All Replies on Sharpening Lathe Tools

  • Advertise with us
View DS's profile

Sharpening Lathe Tools

by DS
posted 12-20-2012 04:01 PM

30 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4186 days

#1 posted 12-20-2012 04:13 PM

I have a Wolverine jig. It’s not cheap, but it sure is easy. I’d be willing to bet, though, someone with your skills could create one of your own.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 2955 days

#2 posted 12-20-2012 04:17 PM

Have you looked at the wolverine jigs
Here is a shop made one.
edited to add: Charlie beat me to it. There are several shop made ones here on LJs.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2388 days

#3 posted 12-20-2012 04:27 PM

Very nice. I had not heard of the Wolverine jig.
That shop made one doesn’t look too difficult.

Thanks for the input! This is now on my ‘to do’ list.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View SPalm's profile


5317 posts in 3849 days

#4 posted 12-20-2012 04:48 PM

I have the same problem. Done some lathe work for years – old tools – not sure about sharpening.

I was just looking at the instruction manual for the Wolverine and wondering about slow speed grinders. Use high speed is what they suggest.

Our Recommended Grinder
8” @ 3450 RPM

This gives an optimum speed of
7225 surface feet per minute with a
new wheel and an acceptable speed
of 5740 sfpm with a wheel considered
worn out at 6-1/2”.

Why a 3450 rpm Grinder?
Manufacturer recommended speed
in surface feet per minute (sfpm)
for grinding wheels is between
6000 and 8000 sfpm:
6” at 3450 rpm = 5419 sfpm
(at 1725 rpm = 2709 sfpm – too slow)
7” at 3450 rpm = 6322 sfpm
(at 1725 rpm = 3161 sfpm – too slow)
8” at 3450 rpm = 7225 sfpm
(at 1725 rpm = 3612 sfpm – too slow)

But what do I know?

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2388 days

#5 posted 12-20-2012 05:24 PM

I have an old grinder that I “inherited” from the wife’s ex. I’m not sure how fast it is, but it sounds like a jet airplane getting ready to take off every time I turn it on.

Frankly, it scares me a bit. If you ever snagged your sleeve on it, you’d be in a world of hurt before getting it turned off. Of course, I would never be that careless—just sayin’.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View tamboti's profile


207 posts in 3109 days

#6 posted 12-20-2012 05:46 PM

Hi guys I have been turning for 30 plus years and use a jig to sharpen my spindle gouges,spindle roughing gouge, bowl gouges,skew, parting tool and scrapers. I will go into the shop and make a few jigs out of wood on friday and post hopefully friday night otherwise saturday. Please when asking questions on sharping turning tools try and use correct tool name,post picture or short discription this will enable myself and others to assist you as well as make suggestion to solve your problem. I do not claim to know it all but am willing to share what I know and what I have experienced from turning 1/12th furniture parts,bowls,hollow forms,balustrade components, platters and natural edge forms.I only use a high speed grinder and a home made tormek type grinder not wet. All jigs were made because of budget restrains and raising a family Kind Regards Tamboti.

-- Africa is not for sissies

View Biff's profile


126 posts in 1982 days

#7 posted 12-20-2012 06:26 PM

Tormek set up. Expensive and worth EVERY penny! Razor sharp tools and consistent grinds.

-- Interested in Oregon property? Visit me at

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2388 days

#8 posted 12-20-2012 06:29 PM

Biff, what does the Tormek have for lathe tools? Anything other than a flat grind, I mean.
I am not that familiar with it.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2938 days

#9 posted 12-20-2012 06:29 PM

Look at the Wolverine Jig. I think it’s possibly the best for gouges.

Then, if you do not want to spend that much money, search for lathe tool sharpening jigs on internet sources, including here.
There are tons of options out there.

I built my own version of the Wolverine jig and put it on an 8” Ryobi grinder. Works great, cost less than $100, grinder included.

What ever you do, the most important part is to keep the tool cool. This can not be over emphasized. If at any time the tool you are sharpening is too hot to touch, you got it too hot. I dip mine in water before grinding and as soon as I see steam, I dunk it back into water. This is very, very important.

View dtody's profile


3 posts in 3259 days

#10 posted 12-20-2012 06:56 PM

I was instructed that a high speed grinder takes some of the “temper” out of the steel. Don’t burn your edges. Find a local wood store and find out if any classes are available for the sharpening. Or go to a turning meeting and there will be someone to show you how to basic sharpen the tools.

-- dtody

View moke's profile


1154 posts in 2744 days

#11 posted 12-20-2012 07:26 PM

I think there are as many ideas out there about sharpening as there are brands and kinds of lathe tools. I have taken classes watched DVD’s and talked to many turners, and the ideas range greatly. I have three “sharpening systems”, A slow speed 8” Delta with a full wolverine system, a HF buffer with modifications, and a Grizzly 10” slow speed grinder. ( I don’t really have a problem with buying tools all the time, I actually quite proficient at it!)

The Wolverine as mentioned is a very good system, quite versitile, however thinking that it is very cheap is a misnomer. The Woverine idea is to sell you the first set for 120.00 the just catch you 60.00 at a time multiple times!!! I have found the you will need the bowl gouge attachment, new wheels, and the balancer, on and on. MAKE NO MISTAKE, even with all this stuff this is a learned skill set!!! The Grizzly is just different kind of skill. I will say when you make a mistake it seems more forgiving, because it happens slower.

I took a HF buffer and turned it into a “hone”. If you talk to accomplished turners (whom I would assume are accomplished sharpeners) the old addage is sharpen once, hone twice. What they mean is they hone right after sharpening, then turn for a while, hone once again, turn some more, then back to sharpening etc…. etc. Many turners hone by hand with a diamond file too…I have tried it, it seems to work well too…I am just not a “by hand” kind of guy!!

I know there are many people that grind with 3500 rpm grinders, but it really did not work well for me. It heated the tool up, and caused the wheels to load up with metal. So I ended up shortening the life of the tool and the wheels. Also, I have always heard never to dunk your tool in water as if takes the temper from the HSS. However, I was mentored by a guy once that used a 6” 3450rpm grinder with no jigs at all, not even a bigger platform, that did the best work on a lathe of anyone I ever saw!!! So pick a system and work to perfect it. I will say, that when I first started, I basically changed/destroyed any semblance of the factory grind. I bought a set of double sided examples form Craft supplies USA that showed me what they should look like, and got me back on track.
Good Luck—-

-- Mike

View Biff's profile


126 posts in 1982 days

#12 posted 12-20-2012 08:08 PM

Check out the tormek’s website. It can pretty much sharpen any contour or grind you want. It has presettings for common grinds or you can make custom profiles. Jigs are available for scissors, knives, handplanes, etc.

I struggled for years with hand sharpening, grinder jigs, Workmates, etc. Once I got a Tormek and spent about a day watching the videos and learning it my turning improved vastly. I actually have SHARP tools now and when I go back to regrind I get a predictable angle. I don’t burn the tools anymore and there are no sparks since it is slow speed and water cooled.

-- Interested in Oregon property? Visit me at

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2042 days

#13 posted 12-20-2012 08:34 PM

dipping in water will not take the temper away unless the tool has already been overheated. KEEP the tool cool. dont let the heat build up ahead of you. It just depends on your comfort level LOL if you get your sleeve caught in either it could be bad! Search You tube for diy grinding jigs there are many on there. The biggest diferance between a good tool and a poor one is the quality of the metal and how often you have to hone or sharpen. the second is how the tool is used. If used to shear cut it will last a whole lot longer than scrape cutting. Riding the bevel to hard pressure wise can shorten edge life as well use enough pressure for control but not so much as to polish the wood behind the cut.

View hate2sand's profile


7 posts in 2237 days

#14 posted 12-20-2012 08:47 PM

I use Wolverine jigs and a 8” SLOW speed grinder. Excellent results and you can easily touch up your tools as you work if need be.

-- Larry in NC

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2388 days

#15 posted 12-20-2012 08:51 PM

There’s a lot of good ideas and information here, thanks.

I think I will try the shop made Wolverine jig at first. That seems simple enough and I already have the grinder.

I’ve gotten this far by repeatedly honing the tools. They have just gotten beyond what you can help with a honing strop. (It didn’t hurt that I only ocassionaly do turnings.)

Eventually, I will invest in a better system. (Tormek perhaps?)
For now though, I’ll try this solution. It seems so simple up front.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Belle City Woodworking's profile

Belle City Woodworking

355 posts in 3984 days

#16 posted 12-20-2012 08:52 PM

I made this with some shop scraps and I couldn’t be happier with the performance! I also have the same lathe tools.

The Skew Chisel Attachment:


-- Formerly known as John's Woodshop - and NO not the one from Ohio!

View DS's profile


2894 posts in 2388 days

#17 posted 12-20-2012 08:55 PM

Nice John! I like that setup too!
I can see I’m going to be scoping out all the shop-made designs before I start.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2965 days

#18 posted 12-21-2012 02:02 AM

Personally, I just sharpen my HSS lathe tools on a belt sander. It is quick to turn around and just give it a new edge when it the tool starts feeling dull. I never bother going for a really fine edge as it doesn’t last that long anyway. I use 220 grit belts that when they are a bit worn down are considerably finer.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2808 days

#19 posted 12-21-2012 03:59 AM

Ds the tormek has the jigs. They are $65 and up. I made one using there design and it seems to work for me.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#20 posted 12-21-2012 04:27 AM

DS251—Do you have a belt sander? I know a production turner who uses nothing but a belt sander with a 150 grit belt to sharpen skews, gouges, parting tools, etc.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Planeman40's profile


1156 posts in 2728 days

#21 posted 12-21-2012 06:04 AM

My 2 cents . . .

I view the process as two different procedures – “shaping” and “sharpening”. Grinders are used for “shaping” the tool. Slip stones and strops are used for “sharpening”. Grinding is outlined in the posts above and in my opinion needs to only be done rarely when the tool edge becomes misshapen. True sharpening entails using stones (water stones, Arkansas stones (I like these), very fine diamond laps (I use these too), and other stones. For gouges there are round tapered stones with one side with a tapered grove. You will have to search for these but they are out there. I have two of these. Also, just recently I came across a really nice fine diamond “wave” shape sold by Rockler ( that is ideal for gouges, both incannel and outcannel. It isn’t cheap though. I have used this and I love it!

Last, after all of the grinding and stoning is done and the edge is “razor” sharp, it needs to be stropped to sharpen it more and polish the edge. I use a home made leather strop charged with jeweler’s rouge (a very fine abrasive polish). Gouges can be stropped by draping the leather strop over an appropriate size dowel. Also, I use a Dremel tool with a hard buffing wheel and jeweler’s rouge (the type for steel) to polish my tool edge to a mirror finish. You would be surprised how much this improves the cutting action.

Yes, all of this takes time, but it is what is needed to get a truly sharp edge. Once the edge is truly sharp, a brief stropping from time to time is usually all that is needed to bring the edge back. Occasionally with heavy use some touch up with a stone or fine diamond lap will be necessary before the stropping. I also find a 2X eye loupe (visor type) helps to see what you are doing when sharpening


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View tamboti's profile


207 posts in 3109 days

#22 posted 12-21-2012 06:46 AM

High Speed Steel does not lose its temper when hot after grinding nor when cooled in water only carbon steel loses its temper when ground and turns blue. Fong kong ie Chines hss may be suspect TAMBOTI

-- Africa is not for sissies

View bobasaurus's profile


3407 posts in 3152 days

#23 posted 12-21-2012 05:15 PM

Here is my solution:

It has a homemade wolverine-style jig that I can use for gouges and parting tools. I have a modified version of the original tool rest for scrapers and skews, too. John’s jig looks like a nicer version, though… I especially like the fixed position of the knob since mine tend to slide around and get stuck under the grinder guard.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View mpax356's profile


72 posts in 2460 days

#24 posted 12-21-2012 07:08 PM

Most folks (but not all) that turn a lot and know what they are doing will generally agree on the following:
- a slow speed grinder is preferable to a high speed grinder
- 8” with aluminum oxide wheels is preferable to a 6” with aluminum oxide wheels
- a jig is preferable to hand grinding for gouges, bowl or spindle
- aluminum oxide wheels like those that come with the WC slow speed 8” grinder are far preferable to the gray wheels good for sharpening your lawnmower blades
- a beginner can manage with a 6” grinder if they own one with an aluminum oxide wheel but if they have to upgrade they should just get an 8” slow speed like the one sold by WC, frequently on sale
- there are better grinders out there than the WC slow speed grinder but they are not worth the expense to them.
- the answer to most turning problems is “sharpen your tools”
- HSS steels are preferable to the older carbon steel
- it easy for a beginner to blue and damage an older carbon tool steel turning tool and are difficult to damage the temper of a HSS tool with sharpening
-”if it is almost sharp, it will almost cut”
- there is nothing wrong with sharpening without a jig if you developed the skills and know how to do it but it is generally not the preferred approach for a beginner
- they have no quarrel if you have a system that works for you like an expensive Tormec or even a belt sander but that most are not willing to invest in a Tormec and have never used one.

-- MPax, Atlanta

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2216 days

#25 posted 12-21-2012 07:22 PM

I made a very crude wolverine jig out of plywood. Since my grinder is on a sacrificial crappy bench, I just screw the jig to the bench as well once I get the desired position. I like to mark the gouge with a sharpie and take one pass before I go nuts with it. This will let me know if I have the angle right. I then grind with light pressure until sparks come over the bevel. After that I clean up the inside with a dowel that has 1000 grit sandpaper taped to it. That is generally all I need to make good shavings and the process takes me only a few minutes.


View Bob_O's profile


40 posts in 3593 days

#26 posted 12-21-2012 08:01 PM

I agree with Biff. I also have a tormek that I use on all off my woodworking tools that require a clean sharp edge. The jig for the gouges works great, always a sharp, consistent edge.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20309 posts in 3073 days

#27 posted 12-22-2012 02:25 AM

Hi DS251. I got hooked on wood turning by Lyle Jamieson from Traverse City, Mich. When I was in his seminar on bowl turning, he showed us many of the tools he used to turn with and how to sharpen his bowl gouges with the fingernail grind. He let us copy that simple grinding jig. He is into EASY and that it is. It uses a 2-4-7 formula with the fixture. You clamp your gouge in the simple fixture leaving it stick out 2” past the holder. The rod sticking out of the holder sits in a pocket that is 4” down from the center of the wheel and 7” back from the edge of the wheel. When you set it up at 2” out, it grinds in the same pattern every time and you take off just the minimum to sharpen the gouges. Here is his web site:

I use a 100 grit wheel at 1750 rpm.

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View moke's profile


1154 posts in 2744 days

#28 posted 12-22-2012 06:29 PM

I think Mpax356 has hit the nail on the head!

And I would love to have a Tormek but the price is unbelieveable!

-- Mike

View TheDane's profile


5404 posts in 3631 days

#29 posted 12-22-2012 07:35 PM

Moke—You and me both!

I have found that no single sharpening solution is right for everything.

I have a WS3000 that I use for some stuff (bench chisels, etc.), a set of waterstones I use for plane blades, and a Woodcraft slowspeed grinder with a Wolverine jig for most of my turning tools.

I sharpen my skews on a belt sander and hone them with a DMT diamond stone ala Eddie Castelin.

I’m toying with the idea of converting a HF belt sander into a sharpening system like the one detailed in the current edition of American Woodturner.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View xwingace's profile


228 posts in 2556 days

#30 posted 12-25-2012 05:56 PM

Very happy with my Wolverine. I started with a home made version, it didn’t work as well for me.
The thing I really like about it is leaving it in position, makes touch up a breeze. That came in really handy when I made my hickory walking stick!

-- I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics