Review By Dean Bielanowski  Triton Website - http://www.triton.com.au


Triton T8SH Wetstone Sharpener
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

Sharpening woodworking tools to a mirror finish, ultra-sharp cutting edge has always been a challenge for the majority of beginning and even intermediate woodworkers, and it generally is not until you see and use a mirror-finish, ultra sharp blade that you realize the difference between a tool that is simply termed "sharp", and one that actually IS sharp. Simply grinding a bevel on a tool using your regular dry bench mounted grinder will not give you a truly sharp edge. Likewise, using even a 400 or 800 grit sharpening stone will give you a cutting edge, but it could be so much sharper with further work.

The problem is that, up until now, the arsenal of sharpening tools and devices you needed to get a truly sharp edge has cost a small fortune. Sure, there have been cheaper methods like the "scary sharp" method which uses sandpaper, some glass to mount it on and a fair bit of time, but for the beginning woodworker who may not be clued up on manual sharpening, even that method could seem daunting.

There has been for many years a device that has offered woodworkers an easier way to sharpen tools - the wet grinder. Its ability to sharpen tools with virtually no chance of overheating an edge and drawing the temper (weakening the material making it almost useless) is appealing to many. The one particular wet grinding system that has been considered the top of the class for workshop tool sharpening is the Tormek system. Unfortunately, it is rather expensive and not affordable to many woodworkers, particularly those who undertake woodworking on a hobby basis. In more recent years, the Scheppach line of wet grinders has competed with the Tormeks, and at reduced cost. But now a new line of wet grinder is available from Triton (and a similar one from Scheppach) that brings the setup costs down to just a few hundred dollars (as opposed to more than three times this with the Tormek). These low-priced Chinese-made wet grinders may not be European quality, but can they work just as well? We grabbed a Triton T8SH to see if a Chinese made wet grinder could deliver a truly sharp edge with a mirror finish, and most importantly, could slice wood like there was no tomorrow, and be able to be used by a beginner relatively easily with little learning curve. Let's see if the Triton can put some ticks to those issues.

The Triton T8SH Wetstone Sharpener
On first inspection of the tool, you can see it somewhat resembles that of a Tormek wet grinder. It has a similar large grinding wheel on one side, a leather honing wheel on the other, and a similar looking tool rest. But let's start by looking at the motor...

The T8SH features a 120W induction motor. This sounds like quite a small powered motor, but the tool doesn't really require anything larger. The motor spins the wheel at the relatively slow speed of 120 RPM. When you think about a normal high speed dry grinder spinning at over 3000 RPM, 120 RPM seems turtle paced. But, just like the fairy tale, slow and steady wins the race, and this is the idea behind wet grinders. You won't be winning speed records for sharpening a tool on these units, but in the end, you will probably have a far superior cutting edge than one that has just come off a high speed grinder. Cooling fins on the motor casing will help dissipate heat and ensure the motor will not overheat, but there seems little chance of this as I was able to easily touch the motor after use and it didn't feel hot at all. Slightly warm, but that's about it.

The controls are child's play with a simple standard green ON and red OFF button. I hope I don't need to explain what they do! However, note that because the aluminum oxide wheel and leather buffing wheel are mounted on the same shaft, both will spin when power is applied, so ensure both wheels are clear of obstacles and that you are not touching or holding either before you power on the grinder.

The grinder casing is pressed metal and rather strong. You wont have any trouble with bending or denting it, unless it happens to fall off your worktable or stand you have it sitting on. But rubber feet on all four corners will ensure it won't slide around, even when in use under load. It will tilt or lift before it slides, and if you are tilting or lifting the tool by applying pressure to the wheel via the bevel grinding edge, you are putting too much force on it to start with.

The jig guide bar allows you to use a variety of sharpening jigs and a basic straight-edge grinding jig is included in the kit which will allow you to sharpen straight edge tools like chisels and plane blades etc. At time of writing, no other jigs are available from Triton, however, because the guide bar is exactly the same diameter as both the Tormek and Scheppach machines, you can use any of the jigs made for those brands on the Triton unit. With additional jigs, you will be able to sharpen items like scissors, garden tools, woodturning tools (gouges etc), thicknesser blades and many more types of cutting tools. Some of these jigs are pricey however, so be prepared to invest some extra money in those jigs you require for your own needs. Hopefully Triton will bring out some more affordable jigs for this unit in the near future.

One thing to check out of the box is how square the guide bar is to the guide posts that clamp to the grinder body. It has been reported that some are not truly square, however, on the unit I have, the guide bar was pretty much right on the money. The guide bar "legs" get clamped to the grinder in one of two positions. Depending on the tool being sharpened, it may be preferable to sharpen the edge with the wheel spinning into, or away from the cutting edge. You can move the guide bar to the rear of the tool to have the wheel turning away from the cutting edge. One more check to make is to ensure the guide bar is also square to the grinding wheel's surface. I found the wheel needed a little dressing to square it up out of the box. This can be done with a standard coarse sharpening stone (does take a while), or with either the dedicated diamond dressing tools offered by Scheppach or Tormek (although these are much more costly). Once you have the guide bar squared up to the wheel surface, you are pretty much ready to go.

If you wanted to flatten the back of chisels or plane blades prior to grinding the bevel, this can be done using the side of the grinding wheel, but again, some dressing may be required first if the wheel is not running true out of the box.

Now, before you do any grinding at all, you have to fill the small water well with, you guessed it, water! The grinding stone is somewhat porous so when you first add water, it will draw some of it up into the stone. This is normal, and be sure to just add a little more until you have reached the marked fill line. As the wheel turns, it draws up a steady stream of water over the wheel. It won't splash like crazy, so no need for raincoats, but don't go exposing live wires or electrical items to the water either (should be common sense!). The grinder's own motor/electric circuits are sealed and protected of course.

Time to Sharpen!
As you can see, the machine itself is relatively simple, and sharpening using it is also simple, but a little practice will give you better results. I took a rusty old, cheap chisel I was using for renovation work that was full of nicks and gouges. Now, these nicks and gouges can be removed easily enough on the Triton sharpener, but if they are large or deep you might want to try remove them a little more quickly on a high speed dry grinder to save a little time. But, they can be done on the Triton and I decided to use it to see how long it would take to remove them and sharpen the edge. To begin with, I ran the back of the chisel against the side of the wheel to flatten it as best I could. You could then flatten it further with a fine waterstone, diamond stone, or leather strop if you wish. With the back taken care of, you simply secure the chisel in the sharpening jig, ensuring it is set square to grind a square edge. A small "pin" piece (basically a punched and raised part of the jig) allows to to square the chisel up in the jig relatively quickly. Tighten both the locking knobs to ensure the chisel is held firmly in the jig. Now you have to set the bevel edge to the correct angle. A small angle gauge is provided that rests against the wheel and the backside of the blade. By raising or lowering the jig bar, you can adjust the angle the bevel will sit in relation to the wheel surface. You may need to adjusting the position of the blade in the jig too so that you are grinding somewhere near the top of the wheel (this usually means moving the blade forward or backward in the jig).

Now, assuming we have everything set up correctly, start up the grinder and wait until a steady stream of water is flowing over the wheel (this is almost instantaneous). There are numerous ways to hold the jig and blade, so I won't recommend any particular one, but the aim is to keep the bevel/cutting edge of the blade fully engaged against the wheel right across its edge. This will ensure an even grind. With the edge engaged against the cutting wheel and grinding away, move the jig and blade from side to side in smooth, even strokes, running the jig across the guide bar. This not only ensures an even grind on the cutting edge, but also helps the wheel remain true by using all of the wheel surface so it wears evenly. Because the process is water cooled, you can keep the edge engaged against the wheel pretty much continuously. On a dry grinder, doing this would build up heat rapidly, overheating the tool edge and drawing the temper. There is no such problems with the Triton sharpener. You could keep the edge engaged all day and not have a problem as it is being constantly cooled by the flow of water over the wheel.

Once you have grinded the bevel to a consistent edge (there should be a small but even burr on the back side of the blade - use your finger to check - with care of course), you can go to the next step, which is honing. However, before we get to this step, let me note something. With the Tormek or Scheppach units, you can buy an accessory stone grader. This is a secondary stone which is double sided with two grits which can be used against the grinding wheel to effectively change the grit pattern and turn your ordinary coarse grit stone, to a more refined fine grit stone for further grinding. No stone is available for the Triton as such, but if you purchase one from the other brands mentioned, you can use it on the Triton as an intermediate step before using the honing wheel. All accessories are interchangeable.

But let's get back to the chisel. Now we need to hone the edge. Essentially, this further "grinds"  the edge bringing the scratch pattern to such a fine level that it produces a mirror finish (i.e. removing visible scratches altogether!). It's more of a polishing step really but I guess technically you would call it a type of grinding. The process is relatively the same as with grinding, but the guide bar is now moved to the back of the tool and honing is performed with the honing wheel turning away from the beveled edge (to reduce risk of the edge digging into the honing wheel and ruining it. Using the angle setting gauge, set the guide bar and jig so that the tool rests on the honing wheel's leather surface at the correct angle. Now apply the honing paste (a tin of paste is supplied) to the wheel. A small amount only is required. Now proceed to hone the bevel in the same manner as grinding, with light-medium pressure on the bevel and moving the edge from side to side slightly. Honing will only take a minute or so to produce a mirror finish thanks to the very fine grit in the honing paste.

Once you have a mirror finish on the bevel, you will likely now have a very small wire edge burr on the back side of the blade which must be removed. This can be done freehand on the honing wheel. Carefully hone the back of the blade taking care to not angle the blade up too much and risk rounding over the edge. A horizontal blade position on the honing wheel will help here. Once the back of the blade is honed you have a chisel that is ready to cut. Grab a piece of paper and slice into it with the freshly sharpened edge. If it cuts the paper cleanly and easily, the edge is ultra sharp and ready to go. Try it on some wood and you will be amazed. You will probably also soon realize that even chisels new out of the box from the store are rarely very sharp at all. Using a finely sharpened and honed blade is a true joy and it will certainly put a smile on your face! As with all sharp tools, exercise caution when using them. These sharpened blades will cut like razors!

The process is the same for plane blades and other straight edge cutting blades. To sharpen rounded edge tools like gouges, scissors, planer machine blades or garden tools will require other specialized jigs to be purchased to hold the tool correctly for sharpeneing. As mentioned above, these are not available from Triton at the present time, however the Tormek or Scheppach jigs can be purchased and used with the Triton. I cannot comment on how well the Triton sharpens these other tools as you are only given the straight edge grinding jig, but should I acquire more jigs in the future (and there is a very good chance of that now I know the Triton can do the job) I will be sure to update the review. I know others with the Triton sharpener who claim good results using other jigs for turning tools.

After you have finished using the Triton, be sure to empty the water well fully. If you leave the grinding wheel sitting in water, there is the chance the lower part of the wheel will continue to draw up moisture and unbalance the wheel next time you use it, so empty the water after each use, and use clean, fresh water next time you use the tool.

FAQs
Here are a few frequently asked questions I have seen on various forums relating to these types of sharpening machines. Here are my answers based on my use of the Triton.

Q: Can you tilt or lift the machine if you excerpt too much pressure on the wheel when grinding?
A: Yes this is possible, however, in my experience, if you are excerpting that much pressure, you are pushing harder than you need to and risk overloading the motor if this is done continuously.

Q: What is the difference between the higher priced Tormek unit and the Triton machine?
A: As far as I can tell, or have been told by others who own a Tormek, the grinding wheel and honing wheels on the Triton do not appear to be made to as high a quality. However, if you take the time to true up the grinding wheel correctly, the end results between both machines are quite similar.
The motor may be higher quality as well, but at almost four times the price, you would hope so!

Q: Does the water in the well need to be ice cool to prevent heat buildup when grinding?
A: No, water straight from the cold tap seems to work fine. No heat problems have been evident yet.

Q: Is the tool noisy or does it vibrate a lot?
A: There will be a small amount of vibration if the grinding wheel is not properly secured or not properly trued. After truing the wheel I had no real vibration problems or noise issues, even with the unit just sitting on the workbench. The slow speed motor is very quiet.

Q: Can the motor or grinding wheel be stalled?
A: With excessive pressure yes, but see above. Also, ensure the grinding wheel is properly secured on the shaft, but do not over-tighten. Perhaps the addition of a locking nut or spring washer might be a good basic upgrade to ensure the wheel stays secured? I'll try this one day soon.

Q: Is there a steep learning curve to using the sharpener?
A: No. In fact, this is probably the easiest way to sharpen a tool to a mirror finish I have come across, and it's generally faster than most other manual sharpening methods.

Conclusion
Wet grinders such as the Triton T8SH are really a great way to sharpen woodworking tools. My plane blades and chisels are now all ultra sharp and are a pleasure to work with. Going by responses from others, it seems other cutting tools are also as easily sharpened given the user has the appropriate jigs to do so. Some of these jigs are quite expensive however, so even if you spend the AUD$199 for the Triton Sharpener, expect to spend up to double this much again for a collection of jigs to make the unit practical for the equipped woodworker's shop. A complete package could burn a hole in your budget quite easily, but the sharpness of your tools that result from that investment could easily cut the same hole much faster!

Overall a well-priced version of a popular wet grinding machine design. It will require some tweaks and checks to make it a precise sharpening unit there is no doubt there, but once properly set up it can deliver results similar to the machines costing almost four times as much.

Available to Order through these Companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In Australia
In most cases, the T8SH will need to be ordered in via the Special Orders departments of these retailers...

BUNNINGSHOME HARDWARETHRIFTY LINK
 
In the USA
These machines are identical or similar to the one reviewed...


For more information, or to find dealers worldwide of Triton products, visit www.triton.com.au

Triton T8SH Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited


The Triton Wetstone Sharpener


Simple ON/OFF control buttons


The main toolrest and jig guide bar clamps in two spots


Aluminum Oxide Grinding Wheel


The leather strop wheel on the opposite end


The toolrest can be moved to the backside for grinding away from the edge of a tool, or for better accuracy on the honing wheel


The standard sharpening jig will handle your plane blades, chisels and square edge tools


Here the motor is spinning. Note the glaze on the wheel, which is the water running over it from the water well below


Sharpening a chisel with side-to-side movement across the wheel. Note the water collecting at the front edge of the chisel, helping to keep the blade cool


Here I have deliberately chosen an old, abused, rusty chisel and sharpened the cutting edge. It now has a mirror finish on the bevel (in contrast to the rusty shabby surfaces surrounding it), and reflects the light shining on it brilliantly. This edge was able to slice through sheets of paper without any problem, and wood just as easily too!

 

Information contained on this page is copyrighted to onlinetoolreviews.com.
Reproduction in any form prohibited with express prior written permission.
International copyright law protects reproduction of this content. Copyright 2003-2012

Visit Rockler.com - Woodworking Superstore!