We all bend our airbrush needle from time to time, and usually at the worst possible moment, with no spare needle at the ready. To quote inventor and airbrush artist Chad Elliott, “When you are down to your last needle towards the end of a project in the late hours of the night that is not when you want to be stuck with a ruined airbrush needle.”
So Chad took on the task of solving the problem by developing and engineering a tool to help solve the problem. Thus, the SharpenAir was born. Inside the SharpenAir are sharpening stones coated with a diamond grit, and placed at different angles to hone the tip of the airbrush needle. The angles consist of 15,10, and two 6 degree diamond plates.
This is a simple and elegant tool that requires only the smallest amount of effort to operate. The bent needle is gently inserted into one of the holes, and turned about a dozen times to remove the bend, then further refined by inserting the needle into the next slot and turning the needle again. The angle of stones helps remove the bent sections while grinding off the offending areas.
Update: the top two slots represent 15 and 10 degree grinding angles respectively. Usually these two slots are all that are needed to correct a small bend in the needle. At this angle, material is removed less than a millimeter from the tip and the area where the needle makes contact with the nozzle remains untouched.
We were able to get results very quickly. The images below show the same Iwata CM-SB needle before and after using the tool.
In our tests, our (very) bent Iwata CM-SB needle worked very well after repairs were made. We were able to make some very fine lines right away. It only took about 3 minutes to fix the needle.
We couldn't resist the temptation to put the needle into the front of a drill and spin the needle inside the tool. However, use caution, because in our enthusiasm, we overworked the needle, and created deep grooves around the circumference of the tip. These Micro-abrasions if left unattended, would cause more tip dry, but are easily corrected by the use of the 3000-grit polishing pad included in the kit.Later I learned to improve the straightening method from Chad Elliot himself with the steps outlined in the photo below.
Originally I stated that the SharpenAir doesn't restore the needle to "new" condition. However, after a few quick lessons on the use of the SharpenAir by Chad Elliot, I discovered that it is not only possible to restore the needle to original standards, but to actually make the needle better than stock!
I also had concerns that the different grinding angle might affect contact with the nozzle, but for most corrections, the area of grinding rarely affects the area which contacts the nozzle. The SharpenAir takes into account both angles of the needle taper, so that only the front taper beyond the nozzle is usually affected.
Considering that new Iwata CM-SB needles cost $25-35 each, our conclusion is that the SharpenAir is a worthwhile investment, especially since it costs about the same as two needles. While you cannot keep sharpening your needle forever, you can expect it to last about 8 cycles of resharpening.
If you want to learn more about this product visit their website at www.sharpenair.com