How to Sharpen Lathe Tools? Step By Step Guide 2023

How to Sharpen Lathe Tools

Just as important as learning how to use lathe tools is learning how to sharpen lathe tools. You can learn the fundamentals of sharpening lathe tools right here.

The majority of us frequently undervalue the value of a sharp tool, and without the proper direction, sharpening can be difficult. However, we’ll give you a simple way to get started in this article.

Tools and Materials for Sharpening Lathe Tools

It takes precise, skill-based work to sharpen lathe tools. With the right equipment and approach, anyone can learn. But there are lots of ways to mess up if you attempt to sharpen without the right tools.

Give yourself every chance of success by investing in the following pieces of equipment:

Safety Goggles

A requirement for any job requiring a grinder’s sharpening.

Permanent Marker

How to Sharpen Lathe Tools

This will be applied to almost every lathe tool you sharpen. More on this later.

Bench-top Grinder With Adjustable Tool Rest Table

A good bench-top grinder is the foundation of all your lathe tool sharpening work. A slow-moving one (with a maximum speed of 1,800 revolutions per minute) is what you want. Select a model with a solid base that can be bolted or clamped onto your workbench and has received positive reviews. Additionally, make sure the grinder you select has an integrated, spacious, adjustable tool rest table.

Cool Grind Wheel

I always sharpen my lathe tools with a cool grind six-inch aluminum oxide wheel. It won’t heat up your tool as quickly because the cool grind stone is softer than typical grind wheels. There’s a tradeoff: Cool grind wheels wear out faster.

Lathe Tool Sharpening Guides

Although these grinder accessories are not strictly necessary, they will make it much simpler to establish and maintain the proper sharpening angle for your various lathe tools.

Wheel Dressing Tool

Wheel Dressing Tool

Starting with dressing the wheel with a diamond-faced dressed tool is necessary if you regularly sharpen steel tools with any type of grinding wheel. When the wheel is dressed, the sharp, flat edge is restored, and any steel fragments that managed to get into the stone’s pores are taken out. To keep your wheel sharpening properly, you must go through this process.

Slip Stones

Sharpening occasionally causes tiny burs of steel to form on the back of tools with a single-sided bevel, primarily gouges for woodturning. The use of slip stones is necessary because if you leave these in place, your tool’s sharpness will be limited. As a last step after grinding, use them with a little water to remove that bur. I’ve found that a water stone with a 1,000-grit surface works well for this.

How to Sharpen Lathe Tools With a Bench Grinder

Here’s how to sharpen the tools you use for lathes.

Start With the Basic Preparations

Making sure you are wearing the appropriate safety equipment is the first step to having sharp lathe tools. As soon as possible, put on eye protection, such as goggles, as the sharpening process frequently releases small metal fragments into the air. Put on protective gloves because hand protection is also crucial.

Before starting any sharpening procedures, you must also confirm that your bench grinder is completely still (ideally fixed to a bench). In this situation, you must properly configure the tool support. Make sure the grinder is securely clamped if you’re using it on a workbench.

Some other safety precautions to take when using a grinder include:

  • Use breathing protection
  • Do not position the lathe tool right below the center of your wheel.
  • Make sure to use the sharpening platform close enough to the lathe tool so that nothing gets caught between the wheel and the platform.

Dress the Grinding Wheel

The grinding wheel is the key tool when it comes to sharpening, so it needs to receive the proper care. This basically implies prepping the grinding wheel for the work ahead.

Prepping is a crucial activity to perform because most grinding wheels develop a reasonable build-up of metal fragments which could affect its overall performance, i.e. its sharpening capability.

It is suggested that you dress the wheel with a diamond sharpening tool when using a bench grinder. The outer edges of the wheel should be rubbed with the diamond-sharpening tool to remove any debris and even out the surface.

Understand the Right Grinding Angles

Before beginning the actual sharpening process, you must comprehend that different lathe tools cut at various angles. Because of this, the sharpening angles will vary depending on the user’s skill level and the type of turning being done, especially on spindle gouges and bowl gouges. A crucial point to keep in mind is that, in order to guide the lathe tool without catching, more tool control (skill) is needed the shallower the sharpening angle. Therefore, it is okay to begin with a steeper angle (maybe 60 degrees as opposed to 55 on a bowl gouge) and gradually reduce the angle as your tool control gets better.

Lathe Tool Grinding Angles

Here is a brief breakdown of various tools and their right grinding angles:

  • Roughing gouge. Instead of on bowls, this tool is frequently used to rough spindle stock. It is best ground to 45 degrees but 35 degrees would work better on soft wood. Additionally, if you choose to sharpen with a V-pocket, take extra care with your tool’s tip because it will be directly above the wheel’s centerline.
  • Bowl gouge. There are numerous angle variations but the safest starting point is between 50 and 60 degrees. As your tool control improves, you can move to lower angles like 45 and 40 degrees.
  • Spindle gouge. Besides being used for turning coves and beads on the spindle stock, this tool also has numerous uses during hollowing small openings and bowl-turning. Depending on the user’s skill level, this tool can be ground between 45 degrees (much easier to control) and 35 degrees (requires finer tool control).
  • Parting tool (flat). In addition to a few other operations, parting tools are frequently used to part through the spindle stock. 45 degrees is generally a good grinding angle. The tool should be held square to the wheel with the edges kept at a 90 degree angle.
  • Diamond parting tool. This lathe tool is made to make clearing sawdust as you cut wood somewhat simpler. A 45-degree angle is fine with this tool.

Ensure Proper Contact

The correct contact must be made in order to produce the desired sharpening angles once you are familiar with the sharpening angles. In this situation, it is advised that you set your lathe tool on its designated rest before moving forward.

Till your tool makes contact with the wheel, continue performing this action. Make sure the blade isn’t pressing against the grinding wheel – there should be very little contact with the grinding wheel. If your angle isn’t right or you’re pressing too hard upon the lathe tool, there is a chance that the blade will bounce or create excessive vibrations which could weaken your grip, after which you will lose tool control.

First Phase of Grinding

The time has come for you to begin sharpening. Push the tool slightly against the wheel and be sure to limit contact of the tool for not more than 10 seconds. During this stage, if the angle and level of contact are appropriate, you should see a few sparks appear. While sharpening, try gently swiveling the lathe tool from side to side. If you’re doing it correctly, the pattern of the sparks that fly should show them along the edge.

Second Phase of Grinding

Repeating this sharpening interval for ten seconds should be done several times. If the lathe tool looks sharp enough, cool it off by dipping it in a bowl of water. Due to the intense friction during grinding, the tool may become overheated.

When your tool has cooled, carry out the same procedure on the opposite side. Prior to mounting the tool to the wheel, make sure the tool surface is dry. A tool that has been overly ground could become weak and more prone to cracking, so be careful not to do this.

You could sharpen your lathe tools by hand if you don’t have access to an electric grinder. A sanding stone with a grit of about 1000 is required in this situation.

To sharpen, you need to hold the stone in one hand and place your lathe tool at a 45-degree angle. Scrape your tool back and forth on this sanding stone while applying a little pressure.

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Final Words on How to Sharpen Lathe Tools

Overall, sharpening your wood lathe tools will improve the effectiveness of your woodworking tasks.

Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of home sharpening may be a benefit.

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