Needs some advice about turning chisels

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Forum topic by NH_Hermit posted 07-24-2011 03:01 PM 1861 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3090 days

07-24-2011 03:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe chisel question

My new Delta 46-460 arrived last week and I was able to play a bit by Saturday, only to find my cheap turning tools that I bought a couple years ago are a real disappointment. And of course the purchase of the lathe has put a big dent into my budget, so I need to think about what is absolutely essential. On the other hand, I keep remembering my wife’s attitude about purchases, “We are not so rich to buy cheap.” And I realize these will be a lifetime purchase.

So now I need to think about some really good tools. My experience in my turning courses makes me think these are the basic tools I need to start with: (1). ¾” roughing gouge. (2). 3/8” spindle gouge. (3). 3/8” bowl gouge.

I think I can get by with my parting and scrapper tools for the time being.

I need your suggestions on my choices, brands, and click and/or mortar stores to purchase from.

Thanks in advance, John

-- John from Hampstead

15 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#1 posted 07-24-2011 03:14 PM

I advise you to take a look at the Easy Wood Tools

I only have the easy rougher and I use that for at least 90% of my work. Despite the name, you can use it with a very light touch and get scraper like results.

I would start with the Easy Rougher and a parting tool. You’ll be surprised with what you can do with just those 2. Add additional tools when/if you need them.

Check out the video available with the Easy Rougher listing. It really is as easy as they portray it.

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

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3456 days

#2 posted 07-24-2011 03:20 PM

I am not an expert turner by any means but if the tools are not sharp they will be less than stellar, even if bottom end tools. I would learn to sharpen them really well before shelling out the cash for another good set of tools. You wont loose as much sleep over grinding down the cheap tools while learning to sharpen them as you would over say an expensive set of Sorby chisels.

I have heard, and read, some decent reviews on the Benjamins Best chisels from Penn State. I have not used them not am I endorsing them. Another way would be to look at garage sales for older sets of Craftsman, Greenlee, Buck Bros. You want the OLD sets, 1950-1970, not the new ones. They will be cheap and again you wont feel bad sharpening them and watching the steel hit the wall and floor in a shower of sparks

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View Arch_E's profile


48 posts in 2516 days

#3 posted 07-24-2011 03:25 PM

Most all of the higher-end tools work as promised (Oneway, Sorby, Taylor, p&n, Crown, etc: The cheaper tools can be a mixed bag, metallurgically speaking—claiming to be M2/HSS but not really. However, they work! I’ve bought my share of both kinds. In the end, I reach primarily for bowl gouges because that’s what I’ve become most proficient using. Once I bought a quality skew, I started enjoying that. Parting tools don’t really matter.

What really matters is buying the right diameter for your lathe. Larger diameter tools really hog off and put a load on your lathe (via the wood). Smaller gouges typically cut with a lighter load and thus don’t load the motor. And, they seem to cut easier (think about narrow plane blades as opposed to wider ones).

A less expensive set is a good way to experiment with the various gouges; but not all sets are equal nor do all sets include a bowl gouge. If I were allowed only one tool brand, it would be Oneway. Their tool steel has performed fantastically for me. But got a lot of other favorites, too; so, I’m not a purist at all. BTW, the higher-end tools have a much better resale value. If you buy the best, you’ll only cry once. Buy right; buy once.


View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3090 days

#4 posted 07-24-2011 03:27 PM

I should add that I already have a Delta 8” grinder and a Wolverine grinding jig that I bought after my last turning class as preparation for the lathe. Part of that class included sharpening skills and techniques.

-- John from Hampstead

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4212 days

#5 posted 07-24-2011 03:45 PM

First, let me 2nd Rich Greer’s recommendation of the Easy wood tools.

I also have this set from Penn State Industries that was recommended to me when I was starting out. Nothing fancy, but they get the job done and hold an edge pretty well. I have no co,plaints whatsoever with them.

I ve been told by experienced turners that the main difference between good tool and cheap ones is how well they will stay sharp. Even cheap tools should cut well when first sharpened.

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

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2599 days

#6 posted 07-24-2011 04:23 PM

Personally I do not see the appeal of the Easy Wood tool. It seems to me that it would be great if you either do not know how to sharpen your tools or do not want to sharpen your tools. Otherwise it has no advantages that I can see and a few disadvantages over regular turning tools.

What type of turning you do will affect which tools you use. I turn small spindles, pens, and occasionally larger things like vases. The only tools I own are a Henry Taylor Kryo 3/8” spindle gouge and a Crown Pro-PM Bowl Gouge. My spindle gouge does a fine job with ruffing out a piece. I typically will sharpen my gouge 2 to 3 times per piece while working on a spindle depending on how much roughing I really need to do. I have a shop made jig that mimics the wolverine and it takes literally 2 seconds to sharpen my tools using it.

In my mind those are the only tools you need to get started and to do 98% of your turning. Buy other tools only after 1) your turning progresses to the point where you really need the use of a more specialized tool and 2) when you have a piece you want to make that really requires the more specialized tool.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2965 days

#7 posted 07-24-2011 04:42 PM

I havent seen where anyone mentioned the skew. I just started turning last weekend. I was scared of the skew because every thing I ever read about turning made me think it would dig into my work and break my arm or something. Not True! I think it’s the most intuitive and easy tool I have.

I did buy an inexpensive set to start, like you. Mine were labeled HSS and maybe they are. They cost about $60 for a 6 pc set from Harbor Freight. They seem to work okay, after sharpening. Sharpening is the key.

I really want to try an Easy Wood Tools rougher or finisher. The rougher has a square bit and the finisher has a round bit. I have watched videos of the finisher working and it looks like the best too out there. They both have a square shank with a replacable carbide cutter screwed onto the end. Come ready to use with no sharpening and are supposed to cut well about 20 times longer than a standard HSS tool with no sharpening. Actually you just rotate the carbide cutter for a new cutting edge instead of sharpening. This is the next tool I’m going to buy.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4091 days

#8 posted 07-24-2011 06:07 PM

The main appeal of tools like the easy wood tool is they let people try out wood turning without having to make the investment of a full set of tools and a sharpening setup. Also, I think it raises your chance of success if your doing it by yourself with out the support of a wood turning club or classes. Once you figure out if you like it then you can go hog wild.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2599 days

#9 posted 07-24-2011 06:28 PM

If the original poster did not already have a grinder with a wolverine (or had a grinder but was not willing to make a shop made jig to sharpen tools) then I could see the appeal of the easy wood tool so long as they really don’t know yet whether they like turning. In the advent of either already owning a wolverine or a shop made jig, sharpening your gouge is literally a no thought, idiot proof process.

The idea of having disposable cutterheads on a chisel screams to me of a marketing ploy that will end up costing someone a lot more then normal high quality chisels if they stay with turning for any decent period of time.

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4091 days

#10 posted 07-24-2011 06:29 PM

I agree it is a bridge tool… Kind of like a gateway drug.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Chris 's profile


1879 posts in 3985 days

#11 posted 07-24-2011 06:34 PM

Well Said Wayne!

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4212 days

#12 posted 07-24-2011 07:17 PM

Regarding the Easy tools: The cutterheads last a long time. It’s not like you replace them as often as you would sharpen a chisel. I’ve had a rougher (square) and a finisher (round) for a couple of years and have not replaced the cutters yet. Granted, I don’t turn every day.

I think everyone interested in turning should get some conventional tools and learn how to use them. That said, I still find myself using my Easy tools more frequently than anything else just for their simplicity and ease of use.

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

View Jeffery Mullen's profile

Jeffery Mullen

345 posts in 2812 days

#13 posted 07-26-2011 09:16 AM

I just got a mini dermal lathe at a garage tool sale and am excited to give it a go. It came with all the turning tools and the good thing about me is I can sharpen any blade that requires to be sharpened . I wish you well on getting your turning tools sharp for the job needed on the projects you do.

-- Jeffery Mullen

View BarneyTomB's profile


28 posts in 2512 days

#14 posted 07-26-2011 10:48 AM

I’ve used this set from Penn State. Like all turning chisels you have to sharpen them before you use them the first time but I can’t complain about these.

-- Profanity; The last refuge of the limited intellect.

View Dan Katz's profile

Dan Katz

51 posts in 2633 days

#15 posted 07-26-2011 11:40 PM

Hi John,
If you’re on a buget I would recomend the higher priced set offered at Harbour Freight.
They are the ones with the dark red handles. The steel is pretty hard and I have reshaped several
for my needs.The Windsor brand (ash handles) are junk. In the higher end, I like the Richard Raffan tools
offered by Wood Turners Supply in Utah. I agree with those that think you should learn to use and sharpen standard tools. Anyone can scrape a piece of wood to shape and there is a use for that at times but learning the difference between a cut surface and one that is scraped is fundemental.

-- VillageCarver,Chattanooga

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