Jimmy wrote in:
I bought a wood lathe on sale for Father’s Day. What turning tooling do I need to get started?
Okay, so there are a couple of options when it comes to woodturning tools. You can opt for chisels and tools made with HSS shafts and sharpened cutting edges, or you can opt for tools with replaceable carbide inserts.
If you go the traditional turning tool path, you could find 5-piece or 8-piece turning tool sets for $20-100, such as this $65 PSI Woodworking set, but the downside is that you’re going to have to learn how to sharpening and hone the tools.
My preferred tools these days are Rockler’s turning tools, which feature replaceable carbide cutting edges. I also own a couple of Easy Start turning tools ($60 each via Amazon), which came first and are identical in concept and function.
The beauty of carbide turning tools is that the inserts don’t need to be sharpened. They stay sharper for longer than HSS cutting edges, and when they dull you can simply rotate the insert to expose a nice fresh cutting edge. When an insert is dulled on all sizes, you replace the insert.
Rockler Carbide Turning Tool Sizes
Rockler currently offers three sizes of their carbide woodturning tools: full size, mini, and pen sized.
Full Size: These tools are well suited for large projects, but if you don’t have a large lathe or are not working with larger workpieces, these turning tools might be a little awkward to use.
Mini: The mini carbide turning tools are well suited as your everyday turning tools.
Pen: If you will be working with really small lathes and workpieces, the pen-sized tools are going to be more comfortable to use and control.
Carbide Insert Shapes
Square: This is your basic shape for hogging off material and creating flat or convex outside-curved surfaces.
Radiused Square: The radiused curve allows for smoother cuts with less risk of gouging.
You can sometimes swap the radiused square insert into your square turning tool, depending on the one you buy. With Rockler’s tools, the radiused square insert only fits into the full-size or mini radiused square handles, or the mini handle that is a part of their 3-piece mini turning tool set.
Round: You would use the round cutter for shaping, smooth finishing cuts, and to create inside curves.
Diamond: The pointed edge makes the diamond tip perfect for forming finer details and for parting.
The full-size and mini tools are available separately, and you can buy the mini and pen sized tools as part of 3-piece sets. The mini set comes with square, round, and diamond turning tools, while the pen set comes with square, round, and HSS (high speed steel) diamond parting tool.
Full-Size Carbide Turning Tools: $100 each, $20 replacement cutters
Mini Carbide Turning Tools: $70 each, $1820 replacement cutters, $140-$190 set
Pen Sized Carbide Turning Tools: $130 set, $18-20 replacement cutters
Buy Now(via Rockler)
While these turning tools are quite a bit more expensive than regular HSS ones, the time and effort saved from not having to worry about sharpening is often worth the investment.