Tormek T7

When it comes to sharpening, there are disciples of many methods – Scary Sharp (using sandpaper), waterstone, oil stone, diamond just to name a few of the manual methods.  Then there are the electron murdering methods – high speed grinders (not sharpening as much as bulk material removal), horizontal grinding wheel, and vertical, slow speed, wet grinding.

When it comes down to it, one brand in particular is synonymous with sharpening, and that is Tormek.  Their sharpeners are placed on a pedestal, and many would say that pedestal is price, and let’s just put it out there – it isn’t an unreasonable perspective.

However, having never used a Tormek, my first experience of this machine was full of anticipation, and pessimism. Could this machine really live up to the expectations, and the price difference?

The machine under the microscope is the Tormek T7 – the 2010 version from Carrolls Woodcraft Supplies.  They are primarily located online, and at most (if not all) of the Australian Wood Show, and physically in Drysdale, about 20 minutes south of Geelong.  (I’m planning on dropping in there next Saturday (20 March) as it happens).

My previous experience of slow speed sharpeners is the Triton/Scheppach Tiger 2000, costing around $200, compared to the $1100 of the T7, so you can see why I was going to be really curious of my initial impressions. The T7 wheel alone is $300 as a replacement.  Verdict at the end of the article (you’ll just have to wait (or read ahead)).

Tormek T7

The T7 is a heavy beast, so it is definitely beneficial that it has a carry handle on the top, so you are not tempted to use the tool support rod as a makeshift handle.  It comes with a comprehensive starting package (and there lies some of the purchase cost), including a diamond stone dresser (which I say is absolutely mandatory), a grading stone, angle setter, straight blade jig (plane blades, chisels etc), honing compound (8000 grit), and a full reference book, and a short DVD to introduce wetstone sharpening.

Larger Catchment Tray

One of the changes for the 2010 version is a much larger catchment tray, and once you’ve experienced a bit of this sort of sharpening is the familiarity with a constant river of water coming over the edge of your bench – caused as much by the water that flows over the top of the tool and runs off as the tool is out past the edge of the water trough.  This is one thing the T7 has addressed, and it is definitely a significantly decreased issue.

In the bottom of the waterbath there is a magnet that assists in separating the metal particles from the rest of the waste that ends up in the tray.

Quick Release Wheel Lock

Another change is the use of a knurled knob used to lock the wheel on, so changing wheels can be a lot easier.  This would be very beneficial if you have a wheel primarily for flat blades, and another for turning tools (and you are less inclined to keep the wheel completely flat and true), or want to fit the blackstone silicon or Japanese waterstone wheel (4000 grit) without tools.

Drive Wheel

Under the leather-clad honing wheel is the actual drive wheel.  It is coated in a special rubber, and although I haven’t tried myself, it has been said that this machine is near impossible to stall.

Wheel Conditioning and Grading

A quick shot of the grading stone – this allows the aggression of the wheel to be changed from the equivalent of 200 grit to 1000 grit, and back again.

Support Arm Microadjust

Having a microadjuster is an excellent addition, especially when setting up the stone dresser.

Diamond Wheel Dressing

The compulsory diamond wheel dressing jig, where the tip is wound in a very even manner across the surface of the stone to ensure it is flat, and parallel to the support arm.

General Angle Setting

The angle setting tool allows straight tools (in particular) to be set to the correct angle.  It can be adjusted over time to counter stone wear.  It has magnets on the back for easy storage of the gauge.

Jigs

There is an impressive range of jigs available, for all sorts of tools that require a razor edge.  On the support arm, you can just see the two stops that Tormek include to stop the jigs moving too far which would otherwise allow the tool to fall off the side of the stone.

So, my impressions.

Damn, but this really is a fine tool, and the quality difference is palatable.  The stone is meant to be a similar grade to the Scheppach, but they are chalk and cheese – I really noticed just how smooth the Tormek wheel felt while cutting steel, and that is on its coarse setting. The wheel is also wider (and a larger diameter), and that all really adds to its usefulness, and longevity.

The motor has all the power that is needed, and with a decent transfer method, it is near impossible to stall the machine.

So that checks all the boxes – design, power, quality (7 year warranty).  It may be an expensive machine, but I kid you not, that is definitely reflected in the quality of the machine, and the package.

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