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Thread: First turning chisels

  1. #1

    First turning chisels

    I'm relatively new to turning. I've been turning pens off and on for a while now, but all of my tools (and lathe) are borrowed. I'm borrowing the lathe from a student and the chisels from the shop I manage.
    Recently I lost access to the chisels because a class needs them, so now I'm looking to take my first baby step and actually buy my own tools (what a concept).
    Should I spend an arm and a leg buying higher quality tools? Or, since this is my first chisel purchase, should I go with a cheap set that sells for 30$ or so?
    I do plan on doing more turning in the future and even invest in my own lathe, which points toward buying higher quality tools that will last a life time. On the other hand, money is tight as everyone knows, which would point toward the cheaper option.
    I guess this all boils down to--will I get decent enough results with a cheap set and will they last long enough to fulfill my turning needs until I get better ones?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Experiences vary, or at least the reports do, concerning so-called 'cheap' sets. I started with one and still have one or two of the tools left. I have no complaints with them. Using them will teach you how to sharpen as it is needed more often than with high quality (expensive) steels.
    For advice......I'm a thinkin' as I'm a typin'.....ye know.....I believe, knowing what I know now and starting out with the budget I had....I would do the same thing....buy an inexpensive set and build from there.
    Only thing I would do different is that I bought a fairly good set of micro tools. That proved to be a waste. Some might like, but keep in mind, a point is a point is a point. Ye can make tiny cuts with big tools. A 1" skew can be yer nearly 'everything' tool.
    Watch for garage sales and classified ads in your local area. I have picked up a bunch of excellent tools and never paid more than $5.00 each for them.

  3. #3
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    I started out and am still using the $40 Harbor Freight set. I have supplemented it with a few more expensive tools that I don't really find to be any better, except for the Dave Thompson bowl gouge I just bought. It's a good started set, and like the man said you don't mind practicing sharpening them.

  4. #4
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    Ben, I'm going to change the direction of this discussion just a bit. My suggestion is to buy the tool that you need. If you are turning pens then a parting tool and a spindle gouge or a bowl gouge are the tools of choice. When you branch into bowls, a bowl gouge or two will certainly be in order. If you go to turning balusters and the like, then you'll want a good skew at that point. Other tools will be recomended from time to time for specific uses. I have them too, but for starting out, you really can get by with very few tools.
    Working flat so I can play round,
    Doug Miller

    Repentance Is The
    Prerequisite For
    Gods Forgiveness

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Miller View Post
    Ben, I'm going to change the direction of this discussion just a bit. My suggestion is to buy the tool that you need. If you are turning pens then a parting tool and a spindle gouge or a bowl gouge are the tools of choice. When you branch into bowls, a bowl gouge or two will certainly be in order. If you go to turning balusters and the like, then you'll want a good skew at that point. Other tools will be recomended from time to time for specific uses. I have them too, but for starting out, you really can get by with very few tools.
    Ben, now we are entering the confusion zone....
    I do quite a few pens. There is only one, very limited, use for a parting tool that I have ever encountered. Bowl gouge for pens? Thet's sumptin' new. Pens are straight spindle turning, fuggit the bowl gouge until ye get to bowls.
    Yes, a spindle gouge is needed, I like and recommend a 1/2". As I said, a 1" skew is top priority from git go.

  6. #6
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    Hey Ben...welcome aboard.

    I also started with the $40 Harbor Freight set, and still use the parting tool that came with it. If you're unsure about what you plan to turn in the future, that's an inexpensive way to get several of the basic tools, the the quality of the HF set is OK. Not great, but very workable and you'll get your money's worth from the set. It does not have a bowl gouge, though.

    If you already have an idea what direction your turning will go, I'd suggest Doug's advice and concentrate on getting just the tools you need for that type of turning. If bowls are in your future, save some time and money and just get one or more of Doug Thompson's tools from the get-go. If spindle turning is more to your liking, buy a spindle roughing gouge, good skew or two and a detail gouge (Thompson also sells skews and detail gouges).

    As far as what tools to use for what types of turning, that's all a matter of personal preference. No disrespect to Frank, but a bowl gouge works great for pens. With the right profile and presentation, it cuts like a skew. A skew works great for pens if you're comfortable using one. A parting tool is indeed useful for some penturning operations (like cutting the tenon for a Flat Top American twist pen). Bottom line is there are multiple ways to get the same end results on a lathe...different folks have different methods for getting there.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

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  7. #7
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    I have an older Craftsman lathe that was my Dad's & a even older 1930" Delta double duty lathe & a door prize Jet mini lathe. I have the original 8 piece Craftsman set from Dad's lathe as well as I think a 20 piece HSS Craftsman set someone purchased at a garage sale as well as a set of 5 or 6 from Grizzly. I would recommend a reasonable inexpensive HSS set of 6 or 8 tools & a Wolverine Sharpening Jig & Accessories.
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  8. #8
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    I don't know how you know what you will like to turn with until you try various tools. Pen turning, I use a roughing gouge and a skew 90% of the time. Didn't know that is what I would prefer until I tried other tools to do the same job.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    ... but keep in mind, a point is a point is a point.
    Frank,

    I totally agree with you on this. I think the "point" can be extended to the "cutting edge". The blank is spinning round, only one point on the cutting edge is cutting at the tangent. The wood is not smart enough to behave differently in response to what we call the name of the tool that is cutting them at the moment. We need cutting edge of different shapes because of mainly accessibility. A bowl gouge can be presented to wood with the same cutting effect as a skew or a spindle roughing gouge. The only difference is the tool may have to be presented to wood in a different orientation. Of course, a bowl gouge won't be able to cut a tight V cut like a skew. On the other hand, a skew won't be able to do a tight cove.
    Bob Rosand uses a bowl gouge as spindle roughing gouge in his turning video. I have seen demos from Stuart Batty and Jimmy Clewes doing the long stem goblets; both of them chose to use bowl gouges to do the long stems which are pure spindle work.
    Gordon

  10. #10

    thanks

    Thanks for all your advice.
    I'll probably just buy a cheap set to begin with and work/learn from there...

    Thanks again!

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