Academy Notes and Tips
the Shopsmith Woodworking Academy
We're often asked....What lathe chisels do I need to get started in wood turning and how is each used? Well, the answer is...there are literally hundreds of specialized lathe chisels available from dozens and dozens of different manufacturers. Many are designed for highly specialized applications such as super-large or super-small projects, extremely deep turnings, turning the insides of vases with very small openings...the list goes on and on.
Five Most Important Lathe Turning Chisels
We'll recommend some additional sets for specialized operations later...but first, let's talk briefly about some basic turning techniques.
Either type is best used by holding the chisel perpendicular to the workpiece and slightly rotated to about 10 to 15-degrees. You may either use the cutting edge across the stock...or by leading the cut with the chisel's beveled edge.
Making your initial
To gauge the desired diameters accurately, use a pair of Outside Calipers with a Parting Chisel and/or a Skew. There are three types of Parting Chisels that can be used for making these cuts. The first, and by far the most popular of these is the 1/8" carbon steel, Diamond Parting Tool such as the one contained in Shopsmith's Basic Chisel Set. This tool is 1/2" wide and 1/8" thick with a dual-angled tip that's also tapered to be thinner near its outer edges than it is near the center to provide ample clearance for cuts without binding.
The second of these options is a single-fluted model with a tip that's slightly hollow-ground. This style is most typically used with its fluted side down and provides an exceptional finish on end grain work. It's also an excellent choice when you're going from square to round surfaces, such as on table legs.
The final option is called a Bedan. This style has a nearly square shank and tip with slightly tapered sides that slope inward to keep the tool from binding during deep cuts. This is a great choice for making square-edged coves and for forming round tenons such as those used in chair-making.
When using the Skew for gauging cut diameters, hold it upside-down and use the toe of the Skew, lightly touching the pencil lines where your beads and coves are to appear. Next, use either style of Parting Chisel to further define these bead and cove depths.
Periodically, turn the Lathe off and use your Calipers to check the accuracy of your cut depths.