Making Lathe chisels

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Forum topic by d_sinsley posted 01-23-2020 07:20 PM 424 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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202 posts in 192 days

01-23-2020 07:20 PM

So I am going to make a set of lathe chisels. My wife bought me the carbide tips for Christmas. I am wondering what is better, square stock or round? What size? And any reason to use anything other than regular mild steel?

-- Devon

8 replies so far

View RobHannon's profile


334 posts in 1167 days

#1 posted 01-23-2020 07:33 PM

Square stock will be the easiest to start from and offers some benefit if you want to have a reference that the cutter is parallel to the tool rest. The downside to that is if you want the cutter at an angle you are raising the center when you turn the tool. Round stock also gives you an easy option to make multiple tool holders that will fit into a single handle. Still possible to do with squarestock, but more involved than drilling a hole and adding a set screw.

In my opinion the round stock is more versatile, just take some time to practice what height and angle works best for the cutter you are using.

Mild steel is perfectly fine. For square and round cutters, use a width that is slightly smaller than your cutter diameter. Check out Capt. Eddie Castelin on youtube for some good how-to videos on carbide tools.

View d_sinsley's profile


202 posts in 192 days

#2 posted 01-23-2020 07:46 PM


You more or less confirmed all my thinking. I was leaning toward round.

-- Devon

View Woodknack's profile


13067 posts in 3017 days

#3 posted 01-23-2020 08:39 PM

The problem with round stock is that a catch will roll it in your hands and cause even more tearout. It’s not bad for round cutters but those square cutters can really take a spin.

-- Rick M,

View LeeMills's profile


699 posts in 1938 days

#4 posted 01-23-2020 11:12 PM

Are the cutters all flat on top or is one of the round dished out (Negative rake) like a Hunter tool?
I would go with square stock myself. It’s cheap so make several; for the hunter style cutter grind the steel so that the cutter sets at 45-60° with the bar flat on the rest.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View mike02719's profile


210 posts in 4423 days

#5 posted 01-23-2020 11:18 PM

Your best bet is to copy the style and measurements of popular models such as Easy Wood. Handle construction for square stock is easy. Take a piece of hardwood 1/2 desired size and twice the length, cut a dado 1/2 rod size, and glue it together, chuck it on the lathe, round it off, fit the ferrule, sand and finish, and your done. As other LJ’s said, square shafts are easier to control. You can make a hole stable of tools for the price of one. Eddie Castelin has reasonable and quality cutters available.

-- Mike, Massachusetts

View AndyJ1s's profile


155 posts in 392 days

#6 posted 01-24-2020 12:42 AM

Please note that the cupped carbide cutters used by Hunter are NOT negative rake cutters. They are POSITIVE rake cutters like most lathe tools (carbide or otherwise) for turning wood. They are “more positive” rake than conventional flat carbide cutters. Hunter cutters, on tools that tilt the cutter down at an angle, have a polished outer diameter surface that can be used to “ride the bevel” much like conventional spindle and bowl gouges or skew chisels can. The “lip” of the cup is the cutting edge.

Negative rake carbide cutters, similar to conventional carbide cutters for wood turning, are offered by Easy Wood Tools sold by Rockler, et al, and are usually intended for non-wood, resin type materials, like some of those used in pen turning.


-- Andy - Arlington TX

View OSU55's profile


2545 posts in 2626 days

#7 posted 01-24-2020 09:02 PM

Use round mild steel stock. Etch a mark near the handle showing the point of rotation the cutter is flat or parallel to the ground. For roughing you may use the cutter flat but after rounding the blank you will want to use slicing cuts, the cutter rotated to ~45 deg, to reduce tearout. You can use as large a dia of round bar as you want. For general use a minimum of 5/8” dia. The cutter end can be ground down so the cutter edge extends past the edge of the bar. Larger is stiffer and less apt to chatter. Just look at how the more expensive carbide holders are made. Might well be a specific cutter for a certain type of cut where you use smaller stock. I have a couple of 3/8” bar holders for hollowing small items. Be prepared to deal with the greater tear out from the carbide vs hss.

View d_sinsley's profile


202 posts in 192 days

#8 posted 01-29-2020 06:59 PM

Ok so I have my bar stock cut. I went with round mild steel 1/2” (because I already had some at work). I have them all ready to tap the threads into. I have a total of 6 cutters. A diamond shaped one with rounded corners. A diamond shaped one with pointy corners. A round one. And 3 square ones. one of the square ones has sharp corners and another has rounded corners.

But then there is one square one with slightly rounded edges. Not flat. What would be the purpose for that one? What would I use it for. I could see maybe as a roughing gouge.

-- Devon

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