Anyone who has followed this blog probably knows that I am not one to recommend buying a lot of tools. I've seen too many tools marketed as bestowing or replacing a skill as opposed to enhancing one. While teaching with Curtis (another crusader) this summer, I sometimes thought that we should be teaching a soap box making course.
But sometimes you come across something that you have been needing and it's love at first sight.
I was ambling around the showroom at Highland Woodworking and this one jumped out at me. It's a mandrel for the lathe that has the ability to run three different wheels at once. When coupled with a variable speed lathe, this becomes a sharpening tour de force. It even inspired me to get the defunct old lathe gathering dust in the corner back into working order. The mandrel needs a No. 2 morse taper and a live center on the tailstock. It runs about $50 and can be bought at Highland (you might need to call, I couldn't find it online) or from the maker Beall.
Any of the students that I've worked with around the country this year can describe the multiple grinding and buffing tools that I drag to class. I've found that no matter what the schools have to offer, they just don't add up for the special needs of chairmaking tools.
I set up my mandrel with a large grinding wheel for drawknives, next to a smaller one for drill bits and the fuzzy buffer to remove the burr from carving tools. I used the lathe tool rest to dress the wheels and a Veritas tool rest for grinding. Now I just need someone to manufacture an adjustable toolrest that fits in my lathe banjo and I'm in business.
Besides not having to drag my clunky old pillow block setup around the country, my favorite thing about this setup is that the height of the wheel on the lathe is perfect for freehand drawknife grinding. As a matter of fact, I've never had such an easy time achieving an even grind.
I must say, this is not "essential" to most folks, but if you are looking for a way to get yourself more sharpening real estate in the shop (which is almost always the case in my shop) without bringing in more motors etc... this might just be for you.