Mini or Midi Carbide Cutter for Pens??

Signed-In Members Don't See This Ad

alaskagypsy

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
5
Location
Fairbanks, AK, USA.
I am a disaster at sharpening anything. I can take a new knife, never used and sharpen it to a dull state. So here I am a new wood lathe and looking at the carbide cutters. I can't see wasting my time sharpening so I think I will go with carbide even though I have a set of regular HSS. I am down to deciding if I should get a Mini or Midi sized cutter. I plan on doing mostly pens and small projects. Pen competition in my area (360 miles to the next biggest city), the guy does all wood pens so am thinking I will go acrylic when I get wood down right. The shorter Mini looks good, but thinking I would get a bit more range with the Midi and still be able to do the pens with no trouble. Or would I be better off with the shorter Mini?? Your thoughts?? Thank you in advance.
 
Signed-In Members Don't See This Ad

KenV

Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
4,721
Location
Juneau, Alaska.
Good morning --

Choice is all about style of turning. Both will work well. The smaller cutter, especially if you "break the rules" and use it as a bevel riding shear cutter will allow more details in smaller spaces.

The larger cutter will present an easier way to do long sweeping curves with a bit of loss of fine details.

No bad choices here -- depending on where you are headed, marginally better opportunities, and you will likely have both when the shaving clear over time.


P.S Glad to see another turner from Alaska
 

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
12,346
Location
NJ, USA.
My advice is learn and then learn some more to sharpen HSS tools. Carbide tools is not the save all answer. You will get a much cleaner cut with HSS tools if sharpened correctly. Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers. They get expensive. Yes they can be touched up with a hone but you need to know how to do that also. Sharpening tools along with learning how to use them is all part of turning. You don't go into a hobby or a job and go at it haphazardly. That is how you get hurt. Learn the equipment. You will not be wasting your time as you put it.

There are a ton of videos on utube that show how to sharpen tools. There are a ton of videos offered for free or minimal cost from turning forums. The answer to your question it does not matter at all if if you are going to do just pens. But the first time you start doing larger work you are going to wish you had some beef behind your tools. They will chatter and be hard to control. Bigger is better.

So to sum up did I say learn to sharpen your HSS tools??? Get yourself a slow speed grinder with some nice white friable wheels. There are plenty of jigs out there that can be attached to the grinder or just used in conjunction with a grinder that take all the guess work out of sharpening tools. Over time though you will want to experiment with different grind shapes and angles to give you max cutting abilities. Plenty of videos out there.

By the way WELCOME to the site. You may want to pop over to the introduction forum and give a little background about yourself. It sort of is frowned upon if you do not at least tell us who you are. Good luck and happy turning.
 
Last edited:

KenV

Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
4,721
Location
Juneau, Alaska.
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."

If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.
 

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
12,346
Location
NJ, USA.
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."

If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.
It also depends on the tool they are mounted to. Some tools will not allow you to ride the bevel. For the most part they are scrapers and from what this person is saying he does not even know what ride the bevel means. Just a vibe I picked up from the post.
 

stonepecker

Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2012
Messages
4,381
Location
central Minnesota
First, I wouldn't stop trying to learn how to sharpen HSS. This is something that while tricky isn't impossible. YOU can do it.

While the smaller cutter will allow for small details.......I would start with the larger of the two and then if you want, you can always get the smaller ones. OR have just one custom small detailer made to you order.

This is all part of the 'growing' factor we talk about here. As you do more, your skills will grow and you will want to do better and better. Good luck.
 

Edgar

New Member Advocate
Joined
Feb 6, 2013
Messages
5,401
Location
Alvin, TX 77511
I have two mini carbide tools - a round and an R2. I use the R2 almost exclusively on pens. I use both on bottle stoppers and other small projects along with other tools depending on the shapes that I want.

I debated between the mini & midi size tools also. I finally settled on the minis because I liked the lighter feel. They work fine for me - others prefer the midis for equally valid reasons. Either will work great for pens & other small projects - it's largely a matter of personal preference.

I also have a set of HSS tools and everything that's been said about them above is perfectly valid. I'm a lousy sharpener also - started with HSS and had trouble keeping them short and getting consistent results. Switching to carbide certainly made the hobby much more enjoyable for me.

At the same time, I have continued to practice using and sharpening my HSS tools and I am getting better and more comfortable with them.
 

JD Combs Sr

Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2010
Messages
767
Location
Owingsville, KY
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."
If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.
+1 on Ken's comment, also I regularly use my 15mm rounded cabide by rolling the tool up on its side as a skew. I will take relatively deep cuts as a skew then lay it flat to do some fine scraping as a finisher.

Edit:Forgot to address the OPs original question, I recommend the midi size, it seems the most universal to me.
 
Last edited:

JimB

Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
4,518
Location
West Henrietta, NY, USA.
I am more concerned that if you are not willing to take the time to learn how to properly sharpen your tools you may also be taking other short cuts. Turning can be very dangerous, even if you are just turning pens. Dull tools are dangerous. Carbide tools are dangerous. Your lathe and improper technique is dangerous.

Learning is all part of the process. Be a student first and a pen maker second. Stay safe.
 

Frog Morton

Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2015
Messages
24
Switching to carbide certainly made the hobby much more enjoyable for me.

This is a key statement, in my opinion. I think carbide tools are perfect for those just getting started, as they allow someone to focus on the actual turning, as opposed to also worrying about proper individual tool technique and sharpening skills.

It's wonderful if someone would like to take on all of that at once, but being able to jump straight into turning with carbide tools is also wonderful, and allows more people to enjoy the hobby.
 

csr67

Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2015
Messages
351
Location
Eastvale CA
Switching to carbide certainly made the hobby much more enjoyable for me.

This is a key statement, in my opinion. I think carbide tools are perfect for those just getting started, as they allow someone to focus on the actual turning, as opposed to also worrying about proper individual tool technique and sharpening skills.

It's wonderful if someone would like to take on all of that at once, but being able to jump straight into turning with carbide tools is also wonderful, and allows more people to enjoy the hobby.
I totally agree. I'm new to any type of lathe work, and I started with traditional HSS tools. They were okay, but I had lots of issues and a steep learning curve. On a whim, I picked up a large Easy Woodworker roughing tool (square carbide) and a mini size round blade model. Wow, what a difference, I was quickly turning out perfect pens with no issues. I can go from a rough blank to a fully shaped pen in under 5 minutes with the Easy Woodworker tools. I know it's "cheating" to the purist, but I don't think I'll be going back to HSS chisels.
 

RKB

Member
Joined
Mar 17, 2014
Messages
485
Location
Apollo, PA
I LOVE my Easy Wood carbide tools, wouldn't give them up for anything. They helped me make turning pens into a very enjoyable hobby, along with the wonderful folks here on this site who take the time to make videos and answer questions and share their knowledge without hesitation. Hats off to you, and YOU know who you are. :biggrin:

+1 for carbide

Rod
 

LeeR

Member
Joined
Nov 13, 2010
Messages
630
Location
Fort Collins, Colorado
I mostly use HSS tools now. I do have a Woodchuck PenPro, and I like it for pens. But most of my work is bigger spindles -- tool handles, pepper mills, even a bunch of napkin rings for Christmas gifts. None of those would I want to make with a carbide tool. I have spent a lot of time trying to master the skew, and getting reasonably comfortable, and pretty good with it (I am not sure I will ever truly "master" it!). The finish of a carbide cut cannot compare to a final cut with a well-sharpened skew, in my opinion.

Both tools have there place, and I agree that for a beginner, the carbide tool is a good choice. But if you want to expand your turning, I really think you will be happier in the long run if you learn to use traditional turning tools. And there is no reason you cannot use both carbide and traditional HSS on the same project, finding a good balance between both.

Just my 3 cents (adjusted for inflation...)
 

efrulla

Member
Joined
Oct 15, 2014
Messages
84
Location
Warrensburg, NY USA
Another Sharpening Challenged Newbie

Moving into turning was an expansion of my woodworking hobby. I learned early on that I, like the individual who started this thread, have difficulty in sharpening anything. My chisels hanging on my workbench are a testament to my failed attempts.

When I decided to get into turning pens I made the decision that I would eat the cost of cutters and go with Easy Woodturning Carbides. As we know, dull tools are dangerous. Tools that you have no confidence in the edge are equally as dangerous even if they are sharp.

With carbide, I swap out the bad edge and keep on turning. Since I have never used HSS, I have no way to compare what I could do with HSS versus what I can do with carbide but I do know that I have been able to do anything I needed to do with carbide. Since I turn pens and stoppers my requirements are quite simple.

As for an answer to the original question. If you are going to focus on pens and stoppers and small items go with the mini tools for now. As you expand the items you turn and they get bigger then consider going to the midi tools. Use the money you save to buy some additional cutters. At least that is what I am doing.
 

KenV

Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
4,721
Location
Juneau, Alaska.
I made the assertion that carbide is not only a scraper - but make shear cuts

The following video is done by a very accomplished turner -- but you can see the detail possible with skew cuts with a flat round carbide insert.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_PHDBLi-tA

The Hunter style round carbides - riding the bevel can do some special things too.


And Yes - I have a bucket of high speed steel and will not give up my skews
 

wyone

Member
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Messages
1,763
Location
15314 Grasslands, Parker, CO 80134
I started using HSS and struggled a lot. I could not get a good edge on the tool and had nothing but issues. Then I went to a round carbide and loved it and had a lot more success. But I had to sand a lot. Then I learned how to sharpen my tools. Finally got a good edge on a skew. And love using the skew. Basically can almost eliminate sanding now by using the skew. :) :)

But still have the carbide. and still use it sometimes for roughing and such.. but the Skew is my friend. :)
 

alankulwicki7

Member
Joined
Jul 28, 2010
Messages
1,600
Location
Vadnais Heights, MN
I use both carbide tools and hss tools on a regular basis. Since I make a variety of items (pens, bowls, stoppers, pendants, etc) there are times when I strictly use my hss tools. There are other times when I just use my carbide tools. And then there I times when I can't get a good finish cut on a bowl with my hss tool so I try the carbide (and vice versa).

I think there are plenty of uses for hss and carbide to have them both in the arsenal:)
 

Rockytime

Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2014
Messages
1,074
Location
Arvada, CO 80003
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."

If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.
I agree. I use both hss gouges as well as carbide. I use the 3/4 inch gouge for rounding up blanks and carbide for general turning. The attached photo shows a 15mm carbide insert. It is mounted on a round half inch shaft. The round shaft allows the cutter to be used as kind of skew. I will be changing my ETW gouges over to round shafts. In addition the round tools slide across my tool rest more smoothly.
 

Attachments

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
12,346
Location
NJ, USA.
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."

If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.
I agree. I use both hss gouges as well as carbide. I use the 3/4 inch gouge for rounding up blanks and carbide for general turning. The attached photo shows a 15mm carbide insert. It is mounted on a round half inch shaft. The round shaft allows the cutter to be used as kind of skew. I will be changing my ETW gouges over to round shafts. In addition the round tools slide across my tool rest more smoothly.



Happy turning to all and lets see those pens that all these carbide cutters are being used on.:)
 
Last edited:

endacoz

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
699
Location
Minneapolis
John -- you said "Carbide cutters are nothing more than scrappers."

If you use them with the bevel riding as a shear cutter, they are something more. That is not how the instructions read for the flat cutters, but it works well for details. A bit tricky learning, and I suspect that is why the sellers do not advertise the use that way.

Totally agree with the "shear Cut" I can start sanding acrylic with 400 and sometimes 600 after.

I'd say go for the medium ones. Or have 1 small and 2 medium. If you are going to do bowl deeper than 2-3 inches you will want at least 1 with a LONG handle for solidness.
 
Top Bottom