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Sharpening Turning Tools

Question

I am perplexed with the need to repeatedly sharpen my turning tools. What I am using is a respectable set of mid-1980s steel tools. With all the upgrades in technology, is there a recommendation for tooling or sharpening systems that help alleviate the need to head to the grinder quite so often?—Mark Leonard

Answer

Claude Dupuis replies: High speed steel is today’s standard. They stay sharp longer than old carbon tools. There is powdered metal that is harder than HSS and presumably keeps an edge longer. Both are easily sharpened with CBN grinders and or belt sharpening systems. Using a jig one can sharpen a tool in about five seconds. I don’t even turn off the lathe to sharpen because it’s so quick. Same goes for your current carbon steel tools. Keep it close to the lathe and sharpen often.

Al Breed replies: Aside from changing tool brands, I suspect that your problem could be the cutting angle you’re using in the process of turning. Rest a gouge on top of a spinning cylinder for example, and pull it back towards you over the top of the work just until the edge starts making a shaving. This is where you want to be cutting all the time and this is where there is the least resistance to the tool. A steeper angle approaches scraping, which will quickly dull your tools.

Shavings indicate good technique—dust not so good. I try to sharpen my turning tools to carving tool standards. So make sure your tools are super sharp. I have some old Craftsman turning tools that sharpen up nice and cut great, but I do have to touch them up a lot to keep the edge. Your tools could be like that, in which case, try another brand.

Tags: Sharpening, Woodturning