Have EWT carbide - worth going to HSS traditional?

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Forum topic by nerdkraft posted 12-27-2014 07:10 PM 1279 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View nerdkraft's profile


57 posts in 3405 days

12-27-2014 07:10 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe easy wood tools gouge

Preface: I have done a lot of searching on the forums and found several threads about whether to start with the easy wood tools. A few threads on people being happy with adding the EWT to their existing HSS set up. I have a somewhat different question.

When I first got into woodturning at TechShop, they had a pretty beat up sharpening station with the wolverine jig and I was immediately turned off. I then got myself the easy wood tools set with the EWT full size rougher, finisher and detailer. I had a blast and have made many bowls, pens, stoppers, pepper grinders.

Fast forward 3 years and I’m questioning whether I should consider going to a traditional HSS set. I don’t really care about ‘learning traditional’ just for the sake of the learning. I’d love to get validation (and/or disagreement) on these reasons from those of you that have both traditional and carbide insert tools:

1. Cutting speed – watching videos and seeing threads on ‘made gifts in about an hour’ it seems to me that you get better and faster cuts with traditional gouges. With my easy rougher, getting a spindle blank to round takes quite a bit of time with either push cuts or side to side. Going too aggressive catches corners. Watching someone good with a roughing gouge get to round seems like it’s far faster. Same goes for bowl gouges in hollowing.
Is a sharp set of HSS tools going to save me time over the carbide?

2. Cut quality – I like my easy finisher but I still get lots of tear out on end grain and have noticed myself doing fewer bowls because of the time to sand. I can get pretty great results by making the last bit of cutting I do be very gently to the point where I produce saw dust instead of shavings but this goes back to the speed portion (quality means taking a whole lotta time.)
Am I correct in the assumption that going to gouges will mean less tear out and less sanding?

3. Flexibility – With the detailer + rougher I can definitely do beads but they are a pain. Trying to make a ball/round shape by sweeping with a square cutter or notching with the detailer is a pain but it works (most of the time). The videos of people just rolling their gouges makes it look simple.
Is it accurate to say that gouges will help in making beads and balls or am I just imagining things?

At this point, these things matter and I’m thinking of getting a Tormek t-4 (in an attempt to just get the great sharpener once vs start and upgrade) and some gouges. Do these make sense?

TL;DR – I see a lot of people deciding on whether to go from HSS gouges to carbide. I have gotten great results with carbide. Is it worth it to get a whole new set up and go to the gouges?
1. Is a sharp set of HSS tools going to save me time over the carbide?
2. Am I correct in the assumption that going to gouges will mean less tear out and less sanding?
3. Is it accurate to say that gouges will help in making beads and balls or am I just imagining things?

5 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2649 posts in 2522 days

#1 posted 12-27-2014 09:51 PM

Only problem see with Tormek is extra expense for jigs and wheels. Tormek now sells a set up so can sharpen on a dry grinder too! Only you can answer whether if worth time and money to learn how to sharpen and use bowl, spindle and other turning tools.

1. There is a learning curve to using turning tools and only way to get proficient is practice, patience, and persistence.

2. You know what happens when you assume. Dull tools, rushing the cut, too slow to fast lathe speed, and wood species all affect the cut. Oh and do not forget tool rest height, stance, grip, and body movement too!

3. Go back to #1 and think about PPP

Good Luck!

-- Bill

View TheDane's profile


5644 posts in 4050 days

#2 posted 12-27-2014 10:39 PM

HSS and carbide both have their place.

I use carbides for roughing, and I don’t think there is a better hollowing tool than the carbides from Hunter ( ).

On the other hand, I can’t imagine trying to use carbides to do the spheres, tiny beads and coves I do on things like coffee scoops, ornaments and shawl pins. I have been turning for going on five years now, and feel that I get cleaner cuts, less tear-out, and far better results with HSS gouges and skews than I could ever get with anybody’s carbide tools.

Wildwood is right … the only way to get comfortable with HSS tools is PPP. Every cut should be a practice cut.

As for sharpening systems … you can pretty much start a fist fight over which is best. They all work … it just comes down to which system you are most comfortable and proficient with, and gives you the best results. For example, I have a Wolverine that does a great job on my gouges and scrapers, but I can’t get a decent edge with it on my skews (I use a belt sander and diamond hones on my skews). Other guys get great results on their skews with the Wolverine. Go figure!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Woodknack's profile


12802 posts in 2767 days

#3 posted 12-28-2014 06:19 AM

1. Speed – My carbide is faster at roughing out of round or square blanks because I can plunge straight in and hog off wood, but once it’s round or close, the gouge is faster and leaves a better surface.
2. Cut Quality – No contest, traditional tools win hands down.
3. Flexibility – No contest, traditional tools have a wider range of sizes and shapes

-- Rick M,

View nerdkraft's profile


57 posts in 3405 days

#4 posted 12-29-2014 03:00 AM

Thank you Bill, Gerry and Rick.
My key takeaways: keep roughing with the carbide but go for hss when it comes to finish work or intricate work.
Sounds like I should make do with just the carbide for now but keep my eyes peeled for sales… and stock up on cheap poplar for practice.

ps – I completely agree with the PPP paradigm for any tool :)

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2829 days

#5 posted 12-29-2014 03:52 PM

I’d say it’s really a matter of preference. I’ve got a full assortment of EWT as well as traditional HSS tools and honestly, I wouldn’t give up one for the other.

For me, I tend to use a roughing gouge to get things to round and the rest of the work is EWT. There are still some cuts that I can’t get with the round or square cutter, where I’ll whip out a bowl or spindle gouge, or something specialized like a beading tool. I’m actually fairly happy with the finish off of the round cutters. Very rarely do I go to a skew to clean things up but I still do use scrapers.

The one area that EWT has completely replaced all my HSS tools is with hollowing. The 3 hollowers are absolutely fantastic and are far better than any HSS hollower I had.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a knock against the EWTs, I really do like them, they’re just not a 100% replacement for traditional tools.

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