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
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
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 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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
For more information, or to find dealers
worldwide of Triton products, visit
Triton T8SH Photos
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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
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!