Sharpening Lathe Tools

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Forum topic by DS posted 12-20-2012 04:01 PM 3131 views 2 times favorited 30 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View DS's profile


2925 posts in 2445 days

12-20-2012 04:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve been turning ever since High School shop class. (1978)
I’ve always enjoyed it, but I seem to only get to do it when a project calls for turned elements.

I’ve had the same Sears Craftsman turning tools for the last 30+ years and they are admittedly in rough shape.
(Yes, I know there are better tools, but, the budget and the need hasn’t yet been there to get spendy.)

Sharpening the straight skews and parting tools hasn’t really been difficult, but what is the best way to sharpen a curved gouge? Seems I can never keep a consistent edge across the entire cutting width.
My Dad turns also and his gouges are totally butchered.

I am afraid if I put my gouges on a grinder, they’ll get mutilated.

Do I need a special jig for this?
What is there out there?
Is there a special technique?

Thanks in advance for your helpful suggestions.

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

30 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4243 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 3012 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


2925 posts in 2445 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


5320 posts in 3907 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


2925 posts in 2445 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 3167 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 2039 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


2925 posts in 2445 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


4032 posts in 2996 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 3317 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


1181 posts in 2801 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 2039 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 2099 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 2294 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


2925 posts in 2445 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

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