Product Review: Tormek Water-Cooled Sharpening System

Product Reviews

Product Review: Tormek Water-Cooled Sharpening System

The Tormek system helps you sharpen quickly and easily, with no risk of burning your tools

By Bob Duncan


You can sharpen 99% of your tools with the Tormek system, creating the exact bevel angle you want with no risk of burning your tools.

The system, which combines a slow but powerful motor with a large water cooled stone and an extensive line of tool holding jigs, allows you to accurately sharpen and hone anything from garden shears to the smallest folding pocket knife and from planer blades to drill bits, and everything in between.

There is a learning curve to using the Tormek, but it comes with a frequently updated instruction manual, DVD, and host of how-to videos on the Tormek site. Geoff Brown from Tormek came to our office to teach us how to use the tool. Geoff is constantly buying the newest edged tools when they come out, and figuring out the best way to sharpen them with the Tormek. He showed me how to sharpen every tool in my kit except a tightly curved Mora knife.

Initially, it takes a few minutes to set up the jigs. The base unit comes with an angle tester so you can easily set the jig and support to the angle you want your bevel to be. While it is possible to sharpen freehand with the tool, the jigs allow you to reproduce the exact same bevel angle time after time.

The Tormek comes with just one stone, but they have a  “stone grader” that changes the grit of the stone from coarse to fine. Grade the stone for coarse to reshape a bevel, and grade it to fine to sharpen and polish the edge. The Tormek has a flat leather wheel to hone most tools, and shaped leather wheels to polish the inside of gouges and V-tools.

For carvers, I suggest buying four jigs: the SVM-45 knife jig and the SVM-00 small knife holder, the SVS-32 short tool jig, and the SVD-185 gouge jig. Most tools can be sharpened with just the knife jig and the short tool jig, but the addition of the small knife holder allows you to sharpen any knife, and the gouge jig allows you to sharpen V-tools, bent gouges, and add a fingernail grind to your gouges if desired. It also allows you to sharpen turning gouges.

The knife jig is easy to use and set up, and since the small knife holder fits into the knife jig, it’s also easy to set up. Clamp the knife or holder in the jig (with the knife clamped in the holder if necessary), and use the angle guide to set the position of the universal support. Move the knife back and forth to sharpen the one side, and flip the jig to sharpen the other side. Flip the universal support around, set the angle, and hone the knife with the flat leather wheel.

The short tool jig is just as easy to set up. Clamp the tool in the jig, use the angle guide to set the position of the universal support, and rock the jig back and forth to sharpen the gouge. Reset the support for the leather wheel and polish the edge. Use the shaped leather wheels to polish the inside of the gouge.

The gouge jig is a bit more difficult to set up, but Tormek has excellent instructions and how-to videos that show you exactly how to set it up.

There are other, less expensive sharpeners out there, especially if you have the time to practice sharpening freehand. But if you are interested in a sharpening system that makes it almost impossible to screw up your carving tools and that allows you to sharpen almost anything, the Tormek system is a good choice.

Prices for the Tormek T-4 system start at $400, and prices for the T-8 system start at $700. The T-4 has a smaller motor and a smaller sharpening stone and honing wheel. The T-8 has a more powerful motor and comes with an accessory storage tray, a truing tool to make sure the wheel stays flat, and a square edge jig. Both tools come with a 7-year warranty.

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