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AW Extra 8/15/13 - The Ultimate Grinding Rig


The Ultimate Grinding Rig

Grind more accurately with shop-made tool rests.

By Mario Rodriguez

Let's face it, the tool rests on most grinders just don’t cut it. They may be fine for sharpening scissors or lawnmower blades, but when it comes to woodworking tools, forget it. They’re often too small and too hard to adjust. In addition, they usually have to be set at an awkward angle that’s really hard on your wrists.

You’re way better off making your own tool rests. I’ve designed a pair that will give you accurate and consistent results that can easily be repeated. Using these rests, you’ll spend less time at the grinder. You’ll be able to hone your tools and get back to work much faster.

My replacement tool rests will fit almost any grinder. They’re fastened to a plywood base, rather than directly to the grinder. This way, they can be positioned to accommodate almost any machine. These rests are designed to fit a 6" Delta grinder, but their dimensions are easy to change for a different model or an 8" grinder.

Chisels and Plane Irons

Making a straight edge is the biggest problem most woodworkers face when grinding chisels and plane irons. That’s because most tools are wider than the grinding wheel, so you have to slide the tool from side to side to grind its whole face. That’s really hard to do with a standard tool rest, but a cinch with this one.

The tool is securely clamped in a commercial tool holder (see Source, below), which slides back and forth on a long piece of electrical tubing. You can lift the holder off the tube at any point to inspect your progress.

The second problem most woodworkers have with a standard tool rest is fine-tuning the grinding angle. Precisely matching an existing angle saves you lots of time on the grinder. This tool rest is easy to adjust: To change the grinding angle, you just move the rest in or out.


Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Lee Valley Tools,, 800-871-8158, Veritas Grinding Jig, #05M06.01.

Click any image to view a larger version.

The left tool rest is simply a piece of electrical tubing mounted on a block. A Veritas tool holder fits it perfectly, and can be slid back and forth or lifted off at any time.

To adjust the angle of the tool’s bevel, simply move the tool rest in or out. A knob locks it in place.

Turning and Carving Gouges

Many gouges have a bevel that’s created by rotating the tool, but making a smooth, even bevel is difficult using a standard tool rest. Steadying the tool is tricky. This extension arm makes the job much easier. Just nest the end of the tool in the arm’s V-shaped cradle, rotate the gouge, and you’re all set.

This arm accommodates gouges of all lengths. It’s hinged in two places to give you maximum flexibility in setting up your tool. Raising and lowering the cradle makes major changes to the bevel angle; to fine-tune the angle, you slide the arm in or out.

Caution: Always place the tool high up on the wheel, as shown in the photo, and use light pressure.

The right-hand tool rest is an articulated arm. To create a perfectly even bevel on a gouge, just rotate the tool.

The arm can be configured to handle tools of almost any length.

Building notes

Base (A) This is simply a piece of 3/4" veneer-core plywood. The base will be easier to pick up and move if you put feet under its corners. Leave a margin on either side of the base so you have room to grip it. Use flat-head machine screws to fasten the grinder to the base; their heads go under the base, in holes that are countersunk. Make sure the grinder is square to the base, so the tool rests will be easier to align.

Tool Rest (M) This is just a length of 3/4" electrical metal tubing (EMT). To drill holes for the mounting screws, first make a long, V-shaped cradle in a 12" long block of wood to support the tube. Drill the holes using a drill press. Drill the smaller ones first, all the way through the tube. Then, drill larger holes to accommodate the heads of the screws and your screwdriver.

Tower (B) This part supports the tool rest. Measure your grinder to determine the tower’s exact height. The tower should hold the tube just above the axis of the grinding wheel. The tower’s shape is designed to nest as close as possible to the grinder. You may have to alter the shape to fit your machine. The semicircular cutout that holds the tool rest is actually the lower half of a hole. Make the tower an inch or two extra tall, as shown in the diagram. Drill the hole, then cut the top of the tower at the indicated angle.

Sliding Platform and Guides (C & D) Install the guides one at a time. Bolt the grinder to the base first, then center the sliding platform on the grinder’s wheel. Make sure the platform is square to the base and clamp it in place. Fasten one guide next to the platform, then place a piece of notebook paper on the other side of the platform, to use as a temporary shim, and fasten the second guide in place.

Articulating Arm Assembly (E - L) Maple is a good choice for these parts because it’s hard, strong and machines well. Glue up the articulating arm (F) from four pieces in order to create a slot.

Grinding Jig

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2010, issue #149.

August/September 2010, issue #149

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