Let’s pretend it’s Thanksgiving. The turkey has been resting out of the oven while the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole are finishing. It’s finally time to carve the turkey, which is an all-important job that has been bestowed upon you. The whole family gathers around and watches as you press a knife into this beautiful golden bird. But, you forget to sharpen your knife! What should have been smooth, beautiful slices of turkey worthy of your niece's Instagram is now jagged, ugly slices. Thankfully, that’s the worst thing that happened when you forgot to sharpen your turkey carving knife!
You are probably wondering why we’re talking about carving turkeys on a woodworking supply store blog. Well, because when it comes to sharpening tools, most people think of knives. And not sharpening a knife doesn’t really have that many consequences. But not sharpening your woodturning tools? That’s bad. Really bad. In fact, it’s a main cause of injury during woodworking. When you are using dull tools with a fast-spinning lathe, you run the risk of the tool catching or snapping off, possibly sending it flying back at you.
Sharpen Your New Tools
You would think that a brand new bowl gouge or skew would come out of the box razor sharp. However, this isn’t always the case, especially if you are working with cheap, mass-produced lathe tools (which is why we only sell the best in the industry at Long Island Woodworking Supply). This means if you take a brand new tool on its maiden voyage and suspect it might be defective, try sharpening it up first and see if that helps.
Stock Up On Sharpening Supplies
As soon as you buy your first woodturning tool (heck, maybe even before!) you should have sharpening tools (you can get these at any woodturning supply store, including ours). This isn’t an “I’ll buy them when I need them” situation. If you wait until you “need them,” then it is likely that you will let your tools get to a dangerous level of dullness, then have to wait for your sharpening tools to come in, learn how to use them, and possibly injure yourself or ruin your workpiece in the process. Learning how to sharpen tools should be part of your “learning how to turn wood” process. You cannot have woodturning without tool sharpening. The two are mutually exclusive.
Honing Versus Sharpening
Many woodworkers use the terms sharpening and honing interchangeably, but they are truthfully different steps in the process and require different tools. Sharpening is when you use a piece of equipment that grinds off dull pieces of a metal tool to produce a new edge. Because sharpening is done with a lower grit, you will get more metal coming off but a rougher finish. Honing, on the other hand, gently pushes the new edge into a uniform position and polishes it to smooth perfection. While you should never sharpen your tools without honing them afterward, you can hone your tools without sharpening them. Some woodworkers choose to only sharpen their tools once for every four or five times they hone them.
Types Of Woodturning Sharpening Accessories
Grinder: The grinding step of sharpening your gouges and skews will typically be done with a special attachment for your lathe or a seperate machine. Based on your preference, you can choose a grinding surface that spins parallel to the ground or one that spins perpendicular. The Worksharp grinding system is super popular with workers who like to sharpen on a horizontal surface, as the grinding surface spins flat like a CD
On the other hand, those who like a vertical grinder enjoy the Wolverine grinding jig. This jig has become somewhat of a staple among woodworkers who swear by its ability to create the perfect bevel. It also has a number of attachments that make it easier and safer to sharpen certain tools with more precision.
Honing Tools: After you use a grinder to sharpen your tools, you can use seperate equipment to hone them. We love diamond whetstones for this job. They have an incredibly fine grit and you have all the control since this is a stationary surface. Try the DMT Extra-Extra Fine Dia-Sharp Bench Stone for the job!
How Often To Sharpen Lathe Tools
This is largely up to personal preference and how long you spend turning. Some woodworkers sharpen their tools before every use. Personally, we think this is a great practice. The second your chisel touches a chunk of wood that is spinning at 3,500 RPM, it’s going to start getting dull. Others only sharpen their tools when there is a noticeable difference in the tool’s use. Maybe it isn’t creating smooth edges or perhaps it has a little more pull. One of the best ways to see if your tool needs to be sharpened is to run your finger over the edge. You will be able to physically feel if it is sharp. It feels more like a butter knife than a steak knife, it’s time to sharpen it up.
We Have Your Woodturning Sharpening Supplies
Whether you’re looking for supplies for a belt sharpening system or an abrasive kit for the Worksharp WS3000, we’ve got you covered. Our online woodturning supply store will ship your items right to your house so you can get started safely turning wood. Shop all of the lathe tool sharpening supplies and accessories at Long Island Woodworking Supply today!