Review By Wayne Davy  Veritas Website - http://www.leevalley.com

Veritas® Jointer Blade Sharpener
 

 

Veritas Jointer Blade Sharpener
 Review

By
Wayne Davy

RRP: US$37.50

Once you own a Jointer and a Thicknesser, be it individual machines or a combo like yours truly, a whole new world opens up. No longer do you have to hunt down those elusive timber sizes that your latest plan demands. And, in particular, old reclaimed timber gains a very special appeal. Not only due to it usually being obtained at the right price (i.e. free), but also for other attributes, such as the width of the old boards, stability and aged look you cannot get with new timber.

Now, owning these very nice machines presents one small problem. At some stage, you will have needed to either buy a new set of blades, or have your blades professionally sharpened. Now this is fine and should be expected as blades become dull, especially when planing particularly hard or 'abrasive' woods. In addition, getting small nicks in the blades is, unfortunately, very easy to do.

So, after grabbing your nice new or re-sharpened set of blades and fitting them in your machine, you proceed to plane down those nice pieces of reclaimed wood you picked up. And, as has happened to me (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this), the unthinkable happens and you find part of an old hidden tack/nail/screw that puts a nice little nick in your blades! It is usually then that you (well me) look at your Little Wizard metal detector hanging unused on the wall!

So, its Saturday and you really wanted to start making your latest project but you only have half the timber planed and you are not looking forward (or even going to attempt) to hand-plane the rest. What can you do? Sharpen them yourself of courseHowever, sharpening blades and removing small nicks is not at all easy unless you have an expensive motorised sharpening machine OR a nice little jig to help you such as the one made by Veritas - the subject of today's review.

What is it?
I think I’ll let Veritas explain their product to you: 

A commercial sharpening service or a sophisticated home grinder is necessary for badly nicked blades. The Veritas® Jointer Blade Sharpener is designed to restore blades dulled from normal use, even if they contain minor nicks. It clamps blades up to 8" wide (including hand-plane blades) for sharpening on PSA-backed abrasives. Just stick the abrasive to a flat surface (plate glass works well), adjust the elevating screw until the bevel is flat on the abrasive, and use it as you would any other honing guide. After basic sharpening, switch to a fine abrasive, and hone a fine micro-bevel. Two position stops ensure successive blades are honed identically. It is both easy and effective, letting you quickly restore blades that you would probably let become far duller before sending out for service.

Source – Lee Valley/Veritas web site

Well, let's see if it lives up to their marketing hype shall we?

Unpacking the product
The unit comes shrink wrapped on a cardboard display board and contains the following

  • The Blade Sharpening Jig itself

  • One half sheet of 15 micron (1000 grit) adhesive backed sandpaper

  • Printed Instructions

Fit and finish of the Blade Sharpening jig was very good and is up to the standard that I have come to expect from all Veritas products. The Jig is made of cast aluminium, which has been painted black, and has five slots in the front section and a threaded hole in the rear arm. Three brass knurled knobs, holding down individual steel ‘U’ clamps, are fitted to three of the slots and are used to hold the Jointer blade. Another two brass knurled knobs are fitted in the remaining slots.  These are used as the position stops so that subsequent blades can be easily inserted into the same position as the first. A long brass bolt, including a stop nut, is fitted in the rear arm and is used to set the angle of the jig. This bolt has a plastic ‘button’ fitted in the end that is designed primarily so the jig slides easily during use. The jig and its fittings all feel very solid and the knurled knobs are fairly easy to adjust.

The pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) backed silicon carbide sandpaper provided is top quality but I was a bit disappointed that only a half sheet was supplied.

The instructions provided are in the form of a four-page leaflet but they are quite comprehensive, well written and give the user a step-by-step guide to the use of the jig, as well as a troubleshooting section plus hints and tips along the way.  After giving them a good read, I felt quite confident to start using the jig.

Setting Up
There is only one required item that is not supplied and that is a dead flat surface to place the PSA abrasive on in preparation for sharpening. Veritas recommend using a ¼” (or thicker) piece of plate glass as your lapping surface. They can also supply these, if required, in tempered glass for safety. Another alternative they suggest is to use the infeed or outfeed table of the Jointer – I guess they assume you have one if you bought their Jig
!

As I already use the Scary Sharp sandpaper method for general sharpening, I had a nice thick piece of plate glass already set-up (glued to a piece of chipboard so that the edges cannot be easily damaged). So, it was a simply matter of removing the small pieces of sandpaper and cleaning it up in preparation for applying the large PSA abrasive. I also stuck down another coarser piece of 3M abrasive next to the supplied one. I did this because I would need to grind out some nicks from my blades before sharpening and honing them - more on this later.

Ok, I had my lapping surface prepared, on to the sharpening.

In Use
I chose a set of blades that had a couple of small nicks in them
. The same blades were also quite dull from extended use. Following the instructions, the first job was to flatten the bottom (face) of the blade. You need to do this because, quoting from the instructions, “Most manufacturers ship blades with griding marks on the face or bottom that, if not removed, would leave a series of fine saw teeth on the tool edge.

This is done without using the jig and is achieved by simply placing the face of the blade on the sandpaper and sliding it around in a figure eight pattern. There is no need to remove all the grinding marks, only at minimum, the ones on the first 1/16” of the blade from the edge. You can tell you are done when it is nice and shiny, indicating all machining marks have been removed.

Next I fitted the blade into the Jig (finally) and commenced setting it in position.  Fitting the blade is done by loosening the three ‘blade clamp’ thumbscrews and then inserting the blade under the clamps (bevel facing down). Next, I lightly tighten the clamps and then turned the jig over and adjusted the blade position in the jig. What you need to achieve here is to have approximately 1/8” of the blade extended out from the front of the jig and have it positioned as close to parallel with the jig as possible. Once I had it right, I tightened up the clamps to lock it in.  Lastly, I loosened the two ‘position stop’ thumbscrews and slid them down to meet the back of the blade and then re-tightened them. These two nuts will make it much easier to set up the second blade in the set later on.

Ok, my blade was installed but there was one last thing I needed to do and that was to set the angle adjusting screw on the arm of the jig. The aim here is to get the blade bevel in complete contact with the abrasive sheet by winding the adjusting screw up or down. To do this, you take a couple of test stokes on the abrasive and then check were the material is being removed from and adjust as appropriate. I found that taking a black felt marker and painting the whole bevel made this setting easier to achieve as it was simpler to see were the bevel was making contact.  Once I had it set up so that all the black ink was being removed, I locked the adjusting screw by tightening its locking nut. 

Now that the bevel angle was set, I could finally proceed to sharpen the blade. As my blade had a few small nicks, I started with my coarser 3M paper and commenced sliding the jig back and forth. Veritas recommend that pressure be mainly applied during the push stroke, as this will stop a wire edge from forming on the top of the leading edge. They also suggest that you use both hands and spread your fingers out, putting even pressure on the blade. Once I got the hang of holding the jig, I managed to get a nice rhythm going but it did take a little while to remove enough metal along the whole blade edge so that the nicks were completely removed.

Now that my blade was nick free, I commenced the actual sharpening on the supplied PSA paper using the same procedure. This did not take long at all and I soon had a nice shiny bevel along the complete blade length.

Ok, my blade was sharp but not incredibly sharp so time to create a micro-bevel.  To do this, the rear adjusting screw is screwed down about half a turn and then locked in place. This increases the angle of the jig by about ½ a degree. I then placed the jig on the fine abrasive again and moved it back and forth until I had a nice polished micro-bevel along the blade. Now it was sharp!

All right, I had one nice sharp blade, on to the second one in the set. I managed to set-up, grind and sharpen this blade much faster due to now being quite familiar with the jig. Also, the ‘position stop’ thumbscrews saved a fair bit of set-up time.  Now, as I had removed a fair bit of metal from the first blade when grinding out the nicks, as mentioned in the instructions, I had to ensure that I removed the same (or close to) the same amount from the second blade. This is necessary to ensure that the blades end up the same size/weight and will be balanced in the Jointer's cutter block. So a little bit of checking was also required while I was removing the nicks on the second blade. However, it was not long before I had two nick free and very sharp jointer blades.

As I had another ‘new’ set of blades, I thought I would do a little ‘unscientific’ comparison by using the old hair-shaving test. The result was that the Jig sharpened blades gave me a nice bald patch on my arm and the “new” ones were flat out removing one hair! So, I decided that the “new” set needed a quick sharpen/hone on the jig - just so that I could have a matching bald patch on the other arm!

Conclusions
I must say that installing the blade was a bit fiddly the first time I tried it but the second blade was much easier to fit particularly since the stops were now in the right position. After that, the second “new” set of blades I honed were a piece of cake to fit. As they always say - “Practice makes perfect”.

The actual sharpening of blades is quite easy but removing nicks from them does take a bit of elbow grease. In fairness, Veritas do say that to remove nicks and chips from blades, it is best done on a machine first (grinder or belt sander) before using the jig but they do say that you can use the jig to do it as well. The reason I decided to use the Jig to remove the nicks was so that I would have a perfectly flat/straight blade edge which is hard to achieve using a grinder unless you have a somewhat sophisticated set-up (which I don’t). I also wanted to test the Jig in its ‘extreme’ usage and I must say I was very happy with the results.

The jig is not just limited to Jointer blades. As pointed out in the instructions, it is quite capable of sharpening Hand Plane blades as well by simply changing the clamp positions. One little point. I think that the thumbscrew knobs could be a bit larger to make them a bit easier to tighten/loosen. All in all though, the Veritas Jointer Blade Sharpener is a winner in my book and I know it will save me time, money and not to mention the hassle of sending blades out to be sharpened.  Now, were did I put that nice old Cedar and my Little Wizard metal detector??

You can order this item online at www.leevalley.com
In Australia, order from Timbecon

Veritas Jointer Blade Sharpener Photos
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The Veritas Jointer Blade Sharpener as found on the shelves of woodworking stores


Setting up for some sharpening action. Instructions are easy to read and follow. Here we have some plate glass and various grits of sandpaper ready to go.


Setting the blade into the
U-clamps on the jig.


Here we have blackened the bevel with ink to ensure correct, and most even setting of the blade in the sharpening jig


After several passes over the abrasive, our ink has been removed quite evenly, verifying the correct placement and angle of the blade in the jig.


It is a little tough to see in this picture, but this blade has a couple of nicks in it that need attention!


Running the blade over the PSA abrasive to sharpen our blade.


Compare this shot (after we have used the Veritas Jointer Blade Sharpener to remove the nicks and sharpen the blade) to the picture above. You can certainly see the difference!

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