Photos by Steven Der-Garabedian
If you put 10 woodworkers in a room and ask them about dovetails and which to cut first — pins or tails* — you’ll get a decent debate. Now, put those same woodworkers in the same room and ask them about sharpening. The police will need to be called to break up the fight. Aren’t we funny that way? Woodworking and sharpening go hand in hand, and there are a lot of jigs out there and plenty of methods. If you want to work wood, you need to sharpen. Finding a method that’s not a chore will work best.
The MPower Fasttrack MK2 sharpener is one of those many jigs. The bundle comes with the Fasttrack MK2, centre clip, five tapered diamond stones from 100x to 1000x, an already attached 1000x de-burring plate, a grip mat and cleaning block, as well as a mounting screw, storage case and instructions. For those who like to finish with a bit of stropping, there is a leather strop attached to the bottom of the base. There are four available angles that can be achieved with the jig: the most common 25° and 30° as well as 27-1/2° and 32-1/2°. The Fasttrack jig can accommodate blades or chisels from 1/8″ to 2-1/2″. Rubber feet on the base provide a surprisingly steady grip. The mat in the kit is similar to non-slip drawer liners, and by using the mounting screw, the base can be securely attached to a bench or a piece of plywood.
Most sharpening jigs will hold the blade to allow you to slide it across a stone, diamond plate or sandpaper. The MK2 is more like a crosscut sled on the table saw. The tool is held steady while the diamond plate is run back and forth over the blade. It’s not hard to hold a plane blade or chisel in place against the perpendicular shoulder or centering clip. The de-burring plate provides the necessary friction, although I found my thumb getting sore at the end of working through all the grits. It’s not a hard jig to use, but you will need to get a feel for how far into the carriage you need to have the blade. Running through the different grits goes fast and leaves a cutting edge that is quite sharp.
The de-burring plate does a good job of knocking down the burr after each grit. The cleaning block, which seems very much like a white plastic eraser, cleans the grit off the diamond plates easily enough. The instructions say you can use the tool dry, but I found adding a bit of oil made the job easier. It’s also a good idea to keep the carriage lubricated and free of sludge. Changing plates couldn’t be easier, as they’re held on securely with a rare-earth magnet and small position mouldings. The labels on the carriage clearly show which way the tapered plates are attached for specific angles.
The system does have its downsides. It can only handle the four previously stated angles, although those will handle most woodworkers’ needs. You will spend a lot of time sharpening your tools if they’re not already ground to 25° or 30°, or if they’re in rough shape. It cannot hone or flatten the back of plane blades or chisels. You might be able to do it on the de-burring plate on the base, but you’re going to be there for a long time.
I would argue that water stones and a honing guide will do a better job in the hands of a skilled sharpener, but I was pleasantly surprised with this jig. It’s well designed and efficient. I think it’s well suited to those who aren’t sure about sharpening and need somewhere to get started. It will also do well in a school shop or club setting.
* Oh, by the way, the correct answer is pins first!