Great Gear: Issue 99

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This article is from Issue 99 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Wera 9-Piece Hex Keys Imperial

Wera 9-Piece Hex Keys Imperial #151254, $16.50

Excellent hex keys

New tools typically come with a few hex keys required for assembly and adjustment. If you collected and organized those Allen wrenches, you could probably get by without a dedicated set in your shop. The problem is that those cheap versions often strip easily and are too small to use comfortably. This set from Wera Tools solves all that. First, these wrenches are stronger and provide better contact surface with the screw head. Secondly, they’re longer, making them easier to use and providing better access to tough-to-reach spots. But my favorite feature is the ball end that allows off-axis access to the fastener and prevents stripping out a hex head recess. The inexpensive Wera package comes with nine laser-labeled wrenches (5/64" to 3/8") in a colorful case that folds flat and locks in place. Metric sets are also available.

—Chad McClung

WoodRiver CBN grinding wheel

WoodRiver CBN grinding wheels From $145.99-$182.99

Turn toward better lathe tool sharpening

If you’re a turner who hasn’t heard about cubic boron nitride (CBN) grinding wheels, here’s your wake-up call. These abrasive-embedded, machined steel wheels are wildly popular among woodturners because, unlike aluminum oxide wheels, CBN wheels cut very quickly and don’t need dressing. Therefore, they don’t reduce in diameter, which can throw off your grinding jigs’ settings. Also, grinding on a CBN wheel is much cooler than on aluminum oxide wheels, greatly reducing your chances of overheating and burning your tools. 

CBN abrasive is nearly as hard as diamond, and lasts a long, long time. The metal wheels won’t ever crack and explode like an aluminum oxide wheel can do. You can even sharpen against the side to grind flat bevels on skews—a dangerous move on a conventional wheel. WoodRiver CBN wheels are available in 120 grit and 180 grit in both 6" and 8" diameters to fit the most common grinder sizes. The coarser 120 grit makes fast, safe work of reshaping tools, while the 180-grit wheel is perfect for quick touch-up sharpening. 

Downsides? Well, cost is probably the main one. And CBN is really meant for sharpening high-speed steel (HSS), as softer steels can clog the surface if you’re not careful. So you might not want to sharpen your chisels and plane irons on them. That said, if you spend a lot of time at the lathe, a CBN wheel is a quantum step up from an aluminum oxide wheel. If you can afford it, it’s well worth it. 

—Paul Anthony

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