia. an extremely hard and durable synthetic abrasive ideally suited for grinding metal (available from Econ-Abrasives, Box A865021, Piano, FX 75086, 214-377-9779).

Abrasive belts run hotter tlian a wet wheel, but not as hot as a highspeed grinder. By keeping only light pressure on the t<x)l and cooling it often in water, it's easier to avoid burning the edge. Keep a water container by each of your sharpening devices and cool your chisels frequently.

It's possible to use a standard 6-in. by 48-in. woodshop belt sander for sharpening lathe chisels. If you do, I recommend installing a 2-in -wide belt on it for sharpening. (FIRE HAZARD! Disconnect any dust-collection hose, and vacuum sawdust before grinding metal.) This way you'll use the entire abrasive surface rather than just one narrow strip. Don't try sharpening on die disc sander however. The surface speed is too fast and you'll burn your edge.

Sharpening Stones—And of course, there are the stones: bench stones, slip stones and diamond hones. It's a great advantage to be able to touch up an edge without having to head for the grinder every time. Keeping an edge in shape with a quick stoning makes turning more enjoyable, and makes your chisels last longer. Stones are also useful for removing the wire edge left by a grinder.

There is still some controversy over the question of oil stones vs. water stones, and I'm not going to get into it. I learned on oil stones, and that's what I use. Both types work; use whichever you like. I recently had the opportunity to watch Jerry Glaser—the noted designer of high-speed turning tools—use an EZ-Lap diamond hone to dress an edge, and am planning to try one myself.—S.B.

American Woodworker 1992

1992 American Woodworker

"He who works with his hands is a laborer, flmt] be who works with bis hands. head and heart is an artist."

—St. Francis of Assisi

It's obvious from the quality of work submitted in aw's first Excellence in Craftsmanship Awards contest that many woodworkers aspire to St. Francis' creed. In fact, we received so many first-rate entries among the hundreds sent in from the I nitcd States and abroad tliat singling out the best proved extraordinarily difficult.

Such a commitment to craftsmanship is encouraging to see. especially at a time when the emphasis on quality handwork seems to be on the decline. aw established this competition, in part, to help reverse that trend. We hope that by recognizing talented woodworkers and promoting high standards of workmanship and design, we will inspire the woodworkers of tomorrow. Certainly the work in this year's contest inspired us.

We applaud the 1992 winners and congratulate everyone who entered the competition, for they all show an exceptional dedication to the craft.

First-place winners in the professional and amateur categories receive $1,000 and a custom-engraved plaque. Second-place and third-place winners have earned a certificate and $100. Pick up our March/April issue for details on entering the 1993 American Woodworker F.xccllcncc in Craftsmanship Awards.

"Your heart is in your mouth the whole time you build something like this because you can't waste one piece of wood," says Wally Kunkcl of his

bombe chest.

Kunkel considers the 36-in.-widc chest a dream project. He spent years studying the "various problems and splendors" of the 18th-centurv original on which his is based before finally making the first cut. And he hunted much of the country to find the single 12/4 26-in. by 20-ft. piece of Honduras mahogany that makes up all the chest's "public" faces.

lite chest took 4l/t months to build, with Kunkel doing much of the work by hand. He hand-dressed the raw board so he'd have time to study the grain, then hand-cut the joints, and used a scratch stock on the carcase to raise the beading around the drawers. The drawer sides are carved inside and out to follow the curve of the chest's sides. Kunkel also carved the insides of the drawer fronts so joining them to the sides meant dovetailing two curved surfaces at compound angles.

Except for the top drawer, the front of the chest (including the rails) was cut in sequence from the width of the mahogany board. The frame and panel back has !>ook-matched panels.

Wally Kunkel

Bombe chest in Wally Kunkel, Fi anders, NJ.


Scroll Saw Chest

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