Many beginning woodturners and also some experienced ones are confused over the question of sharpening their tools, in particular wondering how sharp an instrument needs to be. This tends to be further confused by the tendency for woodworkers never to restrict themselves to only 1 kind of woodworking. Basically a woodturner could find themselves at the wood lathe one hour and utilizing a hand plane or a wood chisel the next. Now the question becomes whether the lathe tool needs to be as sharp because the hand tool. The answer may lie in taking into consideration the type of wood and work each can do.
Hand planes are designed for removing wood leaving as smooth as surface as you possibly can. They move across boards that are progressively flatter and flatter in addition to smoother and smoother and can leave a surface only as fine because the edge on their blade. Furthermore, they’re propelled with the motion of arms and hands and cover a fairly small area in a comparatively large segment of time weighed against a wood lathe.
The wood that planes use is normally fairly clear with few knots and irregularities. It has additionally been brought to a spot of relative flatness and finish prior to the planes start their work. Hand planes are really the finish tools of the present day cabinet maker. As such they want an extremely fine edge that leaves a finished surface ready for fine sandpaper or perhaps a cabinet scraper.
Woodturning tools on the other hand are the roughing tolls of the woodturner along with the finishing tools. They will attack a rough little bit of wood that could include bark complete with grit from felling on the woodland floor, all kinds of knots that add character to the finished piece and even cross grain and bark inclusions found in many burls. An excellent edge can last only seconds rather than minutes in such circumstances.
In addition, a wood lathe moves the material so quickly that the fine edge of a wood plane would dull rapidly beneath the friction of the movement. Rather a more robust, thicker edge is necessary. Rather than the edge from water stones and leather strops, the rougher edge from the grinding wheel is enough for the woodturner.
Grinders using eighty grit aluminum oxide wheels will leave an edge that’s sufficiently strong and sharp enough to eliminate a great deal of wood and last well. The surface that is left behind is ready for sanding or scraping. Actually, many spindle turners use a skew chisel to leave a surface that won’t need any sanding or only that of papers higher than two hundred grit of finer. Some bowl turners use scrapers with an excellent edge to achieve similar results.
The solution to the question of how sharp is sharp enough is really the sharpness that works for the tools and the work at hand. It will vary for the tool used however the end results speak for themselves.
Darrell Feltmate is a juried wood turner whose web site, Around the Woods, contains detailed information about wood turning for the novice or experienced turner in addition to a collection of turnings for the viewing pleasure. You too can learn to turn wood, this is actually the place to begin. Wondering what it appears like? There are numerous free videos on the site dealing with everything from sharpening to making a bowl.
For full instruction in getting your tools sharp and specifically how to make a very inexpensive sharpening jig, have a look at making and using the sharpening jig. Using only small amount of time, some shop scraps and several dollars you may make a jig that may perform just like a hundred dollar tool and easily sharpen your wood lathe tools.