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Thread: Belt sander for sharpening lathe tools?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Long Island, NY

    Belt sander for sharpening lathe tools?

    Hello all. New to the forum and to wood turning. I would like to know if anyone has thought to use a portable belt sander to sharpen lathe tools. It would need to be mounted to allow the belt to run away from you while being adjustable to match the tool's bevel angle. A simple jig like I have seen for grinders could/should be added to simplify consistent angle with the belt. Not sure what grit would be best and have some concern with belt feed speed and overheating. Maybe a VS unit would solve that. Just trying to keep costs down and use tools I already own. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    I know of several turners who use a bench-mounted belt sander for sharpening their turning tools. Sorby (the turning tool maker, among other things) even sells a high-end sharpening setup that's made specifically for sharpening turning tools, and it uses a belt sander. I don't see why a portable belt sander wouldn't work as long as it was securely mounted on a bench of some sort. A jig or three would be very useful. I think the trickiest part would be making a jig that can replicate a fingernail grind on a bowl gouge. (Like the Oneway Wolverine jig with the Vari-Grind attachment.)

    As far as what grit to use, I'd say anywhere from 80 to 120 grit should work fine. That's also the most common range used for bench grinders used for turning tools. Personally, I'd go with 120 grit, but that's just a personal preference. (I sharpen my gouges on a 400 grit wet grinder.) As long as you're sharpening high-speed steel (which most turning tools are made of these days), you don't really need to worry about the heat. You won't typically be able to get it hot enough to affect the temper of the steel. Old-fashioned carbon steel, yes. High-speed steel, no.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    RETIRED(!) in Austintown, Ohio
    It's a bit pricey, but take a look at this.
    Jim D.
    Adapt, Improvise, Overcome!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    I have a 1" belt sander/grinder that I consider one of the most valuable tools in my shop. I use it for a large variety of sharpening tasks. But not for lathe tools. Getting and holding the right angle has proven impossible for me. For the lathe tools I am in heaven with a 120 grit slow wheel and a Wolverine jig.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    SW Minnesota
    I don't turn; but I use a 4" belt sander to shape the bevel on plane irons and chisels. I put the iron in a cheap guide and have at it. I get good results and run less risk of overheating the steel than when using a grinder.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Reno, Nv
    Somewhere on Youtube, there is a guy that uses a vertical mount 1-1/2" belt sander for sharpening lathe stuff. My thought has always been the belt flex changing the bevel of the gouge. The vertical doesn't have the plate like a stationary or portable belt sander has.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    I use a 1 inch HF bench grinder as my sharpening tool. I usually go over to a friend's house who has a wolverine set up and a tormek set up... we shape my tools, then I can touch them up on the belt sander as needed... I normally use a 120 grit belt, but just last week cut the last one I had off the sander, so now I have an 80 grit on the sander until I can get back over to the flea market where I can pick up some more of the 120's...

    David Reed Smith has put out a tutorial on making a sand paper sharpener...
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Long Island, NY
    Thanks for all your thoughts and ideas. I will work on this and after I fine tune it - will post my prototype. Thanks again.

  9. #9
    +1 for the HF 1" belt sander.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Albeit ... I'm in the process of getting my 4 x 36 belt sander setup to take over this project and just use the 1" for shaping guide feet for fly rods.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Central Illinois
    Personally, I have never been able to get just one smooth facit all the way across the tools with a belt sander. Therefore, I bought an 8" slow speed grinder with 80 grit and 120 grit wheels. To this I attached a Wolverine sharpening system and am able to get a smooth facit with extended grinding. At the price of tools, less grinding is more cost effective. Most times, all I have to do is a one pass touchup, before getting back to work.

    Bruce Shiverdecker - Retired Starving Artist ( No longer a Part timer at Woodcraft, Peoria, Il.)

    "The great thing about turning is that all you have to do is remove what's not needed and you have something beautiful. Nature does the hard part!"

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