Japanese Saws

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Saw Set


Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser

  Retro Lathe Tools 1 of 2  

I donít consider myself any great shakes as a turner, but Iíve used lathes occasionally.

Back in the late Ď50ís - early Ď60ís when I was the principle sweeper, plank holder, sharpener and gofer in my uncleís boat yard, he had a graceful old Victorian wood lathe among his line shaft machines converted to electricity.  I donít remember the make, only that it didnít get much use except for making a few tool handles and the occasional fancy thwart or folding table postÖ and I was drawn to it, probably because it was the quietest machine inside the shed.  I eventually succeeded in him showing me how to use it one rainy day, and I remember him having me hand hone his ancient lathe tools as the first step.  Those tools were all dark-patinaíd carbon steel, and I remember how smooth they cut when freshly honed.

During the following 30 years, I worked off and on in several large commercial shops with larger modern lathes and modern HSS toolsÖ mostly Sorby.  Most of the work was spindle turning paper-split half and quarter-round moldings for Colonial and Victorian furniture reproductions, and what I remember mostly was sanding.  I donít like sanding, or grinding tools for that matter, and I didnít remember doing a lot of either with Uncle Paulís old lathe.

So fast forward another decade, and I have my own newly-acquired lathe and the HSS tools that came with itÖ.and I was back to sanding and grinding again. So why not try a few shop-made carbon tools, says I? 

The old chisels of Uncle Paulís childhood are plentiful at the tool auctions and are dirt cheap to boot.  So I convert a few using the traditional methods I was taught 40 years ago and try them:

The big inch-and-a-half roughing gouge ground to a 45-degree bevel easily fills its cannel with long, thick shavings.

The parting tool makes clean shavings in long noodles.

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