Sharpening Turning Tools

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DagS

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Feb 28, 2020
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Montgomery, TX
Hi..I'm new to pen turning having completed about 50 pens. I'm actually not sure if I'm going about it right or wrong. I have watched several You Tube videos and have had a few screw ups but all in all IMHO has been going quite well. Now to get to my question. I started out with a carbide micro pen turning set from Rockler. I want to try some HSS turning tools which brings us to sharpening. Looking for a cost friendly grinder and jig set up for sharpening. What suggestions would you have for a newby? Thanks................
 
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Wolf Creek Montana
I bought this grinder several years ago and for my HSS tools I use it about once a year. After getting my profile with this grinder I use a stone that is clamped between the jaws in my small vice. I use it often especially if turning hard woods. You'll learn to know when to sharpen your tools. I've got the edges so sharp using the stone that I can shave the hair on my arms.
This is just my process as many others use different methods that are equally good as well.
This is the grinder I bought from Grizzly. Wet stone and turns pretty slow so know real heat build up on the tools.
Item# T10097A
8" Grinder / Sharpener
Check Stock

$155.95
 

monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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Saratoga Springs, NY
John

This is a subject on which everyone has an opinion, and is always a good subject for argument when turners gather for a beer or three - - -

The usual recommendation is for a low-speed 8" grinder with either high-quality aluminum oxide wheels, or better yet, CBN wheels. That usual recommendation also calls for a jig to help hold the tools in place for repeatable grinds - the Wolverine system is popular, but there are others that are just as good. Alternatively, either the TORMAK water cooled wheel, or the Robert Sorby belt system are also highly recommended. Those are fine solutions, but they are all very expensive.

So the important question is how much are you willing to spend?

The main difference between 6" and 8" wheels is that the hollow grind is less concave with the larger wheel. I don't think that's a big deal with gouges, but it does matter with skews - and I resolve that problem by sharpening my skews on diamond plates. By the way, regardless of the diameter of the wheel, the problem with hollow grinds is that there is a ridge at the bottom of the bevel than can get in the way when you use the gouge on the inside of a piece - but that problem can easily be solved by simply free-hand grinding away that ridge

The main difference between low speed and high speed wheels is that the high-speed wheel will grind away more steel than the low-speed wheel, so your HSS tools will last longer using a low-speed grinder. That can be an issue when you are first learning to sharpen because your tendency is to grind too much - but if you focus on just refreshing the edge, that difference is not important. There is a school of thought that suggests that when you are first starting out using HSS tools, you should start with less expensive tools while you are learning to sharpen, and then move to higher quality after you have developed your sharpening skills.

You will also see recommendations regarding the color of composite wheel. Frankly, color is irrelevant - color is a purely cosmetic feature that depends on the dye used in the filler, and can vary between manufacturers.

And the difference between an aluminum oxide disc and a CBN wheel is that the more expensive CBN grinds cooler than the stone, and therefore is less likely to affect the hardening of the tool steel. And by the way - heat is more of a problem when sharpening carbon-steel tools; good quality HSS generally won't be affected by grinding heat.

I use a 6" high-speed Ryobi grinder from Home Despot. It came with 32 and 60 grit wheels - I replaced the 60 grit wheel with an aluminum oxide 80 grit wheel. I also have oil stones, and a selection of inexpensive diamond hones that are actually better than a grinding wheel for skew chisels (IMHO). I have a shop-made jig arrangement that allows me to do repeatable grinds on my grinder. And I have a sanding disc that mounts on my lathe that I can use to tune up edges. That's a fairly inexpensive arrangement, but it works for me.
 
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Jarred

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Mar 30, 2020
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Bozeman, Montana
Agree with the above suggestions. CBN wheel, at least 8 inches in diameter, on a slow speed grinder. Here, like in all other areas of woodworking, it is painful to invest the $$$ for quality, but much more painful to have cheap tools cost you time and wasted resources by ruining projects. In my opinion Tormek makes the best jigs, and you can get an adaptor to a regular grinder (or an even more expensive grinder like the Tradesman DC), so you can have the best of both worlds. I have used several types of steel and prefer M42 (e.g. Carter and Son). Keeps a sharper edge longer.

Hope this helps.
 

DagS

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Feb 28, 2020
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Location
Montgomery, TX
Agree with the above suggestions. CBN wheel, at least 8 inches in diameter, on a slow speed grinder. Here, like in all other areas of woodworking, it is painful to invest the $$$ for quality, but much more painful to have cheap tools cost you time and wasted resources by ruining projects. In my opinion Tormek makes the best jigs, and you can get an adaptor to a regular grinder (or an even more expensive grinder like the Tradesman DC), so you can have the best of both worlds. I have used several types of steel and prefer M42 (e.g. Carter and Son). Keeps a sharper edge longer.

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the all the comments. This points me in the direction which is what I was looking for. Again, thanks again for your responses....
 

leehljp

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I agree with CBN wheels.

Here are links to two threads here on IAP concerning CBN wheels.
http://www.penturners.org/forum/f30/cbn-wheel-question-s-147589/

https://www.penturners.org/threads/cbn-wheels-for-grinder.155103/

I had a regular grinder, got a Tormek knock-off with a 10" Grizzly. The Grizzly is good, the Tormek is great, but both are SLOW - good for sharpening but glacially slow at shaping a new HSS chisel. The CBN is excellent, fast and does not heat the blade like stone grinders do.

An Alternative is Belt Sharpeners. I don't have those but a few do. Those that do, like them.

One other thing. I have some carbide insert tools that I use on occasion, but I learned to sharpen my HSS tools with a very fine edge. I can tell the difference in the HSS that I sharpen for myself and a new carbide insert; mine are sharper. I'm mentioning this because there are situations in which the sharpness counts and with proper sharpening, a blank will not need to be sanded. Especially if doing segmented blanks with different color woods or brass/silver/aluminum. Brass/silver/aluminum smears if sanded. A sharp tool is the best way around sanding dust smears.
 

AdventiveIowa

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May 2, 2020
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Los Angeles California
Tangentially related: can someone point me to a good resource for grinding your own HSS tools? I’ve looked around on youtube but I’m wondering if IAP has a resource. I might also go down this rabbit hole...

-Hank


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Woodfreak

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May 5, 2020
Messages
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Location
London, UK
Hi. Have been turning 7 years. 4 years turning pens. I first tried a cheap brand grinder, but not at all successful. I joined my local club, I Live in the UK by the way, at the club, they had a Robert Sorby Pro Edge belt sander. I tried it, and was successful straight away. So I bit the bullet and paid out £370 think that is about $500. I know it's expensive, but for me, it has more than paid for itself. Same angles on my HSS chisels Everytime. I have never looked back. Also! If you pay the extra $$$ and buy the deluxe as I did. You get all the jigs you need to sharpen any chisel.
 

WriteON

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Aug 21, 2013
Messages
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Lake Worth,Fl. / BlueBell, Pa.
At first I did not sharpen chisels. They became butter knives. I did everything I could do not buy a sharpener or used stones that were worthless. I went the Sorby ProEdge for various reasons. It is currently being set up for blank squaring. I'm more comfortable with a belt sander. The unit is out of box ready. May I suggest buying right the first time. I looked into the PSI unit but hesitated. I'd buy the Sorby again. It is a quality machine.
 
Last edited:

philipff

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Joined
Jun 21, 2009
Messages
452
Location
Williamsburg, VA
John

This is a subject on which everyone has an opinion, and is always a good subject for argument when turners gather for a beer or three - - -

The usual recommendation is for a low-speed 8" grinder with either high-quality aluminum oxide wheels, or better yet, CBN wheels. That usual recommendation also calls for a jig to help hold the tools in place for repeatable grinds - the Wolverine system is popular, but there are others that are just as good. Alternatively, either the TORMAK water cooled wheel, or the Robert Sorby belt system are also highly recommended. Those are fine solutions, but they are all very expensive.

So the important question is how much are you willing to spend?

The main difference between 6" and 8" wheels is that the hollow grind is less concave with the larger wheel. I don't think that's a big deal with gouges, but it does matter with skews - and I resolve that problem by sharpening my skews on diamond plates. By the way, regardless of the diameter of the wheel, the problem with hollow grinds is that there is a ridge at the bottom of the bevel than can get in the way when you use the gouge on the inside of a piece - but that problem can easily be solved by simply free-hand grinding away that ridge

The main difference between low speed and high speed wheels is that the high-speed wheel will grind away more steel than the low-speed wheel, so your HSS tools will last longer using a low-speed grinder. That can be an issue when you are first learning to sharpen because your tendency is to grind too much - but if you focus on just refreshing the edge, that difference is not important. There is a school of thought that suggests that when you are first starting out using HSS tools, you should start with less expensive tools while you are learning to sharpen, and then move to higher quality after you have developed your sharpening skills.

You will also see recommendations regarding the color of composite wheel. Frankly, color is irrelevant - color is a purely cosmetic feature that depends on the dye used in the filler, and can vary between manufacturers.

And the difference between an aluminum oxide disc and a CBN wheel is that the more expensive CBN grinds cooler than the stone, and therefore is less likely to affect the hardening of the tool steel. And by the way - heat is more of a problem when sharpening carbon-steel tools; good quality HSS generally won't be affected by grinding heat.

I use a 6" high-speed Ryobi grinder from Home Despot. It came with 32 and 60 grit wheels - I replaced the 60 grit wheel with an aluminum oxide 80 grit wheel. I also have oil stones, and a selection of inexpensive diamond hones that are actually better than a grinding wheel for skew chisels (IMHO). I have a shop-made jig arrangement that allows me to do repeatable grinds on my grinder. And I have a sanding disc that mounts on my lathe that I can use to tune up edges. That's a fairly inexpensive arrangement, but it works for me.
I agree with all the above except I use and must keep 8in wheels. The reason? cooler, slower, more economical in the end. P.
 

leehljp

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Tunica, MS,
Paul (Woodfreak) and Frank (WriteON) both mentioned belt sharpening. I am glad they did!

Excellent Sharpening can be done in various ways: Slow water wheel grinder, faster stone wheels, CBN, Belt and flat (water) stones. I have learned that there is NO - ONE way only - to excellence in sharpening. People with patience can use water wheels with great results; 2000 - 3000 rpm stone wheels that create a fair amount of heat can do excellent for those with patience enough to not force it and keep the edges reasonable cool while shaping and sharpening; Belts do well for others and run cooler than high RPM grinder stones. I lived overseas for a quarter century and have numerous quality water stones from Japan.

I settled for myself on the CBN wheels and they do exactly what I want. Read the advantages and maybe the quirks of each and make an "informed" decision. Enjoy.

In the end, there is nothing like the feeling of a finely sharpened tool that you sharpened yourself.
 

donstephan

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Jul 24, 2016
Messages
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Location
Cincinnati Ohio
DagS
Another option is platform sharpening with a RoboRest. Likely you will find the developer's (Reed Gray aka RoboHippy) videos on Youtube.

Before making any purchases I would strongly recommend you find and join a woodturning group. Quite possible amongst the members you will be able to find many or all of the recommended solutions and seem them in action. The group may offer sharpening demonstrations or classes, and you would have someone to meet for followup questions.
 

duderubble

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May 9, 2020
Messages
66
Location
Missouri
Another deep tunnel of the rabbit hole. So what are your best budget solutions? I see belt sharpeners at harbor freight and Amazon for $50 or $60 bucks. Heck I've already got a HF belt and disk stationary sander with the wide belt. Can these be used effectively? What grit and belts would I need? Maybe with a diamond hone for touch ups.
 

monophoto

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Saratoga Springs, NY
Another deep tunnel of the rabbit hole. So what are your best budget solutions? I see belt sharpeners at harbor freight and Amazon for $50 or $60 bucks. Heck I've already got a HF belt and disk stationary sander with the wide belt. Can these be used effectively? What grit and belts would I need? Maybe with a diamond hone for touch ups.

Capt Eddy used to joke that you could sharpen turning tools on a brick. His point was that the critical need is for an abrasive; beyond that, any further enhancement is mainly for convenience (and bragging rights when hanging out with other turners).

So yes, you can use your HF belt sander. There really isn't much difference between it and the Robert Sorby ProEdge. That said, whatever approach you choose to take, the critical thing is that you practice sharpening until you can quickly achieve a sharp edge without removing too much steel from the tool, or without overheating the tool. You won't be at that point the first time you try, and it could take months (or years) of trying to achieve that goal.

As to grits - ask any question here, and be prepared for at least a dozen different answers. I've seen recommendations ranging from 120 to 240 grit. Too coarse will leave scratches on the tool that will be difficult to hone away, and too fine can overheat the tool without appreciably improving the edge.
 

leehljp

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So you're saying 180 grit 😉
It is not necessarily one or the other. If a person is trying to define this technique with a single grit, he will limit his ability. 120 -180 does well in shaping the tools edge; 240 - 320 - 400 - 600 do progressively better at refining the cutting edge. There is a difference.

Don't let the idea of just "making a pen" overshadow the finer finishing that comes from spending time refining the tool.

The differences between a $150 pen and the same pen/blank combination at $400.00 is the quality of fit and finish. The ability to refine a tool on a $50 HF belt vs a $400-$500 machine is experience and patience. The more expensive one allows a person to focus on the sharpening while the cheaper one requires more focus on the machine to keep it in adjustment.
 

Woodfreak

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Joined
May 5, 2020
Messages
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Location
London, UK
It is not necessarily one or the other. If a person is trying to define this technique with a single grit, he will limit his ability. 120 -180 does well in shaping the tools edge; 240 - 320 - 400 - 600 do progressively better at refining the cutting edge. There is a difference.

Don't let the idea of just "making a pen" overshadow the finer finishing that comes from spending time refining the tool.

The differences between a $150 pen and the same pen/blank combination at $400.00 is the quality of fit and finish. The ability to refine a tool on a $50 HF belt vs a $400-$500 machine is experience and patience. The more expensive one allows a person to focus on the sharpening while the cheaper one requires more focus on the machine to keep it in adjustment.
Hank! There are more sharpening options available, as there are skins on an onion. I have the one that I stick with, and not being able, or come to that, have the patience to get my technique right on say on a slow speed CBN grinder wheel, I am happy to have paid £375 or $500 for the Sorby Pro Edge belt sharpener. I get perfect results every time, and am more than happy paying out for it. Horses for courses.
 
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