Tool Sharpening Templates

Note: This blog entry is a pointer to something that has existed on my web site for a long time.

I like to create sharpening templates for my tools. The templates allow me to quickly and easily set up my grinder. I get a consistent grind every time.

Click here for PDF file of Tool Sharpening Templates.

How To Use

Here is how you use the templates.

Start by setting up the distance from grinding wheel to “V” arm.

Next set up the angle on the Wolverine Varigrind jig. Using the notches on the Varigrind Grinding jig can be confusing. They are not numbered. Which side of the notch? I avoid this confusion by just matching up the jig with the picture on my template.

The last thing you need to known is how far the Tip of the gouge needs to extend beyond the end of Varigrind jig.

Self Centering Vise (Pen Drilling Vise)

I decided to turn some Pens and Bottle Stoppers. I need some cheaper items to draw people in at Craft Shows, etc.

I then decided it’s time to invest in one of those Pen Drilling Vises for my drill press. I need a vise that will allow me to drill center holes in pen and bottler stopper blanks, etc without a lot of dorking around centering each blank.

Pen Drilling Vises

I looked at the commercially available “Pen Drilling Vises” and decided they were all to light weight, wimpy and to expensive for what you get. See photos below. $50 for Aluminum and little wimpy screw threads? Do they really center things up? Are they rock solid?

Some of the “Pen Drilling Vises” out there only move only one jaw when you tighten them. The “other” is fixed. Or one jaw moves and the other is spring loaded? No good!

A REAL self centering vise should move BOTH jaws inward when you tighten it. Both jaws should be driven by a ACME thread crank screw. The vise should be rock solid, made of steel or cast iron.

Self Centering Vise

I decided that a Metal Working Self Centering Vise was a better deal. See photo below. They cost 3 times as much at $150. But you can do a lot more with them. They are built like a tank.

I looked for a self centering vise with “V” grooves in the jaws. The “V” allows you to easily center a blank in the jaws. I could not find a vise in my price range. So, I decided to just make my own replacement jaws out of wood.

I decided the Model D4064 Self Centering Vise made by Shop Fox (aka Woodstock International) was the cheapest one that looked good. I got my from for $149 with free Amazon Prime shipping.

A mental midget at Amazon shipped the 1st one to me in a box with no packing around the heavy vise. It arrived at my house with a broken handle. I complained and returned it. Amazon paid for returned shipping. They shipped me a replacement. Again in a box with no packing around it. Fortunately, it survived the 2nd time.

Installing the Vise

Below the photo shows my new self centering vise installed on my drill press.

Below the left photo shows the self centering vise being used to drill a pen blank.

The right photo shows the vise being used to drill a LARGER bottle stopper blank. The masking tape on the drill is a depth stop.

The photos below show the steel jaws that come with the vise.

I replaced the steel jaws with wooden ones that have a “V” in the center. The jaws are tall enough to completely support most pen blanks.
The “V” self centers blanks in the jaws.

The photos below shows my wooden jaws. They are 1″ thick by 2″ tall by 4″ wide. I made them out of hard maple. The “V” in the jaws is 3/16″ deep.

I used a table saw, tiled to 45 degrees to cut the “V”. Then I used a band saw to cut a 1/8″ wide notch (see blue arrow in left photo) in the bottom of the “V”. If I had to do this again, I would cut the “V” on the band saw. It would be easier and safer.

The notch allows better centering of blanks that are not perfectly square. The vise centers on the sides of the blank rather than on the corners. The corners float in the notch.

I used one of the steel jaws “C” clamped to one of the wooden jaws to locate the mounting holes for the jaws. I drilled thru one wooden jaw. Removed the steel jaw. Then “C” clamped the two wooden jaws together with the “V” lined up. Then I drilled thru 2nd wood jaw.

The red arrow on the right photo points to a chunk of 1/4″ plywood. When I am installing a blank the plywood holds it up. Then it prevents the bottom of the hole from blowing out when drilling. The plywood just floats under the jaws.

Below the photo shows how I center the vise under the drill:

  1. Start by loosening up the table clamps.
  2. Lower the drill into the vise.
  3. Tighten the vise on the drill. This centers the vise on the drill.
  4. Tighten the table clamps.

Below the left photo shows what the bottom of the plywood under the centering vise looks like. The right photo shows what the table on my drill press looks like.

I always mount all of my vises on my drill press via a chunk of plywood with cleats. The cleats just drop down over the drill press table and hold the vise in place.
The vise is attached to the plywood by #14 SHEET METAL screws (not wood screws). This method allows me to quickly install or remove the vise without dorking around with bolts and clamps.

After I mount it the first time the vise is ALWAYS located in the correct place on the plywood. I just have to loosen the table clamp on the main post and swing the table left or right to align the vise under the drill chuck.

The next photo shows that I had to mount the Self Centering Vise off center on the plywood so the handle can be rotated.

I also had to add some “C” clamps to clamp the plywood to drill press table to make everything rock solid. Because, my cleats are a little loose.

Woodburners & Pyrography

Here is my response to an e-mail asking about woodburners.

I currently own and use a Detail Master Excalibre (the silver one with 2 ports) with lots of different Fixed Tip Detail Master Vented pens (the silver aluminum ones). I also have a couple of Razertip Tips sets that I mount in a Razertip interchangeable tip pen.

If I was buying a new system today I would purchase a Burnmaster Eagle (the red one with 2 ports) with Burnmaster Replaceable Tip Pen and Tips. The 10 tips available from Burnmaster are good for beginners. In the long run you can add more tips by purchasing sets of tips from Razertip.

Currently the $259 Burnmaster Eagle Package available and other retailers for roughly the same price looks real good to me. I like having 2 pens and only need one set of 10 interchangeable tips.

Detail Master

The Detail Master Excalibre and Sabre units are ok but I don’t like the Detail Master Pens.

I went with the Fixed Tip Detail Master Vented Pens because woodcarvers, etc said they were the best. The pens handles are made of aluminum. This sucks! Because, aluminum is one of the best and fastest conductors of heat.

I like to burn really hot and fast. i.e. with the Detail Master close to or maxed out at 130 watts. So, I hate the Aluminum Detail Master pens because the handles get to hot to hold to fast! I have tried all the tricks. The rubber finger protectors, the O rings, wrapping them with all kinds of things and still they get to hot to hold.

I have also tried making my own pens from dowels, PVC pipe, etc. These work better than Detail Master pens. Stay cooler. The problem is you have to figure out how to mount the tips and keep the mounting points separated so they don’t short out. The Burnmaster Replacable Tip Pen is very similar to my home made pens. At $27 it may be cheaper and it is definitely simpler for most people.

I also have trouble with the Detail Master not being able to keep up with me when burning long lines. Not enough heat.


I don’t own a Burnmaster but I have tried them. I like the  Burnmaster. The Detail Master and Burnmaster units are both rated to be 130 watts. But the Burnmaster seems to have more balls.

I like the plastic Burnmaster Replaceable Tip Pen a lot better than aluminum Detail Master pens. It does not get to hot to hold really fast.

Going with replaceable tips is a lot cheaper than fixed tips. I originally went with the fixed tip Detail Master pens rather than
replaceable tip Detail Master pens because people said the replaceable tips loosened up to easily and did not conduct heat well. My experience with Razertip Interchangeable Tips suggest otherwise. I have not run into any trouble.


I like the Interchangeable Tips from Razertip. They have lots of different sets available. Good low price solution. You can directly use the Razertip Interchangeable Tips in Burnmaster Replaceeable Tip Pen you don’t need to purchase a Razertip pen.

The Ball Tips – 5 Piece Set is probably the first set you should add after Burnmaster 10 tip set.  You can use the smallest ball tip to sign your name. However, a magic marker works a lot better.

I do most of my burning with short and long Skew tips (any manufacture) followed by Razertip Small Ball tips.

In the past the Razertip Woodburners were to small and wimpy for me to consider. I like to burn HOT and fast! I see they now have some 10 amp wood burners. These may be ok. But, I don’t know. The Detail Master and Burnmaster only advertise 130 watts, not amps. There is not enough advertised data to convert watts to amps or vise versa. Is it 10 amps at 12 volts DC? If so then it is only 10 * 12 = 120 watts. If AC then we need a power factor to convert amps to watts. Is the 130 watts at the input or output? The bigger Burnmaster units with their cooling vents look like a better bet.


I like some of the Colwood pens. But, there burners are to small and wimpy for me. I like to burn HOT and fast! The 130 watt Detail Master is not big enough for me. The Colwood burners are only 32 watts???

Signing your Name

Wood burners don’t work for me when it comes to signing my name. The grain in the wood always causes an ugly bump when I try to sign my name due to the curves in the letters “C”, “a”, “o”, etc in Carl Ford.

I like to sign my name with a “Ultra Fine Point” Sharpie permanent magic marker.

The “Writing” tips available from any of the manufactures definitely do not work for me! The only thing that comes close to working is the small ball tip sold by Razertip. It is like the ball
in a ball point pen.

The Burner from Hell

I made my own wood burner in a Graeme Priddle class that I call the wood burner from hell. It is a 15 amp Auto battery charger (NAPA Mode 85-439) with an old fashion light dimmer on the 120 volt input. It is really more of a wood brander than a wood burner. You get flames when you touch this sucker to wood.

The big problem with this burner is pens and tips. It melts them like butter. You have to make your own out of nichrome wire, etc.

If you are interested look around on the web for a Graeme Priddle class or demo. Or look for “DIY Graeme Priddle Style Wood Vaporizer System“. It is way to much burner for most people and I don’t want to be responsible.

Woodburning Books

Pyrography is another name for Woodburing.

Pyrography, Learn to Burn by Fox Chapel Publications is my favorite and the cheapest. It is really not a book. It is a Special Edition of a magazine. I like the “Experimenting with Texture” section by Sue Walters on pages 70 & 71. It shows 63 pictures of sample woodburning patterns. Pick the one you like and give it a try. The projects in this book are simple and can be applied to round wood turnings.

Great Book of Woodburning by Lora Irish is a good book. It has some pages that show different patterns but not as good as Fox Chapel book. The projects in this book are very appealing but a little complex and hard to apply to round wood turnings? Any of the books by Lora Irsh are good.

The Art of Woodburning by Betty Auth is very appealing. This book shows only a handful of basic woodburning patterns. The projects are middle of the road in complexity and some can be applied to round wood turnings.