Need help learning about sharping lathe tools, what to buy and how to use.

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Forum topic by Hacksaw007 posted 01-30-2010 05:55 AM 2163 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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613 posts in 3183 days

01-30-2010 05:55 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe turning

I didn’t look very hard to see if there was information on my question, so forgive me if there are answers. I have been bumming along with sharping my lathe tools by freehanding. This leaves something to be desired especially on my rounded tools like gouges. I don’t have a lot of money to invest or room. My tools are the same also, entry level, a set of shopsmith, and two sets from Grizzly. I know a lot of you have much better tools and equipment, but I use what I can afford. But as I develop as a turner, I really need to upgrade the edge on my tools. Can you woodturners help with your know how. Many thanks.

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

15 replies so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18265 posts in 3669 days

#1 posted 01-30-2010 06:57 AM

Search utube and you will find a lot of sharpening demos.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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930 posts in 3483 days

#2 posted 01-30-2010 07:01 AM

Go with a grinder and the Wolverine system. It gets you scary sharp tools at a very competitive price.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View lew's profile


12052 posts in 3749 days

#3 posted 01-30-2010 06:29 PM


Here is a link to a site that has a bunch of home made sharpening jigs and “how tos”. I have made several of these over the years and they work fine.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3050 days

#4 posted 01-30-2010 08:28 PM

I agree with Padre. I have a 6” grinder and the Oneway Wolverine system. It works great. I first learned to sharpen lathe tools on a flat tool rest. The Wolverine makes the sharpening of gouges a snap.

-- Glen

View pkdman's profile


6 posts in 2931 days

#5 posted 05-12-2010 03:53 AM

A slow speed grinder is nice to have (1750 rpm). Then, put on an aluminum oxide grinding wheel, fine grit.
The finer the better.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3012 days

#6 posted 05-12-2010 06:22 AM

The biggest thing you need to know is keep your tools sharp! Sharpen when you don’t think it needs it, it does unless you haven’t used it. When your tools are sharp you will have very little sanding to do so when you see you have a lot of sanding to do head for the grinder. Invest in the wolverine system, it’s tops and easy to use. I would also suggest an 8 inch grinder instead of a 6 inch. Just remember SHARPEN, sharpen, sharpen! One more important thing to remember…..... HAVE FUN!

Erwin Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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Mary Anne

1058 posts in 3202 days

#7 posted 05-12-2010 07:48 AM

An 8” slow speed grinder and some jigs (I use the OneWay Wolverine sharpening system) sounds like a lot of money, but it will pay for itself quickly by saving steel and adding to your enjoyment of turning.

When I first started out, I watched one of Richard Raffan’s videos. He showed how to sharpen everything by hand so I thought that was the way to go and only sissies needed jigs. I ground away several inches off my chisels and gouges, some down to nubs trying to get a proper bevel. Maybe I would have improved in a few more years, but I still had trouble getting consistent results. Once I got the Wolverine system and my bevel angles were consistently the same after a quick session at the grinder, the quality of my work and enjoyment increased tenfold.

One important lesson I learned about sharpening was to stop grinding the edges and just lightly sharpen.

View 4woodturning's profile


187 posts in 2975 days

#8 posted 05-12-2010 02:22 PM

I agree with the 8inch slow speed grinder and the wolverine sharping system. when you start buying bowl gouges at $90.00 and higher you want to get that bevel grind right the first time. wolverine also has the Vari Grind jig to help you with finger nail grinds on your gouges. if your bevels are not correctly sharpen you will spend hours with the 60 git gouge…lol….so practice now on cheaper tools to find what degree bevel you like, will save you money in the long run. for skews get a flat diamond files and stones to keep bevel flat.

-- Jeff, Missouri ,"Just because your not bleeding, dont mean your turning safely!"..............

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#9 posted 05-12-2010 05:24 PM

I will also chime in with an endorsement of a slow speed 8” grinder and the wolverine system but I will make 3 more comments.

The homemade jigs referenced by Lew replicate a wolverine system and should work well.

If you have a bowl gouge and you want a fingernail type grind, you will need the vari-grind accessory for the wolverine system whether you purchase or make your wolverine system.

I respectfully disagree with pkdman’s statement “the finer the better”. You should be using grinding wheels with 60 or 80 grit.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3226 days

#10 posted 05-12-2010 05:41 PM

There seems to be some debate over full speed vs. low speed grinders on the forums. I knew I wanted the Wolverine system and got lucky and got the add ons for mine used. Anyway I mention the grinder speed because OneWay, the makers of the Wolverine sharpening system recommend a full speed 8” grinder, where a LOT of others recommend a low speed. I went with OneWay’s recommendation… No disrespect for anyone here or anywhere else, but OneWay is a very reputable manufacturer, and is well thought of in the turning world. They are the experts…

FWIW, Penn State Industries has a copy of the full on Wolverine system, including their version of the VariGrind AND a pretty decent 8” grinder for $239.00, I don’t think you are going to be able to beat that price unless you get VERY lucky and find a used Wolverine setup like I did… Which is RARE…

If you are a bit more patient, and already have an appropriate grinder, a home made jig that Lew references above will save you a wad of cash…

As far as grinder wheels are concerned, I use Norton white oxides, a 60 grit on my the right side, a 120 on the left…

A LOT of the sharpening videos show buffing the tool with a bench top grinder fitted with a buffing wheel. Don’t go to that extent unless you have the space and cash… I use a cheap Ryobi drill end buffing attachment and wheel in my drill press. It works GREAT!

When you sharpen / grind, go LIGHT. You are just trying to touch up the edges, not reshape the entire thing…

You will be amazed at… #1. How FAST turning tools dull, particularly in hard woods. I turn a lot of pecan, and it will dull a freshly sharpened gouge faster than a small town mayor can lie… #2. How much fun it is to turn with sharp tools…

Once you get your sharpening rig up and running, You will want to keep it close to the lathe… I have mine sort of mobile on a mount board that I just clamp to my workbench behind the lathe. I simply turn around, touch up the tool, then turn back to the lathe… When I am done I can pack it all up nice and neat…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#11 posted 05-12-2010 07:13 PM

On the question of grinder speed. It is my understanding that the slower speed is recommended on cutting tools that are not made with high speed steel (HSS). With those tools you need to keep your heat under control. In fact, you should have a soup can with water in it handy and dip the tool into the water frequently to keep it cool.

The HSS, it is not as necessary to keep the heat under control and, therefore, a faster grind speed is okay.

I could be wrong and opinions vary on this subject but that is what I have been told by people who claim to know what they are talking about.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3226 days

#12 posted 05-12-2010 07:22 PM

I think I heard the same thing… All of my tools are HSS, and even then, I use the oxide wheels, and use the cooling tray in my grinder often…

I believe Rockwell markets a version of my grinder but in a 2 speed variant… I have the Ryobi BGH827 8”...

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3192 days

#13 posted 05-12-2010 07:59 PM

I agree with the 8” idea. I have seen a lot of improvement when I upgraded to 8” ( from 6”). I have never heard a bad word about slow speed. I have been freehanding my tools for about 3 years now. At first the result was dreadful. Now the edge is looking much better, almost like new ( I am getting there). The explanation for this is Richard Raffan’s notion that with practice you can get very good, and save all of that “JigTime”. The truth is you need to Hone the edge and the inside of the gouge for true sharp. Alan Lacer did a nice job on this in one of “The Woodturners Workshop” episodes. I use a diamond card $15 bucks to finish the outside of the flute, and a slip stone on the inside. Once I get a good grind, I hone it, then hone every couple of minutes, I only grind if I let the edge go. I only let the edge go when I am roughing out a bnuch of bowls in a longer session. Never during a finish turn session.
I Think that using a jig is a great way to set the “muscle Memory” ( shorter learning curve) but you would be well served to buy a couple cheap gouges, and just practice grinding them until you make the motions second nature. Grind turn, grind, turn, grind, turn…. I am not against the jigs, I just think they can be bypassed.
Honing is a different story, essential.

Grinder selection- I am suprised noone has brought up the Grizzley water cooled slow speed, often on sale for $90- 8”and $130 -10”. I would go with the 8”, reason is if you join a club or go to a freinds to turn, they are more likely to have 8” to use so the grind will be more uniform, and you will remove less steel to accomplish a good grind. Although the 10” will be a better grinder, just not as common.
Good Luck.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3452 days

#14 posted 05-13-2010 12:11 AM

Until I got a grinder I used the dirt cheap method of attaching a MDF circle to a face plate, and gluing on a piece of sandpaper then running it on my lathe at a slow speed. Then polishing the chisels edge using the lathe saving a bit of money until I could afford a proper grinder.

-- San Diego, CA

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3192 days

#15 posted 05-15-2010 01:12 AM

The mdf, is a great idea. I also have a random 1/2 hp motor that I attatched 2 glued up peices of mdf after trueing them up I put white buffing compound on it. I don’t have a rest on it, but it puts a really nice edge on tools. Total freehand honing, it is not real agressive, so if I screw up it does not cause much damage.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

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