View Full Version : OT-wood lathe tools

10-28-2012, 01:28 PM
Yesterday I scored a "very good" to "good" older Rockwell/Delta wood lathe for $25! Everything works great including the speed changer. Now I need to aquire some gouges. Looking in Grizzley cataloge I am wondering if there is any difference between the highend ShopFox and the Sorbys? I do see the longer the handle the more you pay. Also the walnut handles cost!!! Anyone have experiances with these or advice on where else to shop for some decent tooling?


10-28-2012, 04:25 PM
I don't usually say buy the best but for wood turning it will pay off. You are going be spending a lot of time stoning and honing the tools and the Sorbys will hold the edge better. Also Small design differences can make a big difference in how the tools work. Sorby has been making and refining these tools for long time. If your serious about learning get a Packard Woodworks catalog. You'll see more turning tools and goodies than you can imagine.
Good luck

10-28-2012, 04:40 PM
What I got a couple years ago:

Set of 8 Benjamin's Best HSS Lathe Chisel Set

happy with them when honed, holds an edge pretty well and don't cost too much to get ya goin...

Bob Fisher
10-28-2012, 04:55 PM
I bought a set (8), years ago made in England. They require a lot of honing to stay sharp enough to cut well. They're OK, but I'd recommend buying really good tools if you're really serious about turning. Mine are alright for the limited turning that I do, but if I wanted to do more I'd buy good stuff. Bob.

10-28-2012, 07:01 PM
I think it depends on how much work you're going to be doing on the lathe. I bought a cheap "good" set from HF about six years ago just to have something and they've done everything I've needed. But I turn wood maybe once or twice a year. I've never used the top shelf turning tools so I don't have anything to compare. Don't care to either if what I have works. No sense buying a Ferrari if you're going to leave it parked in the garage.

10-28-2012, 07:41 PM
Agreed, if you are only going to doing this a few times a year or whatever, there are cheaper turning tools out there that are pretty decent for the money.

One of the better top of the line tools used to be "Henry Taylor turning tools made in England, The brand was "ACORN". Pricey, but beautifully made.

Gary Paine
10-28-2012, 07:51 PM
Some years back I forged a large gouge out of an automobile rear spring leaf and was amazed at how well it worked and held an edge. I now have a set of Sorbys and love them.

10-28-2012, 07:54 PM
Can't answer with certainty between ShopFox and Sorby, although I would think Sorby would be worth the price difference. Just make sure whatever you get is HSS. Then learn how to sharpen. The Wolverine sharpening system is very respected. Then watch those gouges multiply. The slope is slippery, and there is no turning back.

10-28-2012, 09:04 PM
You could also grind to shape a few old files. They also hold the edge fairly well. Wayne.

10-28-2012, 09:09 PM
You might try making your own from 1/4 HSS tool bit and the carbide inserted ones. I did and will never go back to "woodworking" ones.

10-29-2012, 06:35 AM
You might try making your own from 1/4 HSS tool bit and the carbide inserted ones. I did and will never go back to "woodworking" ones.


10-29-2012, 07:08 AM
Until the '70s wood cutting bits were almost uniformly carbon steel, eg HF stuff, inexpensive ($20-50 lathe tool sets) and auto springs reconfigured or altered files. Then HSS was
enlisted, usually M2, but sometimes more exotica, and a few manufacturers tried screw on tool ends but problems with shaping limited this. Since lathe tools that most commonly
are used are some sort of gouge, a carbide version would be very difficult to obtain for DIY, using a cylindrical carbide stock, braising it to steel and then extensively shaping-difficult
because non planar diamond cutters are rare so carbide will be limited to skew cutters. Buying a single gouge in 3/8 or 1/2" will allow you to do a great deal and give you a sense
of how far you want to go with this new endeavor. The Woodcraft stores/web site has a lot of work holding stuff well worth looking into if the bug bites. Work holding methods
become important as you get into bowl and weed pot turning. There are a variety of chucks, much better than the face plate and screws method.

Ian B
10-29-2012, 07:54 AM

Are you (like me) a metal turner who now wants to turn some wood? When I first started turning wood, I thought, fine, it's like a metal lathe with bits missing, so go at it as you would as if you were turning metal. Then, I spent a couple of hours at a basic woodturning class, and found that they do things totally differently. Example - starting with a square lump of wood that you want to make round. Normally, I'd plunge the tool in, and then move from right to left. The wood turner teacher took a chisel, started the lathe, laid the flat underside of the chisel on the top of the work and then pulled the chisel backwards until the tip started to cut. I expected disaster, but it worked perfectly.

Might be good to take a couple of hours of lessons, and then buy the chisdels / gouges etc.


10-29-2012, 12:04 PM
Have a look at this:
While banjo making is not for everyone this artisan has built a really novel wood-machining machine. I hesitate to call it a wood lathe in the conventional sense of the phrase.

Another source is Lee Valley Tools (usual disclaimer): http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?cat=1,330&p=49233
All kinds of advanced tools beyond the usual set of 8.

10-29-2012, 12:30 PM
Set of 8 Benjamin's Best HSS Lathe Chisel Set


Even if you don't buy a set, Penn State Industries is a good place to get singles. I would definitely recommend HSS. They're also selling carbide tipped tools now, too.

10-29-2012, 07:31 PM

Sorry, It's at my other home so can't take pictures of my collection. It's all over the net. Here's a youtube of the basic tool "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beYhHw6EocU"
Very easy and quick for us machinist folks. Cut rod to desire length, drill hole for tool bit on one end, do what you like for other end to go into wooden handle, drill hole and tap for set screw, add copper ferrule to make it purty. You can just "test" out the tool with the tool bit as is without sharpening it. Nothing special needed to sharpen the tool. Use what you do now for HSS tool bits.

You might be wondering how you are going to make your first handle without a tool. I just used the tool as is without the wooden handle to make the first handle.

If you like the tool, then consider making the ones with the carbide insert (square and round) as well. You can turn all day long on those carbide inserts. You are more likely to chip them by hitting other tools or dropping them than dulling the cutting edges.

10-29-2012, 08:06 PM
Most of mine are Sorby's. If you are near somewhere you can actually hold the tools, do so. How it feels in YOUR hands is what's important.

I'll absolutely agree with the HSS. Sharpens better, stays sharp longer, harder to screw up while you're learning.

Once you get some experience under your belt, you might even want to make your own handles.

THis book is a good start, too.

Ernie is a real nice guy, and a fine turner. I've taken a number of classes at his shop in years past.

10-29-2012, 09:26 PM
Any Sorby lathe tools we had at work were TOO BLASTED SOFT. I had to re harden 1 to make it decently hold an edge. Get a set of HSS tools. I refuse to buy ANYTHING Sorby any more.

10-30-2012, 09:06 AM
I've made several for VERY active turners like dvo said. Nothing fancy, just start the hole square with a needle file, then broach it one corner at a time with a 1/4" hss tool bit and a big hammer, then drill and tap for a set screw. Then I'll turn the outside of the barrel to some even fraction so they can make a handle for it. Then I'll usually grind them a left, right, and center cutting bit using half a lathe tool. Each of these turners has racks of tools but will grab this critter every time because it cuts so nice.

10-30-2012, 04:06 PM
Lathe tools are a matter of individual taste and also of cutting style, what you're doing and whether you scrape or pare spindle work. Many people prefer to scrape because it's safer, and may not even understand how to make a really good paring cut with a sharp cutting tool. There's a book whose exact title eludes me today by F. Pain, an English wood turner, still in pring I believe. It's called The Practical Wood Turner, or something like that. It explains how to cut wood in a way that, when perfected, will remove a great deal of material with little risk using a sharp tool. Most of the wood turning gouges I see have ridiculously long handles, blunt bevels, and too much "nose" for real cutting. I prefer a plain old wood paring gouge, fairly large, ground straight across with a sharp bevel and sharp corners. Used right it will do a great many jobs well, and so, in fact, will any ordinary wood paring gouge. It does not need a long handle or to be extra thick. With the bevel riding right on the surface to cut, rocked down just enough to begin cutting, it will take off a huge rope of material safely, with enough bite to slow down a fairly well set up lathe. A straight turning chisel, a parting tool and a few other smaller gouges, and you can do almost anything. One must add a caveat here, though: this style of work requires constant attention. A mistake will hurl the tool and ruin the work. If you scrape, which is doable on spindle work and mandatory on face work, the tools must be different - robust and thick, no paring edges here.

My favorite straight chisel is made from automobile leaf spring. Good material there. Old files can be good too. I made a rudimentary gouge out of an automobile wrist pin this year as well, just to see how possible it was. The result was not bad, though one is limited to pretty small radii. The material holds a pretty good edge, and it's dead easy to put a handle on the end of a wrist pin.

I just found the book I was referring to on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/The-Practical-Woodturner-F-Pain/dp/071351423X. I read this something like 30 years ago, and have relied on the basic advice from it since then, though I never got too deeply into the more exotic stuff. But once you learn how to do basic turning with a sharp chisel here, you'll have a skill that keeps well.

Edit to add: if you scrape, leave the edge a little rough, and if you can, after grinding "ticket" it a bit, that is put a little upward bend on the very end. The edge doesn't last too long, but while it does it will zoom the material out like nothing else.

Mike Burch
10-30-2012, 04:29 PM
+1 for Pain's "The Practical Wood Turner". It's published by Evans Brothers, London, ISBN 0 237 44471 2.
Old-fashioned but sound.

10-30-2012, 04:35 PM
A lot of very good advice on cutting tooling, but I will add that a live center is part of wood lathe tooling that in my opinion is a must. This is true especially if you will turn soft woods or use very high speeds for finishing.

I'm also a big believer in dust collection around the lathe. It WILL make some serious dust! If a dust collector is not in the cards, at least a decent dust mask should be.

Turning is an art unto itself. I find it very relaxing and rewarding. And the great part about it is the fact that one or two (or three or four)thou over or under means little to NOTHING!

11-04-2012, 09:48 AM
+1 for Pain's "The Practical Wood Turner". It's published by Evans Brothers, London, ISBN 0 237 44471 2.
Old-fashioned but sound.

Used hard back ordered from Amazon.com $0.01+ $3.99 for shipping!

Thanks for all the advise!