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Making a Sharpening Disk for Carving Tools by P. Michael Henderson

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I'm often asked how to sharpen carving tools. I'm a big believer in a power sharpening system because it allows you to sharpen your tools quickly - which means you spend more time carving and less time sharpening.

In my carving classes, I demonstrate the use of a sharpening disk mounted on a lathe. The advantages of this system are that the disk can be made for little money, and it works well, as long as you have a lathe.

But a lathe is a good investment compared to a dedicated sharpening system, like a Tormek. You can purchase a mini-lathe for maybe $200 if you catch them on sale (Jet was offering their mini-lathe for $200 at the last woodworking show here, and there was a $25 rebate on it.)

If you purchase a Tormek, all you can use it for is sharpening. If you purchase a lathe, you can use it for sharpening, and you can use it as a lathe.

I'm not going to demonstrate how to use the disk in this tutorial - it's best learned from a hands on demonstration. What this tutorial is about is how to make the disk. So, if you've used a sharpening disk in the past, or seen one used, or can figure out how to use one from seeing the pictures, this tutorial will be of use and help to you.

A sharpening disk has sandpaper on the face (I use P220 grit) and leather around the rim. The sandpaper is used for shaping the edge, or repairing damage, such as when you drop a tool on the concrete floor. Otherwise, all you'll use is the leather around the rim to hone the edge.

I use a green honing compound that's available in almost any woodworking supply store - I bought mine at Woodcraft. It's inexpensive - I don't remember the exact cost, but I'm sure it was less than $10 - and that will last you a very long time.

I'm going to make the disk out of 3/4" MDF. You can make your disk almost any size, but I'm going to make it the width of a sheet of sandpaper, about 9". I have a circle cutting attachment for my bandsaw table and I set it a bit more than 4.5" because I want some extra material so I can trim to size.

I put my MDF on the pin, and cut by pivoting the MDF.

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