Introduction: Make Your Own Carbide Lathe Tools

About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics and Aerospace Engineer. I make things out of wood and electronics and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving).

I purchased my lathe second-hand about a year ago. It came with a set of alright traditional tools, but nothing special. Since then, I've wanted to try replaceable carbide lathe tools. However, at a price of more than $100 per tool, I couldn't justify the expense.

After spending some time looking at these tools specifically, I decided it would be easy enough to make my own. With inserts found online and other locally sourced material, these tools came out to cost around $25 each. That's a savings I couldn't pass up for a custom tool. If you'd like to make your own carbide lathe tools, you can follow the steps below.

Step 1: Tools and Materials



Step 2: Turn Handle

I had a nice piece of oak in my garage that I could cut in half for two tool handles. Turn the blank round and to whatever size you like. Once round, mount the spindle in a nova chuck. This will help with drilling out the end for the tang later. I replicated the thickness of my other lathe tools as they have a great feel to them. I made mine 14 in. long.

Step 3: Make Ferrule

Turn the end of the handle down just larger than the threads inside the brass cap. Using the tailstock to apply pressure, tighten the cap in place. Drill a small hole in the center of the cap so the live center can secure the spindle in place.

Step 4: File Ferrule

Turn the lathe on a slow speed and file the ferrule round. Be sure to cover up the motor and any speed control devices so the brass shavings don't ruin anything. Use sandpaper to shine up the ferrule.

Step 5: Drill Hole

Use a step drill to keep the hole centered. Drill to 7/16 in. Once through the brass, use a regular drill bit to extend the hole to 3 1/2 in. deep.

Step 6: Cut Threads

Using calipers and a punch, mark the location for the threads to go. This will be placed 1/4 in. from the end centered on the shaft. Use a drill press to ensure the the hole is accurate and square. Drill the hole for the threads with a #29 drill bit. I didn't have a tap handle, so I replaced the drill bit with the tap and cut the threads by hand (do not turn on the drill). Use cutting fluid to lubricate the tap.

Step 7: Shape Shaft

Using a bench grinder, remove a portion of the shaft so the carbide insert remains flush with the surface. Cut away a relief on the front of the shaft. This will ensure that the carbide insert is the only part of the tool that will contact projects on the lathe. Be mindful not to cut away into the threads coming from the bottom. Use a countersink bit to clean up the hole.

Step 8: Shape Tang

Mark 3 in. from the end of the shaft (opposite from the end with the threads). Mount the shaft into the nova chuck and cut at the 3 in. mark with a hacksaw. Cut until the diameter of the tang is 7/16 in.

Remove from the lathe and shape the tang to the same 7/16 in. in diameter with an angle grinder and strip sander. It's impossible to get this perfectly round (look at my picture) but don't stress about it because no one will see it. While working on the tang, periodically check the fit in the handle.

Step 9: Lacquer Handle

Cover the ferrule with painters tape and lacquer the handle while the lathe turns slowly.

Step 10: Remove From Lathe

Using the parting tool, part off the handle from the lathe. Once it's about as thin as shown above, I switch to a pull saw to fully remove from the lathe. Sand and lacquer the end of the handle.

Step 11: Polish

Using the buffing system I made a few months ago, polish the metal pieces to a mirror finish.

Step 12: Epoxy Tang

Mix up two part epoxy and slowly add it into the hole trying to keep it off th brass. Once there is sufficient epoxy in the hole, insert the tang slowly while rotating to ensure even coverage. Let the epoxy dry.

Step 13: Attach Carbide Inserts

Using a hex wrench attach the carbide inserts with included screw.

Step 14: Go Make Something!

I used my first tool to make the second and it works splendidly! I plan on making a third tool to hold the detailing cutter when I purchase more oak to match these two handles. I can't wait to try them on future turning projects.

What tools have you made to make your time in the shop more enjoyable?

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