THE NO NONSENSE JOOLTOOL REVIEW------
The purpose of buying the Jooltool was to provide a carving class with an all purpose sharpening system that everyone could learn to use properly and easily. I was originally looking at the Burke sytem and other vertical wheel sharpening systems but went with a reccomendation from the vendor. I was a bit skeptical at first but agreed to try this new horizontal abrasive system.
My expectations: a fast, easy way to sharpen knives, gouges and other edged tools.
I opened the box and unpacked the jool tool and all the accessories. It came with one backer plastic, lots of different grits 3m sand paper appliques(80 grit ceramic disk 1 - 120 grit ceramic disk 1-220 grit ceramic disk 1- A-5 micron Ninja disk 1 - Red (A-20 Micron) Ninja Disc 1 - Blue (A-10 Micron) Ninja Disc 1 - Green (A-35 Micron)), a buffer which needed to go onto the backer, 2 cloth buffingwheels and 2 hunks of white rouge and a dvd. I then took the main unit out of the box. The outer housing was a bright white and red plastic, which looked cool yet cheap at the same time. Its footprint is 8" round so it doesn't take up much space. I then popped the jooltool dvd into my player to learn what this new toy could do. It promised to be a revolution in sharpening systems and showed a wide variety of edged tools and bits being sharpened quite easily. Would it work for me? Only one way to find out.....now for the fun part.
The SET UP- The unit needed to be mounted onto a piece of plywood or benchtop in order to stabilize it. It comes with two screw holes to make this easy to do. Then onto setting up a disk. You simply peel and stick a sandpaper disk onto a plastic backer disk, you then screw this assembly onto the tapered spindle until hand tightened. The abrasive surface is mounted down. You reach around and turn the variable speed unit on. You take your tool to be sharpened and approach it from underneath the spinning abrasive. The unique cut of the 3m pads allows you to see through and watch as your tool comes in contact with the abrasive.
What I liked about the system: Its bright plastic outer housing is pleasant and inviting as a toy would be. It seems less intimidating to approach, especially for the women who may shy away from shop machinery. The set up was quick and easy. There is a slight learning curve for those who are new to sharpening and a retraining of the mindset for those used to vertical sharpening systems. It requires a slight bit of practice to bring the tool up properly to the abrasive pad but once this is mastered it is quite easiy to follow the bevel of the tool. it also comes with some heavy duty diamond abrasive pads which make grinding simple. It is able to sharpen any edged tool and/or bit that will fit into it. it can be used on a variety of materials, metals, woods, ceramics and can be used for sanding smaller objects. The see through capability and the bottom up approach work together well and allow you to view the edge of your tool as you sharpen although the visibility is only as good as the overhead lighting in your work area. I do like that the unit is on a slight tilt towards the user, making it more comfortable to use. It did sharpen quite well, fast and efficiently. I started with a coarse grit and stepped down through a medium and fine disk and followed that up with a buffing pad with rouge. each step took less than 30 seconds. Changing the backer disks was quick and simple(2-3 seconds) and required no tools. It works in a standard outlet. It takes up very little bench space. It comes with lots of bright colored cool accessories and disks. 3M produces the sanding disks and they seem to be a high quality product. The design of the disks allows cool air to circulate up and around the abrasive disk and tool being sharpened to lessen the possibility of burning or losing the temper of the tool being worked on. I did find that my steel stayed relatively cool. The unit was quite quiet and smooth sounding. There were no complicated controls to learn, just one variable speed power knob. There is an easy to access fuse panel. The unit creates very little dust or dirt as rouge is used only in the final polishing stage. It does have a hood around it to keep any debris from flying away. There is a vacuum connector built in if you wanted to do some wood sanding or other dust/dirt producing application. It easily sharpened and polished various gouges and chisels and it removes the hollow grind that is inevitable with a vertical wheel system.
The things I didn't like: The price of the unit $279, the price of accessories $16-40 each. It really requires more items in its standard package. It may price itself out of the market of the average hobbiest. In order to make good use of this machine, more than one plastic backer is required but thats all that comes with it. I had the good sense to preorder an additional 3 set of plastic backers (around $38) to give me a total of 4 disks on which to apply the sharpening disks and buffing pads. Honestly, I could have used another 3 at least. The price of extra abrasive pads varies according to the grit but are a minimum of $16. All in all, the initial outlay for this unit was approx. $400. Switching between the different grits if you only have one plastic backer disks seems like it would be a pain in the butt as you will have to peel one off and replace it with another. I can't imagine how many times you can do this before they no longer stick or until you tear the pad.
Even though I said I liked the red and white outer housing I also didn't like it because it looks a bit cheap and flimsy, and men who are used to heavy duty looking machines in their shops will be taken aback by its appearence.
Care needs to be taken when sharpening double sided knifes as a rotation problem may cause the blade to catch the edge of the abrasive pad, it can kick the knife back and/or chew up the pad.
One thing that particularly irked me was to have the variable power switch set on the back of the machine so that you had to reach around it to turn it on or off and to adjust the speed.
One other thing I didn't like is that there is no where on or in the unit to store all of the accessories that should be at hand.
My conclusion: All in all, I would give the Jooltool a 4.3 rating out of 5. It did meet my sharpening expectations. It is a nifty, lightweight, possibly portable sharpening system. You cannot beat seeing the surface of the blade that you are sharpening. It is easy to setup, easy to understand and use. It is highly efficient and puts a nice edge on a carving tool but as with every other sharpening system, the skill of the user has to be taken into consideration also. It is quiet, relatively clean and takes up little space. It may justify its price by its promised longevity and durability but that remains to be seen. Also, as my unit is new, I cannot attest to the life of any sanding disks. I sharpened roughly 10 or so tools and there doesn't look to be much wear on them. If you are a tool junky, like myself, it is a really cool toy and I would imagine that as more people acquire these machines, more and more accessories will become available as happened with the dremel. I hear a flexshaft is in the works now. It looks promising for the future.
My recommendations: The on/off switch needs to be moved for both safety and comfort reasons. Also for safety reasons, it should be advised that double edged knives should only be sharpened at higher speeds. it is too easy to catch the blade when the pads are spinning at the slower speeds. The basic package needs to be beefed up to include more of the plastic backer disks. And if at all possible there needs to be a built in light or a fitting added which would allow a light to be added in some way. While understanding that the system and its accessories are new to the market, perhaps as more are sold, something could be done to lower the cost of the accessories.
Tags: Jooltool Review Jool Tool Sharpener Sharpening System