I’m James Hamilton from Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, and today I’ll show you the fast and easy way to sharpen your high-speed steel and carbide turning tools.
Many wood turners use a bench grinder to sharpen their tools. This is an excellent way to quikckly shape or repair an edge. But I believe there’s a better way to do the actual honing, and that’s with a diamond stone. It requires no setup, no special jigs, and you will be removing a lot less steel, greatly increasing he lifespan of your tool.
We’ve recently created a series of sharpening videos using this diamond kit from Trend. I like this kit because of its high quality, and because the combination of the two-sided credit-card sized stone and the diamond taper file, with its half-round shape enable it to sharpen all sorts of different tools. I’ll put links to the kit, and some of the videos we’ve made showing you how to sharpen router bits, forstner bits, and other tools with diamonds, in the notes below this video. This kit will work on both high-speed steel and carbide tools. We’ll get to the carbide in a minute, first, let’s do the steel.
I’ll put a little lapping fluid on the 300-grit side of the card, and I’m ready to hone. But I’m not going to bring the tool to the card like you may be expecting. I find that the weight of the tool, especially with a long handle, as many turning tools have, makes it difficult to maintain the proper angle. So, instead of bringing the tool to the card, I’m going to bring the card to the tool. I hold the tool still and place the card against the bevel. How do I find the correct angle? It’s a lot easier than you think. When a new bevel is formed at the grinder, it has a concave shape that marches the circular grindstone. That’s called a hollow grind, and it gives me two points of reference, the heel and the edge of the bevel. So, I can easily feel when both are making contact, and by applying only light pressure I can tell if the card is maintaining those two points of contact as I make a circular motion with the card. I’m not saying it won’t take practice, but only a little bit. I think you’ll be surprised how fast you can train yourself to do this as compared to training your hand to hold the proper angle on the benchtop. If I want to sharpen a gouge, the process is similar. I feel for my two points of contact, then applying light pressure to maintain that contact, I begin making slow circles with the card as I rotate the gouge. If I want to remove the bur, I can do that with a couple of light passes with the convex side of the diamond taper file. You do not have to strop or polish a turning tool.
That’s all there is to it. It only takes a few seconds to touch up an edge this way. No jigs, no fuss. If you stop turning every so often and touch up your edge, your tool will stay sharp and you won’t have to go back to the grinder for a very long time. In fact, you really only have to regrind the bevel if you chip it, or if, after many sharpenings with the diamond card, you’ve wear away the hollow-grind shape. Of course, by then your muscles will be trained, so you won’t need that hollow shape to help you keep the card at the proper angle anymore. By limiting your time at the grinder, you’re not only saving a lot of time, you’re also saving your tools, extending their lives dramatically.
Carbide tools are even easier to sharpen. This time I apply some fluid to the finer side of the stone, which is 600 grit. I lay my carbide cutter flat on the tool, and applying only light pressure, I make a figure-eight swirl. It only takes a few seconds, and your carbide is sharp again. You can do this several times, and each time you do you avoid paying the $15 or $20 a piece to replace them cutters.
Before we go, I have one more tool to sharpen. I’m going to go back to the 300-grit side of the card, add a little lapping fluid, and using the same figure eight motion, I can sharpen a pen mill rather than replacing that when it gets dull.
Be sure to check out the links below this video for more information on this diamond kit in particular, and how you can use it to sharpen other woodworking tools. And then head over to stumpynubs.com for the latest issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, full of great tips, tricks, techniques and tutorials designed to make you a better woodworker. Happy turning!
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