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Thread: Which Tools to Buy?

  1. #1
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    Which Tools to Buy?

    Hello, This is my first post on the Turner's Forum. I have begun taking turning lessons at the local Community College. My initial objective is to make fluted spindles with matching capitals for a 1780's style chest on chest. There are 9 of us in the class and all the other turner's are working on large and small bowls. I would like to get a few gouges and chisels. Without spending a fortune, can you give me 3-5 gouges that will work for spindles and also beginners bowls. My instructor recommends Sorby but I understand that Crown is good and less expensive. Any suggestions?
    Last edited by Glenn Samuels; 02-07-2013 at 9:11 PM.

  2. #2
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    My answer to the same question, which I came to with the assistance of many turners on the forum, is to get a Harbor Freight High Speel Lathe Tool kit (the one that is $50 to $80 before discounts, not the one that are about $20). Benjamin's Best sells a similar set. I keep on using all but the spindle gouge, and there was no bowl gouge in my set. So I added a 1/2" bowl gouge and a 3/8" spindle gouge ) $95 for the 2 from Thompson Lathe tools.
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  3. #3
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    Find some used tools on Craigslist and learn how to properly sharpen using those... once you're comfortable and not wasting good steel on the grinder, pick up a better set (like Sorby, though I prefer Thompson now).
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  4. #4
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    I bought the Sorby starter pack. Then I bought the HF starter set for probably 1/3 the cost of Sorby. I use the HF spindle gouge more than the Sorby one both of which are best suited for small spindle work. I splurged at one SWAT symposium and bought an Eli Avisera spindle gouge which is best for large spindle work. I like Crown tools but have no spindle gouges by them. Like Dan said...learn how to sharpen.

  5. #5
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    +3 on learn how to sharpen

  6. #6
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    Cindy Drozda recently published an article about CBN wheels. In it she discussed HSS and how complicated and precise the hardening process is. If you buy from a good source like Sorby, Crown, Henry Taylor, you can expect the M2 HSS to be prepared properly and the tool to provide long life. cheaper brands will generally vary from tool to tool. My HF spindle gouge lasted about 1/2" before the quality of the steel changed to where it would not take an edge - it just burns, even on a good grinder at low speed. You really get what you pay for in tool steel.

    In the long run, you are going to spend a bunch on tools, start with a few good ones, a jig to sharpen them, and someone to show you how. Also from Cindy's article, when you make the jump to the newer Powder Metal (PM or V10 or V12) be ready to also jump to a CBN grinding wheel to do the sharpening.

    As to what tools you need:

    SKEWS - at least one and I like larger skews rounded on one edge - get Alan Lacer's DVD to go with it.
    SPINDLE GOUGE - at least a 3/8" with a fingernail grind
    SPINDLE ROUGHING GOUGE - bigger is better, I use a 2" BB gouge, but I know a lot of people that use a large bowl gouge - different technique.
    SPINDLE DETAIL GOUGE - (optional) 3/8" - sharpens at a sharper angle than regular spindle gouge - needed for finials, etc
    BOWL GOUGE - start with 3/8" standard grind (bottom feeder) and 1/2" fingernail or Ellsworth grind. V or better yet, parabolic flute.
    BOWL SCRAPER - PSI has a Benjamins Best pair that I like, not too expensive.
    BOX SCRAPER (optional) - to get the 'flat' bottom and inner corner of boxes, if/when you try doing them.
    PARTING TOOL - skip the diamond shape and get the Sorby 1/8" or equal

    That's just my opinion of course, and just a starter list. You will want to go deeper adding more sizes as your skills and interests grow. Later you will want to add hollowing tools, but they are easier to make than to use.
    Last edited by Thom Sturgill; 02-08-2013 at 11:15 AM. Reason: Added parting tool
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  7. #7
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    IMHO, this would be an excellent starter set.
    Set of 6 Benjamin's Best HSS Lathe Chisels Item #: LXWM1007

    They are available from pennstateind.com.

    It has all the basic chisels in the typical sizes you need to learn both spindle and bowl work. They are good enough quality to function well and inexpensive enough that a few errors in learning to sharpen them won't be a huge bummer. They will probably require a little preparation work such as removing the lacquer from the metal with acetone, using a few grades of sandpaper to smooth the metal finish so they glide nicely on the tool rest and initial sharpening to the desired bevel angles. (Your instructor should be able to help you with the initial sharpening.) The Harbor Freight set (Item #69723) does not include a bowl gouge.

    If you can afford it, as Thom mentioned, an extra spindle gouge and bowl gouge would be useful to use with different bevel angles for different cuts and a flat nosed box scraper.
    Last edited by Aric Krueger; 02-08-2013 at 11:00 AM.

  8. #8
    I'm with Brian. Get the Benj Best or HF 'premium' turning set. They're great to learn on and some of the tools will probably stay with you for many years.

    It is also critical that you obtain a good sharpening set up. Many people go with a slow speed grinder and a Wolverine type set up.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glenn Samuels View Post
    My initial objective is to make fluted spindles with matching capitals for a 1780's style chest on chest. I would like to get a few gouges and chisels. Without spending a fortune, can you give me 3-5 gouges that will work for spindles and also beginners bowls.
    To be clear - you will need different tools for

    1 - shaping spindles on the lathe
    2 - carving flutes on those spindles (not really a turning exercise, but rather carving)
    3 - turning bowls

    For 1 you probably need a roughing gouge and skew along with a spindle gouge
    For 2 you probably need a few carving gouges (NOT LATHE TOOLS - carving tools) - a V-gouge and a standard gouge or two
    For 3 one good bowl gouge would suffice

    By the way, I don't know how precise you were being in using the word "fluting." If you are only doinng concave flutes, you likely don't need the v-gouge. If you were using the term more loosely and might do reeds (convex beads) as well, the v-gouge would come in handy.
    Last edited by Sean Hughto; 02-08-2013 at 11:40 AM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aric Krueger View Post
    IMHO, this would be an excellent starter set.
    Set of 6 Benjamin's Best HSS Lathe Chisels Item #: LXWM1007

    They are available from pennstateind.com.

    It has all the basic chisels in the typical sizes you need to learn both spindle and bowl work. They are good enough quality to function well and inexpensive enough that a few errors in learning to sharpen them won't be a huge bummer. They will probably require a little preparation work such as removing the lacquer from the metal with acetone, using a few grades of sandpaper to smooth the metal finish so they glide nicely on the tool rest and initial sharpening to the desired bevel angles. (Your instructor should be able to help you with the initial sharpening.) The Harbor Freight set (Item #69723) does not include a bowl gouge.

    If you can afford it, as Thom mentioned, an extra spindle gouge and bowl gouge would be useful to use with different bevel angles for different cuts and a flat nosed box scraper.
    Amazon carries what I believe is same set, LCSIXW, a few bucks less...the route I went several years ago. These were a wonderful set for starting, without breaking the bank. You'll find later that you'll want to buy a 'better' tool out of better HSS (i.e M42), and will spend as much on a single tool...unhandled. The only reason I caution against buying 'good tools' early is that you will be experimenting and learning with your sharpening, and don't want to do that with expensive tools. The only real downside to these tools in the set is that the edge won't last quite as long...which is good in that you get more practice sharpening, and they aren't heavily weighted. You'll find that heavier handles (i.e aluminum with ballast) can be more comfortable for turning and avoiding vibrations at the cutting face.
    Best possible advice...be sure to hook up with someone whose work looks clean and well detailed and that can spend some time with you on sharpening techniques/approaches. Explore as many sources for this as possible, not just one person or source either.
    Have fun, be safe and be sure to post some pics.
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  11. #11
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    All good advice above. I also strongly suggest you contact a wood turning club in your area. Looks like the "Piedmont Woodturners" in Greensboro is close to you. Check out the American Woodturners ( www.woodturner.org ) web site for more info. The clubs have mentors that can help you get started with the proper tools and one on one instruction.

  12. #12
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    Thank you all for your informative advice. I was planning on setting up a router I know...taboo) for the fluting but I do have some carving tools including a V tool. That is something for me to consider.

  13. #13
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    I think the LCSIXW set from amazon has different sized spindle and bowl gouges than the LXWM1007 set and it has an oval skew rather than a standard skew (which many folks don't like and can be harder to learn to sharpen). It would also be a very good set but the sizes in the LXWM1007 are the more common sizes used for learning IMHO.

    The difference in quality to more expensive tools would be like a basic claw hammer purchased at HF vs. a professional carpenter's hammer. They will both pound in nails effectively but one hammer is better balanced, made of better metal and has a handle that will last longer and has a more comfortable grip. If I were recommending a hammer for a beginner, I would point to the HF hammer. If at a later time, the student uses the hammer every day or becomes a professional home builder, I'd recommend a better hammer (and a nail gun). I've built plenty of nice sheds and crates with a cheap hammer. I dare say that most of the world's well known turners could produce masterpieces using lesser quality tools (because the quality of those tools are good enough to be effective at what they are designed to do and a master-turner can recognize the tool's limitations and adjust their technique accordingly). "It's not the fiddle, it's the fiddler". There's no reason a kid needs to learn to drive in a Ferrari when a Ford or Chevy would do just fine.

    As far as choosing mentors, it's just like a good art critic doesn't have to be a great artist. They have to know the subject matter, materials and techniques well. A teacher has to know the subject matter, materials and techniques well and be able to present/explain it in a way that is effective to the student. (I've had a few PHD college professors who knew their subject matter well but couldn't teach it if their life depended on it!) I've taught a few people a few things and my expectation of myself as a teacher is that my student becomes as good or better at it than I am. If that doesn't happen, assuming the student has the desire and ability, then I have failed as a teacher.

    Using a router to carve the flutes onto spindles in conjunction with the lathe's index feature is common practice, as far as I know, and is not "taboo." Back in the day, they used to carve them them in with carving chisels.

    There's a lot of good advice for you from folks in this thread.

    Have fun, be safe and happy turning!
    Last edited by Aric Krueger; 02-08-2013 at 11:41 PM. Reason: ...had more thoughts

  14. #14
    I am somewhat in the same boat as you in starting off down the path of turning. I however take a different view to my tools. It doesn't make any sense in my opinion to waste money so I look not as to what they cost but to what value they bring.

    I asked a similar question to what you just asked, and the best response I got was to join a guild (that I had already done) and speak with some of the members. I talked with one who offered up a Saturday morning to help me out and let me try out some of his tools along with showing me more about the ones that I had. That was the best investment I have made in it gave me a starting point to begin with.

    I don't think that having inexpensive tools that will blunt too easily is all that smart. Yes you will get to sharpen them a whole lot but I know from experience that there is a point that you get what you paid for. Good tools don't make you a good turner, but poor tools slow down your ability to become one.

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