How to Sharpen Lathe Tools by Hand

Those who have had a lathe for more than a week know that they need to sharpen their chisels and sharpen then often. The greatest challenge is getting some nicely sharpened tools at the time first learning process. Most do not get proper importance on it and overlook it. Without proper guidance, the sharpening process can be difficult that creates frustration.

Know When to Sharpen Turning Tools

When you have bought a good lathe and woodturning tools, you will want to know how do you sharpen woodturning gouges? The first step is to inspect the spindle and the bowl gouges for sharpness before you turn the lathe. You probably notice that more times than not that the wood gouges don’t even have a sharp edge at all. The bevel of the wood gouge sometimes may not be right for what you have in mind and it has to be totally reworked for what you want to do. Some guidelines are below you can do to determine the sharpness of your woodturning tools and gouges.

Is It Sharp?

There are different ways to check the sharpness of tools. One method is to run your thumb across the edge.  With this method, you are feeling for a bur. The bur is what does cutting at the time of lathing a spindle or a bowl. Be careful, don’t even run a finger along the length of the sharpened edge. If you do this, you may cut yourself. Check the spindle of bowl gouge, if it is sharp you must feel a remarkable bur. In addition, your thumb will catch as you move it across the edge of the turning tool. This method is effective for knives and skews as well.

End Grain Sharpness Test

There is another way to find out the sharpness of your gouges and skews. Just take a chunk of softwood such as pine and clamp it down to the bench. Take the gouge and run it down a corner of the end grain to find out what it does. If you find that it cuts shavings from the grain then the turning gouge is still sharp and does not need to be sharpened at this time.  If you see that the gouge does not produce shavings at all but instead just pushes down the end grain then it does need to be sharpened. Every time use the end grain for this type of test because even dulled tool can cut when going with the grain.

Use The Light Test for Sharpness

There is another method to check sharpness called the light test. This method will figure out the sharpness of your tuning chisels and gouges. Hold the chisel or gouge under a well-lit lite. If you find that the gouge reflects light back then you have to sharpen it back up. If you find that the cutting edge of the chisel or gouge looks dull in colour while under the light then it is still sharp. You do not need to sharpen it. With the help of a magnifying glass, you can do it conveniently. This method will help a lot in determining if the turning gouge is in good working order or not.


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Paper Test for Sharpness

Paper is also used to check sharpness. The method is very easy to perform because all we are doing here is seeing if the skew will actually cut paper cleanly without leaving any rough edges. You need to take a piece of paper and hold it by one of the edges. The next step is to take the skew and check if it will slide down the edge. If you find it clean then you should be good to go. If there is in need of a lot of force to cut, then the skew has to be sharpened.

Turning Tools Dull Through Use

Bowl gouges and spindle along with the skew chisel will dull with time. There are things that cause the turning tools to become dull. Turned wood can cause dullness soon. Between hardwood and softwood, hardwood will dull out a turning gouge faster. There is a reason for this, bowl gouge and the spindle take a harder hit from hardwood. This hit knocks off the bur on the gouges faster, keep in mind that the bur is what does the cutting on both bowl gouges and spindle.

It is not important if you are turning hardwood or softwood. Tools of yours will become dull. There are some signs that your gouge has become dull. If you see the cutting edge or the very tip is hot to the touch, it is high time to sharpen the gouge. If the bowl gouge and spindle no longer produce quality shavings but instead produces chips then it may be time to visit the grinder to dress it back up. Remember that, there are definite types of wood that don’t produce shavings but instead create wood chips.


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Spindle and Bowl Gouges: Learn How to Shape Them

It is clear from the previous discussion that turning tools right out of the package probably won’t do you any good for turning bowls and spindles. It is a nice idea to look into carefully for nicks and dings. Even though those are new. The next step is to look for is do they have a bevel shape to them already? Check the ability of the bevel to sharp and within the parameters what is recommended.

If you are using bowl gouges and spindle. You will know the details of it, how to sharpen them. All tools are made from high-speed steel or HSS for short. These HSS tools are better than lower grade steel tools. There are a few reasons to say it. HSS steel much stronger compares to lower grade steel. Fewer trips to the grinder to sharpen the HSS steel. HSS steel creates less friction when sharpened compare to lower grade steel.

You have to make sure the bevel and angle are correct before sharpening your chisels. The skew chisel and parting tool are probably the easiest turning tools to learn on. An angle of around 50 degrees the parting tool has. You need to set your tool rest on the grinder up for a 50 degrees angle grind.

For a few seconds, turn the grinder on and lower the tip of the parting tool onto the moving grinding wheel. The same amount of time turn the parting tool over and do the opposite side. At length, the result must be the point of the parting tool to be ground to a sharp squared point.

It is easy to shape skew chisels. The angle for the skew in between 25 to 55 degrees. Same as the parting toolset the tool rest of the bench grinder to the degree of what you want. Then lower the edge of the chisel onto the moving grinding wheel. After making contact it starts sweeping the chisel back and forth several times.

The next step is to flip the skew chisel over and repeat the process. At this process, you need to make sure that the degree is what you want. Before going to the next step check the ground part of the turning tool with an angle finder or use the felt pen method.


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Turning Tools: Sharpening

There is a misconception among some people they think that sharping and sharpening lathe tools are the same thing. Actually, both are totally different. Shaping bowl gouge and the spindle are defined as changing its original bevel or creating a new one entirely. Sharpening is the process of restoring the cutting edge of a chisel or the gouge to where it will cut the way that it’s supposed to. Without shape, a turning gouge can’t be sharpened. There are some gouges that are the same so those can be shaped into different angled bevels. It can save the time of having to reshape one bevel multiple times.

You will need some additional tools to successfully sharpen your wood lathe tools. An angle finder helps to verify the angles to be sharpened. You also need a good black felt pen to colour in the tip of your turning chisels to see where the grinding wheel makes contact with the gouge. It will be great to invest some money in a sharpening jig to make things a little easier. The jig will help you to maintain the angle while grinding on the grinder.

Sharpening the wood lathe tool will help you perform your woodworking activities more effectively. If the sharpening process is done at home. It will cost-effective.

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