Woodturning Tips - Woodturning Tool Selection For Beginners


Among the first things you need to do if you are getting started in woodturning, is to get your tools. You can find two basic ways to obtain a beginner group of tools: 1.) Purchase a basic group of tools from a producer or 2.) Purchase individual tools and build your own personal set. For most new woodturners, I recommend that you decide on option two, build your own personal set. While it may be tempting to just purchase a basic group of tools from your favorite manufacturer, it may not be your best option for you personally in the long run. Tool sets typically require you to settle for Best lathe tools an over-all purpose collection, which often contain tools that you may not need, or want initially.

Woodturning tools are basically divided between spindle tools and faceplate turning tools. Spindle tools are usually used to turn spindle projects like pens and table legs, where in actuality the grain of the wood is parallel to the bed of the lathe. Faceplate tools are usually used to turn bowls, platters and other projects, where in actuality the grain turns perpendicular to the bed of the lathe. Specialty tools will also be available including tools made for deep hollowing, center saving, threading, texturing and more.

Alloy Choices

Numerous tool alloys can be found in modern woodturning tools however, two main alloys are commonly used, M2 High Speed Steel (HSS) and Powder Metal technology steel, including the ASP 2030 and ASP 2060 alloys. If you're just starting out, choose M2 HSS for some of one's woodturning tools. Oahu is the most inexpensive alloy for sale in the top speed steel range and it includes very good edge life for the money. Although more exotic steels can be found that provide increased edge life, they could cost repeatedly greater than a basic M2 HSS tool of exactly the same size. An individual will be more established and your interests tend to be more clearly defined, you will look to the expensive exotic tool steels to meet specific requirements.


M2 HSS is the industry standard alloy in woodturning, having an edge than can last approximately 5 - 6 times so long as traditional high carbon steel. M2 HSS can maintain its edge even if "blued" throughout the grinding/sharpening process. M2 HSS tools are economical and offer excellent value. M2 HSS is now available from some manufacturers in cryogenically treated versions. These tools are specially treated at temperatures of -300 degrees below zero. This treatment increases the durability and edge holding capability of the beds base tool steel approximately 250% or more.

ASP Powder Metal

Powder metal steel is a special form of tool steel that could hold its edge as much as 4.5 times more than traditional M2 HSS, with respect to the particular alloy used. ASP powder metal tool steels offer exceptional edge life and tend to be more expensive than M2 HSS. If you're working very abrasive timbers, or prefer longer edge life in your tools, a few powder metal tools in your workshop would have been a welcome addition to your chisel inventory.

How Are Turning Tools Measured?

Most spindle tools are measured by the diameter of the round tool shaft. Most bowl gouges are measured by the width of the flute, with the diameter of the shaft being approximately 1/8" larger than the width of the flute. When selecting turning tools, bear in mind that lots of woodturning tools have multiple applications. Which means that one turning tool may in effect, have numerous uses.

Determining What Woodturning Tools You Need To Get Started

The first faltering step in selecting which woodturning tools you have to get started, is to decide if you wish to turn spindle projects, faceplate projects, or even a little of both. Next, you will need to ascertain what size lathe you will undoubtedly be using, mini, intermediate, or large. Obviously, larger projects on big lathes require larger tools than what you would need with small and medium sized lathes.

Tools To Consider Purchasing

The next basic tool list is ideal for a beginner woodturner, organized by the sort of tool. This list assumes you wish to do a number of spindle and faceplate projects and you're turning on a lathe that swings 12", or less. Lathe swing is defined as twice the exact distance from the bedway to the biggest market of the spindle. Viewed another way, the swing is the most diameter round blank that a lathe can turn without hitting the bedway. If your lathe is larger or smaller than the example above, you should adjust the sizes of tools listed to meet your specific requirements.

Spindle Gouges

1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" spindle gouges. These will undoubtedly be your mainstay for spindle work and fine detail work. They can also be used externally of bowls for detail work, but never on the inside. Spindle gouges are unsuitable for bowl hollowing work.

Bowl Gouges

1/2" deep fluted bowl gouge for rough-out work and bulk wood removal. A 3/8" deep fluted bowl gouge would also be very helpful for finishing cuts.

Detail Gouges

If your allowance allows it, a 3/8" or 7/16" detail gouge could be helpful for reaching long distances off the tool rest. Detail gouges have a shallow flute, which adds rigidity to the shaft and reduces vibrations.

Parting Tools

Two main styles are required a 3/16" diamond parting tool for general work and deep parting cuts and an ultra-thin kerf 1/16" tool for minimal waste when grain matching, focusing on boxes, pens etc.


A thick scraper is a great tool to use occasionally during bowl turning. The best scrapers are thick and wide with the 3/8" x 1.5" half round nose being truly a good overall choice. Additionally, if your allowance allows it, add a 3/8" x 1.5" dual angle scraper. This tool is a wonderful choice for shear scraping of many faceplate projects.

Skew Chisels

If you're doing plenty of spindle work, a Skew Chisel is invaluable to create glass smooth surfaces next to the tool. A 3/4" or perhaps a 1" skew chisel would be a good choice. There are several styles including a direct skew, rounded skew, oval skew and full round skew. Nearly all of my students like the straight skew, or rounded skew when learning this tool.

Micro Turning Tools

If you anticipate doing lots of bowl and platter detail work, or smaller spindle type projects such as for instance pens, small inlays, vases etc, a few micro turning tools are nice to own on hand. Among the more useful are 1/4" and 3/16" micro spindle gouges, a 1/4" micro round nose scraper and a 1/4" micro skew chisel. You uses these regularly for various kinds of detail work with your projects.


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