Carbide Turning ToolsDuring completion of my first project it became very clear to me that the High Speed Steel (HSS) turning tools were not going to work. To my great surprise what happened was the turning tools got noticably duller as I worked on the project, and this, in turn, caused increasing difficulty in finishing the piece. I found I had to use much greater force (rather a lot, actually) to get the tools to remove wood, and the size of the removed chips got increasingly smaller to the point where the tools were basically making sawdust.
This was not good, so I immediately started researching carbide tipped tuning tools. I was aware of the general nature of carbide cutters from previous aerospace industry experience. In essence, carbide cutters are the hardest, sharpest, and most durable cutters available other than diamonds, and they are typically used to fabricate metal. Clearly such cutters would work well for wood.
The world of carbide cutting tools is in a totally different universe from wood turning, and I quickly discovered there are only a few kinds of carbide cutters available for use in wood turning. Moreover, the carbide tipped turning tools I found were about $130 each, and this seemed pretty expensive. I did finally discover a company that sold what appeared to be excellent quality tools for about half the usual price: Harrison Specialties. This company sells a peculiar set of products, but their Lathe Accessories page lists a small selection of carbide-tipped wood turning tools.
I found the videos on the Harrison site pretty convincing. So I ordered their Carbide wood turning & hollowing tool with 16mm (5/8") handle and an extra cutter head just to be safe. You can check out the photos & videos of these items on the Harrison pages, but here are a couple of photos I took myself:
|This is one of the HSS tools and the carbide tool. The quarter in the middle is for size comparison. You can clearly see the carbide tool is much longer - as Harrison describes it is a solid stainless steel shaft with a rubber golf club handle and a specially formed end that holds the actual carbide cutter.|
|This is a close-up of the business ends of both tools. The HSS tool at top us basically U shaped (it is a small gouge tool) with an angled end that performs the cutting. The groove in the U shape helps with chip removal. The carbide tool is shaped totally differently: it is essentially a tapered shaft on which the carbide cutter sits.|
|This shows the
shape of the carbide cutter and the end of the shaft that holds it.
There is a small set screw in the center that can be loosened to rotate
the cutter (if it ever gets dull) or removed to change cutters. The
cutting edge of the cutter is surprisingly sharp and, needless to say,
works much better than the HSS tool. Plus, as noted on the Harrison
site, it does not get dull
After completing several projects I learned that the above tools were not sufficiently well designed for my purposes. In particular, the round shank of the hollower tool allowed it to twist slightly while cutting and this resulted in catches and/or gouges in my work. So I did more research and found the following tools which I now use with much better results:
These tools come from the easywoodtools website and are very high quality. In particular, they have square shanks which allow the tools to be held firmly against the tool rest and thus prevent catches or gouges.