Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wood Turning Tool Thoughts

One of the few "standard" tools that I use a lot is a roughing gouge. For all you who turn spindles, this is likely a standard for you as well. One of the considerations for lathe tools is simply cost. The rise of high speed steel (HSS) in recent years for the manufacture of wood turning tools has elicited the development of powdered metal tools and cryogenically treated tools and likely some that have people doing strange dances in the light of the full moon over weird alloys and configurations. All this seems to be either in pursuit of the tool that never needs sharpening, that cuts the wood on its own, or makes a lot of profit for someone.

I turn wood and some of it has embedded rocks, the occasional nail, once or twice a bullet, and often grit and grime that along with various silicas in the wood oil itself, dulls a tool. Smacking a nail at speed with a tool ruins an edge whether the tool is old carbon steel, new HSS or one of the fancies. Never mind searching for the elusive never sharpen edge, make or buy a sharpening jig and get back to turning.

The thought of having a tool that cuts wood on its own destroys the whole process for me. I turn because I like to. There are easier ways to make money (my hats off to all you pros)and cheaper sources for bowls and pens and the rest of the stuff we make. Not better and most of the time not nearly so good, but cheaper sources are out there.

I understand people making profit and long may the wood turning supply people do so. It will keep them in business and our supply of tools available. However, you need to ask yourself what tool is reasonable to buy? Remember, every tool and every purchase is a compromise of sorts.

For me, tools of M2 HSS make sense. They hold an edge that is both sharp enough for efficient cutting and easy to sharpen. Carbon steel takes a sharper edge that may be better for final cuts but I sharpen them on the same grinding wheel so the difference is minimal. HSS holds the edge a lot longer and is much more forgiving in sharpening. The other metals are more expensive than I need.

Back to that roughing gouge. I bought it as part of a set from Record. Nice tools all. It has a good shape and sufficient metal thickness for wear and use. I replaced the handle because I like a longer one than the one it came with. When I replace it in a couple of more years of sharpening I will likely get another set. Most sets have roughing gouges and for a little more than the price of a roughing gouge itself I will likely get a couple of spindle gouges, some scrapers and a skew to play with. All of them will be HSS and good value. It does not take a lot of money to have nice tools to play with.

1 comment:

m said...

Thank you for continuing to provide a voice of sanity on tools and tool prices.