Best grinder for sharpening turning tools?

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Forum topic by Chris posted 01-14-2015 11:45 PM 10400 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Chris's profile


191 posts in 1870 days

01-14-2015 11:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe carving tool turning

Without spending a small fortune.

I’m brand new to turning. I was given a HF lathe for Christmas. The set of gouges I was given with it, didn’t seem to hold a sharp edge very long. So, now I have to go get a grinder. I’m looking to get one for as cheap as possible. So, any suggestions?

-- Liberalism... Ideas so good, they have to be mandatory.

12 replies so far

View KDO's profile


154 posts in 3332 days

#1 posted 01-15-2015 12:07 AM

You need a Slower grinder than I have seen in HF. The last I saw, Woodcraft and Rockler both have 8” slow grinders for about $100. I bought mine from Woodcraft and have had it for 12 years and love it. I would then buy some good White grinding wheels.
I could not afford the Tormek and to be honest, once I learned to used a traditional style grinder, I don’t know that I would buy a Tormek. It didn’t take that long to learn to use. I really thought about spending money for a JIG but my brother convinced me that after I spent a few hours with the grinder I wouldn’t need it, and he was right. Unless you are using ultra expensive tools, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Get an inexpensive protractor to set the angles.
Until you get used to doing it by hand, Set the front guide in front of the grinding wheel as a guide to your angle.
It really isn’t rocket science, but a lot of guys want to make it so, and as a result, spend 1,000 on a Sharpening system that gives 5% better results than the other way.
Get a catalog from Woodcraft, Rockler, and Grizzly, or go online and look at some better tools. They will hold a edge longer, cut smoother and make turning more pleasurable.
If you turn, you will be sharpening your tools.
The cheaper turning tools are Carbon steel. The next level up is HSS-High Speed Steel and they will probably hold an edge 4-5 times longer. The next level is Carbide and they probably last 2-3 times longer than HSS, but they are expensive.
Unless you get serious about it, HSS will serve you well.
Turning is fun. There are a lot of places to learn about it.

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View KDO's profile


154 posts in 3332 days

#2 posted 01-15-2015 12:51 AM

If you decide on a grinding jig for a regular grinder, you could make one.
Check out these plans.

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View poospleasures's profile


836 posts in 3046 days

#3 posted 01-15-2015 01:19 AM

Sharpening is a little scary to new turners. It is not as hard as you have been lead to believe but does take a lot of practice. I have been practicing real hard for the last year and do have very sharp tools now. You have to find what grinds make your tools do what you want them to do. I did this by watching videos an experimenting with slightly different grinds. Watched Capn Eddie videos and copied his jigs then practice practice practice. Don,t worry you will not grind you tool away for a very long time.

-- I,ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember. Vernon

View MNclone's profile


194 posts in 2146 days

#4 posted 01-15-2015 01:31 AM

If you use a regular bench grinder how do you keep the steel from losing its temper?

View KDO's profile


154 posts in 3332 days

#5 posted 01-15-2015 02:09 AM

You use the slower grinder and don’t grind for long periods of time. Don’t let the heat build up.

The Slow, traditional grinders run at about 1,600-1,700 rpm. You can easily get a good one for around 100-125.
Most regular speed grinders run something like 3,500 rpm.
Also, you should use White aluminum oxide grinding wheels (some are in different colors, but they are all colored and they start at about $30-35. . They run cooler and are designed that way. They are finer and do not require water.
The expensive Tormek style coolers run very slow, and use water, but they are out of the reach, price wise of many turners. And, in my opinion, they only give you a 5-10% better grind than someone who knows how to use a slow, traditional grinder can achieve. Most of us would rather spend than money on better tools, etc.
Using a slower grinder, your tools will last a long time. Your grind doesn’t have to be perfect to achieve a good turning.
I just checked out Grizzly and they have their own brand Tormek style slow, water wheel grinder for $120. That would be a good buy. Check it out.

-- Christian, Husband, Grandpa, Salesman, amateur Woodworker.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4210 days

#6 posted 01-15-2015 02:44 AM

Well, a slow speed grinder is preferable but a regular imported
grinder with a white friable wheel on one side and either a
leather stropping wheel or a cotton buffing wheel is not
a bad option. I have my grinder set up this way and it is
versatile. The white wheel leaves a smoother grind than
a grey hard wheel.

View Wildwood's profile


2769 posts in 2697 days

#7 posted 01-15-2015 12:19 PM

This grinder often goes on sale but even at full price a good deal because comes with two friable grinding wheels. So if live near a store worth a look.

I always recommend buying a bench grinder locally in case get a bad one much easier to exchange or get a refund. See where my Lowes has has both Delta & Dewalt 8” grinders for $130.!

Home Depot has their Ryobi for less than $100.

I would stay away from any grinder at Harbor Freight.

I feel bench grinder with diamond wheel dresser, and sharpening jig one place to save money in woodturning.
8” grinder with 1” wheel easier to free hand sharpen tools than a 6” grinder with ¾” wheels. That is also true sharpening on a belt sander with wider belts.

Sharpening jigs will give you consistency every time you sharpen your tools.

High or slow speed grinder just personal preference, both will blue your tools which in not good not matter kind of turning tool steel.

Been using a Sears 6” 3400 RPM grinder with basic Wolverine sharpening jig with optional Vari-grind jig for more than 20 years.

This what I bought intermediate package and only part of this dressing jig I use is the cross bar. Bought a different diamond wheel dresser. I use that cross bar for free hand sharpening.

In a perfect world would have both wet & dry grinder. My only complaint with wet grinders is expensive to buy new, maintain (wheels), and price of jigs.

-- Bill

View OSU55's profile


2450 posts in 2552 days

#8 posted 01-15-2015 01:10 PM

You don’t say what brand of tools you were given, but all of the tools I have purchased needed sharpening to do much good. The HF tool set with the maroon handles are HSS and perform well when sharpened. Benjamins Best and Hurricane tools are also HSS and perform well after sharpening.

The subject of sharpening is about like evolution vs creation – the debate goes on and on. Free hand or jigs, as ground with burr or buffed to a clean edge. One are that isn’t argued is don’t get the tool hot and “blue” it – but grinding away the blue gets back to proper tempered steel. I use jigs – there is some expense but I can’t get repeatable results free hand. If you can make free hand work it can be faster, and cheaper if you don’t grind up tools learning how to do it. If you are not turning all the time and getting practice you can loose the free hand technique pretty quick I suspect.

I use the Grizzly 10” wet grinder with Tormek jigs to resharpen. I already had the wet grinder before I started turning, so it made sense. The Tormek SVD-185 gouge jig is wonderful. Allows putting any type of grind desired on the tool repeatedly. I also have the Tormek BGM-100 tool rest for bench grinders, which allows all of the Tormek jigs to be used with any 6” or larger bench grinder. I use the Tormek TT-50 diamong wheel dresser to keep all of the wheels trued up – far better than the hand held wheel dressers I have. I use the jigs with 6” grinder with std gray wheels to rough in a new grind shape on a tool and then sharpen on the Grizzly. I strop the burr off the top of gouges by hand, and use the leather wheel for the bevel. I get longer edge life with a clean edge vs a burred edge that gets broken off.

If I were starting from scratch, I’d probably go with a 8” slow grinder with friable wheels and the Tormek jigs, but I would investigate the wolverine and vari-grind and similar jigs and cost it out. Clothe buffing wheels for stropping.

View JonShank's profile


8 posts in 2166 days

#9 posted 01-16-2015 12:35 AM

You might consider spending a little extra and getting one of the variable speed grinders. I’ve got the variable speed 8” Delta and it’s a good tool with a little bit of extra versatility from the variable speed. I always sharpen lathe tools at the minimum speed for good control, but when you need to tune up a lawnmower blade it sure is nice to be able to crank it up and hog off some steel.

I also have the Wolverine jig and like it alot. The nice big flat platform is great for general grinding and flat tools and the vari-grind jig makes gouges repeatable and easy after you find the settings you like. I’ll also say the maroon handled set from HF is surprisingly serviceable, keeps a decent edge. And the Benjamen’s best tools are good quality for the money from the couple I have. Either should at least get you started.


View Chris's profile


191 posts in 1870 days

#10 posted 01-27-2015 03:04 PM

So, I’ve decided what to get for a grinder. Lucky for me, the nearby Woodcraft store has it on sale for a mere $99.

Thanks for the advice.

-- Liberalism... Ideas so good, they have to be mandatory.

View moke's profile


1453 posts in 3339 days

#11 posted 01-27-2015 07:52 PM

I have a Delta version of that grinder, and then for Xmas I got that one too, so I can now have some specialized jigs for sharpening. You certainly don’t need to go to that length to get a good grind. I will say however, I would throw away those wheels and get some Norton…I have been “balancing” the wheels on both grinders and one of the rikon wheels clearly is not right…..even Norton wheels have some issues occasionally.

However one of the finest wood turners in the world uses a 6” 3750 rpm grinder with no jigs at all and gets the most awesome grind I have ever seen…..and still another guy uses wet stones and no grinder at all….it’s all what you get good with and can use….me…I screw them all up!!!!

-- Mike

View TheDane's profile


5709 posts in 4225 days

#12 posted 01-27-2015 11:17 PM

However one of the finest wood turners in the world uses a 6” 3750 rpm grinder with no jigs at all and gets the most awesome grind I have ever seen…..and still another guy uses wet stones and no grinder at all….it s all what you get good with and can use….me…I screw them all up!!!!

- moke

I took a class from Ron Odegaard a few years ago … he is a production turner and teacher who has been at it 45+ years. He exclusively sharpens on a slightly modified belt sander. He says he hasn’t had time to shop for a grinder!

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

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