Shopsmith Sharpeners and Grinders Information, History & Review

Over the years Shopsmith has offered several systems for sharpening tools. The first one dates back to the 1950's and was simply what is known as a rubber bonded abrasive wheel, which is a fancy way of saying a grinding wheel made from abrasive particles glued together with rubber. This was made by a company called Cratex for Magna, and later Shopsmith. This wheel was mounted on a moulder/dado arbor and the sharpening was done freehand using the Shopsmith's table to support the tool. This wheel was very effective and was popular for several decades, but the lack of a guard led to the death of this option.

Next came the small 110 volt
Shopsmith Sharpener which was made for Shopsmith by WEN. If you don't know WEN, you could sum-up their quality by saying that they aspired to one day be as good as Black and Decker. The "grinding wheel" was actually a cylinder, and this was a wet grinder, meaning that water was used for cooling/lubricating. The water was added to a small resivour and a sponge transferred the water to the stone. The tool rest was very small and rinky-dink, but this was improved slightly in the '80s with the addition of a small jointer knife support adapter. This was sold as model 600000. These can also be found on eBay under the name WEN, Master Mechanic and probably several others, though the SS version had special SS exclusive guides.

Next came the
Shopsmith Sharpening Guide for Turning tools, such as Chisels and Gouges. This was (and still is) a plastic guide that mounts on either the main table of the Mark V via the miter slot, or on an extension table via mounting holes or a sub-table that mimics the miter slot. This fixture guides the tools past a Silicone Carbide abrasive disc which is mounted on the standard 12" steel sanding disc. With a little practice you can easily restore the factory angles on the standard set of 5 turning tools.

The
Shopsmith Grinding Wheel Guard was introduced to address the problems both Shopsmith and the owners of Shop-smith tools were having with the the old Rubber Bonded wheel mounted on a Dado arbor. This old method was no longer being recommended by Shopsmith Inc. because it was just plain unsafe. There was no tool rest, the wheel was just spinning out in space with no guards and the sparks (metal and stone debris) flew everywhere, in some cases causing injury to the user and damage to the way tubes. Shopsmith first introduced the "Shopsmith Grinding Wheel Guard", which solved all of these problems, but shortly thereafter they introduced the Power Station which allowed the Shopsmith Grinding Wheel Guard to mount, but the wheel ran the wrong way.

Enter the
Shopsmith Grinding Wheel Guard II.
Shopsmith Grinding Wheel Guard II is pictured here and one thing that indicates that it's the second iteration is the metal "spark arrestor" at the top of the wheel. This "arrestor" is actually a second tool rest which when the unit is mounted on the PowerStation becomes the tool rest, and the other rest becomes the arrestor. V
ery clever. There was a bolt-on jointer knife sharpening guide, which isn't much more than two strips of metal and two cap screws, but they do the job.

This was followed by my favorite sharpening tool, the 555471 Shopsmith Planer/Jointer Knife Sharpener. This tool is made from two extruded aluminum members, a couple comfortable handles, and a few assorted bolts, wing nuts and springs.

The Shopsmith Planer/Jointer Knife Sharpener is used in conjunction with the Conical Sanding Disc and Silicone Carbide sanding discs. This tool is slicker than snot! It will sharpen a single 12" planer knife or all three 4" jointer knives at once!

Lastly came the Shopsmith Wet Dry Grinder, Wet Wheel Sharpening System, which Shopsmith outsourced to a factory in Taiwan. This unit was very similar to wet wheel's sold by Delta and Grizzly a
t that time. (The top pic is of a similar Delta tool) It featured a small high speed wheel for grinding, and a massive stone wet wheel for sharpening.

Notice how much the Shopsmith unit looks like the Delta. The Shopsmith grinder show here has been retrofitted with an aftermarket tool rest from Lee Valley.
(Shopsmith grinder photo provided by fellow Shopsmith-fan Floyd Burkett. Thanks Floyd!) 

Now, you might be asking yourself "What's with the Shopsmith Oscillating Drum Sander pic?" Good question, and one of these days remind me to tell you about Shopsmith's ingenious use of the automotive water pump bearing assembly, but for those of you who own the Shopsmith Oscillating Drum Sander rig shown at right, take a minute and remove the four short screws that hold the aluminum name plate on. Now, remove it and flip it over... SURPRISE! Very clever guys in the SS Model Shop!


Click here to find current Shopsmith Grinding and sharpening tools for sale on eBay.
(Clik on pics to Biggie Size 'em)
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