Shop Stuff #3: Sharpening Gouges and Skews on the WorkSharp

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Blog entry by SPalm posted 05-24-2013 05:55 PM 19226 reads 35 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Fingernail Gouge Sharpening on the WorkSharp Part 3 of Shop Stuff series Part 4: Two shop helpers »

This is part two on my journey of sharpening my lathe tools. The first part was a Fingernail Gouge.

Now on to the standard Spindle Roughing Gouge (SRG) and a Bowl Gouge. Both of these gouges are sharpened at 45 degrees. I started out making a triangle ramp to lift the gouges at 45 degrees, with grooves to roll the gouge in, but I gave up on it for now. One problem that I had was that my roughing gouge is not a perfect circle – it is more like a smiley face. It would not roll well in the groove that I had routed. So I went with the collar around the tool method. I might revisit this someday, but this certainly works pretty well for now. This is a pretty common way of sharpening.

First up was setting up the standard tool bar. The height on this is critical, and adjustable. I wanted it to be consistent, so I cut two little blocks at an inch and a half, and placed these under the bar. These blocks stay in place for all of the jigs.

Then I made a holder for each tool. Drilled a hole large enough for the tool to pass through, drilled two bolt holes, and then split the bock in two. I trimmed the top piece to be flat so it would rest securely on the gouge. I then glued a wooden washer to the bottom piece.

Clamp these to the tools. Slide it back and forth until it is at 45 degrees. Lock it down and make a setting tool for next time. The large gouge is at 1.5 inches and the small gouge is at 1.6 inches. Your settings may vary. Lay the gouge on the bar and sharpen by rolling it with a smooth motion. I waxed the washers to keep them from sticking.




Ta Da

Now for the Skews. Pretty much the same thing. To make the tool holder I cut some thin scraps into strips. The center section, which is thinner than the scew, has a cut at 30 degrees and is glued to one side with a gap of the width of my widest skew. The assembly is then clamped on to the skew and adjusted for a 15 degree bevel. A jig was made to remember this position for next time. Now on to the bar and sharpened, then flip and sharpened on the other side.



Ta Da

I actually did this for the cut-off tools too, but free hand sharpening is probably good enough for them.

Thanks for looking.
Comments and suggestions are very welcome.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

20 comments so far

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 4276 days

#1 posted 05-24-2013 06:09 PM

Great blog Steve.

I must say the pictures are excellent.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4329 days

#2 posted 05-24-2013 06:28 PM

You are one clever dude.
Gotta love that wixey.
Thanks for the post.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4676 days

#3 posted 05-24-2013 06:54 PM

I would never use that much time or effort to sharpen my turning tools Steve. Nonetheless, my way is a personal preference and not a how to rule for anyone else. I really admire your ingenuity in the way you made these excellent jigs and the results show that they give you beautiful results. The exception to my own sharpening preference is the skew chisel. I am willing to spend a fair amount of time getting a razor edge on the skew. This is because you don’t have to sand after a skew cut with a nice sharp edge. There is no doubt that you will get nice smooth cuts with those other chisels too, but you could settle for less and finish off with the skew. this would save you a lot of time and tedium while turning. I’m not trying to convert you, just trying to justify my viewpoint. Happy turning!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3827 days

#4 posted 05-24-2013 07:41 PM

Brilliant and simple system. I don’t even own a lathe or a Worksharp, but this is going in my favorites in case I ever do.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Lenny's profile


1728 posts in 4869 days

#5 posted 05-24-2013 07:46 PM

I do own both a lathe and a Worksharp. Thanks for the ideas and tutorial on this Steve. I have always shied away from sharpening, feeling I don’t have the ability. This makes me think I might be able to handle this.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3956 days

#6 posted 05-24-2013 08:07 PM

Steve you sure you aint a rocket surgeon :)

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10963 posts in 5394 days

#7 posted 05-24-2013 08:11 PM



-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

27270 posts in 4447 days

#8 posted 05-24-2013 08:32 PM

Nice set up you made for sharpening. I never did know what specific angle these tools were to be. I had just been following the old pattern.

Thanks, Steve!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 3939 days

#9 posted 05-24-2013 09:28 PM

Steve; thanks for the lesson and jigs to sharpening lathe tools. I usually just go by eye and get mixed results. I will save this blog to my favorites.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5224 days

#10 posted 05-24-2013 10:16 PM

Hey guys, thanks for the kind words.

The angles are what I measured on brand new Sorby tools. They were not the sharpest things, but I assumed they were the correct angles. (?)

Couple of thoughts: True this does seem a little anal for lathe tools. Heck, I would just free hand them back in the old old days. But those were Carbon Steel and easily dulled and easily sharpened. I am amazed at the strength of the metal in these new tools. Maybe High Speed Steel and maybe high quality too… Anyway they can wear out sandpaper quickly when forming the initial edge. So maybe invest in some 80 grit PSA discs too, or at least extra 120 grit. I get them cheaper without the hole in the center and just cut one myself with a scissors. Amazon Prime is addicting.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View lew's profile


13489 posts in 5097 days

#11 posted 05-24-2013 11:42 PM

Great sharpening jigs, Steve! Who needs a Tormek, right!

I recently modified my skew chisel grind to more of a curved edge. It really has reduced the number of catches.

I wish I had done this a long time ago. It would have eliminated a lot of “skew frustration”.
Here’s a link to the procedure I used-

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View peteg's profile


4438 posts in 4165 days

#12 posted 05-24-2013 11:49 PM

You have helped a lot of guys out with these two posts Steve, well done for passing on your skills :)

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5224 days

#13 posted 05-25-2013 12:02 AM

Wow Lew, that looks tempting.

1. How am I going to sleep tonight without figuring out how to do that on the WorkSharp?

2. It sure looks like you put a shine on your skew Sir. I guess I am not that anal after all.

3. Did you put a round over all down the short side of the skew? And a chamfer down the long side?


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View lew's profile


13489 posts in 5097 days

#14 posted 05-25-2013 01:07 AM

Some would say anal is my middle name but that’s another story.

This skew is an Oval Skew and came with both “edges” rounded over. On my older flat skew, I did do the round over on the short edge. That really makes it slide along the tool rest much smoother. As for the long side, it still has a square edge.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View tomd's profile


2225 posts in 5112 days

#15 posted 05-25-2013 03:41 AM

Very clever and nice work.

-- Tom D

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