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Thread: getting tools sharp

  1. #1

    getting tools sharp

    This may seem like a dumb question, but I'm still pretty much a novice turner, so here goes: How do you get your tools really sharp? When sharpening conventional woodworking chisels, I work through a series of progressively finer stones until I have a nice mirror like finish and sharp edge that will shave hair off my forearm. But as far as I've seen, turners sharpen on grinders with at most two wheels - one usually coarse and one finer, but even the finer wheel typically has nowhere near the grit of a fine water stone. I'm sharpening on a Norton 3X wheel, using a One Way jig to maintain the angle on my gouges, and getting reasonable results, but still more tear out and tools marks than I'd like. What I don't understand is, once you have established the angle you want and grind the gouge to that angle, what means do you have to get the edge any sharper? It's not like I can go to a finer grit. In addition, when sharpening flat chisels you can work back and forth between the bevel and the back to eliminate the burr that forms with sharpening each surface, but when grinding turning tools you're sharpening the bevel only. Any enlightenment would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Carterville, Illinois
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    Some turners use a wet grinder, such as the Tormek, to get a more polished edge on their tools. You can also use stones to get a polished edge, usually just at the cutting edge, since the bevel is concave off the wheel. Like most turners, I don't usually bother to get that razor sharp edge on a turning tool. At the speed the wood is turning, that fine of an edge will disappear in seconds. I might hone the edge of a tool for a finish cut, but for ordinary turning, I don't bother.
    If you are having tear out, then stiffening the wood fibers with something like BLO can help reduce the tear out.
    The hurrier I goes, the behinder I gets.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Bell View Post
    This may seem like a dumb question, but I'm still pretty much a novice turner, so here goes: How do you get your tools really sharp? When sharpening conventional woodworking chisels, I work through a series of progressively finer stones until I have a nice mirror like finish and sharp edge that will shave hair off my forearm. But as far as I've seen, turners sharpen on grinders with at most two wheels - one usually coarse and one finer, but even the finer wheel typically has nowhere near the grit of a fine water stone. I'm sharpening on a Norton 3X wheel, using a One Way jig to maintain the angle on my gouges, and getting reasonable results, but still more tear out and tools marks than I'd like. What I don't understand is, once you have established the angle you want and grind the gouge to that angle, what means do you have to get the edge any sharper? It's not like I can go to a finer grit. In addition, when sharpening flat chisels you can work back and forth between the bevel and the back to eliminate the burr that forms with sharpening each surface, but when grinding turning tools you're sharpening the bevel only. Any enlightenment would be appreciated.
    I use an 80grit CBN initially and then a pass on an 180 grit CBN. When roughing logs I just use the 80 grit.
    For finish cuts I use the 180 grit and then use a card type diamond hone to get a clean sharp edge. I relieve the heel so it doesn't burnish behind a cut. I have the onway jigs but only use them to restore a profile I like, then I use free hand sharpening. It works for me, tool edge may not look pretty but they cut and that's what counts.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Flower mound, Tx
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    484
    With the exception of my skews, I only use 180 CBN and Oneway jig for all my turning.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Bell View Post
    This may seem like a dumb question, but I'm still pretty much a novice turner, so here goes: How do you get your tools really sharp? When sharpening conventional woodworking chisels, I work through a series of progressively finer stones until I have a nice mirror like finish and sharp edge that will shave hair off my forearm. But as far as I've seen, turners sharpen on grinders with at most two wheels - one usually coarse and one finer, but even the finer wheel typically has nowhere near the grit of a fine water stone. I'm sharpening on a Norton 3X wheel, using a One Way jig to maintain the angle on my gouges, and getting reasonable results, but still more tear out and tools marks than I'd like. What I don't understand is, once you have established the angle you want and grind the gouge to that angle, what means do you have to get the edge any sharper? It's not like I can go to a finer grit. In addition, when sharpening flat chisels you can work back and forth between the bevel and the back to eliminate the burr that forms with sharpening each surface, but when grinding turning tools you're sharpening the bevel only. Any enlightenment would be appreciated.
    Well, you can't sharpen a bevel and a pretty bevel isn't the main goal ... you want a sharp edge. You may have heard the old woodcarvers saying, "if you can see the edge then you don't have an edge." Look at the edge in bright light to see if there are any bright spots along the edge. If so it needs more work. I understand what you are saying about using a bench grinder, but technique makes a lot of difference. Try to use a smoothly flowing feather light touch keeping the tool moving. I recommend using jigs for the best control. After using the grinder you can use a diamond hone to remove the wire edge, but not everybody does. I believe that your main issue with tear out is tool control and presenting the edge so that the bevel is smoothly gliding along the wood. The larger the angle between the bevel and the wood, the more aggressive the cut. With a hand plane the angle is fairly large, but the relationship is rigidly constrained by the sole of the plane and the speed of the cut is very slow. When turning woodthe speed is much faster and a big bite will be hard or impossible to maintain control. Start off by letting the bevel ride on the wood, but not cut. Then gently raise the back of the handle slightly until fine shavings start to appear. Work on this exercise for a while until you feel comfortable. Then you can work on maneuvering the tool to use different parts of the bevel. Sometimes tear out is a bear, but with practice it becomes less of a problem.
    Bill

  6. Just FYI....I went to a Richard Raffan demo, and he is one of the best known turners in the world.....written books, and is a prolific and extremely accomplished turner. He told our group he sharpens his gouges on a 46 grit Aluminum Oxide stone on the grinder. That was about 6 or 7 years ago.

    I have two CBN wheels on my main grinder, one 80 grit, and one 180 grit. My 180 grit gives me a fairly polished bevel, but certainly not a mirror polish. I highly recommend CBN wheels for the metal alloys in the higher grade tools we see today. I use mainly Thompson gouges, but do have some cryogenically treated Crown tools from Sheffield, UK, and some Serious gouges [no longer in business] where they are very hard and the CBN does a fine job sharpening.

    3X Norton stones are the Cadillac of sharpening stone, and I used them for years. You can get a perfectly fine edge with a Norton wheel.
    Remember, in a moments time, everything can change!

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  7. #7
    As has been stated, a razor edge on a turning gouge will not last long and may not be achievable given the steels used in gouges. Since a cutting edge is produced by the intersection of two surfaces, the quality of that edge is improved by increasing the smoothness of the edges. For that reason on my working gouges I prefer polished flutes and I use a 600 grit CBN wheel. That gives me a very nice edge that has reasonable durability on a gouge of M42 or V10 steel. I sand to 400 before applying finish, so I am not concerned with getting the surface shiny smooth from a gouge cut. My concern is more about having the proper curve and a clean cut without tearing. From there, sanding is usually a quick process. For me, honing or polishing an edge just isnít worth the time. But, others see it differently.

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    I too sharpen only on a 180 grit CBN-- I've set up a grinder now with two of them, one with the wolverine jig for my bowl gouge and one with Roborest for most other things. I have a small diamond slipstone that I will occasionally use on a skew to get a a finer edge for a problematic final cut--that edge lasts about 10 seconds. Other than that the 180 grit wheel does the trick.

  9. #9
    For most of what we do, we don't need the same edge as a hand plane or carving chisels. If you consider how much bulk we remove, the really fine polished edges just don't wear as well as the coarser ones. I mostly use a 180 and 600 grit CBN wheels. The 180 does 95% of what I will ever need, and the 600 grit is for pieces where the wood is being 'difficult' as in soft and/or prone to tear out. I only hone my skew chisels, when I use them...

    robo hippy

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    E TN, near Knoxville
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    8,319
    Like others, I've switched to CBN wheels for sharpening. I shape on an 80 grit, sharpen skews, scrapers, and bowl gouges on a 600 grit, and have an intermediate grit I need to get rid of since I never use it. I sharpen my spindle gouges on 1200 grit on a Tormek.

    I use both the Tormek jigs and the Oneway Wolverine/Varigrind on the 600 grit wheel on the bench grinder. (I like the original Varigrind far more than the Varigrind 2.)

    I think that like many other things in woodturning, how you prepare the edge depends on what kind of turning you do. For example, I put a mirror polish on my skews and spindle gouges, especially useful for fine detailed work with hard, dry woods. Turning big bowls from green wood? The polished edge is probably a waste of time.

    To get the polished edge on spindle gouges I use a leather stropping wheel on a Tormek. To polish the edge on skews I use metal polishing/buffing compound rubbed on a piece of MDF with the surface roughened a bit. I used to use hand strop on leather but I like the MDF better. To refresh a skew or spindle gouge edge after some turning I might use an extra-fine Ez-Lap diamond hone followed by stropping. I hone the inside of gouge flutes with a round ceramic slip stone.

    Tormek claims that a polished edge will cut better and last longer and I see some evidence of this in some uses, especially detail in hard woods including lots of exotics.

    BTW, I was a holdout on getting CBN wheels, for years using Norton 3x with the Oneway balancing system but once I switched I'd hate to go back. Just eliminating the stone dressing is worth it. I bought all my CBN wheels from Woodturner's Wonders.

    This is an older picture of my lathe tool sharpening station. I've since added another Tormek.

    Sharpening_small2.jpg

    JKJ

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Bell View Post
    This may seem like a dumb question, but I'm still pretty much a novice turner, so here goes: How do you get your tools really sharp? When sharpening conventional woodworking chisels, I work through a series of progressively finer stones until I have a nice mirror like finish and sharp edge that will shave hair off my forearm. But as far as I've seen, turners sharpen on grinders with at most two wheels - one usually coarse and one finer, but even the finer wheel typically has nowhere near the grit of a fine water stone. I'm sharpening on a Norton 3X wheel, using a One Way jig to maintain the angle on my gouges, and getting reasonable results, but still more tear out and tools marks than I'd like. What I don't understand is, once you have established the angle you want and grind the gouge to that angle, what means do you have to get the edge any sharper? It's not like I can go to a finer grit. In addition, when sharpening flat chisels you can work back and forth between the bevel and the back to eliminate the burr that forms with sharpening each surface, but when grinding turning tools you're sharpening the bevel only. Any enlightenment would be appreciated.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Kapolei Hawaii
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    2,937
    No offense intended, but since you are a beginner, your tool marks and tear out is probably due to lack of skill at this point. Keep turning, and you will get better. Learn from your tear outs and tool marks. Change bevel angle, how you present your tool etc. You will find your groove. Keep practicing.
    Find a turning club near you. Finding the turning club I'm in was the best thing to happen with turning and learning.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
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    435
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Iwamoto View Post
    No offense intended, but since you are a beginner, your tool marks and tear out is probably due to lack of skill at this point. Keep turning, and you will get better. Learn from your tear outs and tool marks. Change bevel angle, how you present your tool etc. You will find your groove. Keep practicing.
    Find a turning club near you. Finding the turning club I'm in was the best thing to happen with turning and learning.
    As a beginner I can confirm this. It's most likely your technique, not the tool. If there's a club close by join it. It's much easier to watch someone tell you what parts of the tool they are using, how they are using them, and why than watching a video. Nothing beats when they hand the tool to you and help guide you. I learned (still very much learning) the hard way as the club near me isn't that close and meets at a time when I can't get there. I picked one tool, a bowl gouge with a fingernail grind, and spent hours using different parts of the edge doing both pushing and pulling paying attention to the grain. The hardest part is learning how to have a light touch and when a curve on a turning is going to be much more likely to catch or tear out. If everyone could do it after an hour of playing around then when you get it right you would have something special that you would be proud of.

  13. #13
    Hey Bill,

    Not a dumb question. The turning tool is going to dull fast and spending time to sharpen through various grits will be lost. I shape gouges on an 80 grit and sharpen on a 180 grit CBN wheel. It's a rinse and repeat process. If you're turning dry or hard wood, you may need to sharpen as often as every ten minutes.
    Last edited by Steve Schlumpf; 06-23-2019 at 7:00 PM. Reason: Link was in violation of TOS

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