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What Are the Best Tips for Sharpening Lathe Tools?

The sharpness of lathe tools impacts a crafter's ability to complete a project in an efficient manner.
Belt sanders may be used to sharpen lathe tools.
A bench grinder may be used to sharpen lathe tools.
Article Details
  • Written By: Lakshmi Sandhana
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Sharpening lathe tools properly is critical to getting the best possible performance out of them. A lathe tool must have a sharp edge to achieve an excellent finish on any work undertaken. The sharpness of the edge also has an impact on a crafter's ability to finish a project fast in an efficient and easy manner. Some of the best tips for sharpening lathe tools include sharpening them with a slow wet grinder, using a tool rest, ensuring proper protection, and sharpening regularly.

There are many devices that can be used to sharpen lathe tools, such as belt sanders, water stones, bench stones, and diamond sharpeners. A lot of crafters prefer to use slow-speed wet grinders or standard bench grinders to put good edges on their tools. The advantage of using a slow-speed wet grinder is that it keeps the steel cool, making it easy to sharpen the tool. Some woodturners dip the tools frequently in a cup of water when they are sharpening them to prevent the steel from overheating. This helps to avoid a change in the temper of the steel due to it overheating.

When sharpening lathe tools, wetting the wheel beforehand with a little water is a good technique to avoid sparking or the tools catching. Some woodturners also dress the wheel with diamond dressers or a devil stone. This helps in avoiding a groove being formed in the wheel, which could adversely affect the sharpening process.

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It's also important to sharpen tools by applying pressure lightly because this reduces the buildup of heat and the lessens the quantity of metal being removed. A light touch is important as forcing the tool can lead to scratches and nicks; this can be quite dangerous when sharpening tools at certain speeds. Using varied angles of attack when sharpening lathe tools can help in getting the desired finish. Some woodturners use tool rests to keep the angle of the tool consistent when sharpening. This also helps to avoid changing the bevel of the tool inadvertently.

Recognizing when it is necessary to sharpen lathe tools is a skill. It is time to sharpen the tools when they seem to have blunt edges, if the vibrations seem excessive when cutting, or if the cutting sound changes. If a tool gets blunt, the machinery will need more power to cut with, and the heat generated at the blunt tip will be transferred to the object being cut. It's important, therefore, to sharpen tools often, a little each time, rather than wait until the edge becomes totally blunt.

To get a good edge when sharpening lathe tools, it is necessary to use smooth grinding gestures or continuous motions. Woodturners also favor using a handstone, flatstone, or sandpaper at times. These are helpful in knocking off the burrs that develop on the other side of the tools when they are being sharpened.

Another critical factor to keep in mind is safety. It is important to use a dust mask and have some sort of eye protection when sharpening lathe tools. Some crafters use a face shield or safety glasses to avoid eye injuries as a result of flying debris. The working environment needs to have good light, and the grinding equipment has to be at the right height for comfortable operation.

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