What's a good way to keep lathe tools sharp?

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Forum topic by thechipcarver posted 03-16-2015 11:13 AM 1342 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View thechipcarver's profile


217 posts in 1634 days

03-16-2015 11:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: turning tools lathe sharpening strop grinder buffing buffer

Ok, have a question.

I’m a woodcarver but I have thought about getting into turning. I have a Wilton mini variable speed lathe that I bought about 10 years ago and have never used. Well, I take that back, I used it a couple of times when I first got it. I stop using it because I thought the motor was burnt out. I got it out the other day just because I was bored and it seems to be working fine.

So, I dug out the old lathe tools that I had and they are in need of sharpening. I have looked on here, youtube, etc. and found ways of sharpening them. My question is, “If I sharpen them to a sharp edge, could I use a buffing wheel to keep the sharp edge?” Instead of using a grinder everytime.

The reason why I ask is that when I carve, I don’t use a stone everytime. I use a strop to keep the edge. Unless I chip or damage the blade in some way, I don’t use a stone.

Any advice or direction would be great, thanks.

-- While teaching a class, a gentlemen once asked me: "When chip carving an intricate design, what do you do when you are almost finished and the wood breaks off?" I replied "Cover the kids ears."

9 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5017 posts in 2549 days

#1 posted 03-16-2015 11:42 AM

I’m barely a wannabe turner, and don’t carve at all. That won’t stop me, I think stropping an edge is good is the edge doesn’t have much wear….I’m thinking of my bench chisels. But lathe tools wear much faster, to the point that I would think (but do not know) that the edge is beyond being restored by stropping.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View OSU55's profile


1737 posts in 2045 days

#2 posted 03-16-2015 11:54 AM

You will need a way to grind the edges for sharpening – grinder, belt or disc or lathe disc sander, etc. If you think about, or calculate, the # of feet/min a lathe chisel is cutting, I think you will understand the need for grinding the edge. Stropping can work for a touch up – I use a leather wheel sometimes, but it doesn’t last as long as the original edge. There are carbide insert type tools for wood that typically are not resharpened, but they are for rough cutting – the surface finish is not nearly as good ass a sharp HSS tool.

View Wildwood's profile


2342 posts in 2190 days

#3 posted 03-16-2015 01:33 PM

No on using a buffing wheel to resharpening! You do not say what kind of steel tools made of, but would recommend touching up tool edge with a diamond card.

Lot depends upon wood and type of turning and results you are getting as to degree of resharpening needed. Also amount of damage you are doing to the wood.

Once you get in the habit of touching up a tool edge on a turning tool doesn’t take long. Whether with diamond card or bench sander or grinder.

-- Bill

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1232 days

#4 posted 03-16-2015 01:38 PM

Ron Brown, a professional turner, once told me that he never ground a skew chisel that he just used a diamond stone to touch it up. He grinds the other lathe tools.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View soob's profile


269 posts in 1264 days

#5 posted 03-16-2015 01:50 PM

You can put an edge on lathe tools with a sheet of sandpaper and a flat surface, as I’ve found out since my grinder has been out of commission; but I don’t recommend it.

View TheDane's profile


5461 posts in 3719 days

#6 posted 03-16-2015 02:37 PM

On my skews, I shape with a belt sander. After that, I hone with a diamond card followed by an MDF wheel on a HF buffer:

For a quick touchup on skews, I most often skip the diamond card and just use the buffer.

Gouges are all shaped and sharpened on the CBN wheels on my grinder.

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

View LeeMills's profile


564 posts in 1357 days

#7 posted 03-16-2015 06:12 PM

Like others I do hone my skew because it is a straight edge and with some of the cuts you are trying to direct the force into the headstock or tailstock so the sharper the better.
For most other tools just grinding. As Fred stated, its the speed. ie A 6” diameter bowl at 1,000 rpm has 300 inches of wood coming past the cutting edge per Second. No way to keep it sharp like a carving chisel.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View Underdog's profile


1133 posts in 2091 days

#8 posted 03-16-2015 06:21 PM

Grinder and Jig. If you don’t want to spend all your time sharpening, get a grinder and jig. When it gets dull, set up the jig (or leave it set) and touch up your tools. Takes only a few seconds…
The SFM of a lathe just makes it impractical to just touch it up with a strop or buffing wheel-there’s just not enough left of the edge..

View Wildwood's profile


2342 posts in 2190 days

#9 posted 03-16-2015 07:24 PM

Years ago made me an MDF honing wheel to mount on my lathe after reading more than a few articles. Besides wasting my time and dulling my tools in the process; quit that Op pretty fast! I do hone by hand by very quickly with my diamond card if can find it!

Mostly go from the grinder to turning. I use my Wolverine set up and also free hand sharpen my tools. You only want to dress up the edge not waste lot of steel.

-- Bill

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