Sharpening chisels and plane blades has to be one
of the more mundane tasks in the workshop. At least it is
without some good sharpening gear anyway. But the joy of using a
sharp chisel or hand plane seems to make that mundane tasks
almost enjoyable... almost. But with some decent sharpening
tools, the boredom that is blade sharpening seems to disappear.
I have a Triton wet sharpener, which is
similar to the Tormek wet sharpener, and considered a pretty
good tool for sharpening and honing many types of chisels and
blades. It is in fact the sharpening machine I use most often in
the workshop for my hand tools when they need a touch up. But
those types of machines are expensive to buy, require a lot of
initial setup and can sometimes take longer to prepare the
machine itself than it takes to actually sharpen a blade. And
they are really only good for touchup work, as there slow speed
grinding makes any kind of edge reshaping a long and arduous
task - for this I usually hit the high speed dry grinder.
So when the M.Power P.S.S. sharpening system
was shown to me, naturally I took interest in it. And after
using it for some time, I think it is quite worthy of a review,
and so here we are...
DMT M.Power P.S.S.
The M.Power P.S.S. is a device for sharpening flat blades,
namely chisels and plane irons/blades. It consists of only three
components. 1. The machined P.S.S. base, which is made from
solid aluminum and finished beautifully. 2. The blue top
carriage which also appears to be made from aluminum and looks
like anodized aluminum at that. 3. The removable DMT diamond
The blue aluminum carriage offers a sliding
dovetail fit to the base. The mating surfaces require light
machine oil to act as a lubricant during use. On each side of
the carriage is a holder for the diamond stones included in the
kit. On one side, the stone holder sets the stone at a 25 degree
angle, while on the other side the angle is set to 30 degrees.
These are the two most common bevel angles found on most chisels
and plane irons. On the two primary carriage sliding surfaces
you will find Nylon 66 type slip rails for smooth gliding action
over the base. Additionally, a rounder rubber finger grip is
found on each end of the carriage.
Two DMT diamond sharpening stones are included
in the kit, a black, coarse stone, and a white fine stone.
Additional stones are available as accessories for even faster
grinding or further refining of an edge and come in 120 grit
(grey), 600 grit (red) or 1200 grit (green). I would recommend
these extra stones, especially if you are looking for a
sharpening system to retouch blade edges only. The various
stones (diamond plates) fit into the carriage holder by way of a
powerful round magnet. The back side of the diamond stone also
has a round recess to match the protruding magnet on the
carriage. The magnet holds the stone flat in place ready to use
and prevents it moving around when sharpening.
The base has four rubber feet, one set in each
corner to help prevent the base moving as it is sharpened. These
work well on most workbench surfaces but I noticed they tend to
slip slightly on polished or very smooth surfaces when the tool
is quite new. After a while as the rubber roughens up, it tends
to grip a lot better, but for the most part it works quite
The base is recessed on one side to
accommodate a chisel or plane iron with one edge at a perfect 90
degrees to the carriage guide. This ensures that any blade
butted up against the base edge along its own edge will have its
cutting surface parallel to the motion of the carriage, which
results in material being grinded across its surface, rather
then from point-to-butt as you would get when sharpening a
chisel with most other methods. This method may have its draw
backs, particularly when it comes to re-shaping an edge,
however, that type of mass material removal is best done on a
high speed dry grinder. The M.Power P.S.S. can do it, but it
will take a while and the tool is best used for touching up
existing bevels or near-straight edges. Small knicks in edges
are no problem, but larger deep ones require a lot of material
removal and it is best to hit them with a dry grinder first
before taking them to the M.Power P.S.S. for finer edge work.
The M.Power P.S.S. can handle pretty much any
sized chisel, down to as small as 3mm, and can handle plane
irons up to 2 1/2" wide.
Testing the M.Power P.S.S.
I always have chisels that need sharpening in my shop. Many
of them have an uncanny knack of appearing to be demolition
tools it seems and they get used as nail removal tools, cold
chisels and many other weird and whacky uses any self-respecting
woodworker would cringe at! Nonetheless, I do keep my high
quality chisels for woodworking only, with these cheaper and
lesser quality chisels handling the "rough" jobs in my shop and
in my home renovation process. So I will, for the purpose of
this review, show the progress of sharpening a knicked and
slightly rounded edge chisel as it makes its way to a nicely
sharpened and keen edge using the M.Power P.S.S. system, working
through the various grits of diamond stones. Additionally I will
also show here how quick and easy it is to touch up an edge on a
plane iron that is already in pretty good shape edge-wise, but
has simply dulled a little through normal use.
Starting with the chisel, which was in dire
need of edge work. Usually I would hit the dry grinder with an
edge starting out like this to save time, but for the purpose of
the review, I decided to sharpen it from the start using the
P.S.S. Firstly, it is important to ensure the back of the chisel
is as flat as can be. The P.S.S. system cannot really flatten
the back of a chisel or plane iron easily, so I eventually used
another flat diamond lapping stone I have to flatten and polish
the back first. Without a flat back, the bevel sharpening will
not be even and square. To show this I started sharpening the
chisel without working the back first. You can see the results
in the images below.
I have the triple pack of accessory stones, one of which
is an "extra coarse" 120 grit stone, which is the coarsest stone
available for the P.S.S. so that is the best option to work on a rusty, dulled
edge requiring shaping. With the 120 grit stone on the carriage,
it was a bit of labor to get the bevel cleaned up and squared,
as you can see in the accompanying photos. It took me perhaps
two evenings of fairly intense sharpening to get a flat bevel
happening on the previously hollow beveled edge, admittedly
poorly formed on the grinding wheel of my bench grinder a long
time ago! This was hard work!
Ok here we can see the results of the initial
shaping and sharpening of a chisel. Note in the right image the
scratch marks running parallel to the cutting edge of the
chisel. This is in contrast to the vertical marks you would get
from sharpening on a grinder. You can also see the bevel was not
previously sharpening uniformly on a grinder, with the left edge
pitted to some degree. We need to work up through the stone
grits to eventually flatten and smooth these scratch marks out.
The best way to move forward from here is to
work your way up through the grits of the stones to refine and
polish the edge. So in next goes the Black stone (180 grit), which is part
of the kit and is the next grit up in rank. The goal when using the next finer
grit stone is to try and remove all the scratch marks left by
the previous coarse stone used. The ultimate goal is a mirror
finished bevel with a keen, razor-sharp edge. As the carriage is
moved over the chisel, you can hear and feel the diamond stone
contacting the bevel. Sometimes I found it tough to hold the
chisel in place against the reference edge because the stone
would "grab" the bevel and want to move it. While the
instructions indicate that no water or oil needs to be used on
the diamond stones, I decided to add a few drops of light
machine oil on the stone. This seemed to reduce the incidences
of "grabbing" of the bevel and also helped float the metal
debris taken from the bevel up off the diamond surface. It did
make sharpening a messy affair however. You could also use water
for similar benefit. After removing all the larger scratches
from the grey stone using the black stone, I switched to the
white stone to remove the scratches left by the black stone!
On the left is the chisel in question being
sharpened. The blue carriage is move back and forth (in the
direction of the yellow arrow) while the chisel sits bevel up
and against the straight reference edge in the base (to the left
of the chisel in the pic). On the right you can see the results
after the finer white stone was used. The scratches are much
less visible and the bevel is more refined.
Ok so now I have a somewhat useable bevel. it
is not perfect, but I am merely testing the P.S.S. in perhaps
its toughest situation, on a poorly formed chisel edge to begin
with. So next I hit the bevel with the red and eventually the
green diamond stone, which is 1200 grit. You can certainly feel
the difference in grits as you sharpen the bevel. The scratching
noise gives way to a more rubbing noise and the whole action is
a lot smoother. If you were only touching up edges of
well-formed chisel or plane bevels, then you would probably only
need the green stone, maybe the red but life is much easier when
you get to the point of using these fine stones.
This is the result of sharpening on the P.S.S.
after using the 1200 grit stone. Sorry the front edge looks
rough, but this is where it shaved a bit of the table surface as
I pushed it toward the camera lens for a better macro photo, so
I know the edge is at least pretty sharp! You can also see the
left edge still showing the uneven back with the light gap,
hence the importance of flattening the chisel back to begin
with. You can still see the scratch marks from the stone,
although they are much less visible and I have highlighted them
through photo modification to make them stand out more for the
purpose of the photo.
With the chisel now having
received a 1200 grit diamond treatment, the bevel is much more
refined and the chisel is again reasonably sharp given my lack
of properly flattening the back before hand. It still cuts very
well regardless and is very useable for most carpentry
applications. What it does not have (yet) is a mirror finish
edge. This would require further honing or polishing using even
finer 2000, 4000 or 6000 grit stones, but these are not
available for the P.S.S. (at this stage anyway).
Now onto the plane blade. This
blade has come from a Stanley No.4 bench plane and has the
original edge ground at the factory, but is carrying a couple
hours of use on pine, followed by sitting on a shelf for 4
months. As a result, the edge is showing a few light surface
rust marks, but has a pretty good bevel formed with sharp
corners and edges. This is the type of blade that the P.S.S.
really works well for... that is, one with a well shaped edge
and bevel to begin with, requiring only touching up of the edge,
rather than massive bevel and edge reforming or reshaping.
Here is the plane blade straight from the
Stanley No.4 hand plane. Note the slight surface rust and edge
wear through normal use.
For the plane iron, I went
straight to the 600 grit red diamond stone as the edge just
needed a little touch up. The back of the plane blade was nice
and flat, having worked the back flat and smooth previously. The
plane iron does appear to have a small micro-bevel, and this did
appear to be re-shaped (or rather, widened) slightly during the
sharpening process using the P.S.S. This plane iron has a 25
degree bevel, as opposed to the 30 degree bevel on the chisel,
so I simply added the diamond stones to the preset 25 degree
side of the P.S.S. carriage and away I went. Again I started
with the red stone, using it dry and this worked ok, but I do
find a little water or light oil helps remove the abraded
particles away from the diamond surface and speeds up sharpening
a touch. After the red stone had worked its magic refining the
edge and removing the surface rust, the green 1200 grit stone
was added and a about 20 or so passes of the carriage over the
bevel had it nicely refined and in better working order than it
had come straight out of the box.
You can see the difference in the edge here
after sharpening it using the P.S.S. system. The bevel is
smoothed and the front edge refined to remove any small knicks.
The table surface is not completely flat, hence the light gap
along the bottom edge.
So for edge refining the P.S.S.
works very well and is quick and easy to apply. Now, for the
purpose of the review, I do want to copy and paste and some
claims made on the official product website, and then, in my own
opinion after having used the M,Power P.S.S. system, verify
whether the claims are true or otherwise, or give my opinion
about the marketing blurb.
Claim 1 -
"No Set Up Time"
True, for the most part. If you don't consider adding the
small diamond plates to the carriage or adding oil to the
sliding surfaces, than yes there is no other real set up time,
but adding oil and the diamond stone takes mere seconds so there
is "some" set up time, although it is miniscule.
Claim 2 -
"Safe - Simple - Quick to use"
Yes, Yes, and Yes. The P.S.S. is safe, at least it was for
me, is simple (no complicated procedures or instructions to
follow) and is quick to use, but only for existing edge refining
or touch up. Reshaping bevels is slow and tedious compared to
some other methods.
Claim 3 - "Unique
Lateral Sharpening action ensures a superb edge and a flat
The action is quite unique and does
ensure a reasonable edge that is certainly workable and useful.
It will flat grind a bevel to a good finish, but you will need
the accessory stones, especially the 600 and 1200 grit stones to
get a nice finish suitable for finer detail work. I think if
they could offer a 4000 or 6000 grit stone or similar to fit the
P.S.S. that would make it even better!
Claim 4 -
"The blade remains stationary when sharpening - so it's very
True. Although for really poorly
shaped blade bevels it can be difficult to keep the blade steady
and against the reference fence. But yes the P.S.S. I would
consider safer than many other forms and methods of sharpening.
Claim 5 -
"Sharpens square edge chisels and plane irons from 1/8th' (3mm)
to 2 1/2' (64mm)"
True. It does sharpen a wide variety of chisels and plane
irons in the width range as stated. Note that it does only
sharpen square edge blades however.
Claim 6 -
"Change the grade of DMT
diamond stone instantly with the magnetic lock in (5 DMT grades
True. Diamond stone changes are quick
and easy. No tools are required to add or remove the stones from
the carriage and the magnet holds the blades flat against the
carriage for accuracy. Well thought out system that works, as
most simple ideas do!
Claim 7 -
"Change the sharpening angle from 25' primary to 30' secondary
Yes, just add the diamond stone to the
magnetic lock in on the other side of the carriage to switch
from 25 degrees to 30 degree sharpening, or vice versa.
Claim 8 -
"Built to last - Machined in solid aluminum and finished in a
hard wearing anodize"
The base and carriage are very well
machined and finished smooth. They should last a long time,
assuming light oil is applied regularly to reduce friction
between carriage and base surfaces.
Claim 9 -
"Carriage runs on Nylon 66 slip rails for a smooth action"
I'm no Nylon expert so I can't verify
the "Nylon 66" claim, but yes the carriage rails do provide a
smooth gliding action, helped with occasional cleaning and
re-application of light machine oil.
The M.Power Precision Sharpening System is an interesting
device. Like almost any other sharpening system out there, it
has its pros and cons. On the plus size, it is very simple to
operate and use. The principle is simple but it works. It is
best used by those who like to maintain their blades in good
working order, rather than to let them rust, or wait until they
are severely damaged before regrinding them, costing lots of
metal and shortening the life of the tool. For fine woodworkers
or those who are happy to use and maintain and edge at 1200
grit, this product is ideal because it is one of the quickest
and simplest ways to touch up an edge. No special skills are
required and the slide technique is learnt in minutes, which
really just involves finding the best way to hold the blade flat
and against the fence and to slide the carriage in a consistent
manner that works for you. The only real downside I can see is
that re-shaping blades is time consuming and slow. But this is
no different to any manual re-shaping method or using slow speed
The M.Power P.S.S.
retails from around US$75 - $85 for the kit including the Black
180 grit and White 400 grit stones. The additional stones which
I would highly recommend are available for about US$13 - $15
each. It is a bit of an investment but for those who regularly
wish to maintain their blades, and do so quickly and easily, the
P.S.S. system will work well.
Reviewed October 2009.
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