Where should I start with tools and info?

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Forum topic by groland posted 04-17-2014 06:24 PM 1510 views 1 time favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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183 posts in 3406 days

04-17-2014 06:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe tools lathe videos

I am about to acquire a wood lathe, a used JET JWL 1236. I have never done any turning, owned a lathe, etc. though I have just recently viewed some beginner’s lathe tutorials on youTube.

The tool I am acquiring comes with no tools, so I am writing to ask for recommendations for a minimum set of high-quality tools for turning. What brands are considered best and what should I get first?

If there are any recommendations for thorough lathe set-up, maintenance and use videos, I would appreciate those suggestions as well.

Many thanks,


23 replies so far

View Ocelot's profile


1974 posts in 2632 days

#1 posted 04-17-2014 06:35 PM

The “best” tools are for sure expensive – more than your lathe. You might better start with good tools. I’ve only tried a little turning, so I’m glad I don’t have $600 tied up in tools I don’t use.

I don’t have these, but they look nice. I’m a sucker for carbide. If you don’t have carbide turning tools, you need to have your sharpening wheel right there next to the lathe and know how to sharpen and shape as you go.

Instead, I have something like this.

But since I don’t have a sharpening system, I don’t turn.


View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2908 days

#2 posted 04-17-2014 06:41 PM

Biggest bang for the buck IMO. I bought both sets below and am quite satisfied that I did not buy the high dollar ones.

Set of 8 Benjamins Best HSS Lathe Chisel Set

Set of 3 HSS Benjamins Best Versa Chisels: 1/2 in., 3/4 in. and 1 in.

Also, check out my struggles with choices of equipment in the thread below. In the OP there are several links to check out too.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2669 days

#3 posted 04-17-2014 06:44 PM

I was gifted with a Jet JWL1236 so I am about where you seem to be. I got a set of steel tools with it. I read about carbide and making your own tools etc. I haven’t ever used carbide but I will say steel was used for a LONG time before they figured out how to use carbide. I think a lot can be learned using steel. On the other hand, you might be better off spending your money on carbide. Use the money there. I think there is a Capt. Eddie or someone like that where you can get carbide cheaper than most places. The rest is a turned handle and a steel rod. Talk to some of the guys on here that turn. Rick is the name of one of these guys and he will likely pop up on here in a bit. He turns a lot.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2908 days

#4 posted 04-17-2014 06:53 PM

You can find Cap’n Eddie here:

Great do it yourself videos for turners.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2669 days

#5 posted 04-17-2014 07:19 PM

Thanks Mike. I wasn’t sure if he had a last name or how he was listed. I need to order from him and try this out. I would like to add that when you have determined you want to be a wood turner you have to also decide you want to learn to properly sharpen your tools. This is a must.

View Woodknack's profile


11601 posts in 2374 days

#6 posted 04-17-2014 07:50 PM

Captain Eddie is one of the few who actually teach you about turning (rather than just video themselves doing it) and his beginner videos are full of meat. Also look around for a turning club in your area, turners love to help newbs.

As for tools I have some Easy Wood Tools, some carbides I made, and some used steel tools. The traditional tools cut faster and cleaner but require sharpening.

-- Rick M,

View Minorhero's profile


373 posts in 2599 days

#7 posted 04-17-2014 08:27 PM

Before you blow a lot of money getting a full set of tools, it might be good to know what kind of turning you plan to do? Are you going to do spindle work? Bowls? Pens? Are you doing chair legs and table bases or Christmas ornaments?

A couple of years ago I was where you are at now. I wanted to teach myself how to turn so I made pens and Harry Potter style magic wands (because they were great practice and didn’t need large pieces of wood) . All I used was a 3/8 spindle gauge. I bought a nice Henry Taylor kryo and I have been quite happy. I also bought a sharpening wheel for my grinder and made a wolverine like sharpening jig. The sharpening stone for the grinder is 100% required and don’t even attempt turning without one. You need to sharpen tools every time you use them and sometimes part way through.

View TerryDowning's profile (online now)


1077 posts in 2111 days

#8 posted 04-17-2014 08:48 PM

High Speed Steel (HSS) tools IMHO are the most economical.

Figure out a sharpening method that you like and work for you. There are literally dozens of sharpening methods and they all boil down to this same thing.

Run an abrasive on the steel at an angle that will create a zero radius cutting edge.

Determine the type of turning you will do then look for the correct chisel.

My most used lathe chisels

1” spindle gouge
1” skew with a radius grind ala Alan Lacer.
3/8” bowl gouge wood river (woodcraft house brand)
1/8” Parting tool
1/16” shop made parting tool

I have a dozen other chisels but these are the ones I use the most.

-- - Terry

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3579 days

#9 posted 04-17-2014 08:49 PM

I would not recommend carbide turning tools as a start up set . IMHO you will fare much better with good quality High Speed Steel steer well clear of carbon steel cheapies they aint worth twopence each and that is well documented ,as they are not hard enough to withstand the friction and subsequent heat build up,and when they heat up will dull much quicker than HSS and require a lot of sharpening.
Sharpening and learning to sharpen if you take up turning is a must, and not too difficult don’t be bullied or misled into shying away from doing your own tools regularly.
When turning you will have to sharpen a lot not every three months LOL as I thought when I took up the craft but every three hours sometimes.
If your tools are not sharp you will labour to get good results so a quick ten seconds with an eight inch wheel preferably eight as you don’t get such a concave bevelled edge this way.
Tungsten tools are ok for people who want to remove a lot of materials quickly,however this comes with experience.In my opinion you should learn to walk before running start of taking things easy then build up your speed with your confidence at the same time.Learn all the laws and physics of turning get a few dvd’s and watch how to stop making common mistakes and getting frightened off with nasty dig ins.
Even the most expert sometimes get these as it is a continual learning process but there are some very basic rules you need to follow not cutting up hill on spindles when cutting flutes etc.
It is a great hobby with the opportunity to make many beautiful and practical things over the years.But for goodness sake learn to sharpen tools again just follow some basic rules and it is always the same procedure each and every time.I hope this helps you as I was given help when I started by a neighbour who was a very nice turner.
It , at the end of the day must be fun too so please as I say take it all slowly and easily when starting out.
And leave the tungsten tools alone IMHO for the time being it is a myth they will stop you from having to learn tool sharpening and IMHO and the opinion of many that tungsten does not cut as well as HSS.They are really only useful when you understand the basic rules, and help you to get things cut quicker but this is not what turning should be about imho. It is just, once again yawn, stealing machining lathe ideas and transferring them to woodturning done many times lately.
Just as my old best pal Irving says COOL YER BEANS which means take it easy when learning the ropes.Have great turning fun I have learned so much since starting out almost twnty years ago. and I wish the new turners every happines and success. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View HorizontalMike's profile


7754 posts in 2908 days

#10 posted 04-17-2014 08:52 PM

Grandpa: ”... I would like to add that when you have determined you want to be a wood turner you have to also decide you want to learn to properly sharpen your tools. This is a must…”

Very true! And here is a great cheap way to get/make a high performing belt sharpening system for around $100:

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3657 days

#11 posted 04-17-2014 10:02 PM

A lot of beginning turners start out with carbide tools … I think that is a mistake.

Carbide tools, for the most part, are scrapers that tear the grain instead of slicing it. That makes for a lot of sanding. I think you are better off to learn how to use HSS tools and learn how to sharpen … with enough practice you can get finish cuts that require almost no sanding.

Full disclosure: I do have some carbide tools. They are used only for hogging out large amounts of material. Otherwise, they sleep peacefully in the drawer underneath my lathe.

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

View JollyGreen67's profile


1669 posts in 2757 days

#12 posted 04-18-2014 12:42 AM

I would also suggest you find a local woodturning club for their advice. A local Woodcraft store would also be a good place to learn.

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected !

View Ocelot's profile


1974 posts in 2632 days

#13 posted 04-18-2014 03:36 PM

I might set me up one of those belt-sander sharpening thingys and try turning again with CapnEddie’s videos as a guide. This is a good thread.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 1942 days

#14 posted 04-18-2014 04:39 PM

I love captain Eddie He’s awesome, and very instructive.

View Ocelot's profile


1974 posts in 2632 days

#15 posted 04-21-2014 02:12 PM

@SCOTSMAN & TheDane,

You guys are experienced turners, which I am not. I made about 3 test spindles and didn’t have a sharpening system and it took a long time, so I decided to do that project without spindles and haven’t gotten back to the lathe since then.

So I want to ask what is so horrible about carbide?

I’ve got carbide blades on all my saws (except the bandsaw – because I haven’t come up with $200 for a Lenox Trimaster blade). They cut wonderfully – making little thin threads of wood – not “dust”.

I’ve got a carbide head on my planer. It certainly slices the wood very nicely. The resuts are excellent!

Why is carbide then not suitable for lathe work in your opinion? It is just that the carbide inserts have a different shape than the traditional turning tools?


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