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Lathe Skew Chisels

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Forum topic by swirt posted 08-25-2010 11:10 PM 4284 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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swirt

2117 posts in 2434 days


08-25-2010 11:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question skew chisel

So I’ve just started turning using a bungee lathe. (here) and I am in the market for a skew chisel. I see I have three choices:
1) A skew with flat surfaces on the metal leading up to the bevel
2) A skew with oval surfaces leading up to the bevel
3) A skew with a rounded bevel.

I understand that the rounded bevel is less prone to digging in so is a bit easier to use. I have a feeling though that this would make it more challenging to sharpen. So my instinct is that I probably want to avoid that one.

I think the skew with the oval metal leading to the bevel would easier to guide and move along the tool rest. I’m not sure if it has any additional advantages or disadvantages.

I don’t have the option of trying before I buy. How do I choose which style to go with? Suggestions, recommendations, advice all welcome.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com


13 replies so far

View Elksniffer's profile

Elksniffer

93 posts in 2859 days


#1 posted 08-25-2010 11:44 PM

I was told by my turning club’s sage that the oval skew was hard to learn control of. He recommended getting the square shoulders and then soften them with a file or emory cloth so it glides on your toolrest. You can grind the bevel straight and the the next time grind a curved bevel or sweep in it , and if you don’t like it or it is difficult to get a good sharp edge you can grind it straight again. Learning to get the tools sharp is a skill and the jigs that are out there (wolverine) shorten the learning curve. Sharp is better. It isn’t really to difficult to make a skew from say a planer blade or some other suitable steel and since you have the lathe you can make the handle, and you have a grinder. They are some videos out there that I have watched. Ellsworth has a book also detailing making lathe tools in one chapter.

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Roper

1370 posts in 3175 days


#2 posted 08-25-2010 11:45 PM

First off what kind of turning are going to be doing? if it’s mostly spindle work i would get a spindle roughing gouge and a spindle gouge to start. A skew is a great tool but it takes a while to get the hang of it.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust- www.roperwoodturning.com

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2460 days


#3 posted 08-25-2010 11:57 PM

I have only used the flat but I would suggest getting a small set of HSS chisels with a variety. They are not really like other chisels where the quality is that different between chisels. They are not usually sharpened that finely and you want a steep bevel because there can be a lot of shock on the end of the tool as it hits tough grain at high speed. (Yes, even with your bungee lather… which I really liked btw.)

You will probably want at least three tools. A thumbnail scraper, a skew, a parting tool, and a gouge. Oh Wait that’s four! You will want at least four tools. And maybe a larger roughing gouge. Arrrggghhhh!

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

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Stonekettle

135 posts in 2366 days


#4 posted 08-26-2010 12:04 AM

I’m a big fan of the oval skew, but it does take a lot of practice to learn how to use correctly.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m also a big fan of Alan Beecham’s skewchigouge – though that generally doesn’t win me any friends and I’d advise you to steer clear of that or the round nose skew until you’ve developed sufficient skill with the standard or oval skews.

Without doubt, the most difficult turning tool to learn how to use properly is the skew. Don’t be dissappointed or frustrated with your first attempts. You’re going to have some fairly brutal catches and ruined pieces. Practice on throwaway pieces at first. Also, before you ever put steel to wood, learn how to sharpen your turning tools – the methodology for doing so is different from other tools – it makes all the difference in the world.

Learning how to use a skew properly requires development of and adherence to proper technique and lots of practice, but once you have it, using the skew is addictive and fun.

-- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

View swirt's profile

swirt

2117 posts in 2434 days


#5 posted 08-26-2010 04:36 AM

Wow, thanks all for the wealth of great advice, and what makes it cool is that for once the advice is not conflicting so it makes for some easy decisions.

So a standard skew it will be, with some softened corners to glide on the tool rest.

I figure my ability to sharpen a skew ought to be on par with sharpening a chisel or plane. The other shapes seem to be a lot more complicated.

Roper, my goal in using the lathe is pretty utilitarian at the moment. I want to make some nice handles for some of my old chisels. Beyond that I may want to do more, but I doubt it. My taste in furniture and projects is pretty large and chunky. Fine spindly things don’t do much for me. But then again, doing the wee little bit of turning I tried seemed like a lot of fun, so who knows where it will lead.

David, I am with you on the need for a spindle gouge. I’m not sure but I have seen indications that a scraper really doesn’t work well on a spring lathe because of the return spin. Does that seem right? I was thinking of just starting with a skew and a 1/2” spindle gouge.
Roper suggested in another thread http://lumberjocks.com/topics/19308 that I could do what I wanted with just a skew but it might take more practice. This idea appeals to me because i know I have a hard time sharpening my outcanel carving gouge and I see a spindle gouge as being as hard to sharpen as that or worse. If I could do it all with a skew, I am more likely (in my mind anyway) to be able to keep the skew sharp. If this is a bad way of thinking please talk me out of it. ;)
A parting tool? It seemed to me I saw a video of someone showing how a skew chisel turned on its side with the longest point of the skew down into the wood could do the job as a parting tool. Is that not the case?

Stonekettle, I looked at the skewchigouge on woodcraft. It looked interesting but I wasn’t sure (hand’t seen anything written) about how it would play on a reciprocating lathe. I’ll avoid them for now, but I might save the name for my next dog because it is so much fun to say. Thanks for the encouragement to practice. AS soon as my skew arrives, I’ll start turning scraps into curvy toothpicks ;)

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2460 days


#6 posted 08-26-2010 05:37 AM

Regarding the return spin: No, the tools and their use is the same, you just pull the tool back on the return stroke. Continuous motion is easier but takes more equipment. You don’t need to worry as much about the tool heating up because of the slower speeds involved and can you can go with sharper tools with a reciprocal lathe.

The scrapers are cutting tools like hand scrapers. It is all about the edge geometry. They are great for turning ferrules and such. Metal turns just fine too.

Much like the idea that for woodworking all you really need is an axe but you really wouldn’t want to if you didn’t have to, you can do everything with a skew. The skew really excels at fine finish work.

The sharpening is not that bad. I just chuck my belt sander in the vise or use my wet grinder and have at it. Just spin it around while it grinds. You really don’t sharpen turning tools as finely or accurately as a carving gouge. I wouldn’t bother with more than 80 or 100 grit on most turning tools. A fine edge on a skew maybe 200 or 400 grit. The friction of turning on a high speed power lathe will eat up a fine edge. Because the edge is moving laterally, the irregularities in the edge even out and don’t leave tracks like a nick in a plane blade.

Turning is a lot of fun but it is really hard to explain. Kind of like explaining how you balance when you are riding a bike. You just have to get the feel for it. The real hard part is to learn to cut and not scrape. If you can get it, green wood is easiest to turn but less predictable on the final shape.

The best video I have ever seen for turning and yes, he only uses a skew:

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

View docholladay's profile

docholladay

1287 posts in 2520 days


#7 posted 08-26-2010 01:53 PM

Swirt, I bought a set of 8 or 9 High Speed chisels from HF that were pretty cheap several years ago. It came with 2 different sized skews, 2 sizes of spindle gouge, a parting tool and 2 scrapers. When sharpened, they do pretty good work. This would get you started pretty well till you can figure out what you like and the best part, if you mess one up experimenting with a different type of grind – who cares? It didn’t cost much anyway. I generally don’t like HF tools, but I have been pretty happy with these.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View swirt's profile

swirt

2117 posts in 2434 days


#8 posted 08-26-2010 04:19 PM

David, you undid your whole argument with that one video LOL. I had seen that before, but now that I have actually had a spinning piece of wood in front of me, seeing it again made me look much closer at the cutting action of the skew. First time I watched it I was focused more on him using one foot to hold the tail stock tight and the other to guide the tool. I got a lot more out of it this time around. Thanks ;)

Thanks for the suggestion on the set of tools Doc. I may may a trip to the “big city” and stop at a few of my used tool places along the way. If I don’t pick up any used version of what I need, I’ll make my first trip into Harbor Freight. .... I’m afraid to set foot in the place for what I might come away with that I hadn’t planned to. ;)

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View DanCo's profile

DanCo

66 posts in 2360 days


#9 posted 08-26-2010 04:36 PM

Hello Swirt,
I don’t comment too often on this site. Your lathe is cool and I would agree with doc. I have that set of chisels from HF. Foe the beginner and your lathe they would be great. They are $39.99 right now at HF. In fact at the price of them, you could pick up a benchtop grinder and wheels while your there, and a sharpening jig like the wolverine or from one-way and have only cost about the amount of 2 high end chisels. You can also make your own turning chisels (i do and learned how to on the net). In fact that is what I am doing today. Good luck, and remember turning is as addictive as this website.
Daniel

-- Daniel

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swirt

2117 posts in 2434 days


#10 posted 08-26-2010 05:00 PM

Thanks Daniel. I appreciate your backing up Doc’s suggestion.
I need a Harbor Freight Proxy buyer…someone I can send in to just get the one thing I need and not the 50 other things I will grab because of the prices. ;)

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2460 days


#11 posted 08-26-2010 05:53 PM

Swirt:

If you are not uncomfortable with hardening and tempering steel, the tools you could use at bungie lathe speed are actually easy to make. Old files, chisels and such work fine. Anneal them dead soft. Shape them however you want. Harden and then temper them a bit softer than you would a regular chisel. Straw yellow would be a bit too hard. Maybe down into the light purple. (Others may disagree about them being that soft)

You can also pick up HSS jointer or planer blades (Ask around for people that have disposable ones to hand down.)

That is another slippery slope that you will find yourself looking for old junk tool steel ;)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

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swirt

2117 posts in 2434 days


#12 posted 08-26-2010 07:55 PM

That’s an interesting idea David. I think though when I venture to making my own metal tools I’ll do it with something I have experience using, like planes or chisels or something. That way I’d at least know whether I made something good or made something bad. If I did a lathe tool at this point, I would never know whether the bad results I was getting at the lathe were the fault of my shop made tool or the result of my lack of skill on the lathe. Uncertainty sucks LOL.

-- Galootish log blog, http://www.timberframe-tools.com

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2460 days


#13 posted 08-26-2010 07:58 PM

swirt:

But that is the real beauty, you actually CAN blame the tool! ;)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune: http://lowbudgetwoodworker.blogspot.com/

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