New turner I'm still setting it up and I need some help

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Forum topic by JoAnneN posted 06-12-2016 10:42 PM 1469 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 148 days

06-12-2016 10:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe chisel turning sharpening jig resource help

I bought the Basic Pen Making Starter Package with Turncrafter Commander 10” Variable Midi Lathe
It came with a 3pc Carbon Steel Chisel set I want to start my pen making with better tools, I can spend about $100 on the 3 starter tools I’m not even sure of the names of the tools,one is a skew I think. What are the other tools? anyway does anyone know where I could get good tools for that price? I also need a bench grinder and the thing that will hold my tools at different angles for sharpening. Ideas or suggestions? The last thing I need is the holder for the pen for the drill press where can I get that?
I made a pen at a woodworking show, I really liked it, usually I do scroll sawing so this will be a nice change. Any ideas or things I may have missed I am open for any suggestions and when I make my first pen on my own I’ll have a pic thanks!

22 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


4939 posts in 3087 days

#1 posted 06-12-2016 11:58 PM

This ain’t gonna be cheap … your lathe is just the down-payment. Welcome to the vortex.

The tools that came with your lathe are a skew, spindle gouge, and parting tool. Good quality HSS tools are going to cost you a good bit more than $100, but you might be able to get by with some of the Benjamin’s Best tools that PSI has on their website.

Woodcraft has Rikon slow-speed grinders for under $100, and the OneWay Wolverine sharping system with Varigrind jig will set you back about $150. Steer clear of the Varigrind-2.

PSI has everything you need for drilling, trimming, and assembling pens.

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

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

2256 posts in 702 days

#2 posted 06-13-2016 12:16 AM

PSI = Penn State Industries

-- Don K, (Houghton, Michigan)

View JADobson's profile


659 posts in 1535 days

#3 posted 06-13-2016 12:27 AM

Lee Valley’s economy turning tools area in your price range. I only use the roughing gouge on my pens (with a light touch). They can be found here:,330,56745 .
You may find the parting tool and skew chisel helpful as well.

-- James

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1414 days

#4 posted 06-13-2016 12:17 PM

I would suggest getting a sharpening system in place 1st before buying new tools. The suggestions of a slow speed grinder and the wolverine or similar jig system are spot on. Do your research on these – there are a lot of reviews on jig systems. The carbon steel tools will cut just as well as high speed steel (HSS) they just won’t cut for as long. You can actually get the carbon steel tools sharper but it isn’t needed. I would recommend either this set from PSI or buy individual tools from them. The Benjamin’s best tools work very well with good HSS. No reason for a beginner to buy Thompson, Sorby, or other high priced name brands. If you start production turning some day, maybe then it makes sense. PSI has all the other accessories you need for pens at high value prices.

View Woodmaster1's profile


732 posts in 2011 days

#5 posted 06-13-2016 01:54 PM

Pen state industries Benjiman Best tools are ok starter set. As you gain more skill get better tools one at a time. Then you are not buying expensive tools you do not need. For pens, start with a 3/8 spindle gouge, parting tool, and a skew if you learn to use it

View JoAnneN's profile


16 posts in 148 days

#6 posted 06-13-2016 01:55 PM

I will get the grinder first, yes I have now realized that it is a vortex, it’s like ok I need this and that so far I have bought a bathroom sink vanity for my stand at a surplus outlet. I cut off the bottom piece so the bottom sits on the floor (I’m short) I didn’t like the color so I did a light sanding and it has primer on it now. I got the I DELTA 50-345 Universal Mobile Base (Wood Not Included) to move it out of my workroom. My workroom is my laundry room, limited room I still need to get plywood for the top of it 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch I don’t know yet and I want to put a couple of shelves in there. Then the grinder tools and the jigs. So $100 gets me me economy tools, I know from experience that cheap tools will just frustrate me. What kind of tools are middle of he road? Would $200 be enough?
So far in my woodworking I have only done scroll sawing, I enjoy that but zi need a break from that

View JADobson's profile


659 posts in 1535 days

#7 posted 06-13-2016 02:27 PM

I know I said the LV tools are their economy line but dont’ be fooled by the name. They are solid performers and are made from HSS. I don’t believe you’ll find them frustrating.

-- James

View Julian's profile


1012 posts in 2115 days

#8 posted 06-13-2016 02:58 PM

You can buy a slow speed grinder at Lowes for about $100. You can get a set of HSS tools from Harbor Freight for less than $100. I have been using my HF tools for a few years now and they work fine. One benefit of cheaper HSS tools is you can learn to sharpen them on the grinder without worrying about grinding away too expensive HSS. If you plan on turning pens you really won’t be turn much wood compared to turning a bowl. Or you can buy better HSS tools without handles (cheaper) from various sources and make your own handles. Many choices. Enjoy your turning.

-- Julian

View JAAune's profile


1617 posts in 1741 days

#9 posted 06-14-2016 02:39 AM

I agree with OSU55. Use your existing tools until you’re comfortable with the sharpening process. I do all my wood-turning with miscellaneous, carbon steel tools simply because it’s what I have and I’d rather spend money on other things.

Cheap steel has to be sharpened more and that’s a good thing when you’re still learning how to sharpen. Don’t buy another cheap tool because that’s a waste of good money but using what you’ve already got isn’t a bad idea. When you’re finally ready for an upgrade, spend the money to get quality tools.

-- See my work at and

View lew's profile


11266 posts in 3180 days

#10 posted 06-14-2016 02:59 AM

I would not buy a vice to hold the pen blank on the drill press. Spend the money on a chuck and use you lathe for drilling the blanks.

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

View JoAnneN's profile


16 posts in 148 days

#11 posted 06-14-2016 11:20 AM

Thanks for all the help, the explanations I will use what came with the kit to start with. It came with with 10 blanks and the the 3 carbon steel chisel set. The whole package was from PSI. Figures I have to pay tax on it! I will buy a new slow speed grinder and look for wolverine and look at other jig systems. The class I took at the woodworking show, well he said that using a drill press was the only way to drill out the pens. I will look for the chuck to use my lathe to drill the blanks. Everyone has helped so much, I loved turning my first pen at the show so I knew I was going to buy a lathe. I received it and I said now what? :I got so excited about having a new tool and turning pens that I forgot to do research! I dont regret it too much, and I’m ready to start. I’m almost done with the set up now, I just have to buy a few more expensive things.
JADobson, James, thanks for telling me about the Lee Valley website, I love it, so many things to look at!

View waho6o9's profile


7125 posts in 2001 days

#12 posted 06-14-2016 02:31 PM

Please purchase a face shield :)

View Kelly's profile


1054 posts in 2368 days

#13 posted 06-14-2016 03:11 PM

I’m a newbie to lathes and turning too. It’s now been about six or eight months since I started my investment tour.

I was fortunate in in that the used Jet mini I got came with a set of Benjamin’s Best. They have turned out to be very good starter knives. They hold their edges very well in hard cherry and apple, as well as green pine and so on.

I don’t have sharpening jigs yet, so my sharpening efforts are not consistent. I use a 1”x 42” Delta belt sander with the table dropped to the angle I need and am able to get a lot of work and detail accomplished that way. To be fair, it is not uncommon to have to go back for another shot, but it is a quick process, since my sharpening equipment is, per suggestions, behind me when I’m using the lathe.

I use about 220 grit paper on the 1” and a light touch. Anything more is a waste of knife.

I also have a four stone, variable speed, reversible grinder. It will become my sharpener of choice, once my Wolverine jigs and table arrive.

I’ve bought a second lathe (a used Rockwell Delta, which needed TLC) and, a few more knives and a few chucks, the jigs mentioned and there will be more. I don’t have to have spend a lot of money, unless I want. In fact, I’ve made my own paring knife, built a nice stand, with organizing drawers, for the little lathe, and designed my own dust collection hoods [that wrap around the work, except where I’m cutting, and capture most of the stuff the lathe tosses].

In the end, it’s more than a little entertaining. What, before, was the neighbor’s fire wood is now a new knob for a cabinet, a fancy file handle, a wine stopper (using cork turned with a 2×2 jig), a ornament, a handle for a solid wood kitchen scoop…......

View JoAnneN's profile


16 posts in 148 days

#14 posted 06-14-2016 11:30 PM

Impressive Kelly, I am nowhere near your level of competency

View Kelly's profile


1054 posts in 2368 days

#15 posted 06-14-2016 11:48 PM

Give it a month or two and you’ll be at or beyond my level. It just depends on your interest.

Impressive Kelly, I am nowhere near your level of competency

- JoAnneN

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