I recently got into wood turning, and I wanted to have a nice set of tools. Most lathe gouges and chisels are high speed steel (HSS), but they require constant sharpening and leave something to be desired. The premium wood turning tools use replaceable carbide inserts that stay sharp considerably longer, but you also pay a premium for them.

Instead of paying around $100 per tool, I set out to make my own. After it's all said and done, I've got $53 dollars invested in two carbide cutting tools, and I've got 6 regular steel chisels and gouges left from the materials that I bought for the project.

Not too shabby - here's how it's done!

Step 1: Gather the Materials

I've seen some Instructables where people turned their own hardwood handles, used copper plumbing to make custom ferrules, cut or machined their own tool shafts, and even hollowed out the handles and loaded them with shot to reduce vibration. While I will probably do this eventually, I wanted more instant gratification. I wanted a set of carbide cutters to use between now and then. So... I decided to just use a cheap set of donor chisels as the handles for my own carbide lathe tools.

I bought a set of 8 lathe tools from Harbor Freight for $20. I also purchased a pair of carbide inserts from Easy Wood Tools on Amazon. I decided on the Ci0 round cutter and the Ci1-R2 radiused square cutter. Both carbide inserts came with their own 8-32 hold down screws.

If you're following this guide verbatim, here are the links to exactly what I bought:




You'll also need:

A tap and die set, specifically an 8-32 tap.

A scratch awl.

A center punch.

A drill and bits. Something to pilot drill with, and a 1/8" bit. (#29 if you have it)

A combination square.

Something to protect bare metal. I have Johnson's Paste Wax, so I used that.

<p>Hi, I have the Harbor Freight $20 chisel set and am unable to find a punch nor a drill bit that will punch nor drill the chisels. Please someone tell me what is harder than a cobalt bit or a Ace hardware center punch. </p>
<p>I sure didn't need any special tooling for my build. The drill bits and taps that I used probably came from Harbor Freight as well. I was using an &quot;automatic&quot; center punch that's just a spring loaded point that pops itself when you apply enough pressure to it, so that's a pretty light duty tool as well. </p><p>I think that the factory heat treating between chisels is wildly inconsistent on the HF tools. Somebody else asked, and you might have read in another comment on the thread, that one of my chisels cut like butter and the other one was 'tight' and squeaked the tools when I tapped it... I'm not sure which way is &quot;right&quot; or how they're supposed to come when they're new, but they were definitely different than each other from the get go. </p><p>Anyway, the other poster recommended annealing the chisels before tapping them if people ran into this issue. I'm not a metallurgy buff, so I don't actually know the right way to do that safely without doing some google searching first. </p>
<p>I have been turning for some time now and these tools would be good for spindle turning but not for bowl turning. The reason is the HF tools you started with. The tangs on these tools is too small and short. It could snap if you were to try turning end grain as you would turning a bowl. And that could really mess up your day. Don't get me wrong, they are good for face grain turning as with spindles, pens, ect...</p>
<p>So far, I'm only using them for pens, so no issues. If I get into bowl turning, I'll definitely have to learn some more about what's going on. Thanks for the warning. </p>
<p>This is a great idea - thanks for sharing!</p><p>Beginner's questions: When would you use the round vs the square cutter? Also, could you grind/round the &quot;bottom&quot; corners of the chisel to get a more oval shape to achieve that rock'n'roll motion?</p>
<p>I'm just learning the tools myself, but the round tool is best for curvy and free form shapes. The disadvantage is that it will translate however your hand moves into the wood, and along the length of a turned piece of wood, that can cause waves and ripples. The square cutter (which is actually slightly curved) is much closer to flat, and does a better job of smoothing out a piece of work and making more gradual curves and tapers. So far, I find the radiused square cutter to be more useful, but I'm turning pens that tend to be long and have gradual curves, and not doing bead work on spindles and things like that. </p>
<p>Nice article, thank you!!</p><p>re:</p><h2>Step 6: Countersink the Holes</h2><p>Why would you bother countersinking the holes?</p><p>The hole is covered by the insert, the screw head sinks/sets in the insert</p><p>not the tool.</p>
<p>Look very carefully at the picture in step 6, you will see that a portion of the un-threaded part of the screw protrudes below the cutter, the countersink allows clearance for this part of the mounting screw </p>
Wow, thanks that explains it!!
<p>The taper on the bottom of the screw protrudes below the bottom of these inserts. It wasn't part of the original plan, but I couldn't fully tighten them without this step. </p>
<p>Captain Eddie Castelain always suggested using a spot of ca glue to hold the cutter in place while tightening the screw.</p>
<p>Interesting idea, I'll have to give it a try when I rotate the inserts next. </p>
<p>HFT ! gotta love it! Cheap base for your cutters and a free flashlight to boot!</p>
Checkout: http://www.carbideprocessors.com/carbide-processors/carbide-saw-tips-and-other-parts/standard-tool-blanks/<br>They sell carbide in all sorts of sizes and shapes that you can solder/braze onto HSS (kind of unnecessary) or just cold rolled steel. You can shape/sharpen to your liking with a CBN or diamond wheel. When I was a kid I used defunct files and ground the ends to shape.
<p>A good, clear instructable.<br><br>As you say, Carbide tools will keep their edge for longer but traditional hss turning tools will be initially sharper (assuming the person sharpening knows what they're doing). On most timbers that sharper edge will almost always give you a better finish straight off the tool, which requires less sanding (and les's face it, who likes sanding!).<br>Another reason that traditional gouges and chisels will usually give a better finish is that almost all carbide tools are used as scrapers, which will usually give a worse finish than a tool which has a bevel to rub.<br><br>Carbide tools are usefull in a few ways - on particularly hard timbers or plastics they can be more effective than hss. They also provide an easy way for beginners to start out turning.<br>When it comes down to it though - most experienced turners will continue with regular hss gouges as they are faster and more versatile.<br><br></p>
<p>Iam in a club in denmark western australia </p><p>I made tools up with a carbide tip using a piece of 12 mm sqare steel then cutting one at 45 deg then attach a 10 mm round carbide to the end this gives a shering cut for cutting a bowl out </p><p>my idea came from watching simon pope demo on utube</p><p>if you are a metal worker not hard to do</p><p>Graeme Mackintosh </p>
<p>Head at the correct angle and height to the work these carbide tools do &quot;cut&quot; not just scrape. While I agree hard traditional tools are a joy to use and cut beautifully they require more tool skills. These carbide tools are a great way to start turning, less initial tool skill while acquiring a joy turning.</p>
Chinese &quot;hss&quot; &lt; quality hss
<p>I have the same cheap set from Harbor Freight. To answer other questions about the toughness of the steel. Not hard at all. I have Wood River and Sorby tools that I actually use, but just can't bring myself to dropping the money down for a carbide cutter. Awesome instructable. I will be giving this a try thanks.</p>
<p>Q) a good HSS lathe tool is same hardness (near enough) to HSS drills/ countersink / and tap. </p><p>Do you soften chisel with flame etc to allow a drill though? Or use carbide drills to get through the material?</p>
<p>If these were nice HSS tools to begin with instead of HFT, you would almost definitely have to anneal them before trying to drill &amp; tap with HSS of the same hardness. Althought some drills and taps have a coating on them which is harder than the raw HSS. </p>
<p>I didn't have to for this project, but I could tell that the two chisels I made were at least heat treated differently. One was very tough and made the tap creak and squeak, and the other one cut like butter. </p>
<p>That's a much cheaper and more substantial route than I'd imagined. Great work! </p>
Why, thank you!
<p>When indexing your carbide cutter use a drop of super glue. It will hold the insert still. Great instructable!</p>
<p>Thanks for posting this, I will be making a set. I've been lusting after carbide turning tools for a while but the price has been holding me back. </p><p>Outstanding job!</p>
<p>Great write-up. You have my vote!</p>
<p>Awesome, thank you!</p>
If you want round steel to mount your carbides to, find a local photocopier shop in your area. They are probably tossing old machines regularly. If you ask, you can probably get rods, shafts and rollers of all kinds. I know I do. I work in a photocopier shop and get all kinds and sizes . If nothing else, ask for a worn out &quot;Transfer belt&quot;. They usually have 8mm to 10 mm rollers in them(3/8&quot; to 1/2&quot;)
<p>Awesome tip. Thanks!</p>
<p>Very nicely written and great pictures.</p>
<p>Brilliant, using inexpensive HSS tools as the base gets 80% of the job done! ☺</p>
<p>This is a great option, and a great write-up on the process you used. Thank you!</p>
<p>Nice project. I do wood turning as well and have a lot of tools. But carbide has to be superior to any of my HHS tools. I have to give this a try. </p>
<p>I hadn't tried carbide until recently, and it's almost scary how smoothly it cuts. I had to lighten up my technique to avoid taking off too much material! </p>
<p>Nice article. Will have to try soon. You can get carbide cutters fairly cheap at </p><p>http://eddiecastelin.com/. They average out about 6 to $10 apiece.</p>
<p>I debated on which carbide inserts to buy. NZ Carbide also has more affordable cutters, but the EWT sales copy got me :) and I decided to &quot;splurge&quot; on their more premium inserts.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a born tinkerer who's always enjoyed hands on activities. I'm into 3D printing, CNC carving and milling, woodworking, and many other ... More »
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