Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 17

Thread: REALLY basic turning question (haven't found an answer yet).

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Independence MO
    Posts
    561

    REALLY basic turning question (haven't found an answer yet).

    When do you use carbide tools and when do you use HSS tools? I've been looking for an explanation, wondering if carbide turning tools, are similar in nature to how everyone used to use steel blades, and then carbide blades took over? Or are they more of a specialty tool (hold up to rough turning, or harder woods better)?
    I have turning tools now, from a friend who is retiring (age related issues), but won't be able to do anything this month (starting OT, due to one bosses, multiple surgeries, then potentially coworkers surgery), so I have been trying to read up, instead of falling asleep at the lathe (or any other tool).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Posts
    4,699
    Its pretty much personal choice. There are a couple of places where carbide tools are nice (the only one I have is a mini crook neck hollowing tool which basically needs a replaceable cutter of some sort because otherwise with much sharpening it pretty soon wouldn't be crook necked You can get similar ones in HSS but for that use carbide seems like a good choice).

    The short version is that its claimed (could even be true) that the carbide tools are a bit easier to use to start and (definitely) take less sharpening (because you don't mostly; you could take a diamond hone to them for a quick touch up). On the flip side the hss tool offer more variety in shape, cut type, and edge profile and tend to be a bit more flexible in the long run. You can get a shearing cut with carbide, but its easier to use them like a scraper (at least in my limited experience with them) so imho its harder to get a nice clean cut with some traditional tools once you get the knack (having said that 80 grit hides a lot of sins). You can also get an "ok" quiver of traditional tools for a fair bit less than a comparable quiver of carbide (not so much if you get top end hss though, then its about six of one price wise).

    A lot of turners seem to start out with carbide and then want some more options and turn more towards traditional tools once they get more comfortable on the lathe. Being stubborn and hard headed as well I started with HSS (actually not even that but just high carbon when I first turned way back when but I don't count that because of the looooong gap in the middle) and stuck there.

    Don't over think it to much. Pick one type, learn to use it and get some shavings on the floor.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    Posts
    4,944
    Randal I am anything but a natural woodturner. I seem to have to fight for every bit of progress I have made. My son was a better turner in 10 minutes than I was in a couple months.

    All of the above is just to let you know the steps I went through. I started with the top of the line Harbor Freight turning tool set. I was getting no place fast. I purchased an Easy
    Wood square carbide tip turning tool. My skill level jumped up quite a bit. However, since it is a scraping tool, my finished products were finished using a lot of sanding.

    I don't know why, however the Easy Wood tools (the plural is because a son gave me a couple more EW turning tools) gave me a better feel for turning. I found that I could now do a better job using a traditional gouge (notice I said, "better," not great).

    As my tool sharpening improved, so did my turning ability. I still use the EW tools for certain things. However, I probably would not really miss them if they were gone.

    I thought I could sharpen turning tools very well. I have discovered that my "very well" was pretty mediocre. Lately my son (If you read the post I made a few days ago, the name Igor may give you a slight indication of our relationship) and I worked on setting up a sharpening station. Now sharp has a whole new meaning and my turning skills have taken a giant step for turning improvement. The difference between "sharp" and "SHARP" really makes an improvement in turning---It is like the difference between trying to cut frozen butter and warm butter. The cuts are cleaner, sanding is much less which result in a better looking piece of wood.

    I still use the Harbor Freight tools for some things. However, I definitely prefer my Doug Thompson tools and a special purpose tool by Hunter. The advantage of the HF high speed steel tools is that the steel is pretty good and they are relatively inexpensive. That combination makes it so you do not have a heart attack if you want to grind a tool to try a different shape and the steel is good enough to let you know if changing the shape was a good idea or just produced a bad shape. The main downside to the HF tools, which cost about $80 for a set, is you have to sharpen them more often than A tool that costs over $100. A good tool feels better in your hands, it probably has a longer handle giving you more control and more safety.

    It is sort of like comparing a small Fiat with a Lincoln or Caddy. They will both get you from LA to NY, however one is a lot more comfortable, fun, quieter, relaxing etc. than the other.

    Anyway, I was just trying to tell you the steps I took. These steps may not be best for you but I hope they give you some ideas that help you cut your own trail to finer turning. Improving is fun and I am still having lots of fun.

    Enjoy,
    JimB

    We have some great turners on the Forum and they are eager to help new people; listen to them. PM me if I can help you; Jim C Bradley.
    Last edited by Jim C Bradley; 08-06-2014 at 05:00 AM.
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,020
    Randal, like most things in turning, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to using HSS vs. carbide cutters. It's largely personal preference. I use both, but for the most part I prefer my traditional gouges and scrapers as opposed to the carbide tool, simply because I can resharpen the HSS and can't resharpen the carbide. (Yes, some people use a diamond hone on carbide cutters, but they will never get anywhere near as fine of edge as a high-end cutter from Easy Wood Tools or Hunter Tools will have.) Still, there are some situations where I'll reach for my carbide tools. For example, if I'm making a deep plunge cut to true up the face of a blank, the Easy Wood Tools square cutter excels, since it's cutting on two separate faces. (Three, actually, but you're never engaging more than two cutting surfaces at the same time.) One of the beauties of the Easy Wood Tools is their square shank and the fact that it has a lot of mass, making it less prone to vibration, especially when it's hanging a few inches past the tool rest.

    The Easy Wood Tools (and their imitators) are used as scrapers presented parallel to the lathe bed, and the quality of cut you can get varies with the wood species and the operator's experience. The carbide cutters from Hunter have a much different profile, and they are presented at an angle, to provide a shearing cut. They are less likely to have tearout problems, but are a bit harder to get a smooth, ridge-free surface.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1,448
    I have both.

    I used the Carbide tools to teach someone, and he learned fast, but nothing was as smooth as he wanted. I used the HSS tools to help him make his work better, but it took him a lot longer to learn to use the HSS tools (and to learn to keep them sharp).

    A friend at Woodcraft (whose work I respect) says he recommends Carbide to start because learning the sharpening and HSS tools at the same time as learning the basics of turning is too frustrating, but eventually almost everyone moves to HSS, often in addition to their starter set of carbide, not as a replacement.

    I think this short version is basically the same as the more detailed answers above.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    Posts
    4,944
    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Plesums View Post
    I have both.

    I used the Carbide tools to teach someone, and he learned fast, but nothing was as smooth as he wanted. I used the HSS tools to help him make his work better, but it took him a lot longer to learn to use the HSS tools (and to learn to keep them sharp).

    A friend at Woodcraft (whose work I respect) says he recommends Carbide to start because learning the sharpening and HSS tools at the same time as learning the basics of turning is too frustrating, but eventually almost everyone moves to HSS, often in addition to their starter set of carbide, not as a replacement.

    I think this short version is basically the same as the more detailed answers above.
    Well said Charlie. Perhaps you should be a short story writer.

    Enjoy,
    JimB
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Posts
    11,833
    Interesting question. I have made myself a couple carbide tools and even sold a few. Still, when turning I reach for my more traditional tools. Dunno why, maybe the 'feel' of the cutting/turning process is more familiar. A friend invested heavily to become a dealer for a line of very nice, and expensive, carbide tools. After several years of visiting and doing demos at turning clubs and elsewhere, he never sold a single tool. That said, even the traditional hss tools have their own personality. I have a Henry Taylor large skew that was a gift. It is supposedly one of the better brands out there. I just do not enjoy using it and usually set aside and pick up one of my others to do the job at hand. If you, I would not make the investment in a carbide tool until you are sure it is the thing for you.
    "Folks is funny critters."

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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Brooklin ON -- 45 mins. NE of Toronto, ON
    Posts
    868
    [QUOTE=Frank Fusco;409980]Interesting question. I have made myself a couple carbide tools and even sold a few. Still, when turning I reach for my more traditional tools. Dunno why, maybe the 'feel' of the cutting/turning process is more familiar. A friend invested heavily to become a dealer for a line of very nice, and expensive, carbide tools. After several years of visiting and doing demos at turning clubs and elsewhere, he never sold a single tool. That said, even the traditional hss tools have their own personality. I have a Henry Taylor large skew that was a gift. It is supposedly one of the better brands out there. I just do not enjoy using it and usually set aside and pick up one of my others to do the job at hand.
    If you, I would not make the investment in a carbide tool until you are sure it is the thing for you.
    But how do you know if it's the tool for you until you invest in one and turn with it?
    Mack C. in Brooklin ON
    It feels great to sell a pen,
    It feels even greater to give one to a friend!

    If your presence doesn't make an impact;
    Your absence won't make a difference!


    I am a proud supporter of
    "Pens for Canadian Peacekeepers"!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Independence MO
    Posts
    561
    Thanks all. Work actually figured out I would like to have a life outside of it, so I am not getting all the OT forced on me.

    The tools I received, have one carbide tool with them. (so I can practice with different types of tools) I'd just never seen any kind of an explaination.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
    Posts
    30,020
    On a semi-related note regarding carbide cutters: There are people (me included) who have bought generic carbide cutters for a good price, figuring they are the same dimensions as the expensive ones from Easy Wood Tools, so they must perform the same. Well, in my subjective opinion, there's no contest. The more expensive cutters really DO perform better and stay sharp longer than the generic cheap ones. I bought a quantity of square carbide cutters to use on my Easy Rougher, and brand new out of the box they were not as good as an Easy Wood cutter - even an Easy Wood cutter that's had hours of use. Craig has a source that's using higher-quality carbide and performing extra honing steps or something...I don't know the exact differences other than the difference I can see in the cut quality and the edge longevity. I also had similar experiences with round cutters. I was a field tester for Easy Wood Tools several years back, and I saw first-hand the differences in cut quality and edge retentions between different round cutters.

    In other words, you get what you pay for. The carbide tool sold by Joe Blow on eBay for $50 will not compare to the $130 Easy Wood Tools model they stole the design from.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

Similar Threads

  1. over or under - finally have the answer to this big question
    By Don Baer in forum Off Topic Discussion
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 03-29-2016, 05:23 PM
  2. Basic Question - Dial Indicator, Drill Press, Runout
    By David Agnew in forum New Tools
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 07-09-2014, 01:31 AM
  3. Turning Question....
    By Dom DiCara in forum Turning Tool Questions and Show & Tell
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 10-11-2011, 08:34 PM
  4. Basic Question on PC 690 Router
    By Ken Close in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 09-26-2007, 01:49 AM
  5. Turning Question...
    By George Blevins in forum General Woodturning Q&A
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 04-18-2007, 04:12 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •