Lathe Chisels

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Forum topic by Joe posted 01-20-2012 08:06 PM 5083 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 3612 days

01-20-2012 08:06 PM

I’ve just bought a “starter” lathe and am focusing on getting some chisels and gouges. Everything I’ve read says to get high speed steel vs. high carbon steel as the HSS will go much longer before requiring resharpening. I’ve bee looking on eBay and many of the tools for sale don’t state the steel type. I believe all the better tool manufacturers are now producing their chisels from HSS. Does anyone know how long ago the change to HSS occured? I have a chance to buy an “older” set of Marples chisels and I’m concerned they might be high carbon steel.

-- Joe

6 replies so far

View hairy's profile


3142 posts in 4453 days

#1 posted 01-20-2012 08:26 PM

Many people start out with the hf tools.
They used to have a set with red handles, but not on their web page anymore. That was my first set. They are high speed steel, and a set is less money than a name brand single tool. This is a SPINDLE set, no bowl gouge. The theory is to make your sharpening mistakes on less expensive tools.
As a beginner, I think something like Easy Wood Tools, is a better option. There is one presentation for all the tools, no sharpening. Much safer and quicker to learn and get some success, then get into the others as you need them.

-- I still love you baby, but I sure don't want you back. Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3995 days

#2 posted 01-20-2012 08:46 PM

In my opinion, the bigger issue with High Carbon, as opposed to HSS, is the sharpening act itself. High Carbon steel can overheat quickly and when they overheat they can be, effectively, ruined. The steel looses its temper. With high carbon steel you need to keep a cup of water handy and dip the tool in the water on a regular basis to keep it cool.

That is much less of a problem with HSS.

I second hairy’s comment on the easy wood tools. They may seem a little pricy when starting out. My fear is that if you start with these tools you may never learn to use the others. Maybe that is not such a bad thing.

I have a pretty complete set of conventional tools in different sizes. In actual practice, 90% of my work is done with 2 easy tools: a rougher and a finishing tool. Another 9% is done with 2 scrapers and a parting tool. My conventional gouges get very little use and my skews only collect dust and take up space.

Regarding the easy tool rougher – - It’s poorly named. Yes, it can do rough work – but it can also do very fine, finishing type, work. I can use it like a scrapper and produce those ultra light shavings that sort of float away leaving a very smooth finish on the stock. The only time I need the easy finishing tool is when I am doing a curve.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Loren's profile


10801 posts in 4568 days

#3 posted 01-20-2012 09:33 PM

I wouldn’t worry about it if the price is alright.

Most sets don’t include a bowl gouge anyway and you’ll
fine a good HSS Sorby or one like that is a good investment
since these gouges do a lot of work.

It’s nice to have some of the tools ground from round
bar stock though because the can be angled on the
tool rest with a lot more control.

Longer handles are better in general.

Mastering the skew is hard, but you can learn to do some remarkable
stuff with it. One problem is the skew is hard to handle when it
is ground from flat stock. You can get ones with a rounded
shank or an attachment with a rounded profile that fits the tool
shank giving. With a flat shank the skew is really hard to use
and unforgiving.

View rum's profile


148 posts in 3506 days

#4 posted 01-21-2012 08:11 AM

I have some of the “Benjamins Best” and for the price they were pretty hard to beat imho.
They are a bit of a step up from the HF tools for not a lot more for traditional style HSS tools. Mine haven’t seen a huge amount of use yet and they did need some sharpening out of the box, but so far pretty happy.

Haven’t tried the “easy”, I like doing things the hard way though :D One advantage I can see with them is that I think that they would be somewhat more for a beginner and less likely to catch that a lot of the traditional tools.

View pete33's profile


10 posts in 3261 days

#5 posted 01-21-2012 05:12 PM

I second richgreer’s comments. I do quite a bit of lathe work, and for my money, I don’t think you can hardly beat the Easy Tools. For just starting out, I would suggest the Easy rougher and finisher. It will amaze you what you can do with these. Then as the cash becomes available get a good conventional parting tool,(fairly easy to sharpen) and maybe some decent,not really expensive, conventional tools. I have a decent set of conventional tools and they are rarely used,except for more intricate details.

-- elpea

View Joe's profile


24 posts in 3612 days

#6 posted 01-25-2012 05:57 PM

Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to my questions. I investigated all the suggested options and ended up buying an inexpensive set of HSS chisels to start with. The Easy Tools look like a good idea and I may end up with a set after gaining some experience. Thanks again. Your comments were helpful.

-- Joe

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