Harbor Freight 96687 Circular Saw Blade Sharpener

The Harbor Freight 96687 Circular Saw Blade Sharpener.
I bought this in April, 2010, at my local HF store. Normally $70, they were on sale for $60. And in the advance sale flyer they handed out, there's a coupon for only $50, valid in a week or two.
I also bought a package of 2 spare wheels (one diamond, one emery) for $10.
I searched the web to see what other people had to say about it. Mostly I just found postings asking for owner's opinions. I did find one page on a welding site describing using one for sharpening metal-cutting cold saws. He said it worked out quite well. The next step up that I've seen in circular blade sharpeners suitable for a home shop is on ebay from a couple of sellers in China and costs about $400 ($270 + $130 for shipping). It looks like a substantially nicer machine from what I can see in the small pictures. I'd sure like to try one. (Donations to the fund will be gratefully accepted!)
First of all, I'd say the sharpener is easily worth its price. It takes a lot of experimentation and learning and practice, and quite a bit of setup time converting from one tooth angle to another. And its tooth alignment registration stop pawl is tricky to adjust for the right grinding wheel cut on the tooth. It badly needs a fine adjustment mechanism of some sort. The knob that holds the blade-holder arm in position is hard to get tight enough. The pivoting arm that the blade tooth registration stop slides on needed to be smoothed with a file, and moving the stop is still a bit jerky. Changing the grinding wheel is made a bit inconvenient by the 3 small screws that hold the wheel guard side onto the rest of the guard. So far I've been leaving it off while I'm experimenting.
The instruction manual is minimal. The parts are not well identified and there is no picture or drawing of the machine set up and ready for use. There is no information on actually sharpening a blade. You have to already know how to use the grinder before you get it, or else teach yourself to use it. It might be nice to have an old scrap blade or two to learn on. It's not really too bad, though, because it doesn't take off much metal at one time, so you're not too likely to totally ruin a blade. It does take a lot of fiddling to get the angles set right for the bevel angles and to get the cutting edge of the tooth parallel to the wheel.
But the machine is a lot handier than trying to keep consistent angles with a file as I go around a circular blade in a vise. And it does carbide. I know - I can use diamond hones on carbide tips, but that's really slow. And it's hard to keep the tooth surface flat.
So far I've had the grinder for about a week and I've used it on three steel blades and a carbide one. I can't sharpen the sloping top of saw teeth. The grinding wheels just work on their edges. Well, the diamond one for sure, because it's a very thin steel plate. The emery one might be usable on its rim but it's very narrow. The wheel tapers to a thin edge on the outside or right hand side. In the instruction manual is a diagram showing grinding the top of a blade tooth with the edge of the wheel, but the wheel shape in the diagram is not the same as the wheel with the machine. The rim of the wheel would need to be a bit wider and beveled instead of thin and rounded.
If you're not already quite familiar with sharpening principles like clearance angles and judging surface flatness by the bright spots left by filing or grinding, don't buy the machine. If you can't teach yourself or you don't want to experiment, learn and practice then don't buy the machine. If you're in a big hurry to get your sharpening done, don't buy the machine.
But if you are patient and like learning new skills, then it's a fun and rewarding purchase.
I recommend it.
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<<First of all, I'd say the sharpener is easily worth its price. It takes a lot of experimentation and learning and practice, and quite a bit of setup >>
Otherwise, it's worth the money?? Just curious...what do you consider your time worth per hour?

SERIOUSLY??
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I appreciate the review, Doug. Although I don't sharpen saw blades anymore, I do remember when that was part of my lunch break - a Nicholson #8 mill bastard and a couple of blades clamped to the sawhorses.
If it does what you want, great! But you might consider on the carbide blades that the thin bodies of some of the blades can warp and distort after a good amount of use, making really accurate cuts a problem even after sharpening.
Now the old, thick carbides that are C2, you can still buy for about $4.95, sometimes a buck less each in a 3 in Creedo, american Carbide, Irwin, etc. brand. They are great to saw in ridge vent, cut up debris, framing tasks and to let the helpers use. When they are dull, they go in the trash.
Better saw blades that I buy for my circular saw can be $15 to $20 each blade, plus shipping. To me, that might be worth a look.
But the important thing to look at is that you could sharpen your 10" blades on there as well. If you are doing a lot of utility type ripping and wanting to touch up a general purpose blade, that could be a helluva deal. I have no doubt it won't match a factory set and sharpen, but for a tune up on utility blades it could be pretty useful. That could be where that machine shines.
Let's see..... if I could sharpen a $40 blade well enough to bring it back to usefulness in a half hour, I would save $40, with no gas, tax, or travel time. So at an hourly rate of $80, I would be doing pretty well.
That would work for me! SERIOUSLY. ;^)
I hope you let us know if you do some bigger sizes.
Robert
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So far I've used it on 3 ten inch blades and one seven inch. It's supposed to work on blades up to 15 inches in diameter. I have a few blades larger than the 12 inch ones that my table and radial saws take, but I only got them to cut up for the steel. I do plan on using the machine on 12 inch blades, but the 10's were handy when I tried it out.
Doug

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snip
Thanks for the information...... I have a stack of old blades and recently bought the HF sharpener to bring them back to usable but have yet to use it...your quite right the instructions are just a bit less than helpful. I don't think I'd ever trust it on my Forester blades but all the others should be fair game.......Rod
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Well - have you tried it yet?
Doug

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