Introduction: DIY Sharpening System From a Broken Breadmaker

Picture of DIY Sharpening System From a Broken Breadmaker

Chisels, plane blades and other edged tools need regular TLC to keep them functioning properly. Mine were getting blunt and I'd misplaced my oilstone, so I decided to make a powered sharpening system using parts hacked from a broken breadmaker. I also used a busted toaster oven to get a glass baseplate for creating the final edge, and a ruined briefcase to make a leather strop.

Step 1: Repurposing and Sharpening Philosophy

Picture of Repurposing and Sharpening Philosophy

We've now had 7(!) breadmakers (3 different brands; 4 were replaced under warranty) fail from metal fatigue on the paddle driver. It seems it is not in the manufacturers' best interests to make this part strong enough to survive more than a few hundred kneadings. So, as a result, I had a broken breadmaker handy, and this one had some interesting parts - a beefy motor, a massive gear and a thick circular glass viewing window. I figured I could salvage it to make a rotating sandpaper disc to do the heavy work on my tools before doing some quick establishment of the final edge with some finer grade of sandpaper by hand. Basically, the breadmaker would be hacked to mimic WorkSharp's $250 power sharpening system... for $0.

It is important to find an effective method of sharpening that works for you. For example, I long ago gave up trying to get kitchen knives conventionally sharp, because I found that a cheap crossed carbide sharpener gives my knives wicked micro serrations that are super-effective slicers of everything from fresh baked bread to soft tomatoes. However, wood is a lot harder than food (at least it should be...), so you need a better way of getting a good lasting edge.

Step 2: Dismantle Breadmaker

Picture of Dismantle Breadmaker

Pretty straightforward - remove all the screws and you should be able to extract the innards fairly easily. You need to keep the round glass window, motor, power cord, capacitor, and gearing system. Recycle the rest.

The breadmaker I used was this Black & Decker one, which I don't think is manufactured any more. There do seem to be newer ones with round windows though, from Hamilton Beach and Oster. Keep an eye out for them at yard sales and the like.

Step 3: Make Platter

Picture of Make Platter

You will need a circular platter to mount the round of glass on. I cut mine out of 15 mm plywood using my router table; I just clamped a piece of wood with a nail in it at the right distance from the outside of the bit, raised the router into the work piece a few mm, rotated 360 degrees, and repeated until I had a nice circle. I chamfered the edge then screwed the large gear onto the plywood circle through the plastic arms. This necessitated drilling a hole through the steel mounting plate.

Step 4: Add Glass

Picture of Add Glass

To allow removal of the glass for easy replacement of the sandpaper, I used adhesive velcro to join the two discs, and glued a 120 grit round of sandpaper on the glass.

Step 5: Build Housing

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I needed a way to mount the sharpening system, so I built a plywood box out of offcuts to keep the gears and motor out of harm's way. There is nothing fancy about the box - it is just two frames, one inside the other to provide a ledge for the metal frame to be secured to. The pictures show how it was built. I haven't specified measurements because I didn't take any myself - I just marked against the metal frame. The box was assembled using wood glue and a nailgun, my favorite method for quick builds. The top and bottom are 6 mm plywood, screwed in place for easy removal in case of maintenance issues. Note the cross piece with slots cut for the belt to protect the motor from dust.

Step 6: Add Switch

Picture of Add Switch

Caution: electricity is potentially dangerous. If you are in any doubt about a task involving wiring, consult a professional electrician.

I also added a large switch to the side (a regular wall switch from my box of electronics). All the wiring was done with pigtails and wire nuts, and was not complicated (just pop the switch in line with the line coming from the wall). The disc doesn't spin all that fast (about 200 rpm, based on inspection of video - it takes about 7 frames at 24 fps to describe one full rotation), but that's OK - remember that this process works just fine by hand, and you don't want the tool getting too hot anyway. The commercial one spins at ~600 rpm.

Step 7: Magnetic Sweeper Arm

Picture of Magnetic Sweeper Arm

I screwed a hinge from my bits box so that it hangs over the disc, and added a large rare earth magnet to it. This sweeps up the metal powder you make during the sharpening process. It generates a surprising amount and fast, and you will have to take the magnet off periodically to clean off the metal dust.

Step 8: Finishing Plate

Picture of Finishing Plate

The powered platter does a decent job of restoring the bevel on a tool that has been damaged or nicked, but it won't get the tool really sharp. For that, a nice cheap simple approach is the scary scarp method; basically, using sandpaper of increasing grit counts glued to plate glass. I didn't have any plate glass handy, so I removed the glass door from a broken toaster oven, scraped off all the glue and scorch marks, and gave it a good clean. The dimensions of the plate are 290×133 mm. It's only about 4 mm thick, but I figured that given it was designed to handle large thermal fluctuations it ought be reasonably tough. Any sort of glass is probably fine for this purpose, the bigger and thicker the better. I like mine because none of the edges are sharp - they've all been neatly beveled and polished.

I don't actually bother gluing the sandpaper to the glass, because I use a jig that allows me to sharpen one-handed while I secure the paper with the other hand. It means I only need one piece of glass and can use whatever grit paper I like. See later for how I go about it. The approach I've used is a simplified version of Brent Beach's method. I highly recommend his site for anyone interested in getting things seriously sharp. The high-end micro-abrasives he uses are available here. I've not used them myself, but will be picking some up at some stage if I ever feel the need to start shaving with my woodshop tools...

Step 9: Strop

Picture of Strop

A strop is just a piece of leather that burnishes the blade by removal of the minuscule strands of metal left over after creating and breaking off the burr. I made mine by gluing a piece of leather, shiny side up, to an offcut board 370×75×18 mm. If you're using the aforementioned microabrasives, stropping will not help.

Step 10: Build a Sharpening Jig

Picture of Build a Sharpening Jig

If you're an experienced sharpener you can get a good edge by hand. I'm not, so I rely on a jig - it makes the whole process vastly easier. You can buy such jigs, but they can be pricy (>$50 for this one, though there are inexpensive ones available too), so I made mine for $0 with two pieces of wood that trap the blade with a couple of flat head screws. These are easy to make, hold the blade very firmly with only light tightening, and you can size them according to the size of your chisel/plane blade. The one shown is made of two pieces of wood (53×18×38 mm and 53×18×6 mm) and two pocket hole screws.

Step 11: Sharpening

Picture of Sharpening

The powered platter does most of the donkey work. Sand the back until it is nice and flat and scratched all over. Then put the blade in the jig, setting it so the bevel is flush to the sandpaper. Just make sure that you're making one facet, not several, and that the end of the chisel stays perpendicular. This step is more of a rough grind to restore the primary bevel and remove any chips; all the real sharpening gets done on the plate glass.

Step 12: Scary Sharpening

Picture of Scary Sharpening

Put your plate glass on a thin (~6 mm) sheet of material. You want to raise it slightly because that will make it easy to create the microbevel you need for a really sharp edge. Now set your jig up so the bevel is flat to the 150 grit sandpaper when the jig is resting on your workbench. Tighten the screws, then sand the bevel until it is flat and smooth all over. I usually then swap the sandpaper for 320 grit, remove the scratches, then swap again for 600 grit to make it shiny.


Remove the plywood under the plate glass and sand again with 600 grit paper until a microbevel appears along the full width of the blade. THIS DOES NOT TAKE LONG, so don't overdo it. Removing the plywood changes the angle of sanding just enough to create a microbevel. I have some 1200 grit paper with which I like to create final bevels on both sides of the blade.

I find that at this point I have a really good edge, but I drag both sides of the blade along the strop anyway - it removes any stray bits of metal and leaves the blade silky smooth. You can shave fine hair and sever end grain fibers without any crushing with this edge. That makes it roughly as sharp as a new Exacto knife blade.

Step 13: I've an Ax to Grind...

Picture of I've an Ax to Grind...

The sharpener is good for things other than chisels and plane blades, of course. My ax had a rather dinged edge so I spent a happy 10 minutes lightly sanding out the nicks. The system is nice and quiet; the cutting action is not aggressive and does not get the blade hot. The photos shows how much metal dust was generated during the sharpening process. All sharpening here was done by eye (no jig) and the edge created was deliberately kept quite blunt for longevity. An ax doesn't need to be especially sharp for splitting firewood.


Yonatan24 (author)2016-07-03

I think this is something like my fourth time seeing this Instructable, and it finally gave me a good idea... :)

Oh, and if I don't have the right parts, I'll also make sure to give our bread machine about 500 volts

makendo (author)Yonatan242016-07-03

Good luck with whatever it is you're building.

Funnily enough, our current breadmaker has lasted by far the longest of any we've owned. It clearly knows what's in store for it if it breaks down...

Yonatan24 (author)makendo2016-07-03

Thank you, I'll make sure to credit you for the idea in the Instructable :)

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-07-03

Do you know about how fast it spins? 10 RPM? 100 RPM 1000 RPM?

Thanks again for the awesome Instructable!

makendo (author)Yonatan242016-07-03

200 rpm (I measured it roughly using video, see step 6).

Yonatan24 (author)makendo2016-07-03

Thanks for the quick reply. I should have done Ctrl F for "RPM"...

I think slow is better than fast, even though it sharpens slower (obviously) since you can leave it unattended while sharpening, knowing that it won't overheat the metal.

seamster (author)2015-12-21

I was researching sharpening systems over the weekend, and was happy to stumble across this a few times. How is this holding up?

I already have a slow-speed grinder, so I'm probably committed to a grinder-based system . . . but I really like this. Maybe if I stumble across a breadmaker, I'll take a crack at this just for fun!

makendo (author)seamster2015-12-21

It's holding up fine - even though during a cleanup I knocked it off the workbench. The glass plate I use for scary sharpening smashed but the round glass plate didn't. I've found I don't actually sharpen things that often - I don't actually use chisels and hand planes much. I've only replaced the sandpaper once so far.

One thing I'd like to build is a giant disk sander. I've seen Frank Howarth use his a lot and it seems amazing. But then I'd also like a drill press and a bandsaw...

seamster (author)makendo2015-12-21

I've avoided having to sharpen things for many years, but I just picked up a cheap lathe and am embarking down the woodturning/chisel sharpening road.

It's more than just a little daunting . . but I'm trying to do it as frugally as possible. Used tools are the way to go! :)

pheenix42 (author)2015-07-20

Something tells me this could be used to make facets on glass gemstones... :D

NathanSellers (author)2015-04-04

Man, it feels like I just got done reading McGyver's how to book. This is so awesome! It really turned out so well. It sharpens like a dream. Well documented and explained instructable.

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2015-03-27

Very Practiacle and well done.

dorfski39 (author)2015-03-10

Ok I guess i need to start hunting at Garage sales for a bread maker, either that or offer to fix my sister-in-laws machine....

Or darn its broken , she needs a new one...

makendo (author)dorfski392015-03-11

Yeah, this project started with trying to fix ours... oops, it's in hundreds of pieces. In fairness, fixing metal fatigue is pretty much impossible unless you can source the part.

Corinbw (author)2015-02-23

Hey makendo I am a finalist for the on a budget contest also and I really hope you win, you deserve it with this amazing idea.

makendo (author)Corinbw2015-02-23

Congratulations, thanks and good luck!

GregW4 (author)2015-02-20

You could probably do this entire project with an old hardrive as well.

makendo (author)GregW42015-02-20

The difference in rpm and torque will be massive. Bet the harddrive with a microabrasive would make for a great way of sharpening razor blades, though

Corinbw (author)makendo2015-02-23

that would be amaaaazing.

Megazord (author)2015-02-22

I don't really need a sharpening system but I do need a disk sander so thank you for the inspiration !

Really great job and very detailed instructions ! I guess you don't have any dull chisel or knife anymore :)

makendo (author)Megazord2015-02-23

Great - I'm betting you could drive a decent sized disc with this motor, though if you use a bigger disc I suggest putting some bearings behind it to prevent flexing when you apply pressure.

Kaljakaaleppi (author)2015-02-21

At the moment I'm using my fourth breadmaker. I was planning on scavenging the heating element from the last I broke, but this was an excellent idea! On my machines the seal for the axle that goes through the bucket for the bread itself broke down, so that water leaks in the machine...

makendo (author)Kaljakaaleppi2015-02-21

Interesting - that's one breakdown I haven't seen yet. Still sounds like the motor and gears will be fine though.

flamesami (author)2015-02-20

Great idea! My breadmaker still works, but this is making me think of ways to hack my hand-cranked grinder! A belt going to a right-angle drive should work well!

makendo (author)flamesami2015-02-20

Or make some wooden gears - see Mathias Wandel's site for a gear-generator and how-tos.

steve000 (author)2015-02-20

Unreal! one of the best projects on here.

makendo (author)steve0002015-02-20


mfinch4 (author)2015-02-19

I wouldn't advise using any electrical device to sharpen a metal tool. Any heat will affect the metals properties and it's hard to monitor the temp of the cutting surface. The age old manual slog is always the best and a little often is always the best route to take.

Billymac814 (author)mfinch42015-02-19

I disagree with that. Most knife makers use power tools to sharpen knives and just about any profesional sharpener will use power tools to sharpen tools. You just have to know how to do it. This one spins slow enough it's probably not going to get too hot. You can also dip the blade in water every few seconds if you wish. I use a Tormek which is water cooled but I have other non cooled power devices that work well too. A good rule of thumb is to not let it get hotter than you can stand to touch.

kai.h (author)mfinch42015-02-19

With regard to heat - use the rule of thumb. If it's too hot to put your thumb on, you're overdoing it. As long as you keep the speed down on the platter and the metal is not too hot to touch with your bare skin, you're OK.

Heat treating involves temperatures in the red heat range. Tempering heat-treated steel requires temperatures over 150°C.

makendo (author)mfinch42015-02-19

sure, each to their own

tovey (author)2015-02-19

Modifying the magnet for easy cleaning is simple.

Idea 1 - Using clear duct tape or clear packing tape

1. Enclose the magnet in clear duct tape or clear wrapping tape. Adhering the duct tape to the magnet as per normal use.

2. On the bottom where the filings are collected, attach double sided tape.

3. The filings will be collected as usual and should stick to the tape.

4. When the tape is full, simply peel and discard replacing the tape.

point of using clear duct tape or clear wrapping tape is to give the
double sided tape a surface that it can adhere to, but be easily peeled
off from without there being a build up of adhesive from the tape.

Since the adhesive on tape does not stick to the surface of the tape as rolls are wrapped around itself.

Idea 2 - Making a small metal pick up tool - Large commercial versions of this are available for easily cleaning up nuts, bolts, washer or other metal spills in shops

1. Make a plastic case that the magnet fits inside of.

2. Attach a rod to the magnet so that it can be used to lift the magnet off of the bottom of the plastic case.

2a. This will require a bit of trial and error in order to insure that the distance that the magnet moves away from the bottom is sufficient for the magnet to let go of the filings.

3. Filings will collect on the bottom of the plastic case where the magnet rests while in use.

4. To clean, simply pull on the rod which lifts the magnet away from the bottom of the plastic case. The filings will fall off the bottom of the plastic case into whatever container you have it hung over.

Take Care.

Scott A Tovey

makendo (author)tovey2015-02-19

Thanks for the suggestions, but cleaning the dust off only takes a few seconds even for the uncovered magnet.

hhanlin (author)2015-02-19

At one point I was actively disappointed that my bread machine seems to be working... Great Ible!

makendo (author)hhanlin2015-02-19

Ha, thanks. Bake a few more loaves, if my experience is anything to go by, it soon won't be!

oilitright (author)2015-02-19

Hats Off to You. I am a fanatic on sharpening and have invested thou$and$ in sharpening equipment, Google Tormek to see an example. For chisels, hand planes and other straight edges this is an excellent DIY project. It has all the elements needed to get a good sharp edge.

makendo (author)oilitright2015-02-19

hey, thanks! I'd coveted a commercial sharpening system for a while but I don't use hand tools enough to justify the expense.

dave367 (author)2015-02-19

I apologize but I seem to have my stupid hat on today; in what way are the filings dangerous? They're basically powdered iron--soon to become powdered rust. Iron oxide is great on roses; makes the colors more intense--especially the leaves. This was a friend of mine's "secret weapon" when he was showing roses--sweeping up the shop near the grinding wheels and spreading the filings around the base of his prize roses. :-)

makendo (author)dave3672015-02-19

I think you need to address that question to RSUSummoner - beats me. I like your idea though, and I have a climbing rose right outside my workshop...

doug21951 (author)2015-02-19

Good job. Would be easy to take to the next level with some jigs and a bar.

Well done!

QAZW (author)2015-02-19

amazing idea with that sharpening jig. Thanks, i think when i will build this it will help a lot

makendo (author)QAZW2015-02-19

Yes, a jig is really fast to make and has made me a vastly better sharpener.

alex4164883 (author)2015-02-19

Yu can use a belt or disc sander to sharpen wood working tools. It works very well and does not heat up the tool very much.
Mike A

makendo (author)alex41648832015-02-19

Good tip - I imagine that is true, but I own neither, unfortunately.

w00blyn (author)2015-02-19

I really enjoyed this! Great work, thanks very much sharing.

makendo (author)w00blyn2015-02-19


brewgoat (author)2015-02-19

Nice job but I'm more impressed with the amount of bread you eat!

makendo (author)brewgoat2015-02-19

Ha, guilty as charged. Fresh baked bread is awesome

cr2457gy (author)2015-02-19

If you wrap the magnet in plastic wrap then it is much easier to clean the dust.

makendo (author)cr2457gy2015-02-19


About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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