Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sharpening HSS

I have been turning thread bobbins from solid blocks of maple and oak. Often the shavings are like long (hundreds of feet) strips of paper. This is the result of using very sharp tools. I do not see many wood turners use tools that produce those fine, continous ribbons of wood. Very sharp tools make the job much easier and faster.

Often, in the past,  I wanted to make specialized lathe tools, so I would buy inexpensive sets of  tools, use a couple of them to make the  tools that I wanted, leaving me with several medium quality tools of ordinary design.  I often use these spare turning chisels for anything that  does not require a very  high level of craftsmanship - such as singles bobbins. I grind these  to the same angles as my other higher grade tools and I use them for things like singles bobbins. Yes, I have to sharpen these inexpensive lathe chisels more frequently than my higher quality tools, but that is perhaps honing them with 400 grit paper every 45 minutes rather than every hour.  With a good grinder, honing takes only half a minute, and is not a big deal.  In contrast, for very high precision cuts, I will hone my best tools with a diamond hone by hand every few minutes.

I still have some carbon steel lathe tools with sentimental value, but I do not use them much.  In theory, they can be sharper and produce a better cut than even my best HSS.  In practice, they do not.  To produce the quality of cut that I get with my good HSS tools, I would have to hone the carbon steel tools almost continuously.

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