Wood-turning is a delicate woodworking process that requires patience and, more importantly, a suitable apparatus.
But when it comes to this process, the number of options available for purchase is immense. While having so many options has its benefits, the variety in choice often causes distress during the selection process.
If your technique is correct, you only need one or two tools for this process to end well. But how do you know which one to buy?
Here are every wood turning tools explained with a buying guide for you to go through. All the listed tools have their use and benefits listed, so you decide for yourself which one you need. We've included something for both beginners and advanced-level professionals.
Table of Contents
- Every Wood Turning Tools Explained
- Lathe Bench
- Live Center
- Tools for Bowl Turning
- Chuck Work Tools
- Parting Tool
- Tools for Spindle Turning
- Specialized Tools
- Sharpening Equipment
- Universal Chucks
- Drill Chucks
- Collet Chucks
- Buying Guide for Wood Turning Tools
- Woodturning Scroll Chuck
- Tools Such as Spindle Gouge, Parting Tool, and Bowling Gouge
- Wood Chisel
Every Wood Turning Tools Explained
The number of wood-turning tools that have been made is endless. But usually, you only need a few to get by. The kind of tool you will need depends on the type of outcome you want. Here are a few of the most popular woodworking tools.
Let us start with the most important part of any wood-turning project. A lathe is a machine that holds and secures a piece of wood for you to work on. It has a tight grip that keeps the wood in place.
Most of the time, lathes are used to work on the wood piece while it is rotating. It is easier to use tools such as chisels, scrapers, and gauges when the wood is turning.
The best turning tools are always made of cast iron. Cast iron is chosen as the material does not rust so easily and thus can be used for a prolonged time. Lathes last a long time, even if kept in the dark.
So, although the machine is an expensive buy, it is worth every penny. You cannot start woodworking if you do not have a good quality lathe.
A lot of manufacturers add a bench with your purchase of the lathe. But in case the company doesn't give you one, or in case you do not like the bench provided, you can make your own. All you need is some chipboard and bench-building skills!
You do need the bench as it makes the process of storing a lathe much easier. A separate lathe bench will keep your woodwork divided and more organized.
Revolving or live centers are added to a lathe to support your woodwork. The part is placed on the tailstock morse taper.
Support is added with the help of the conical point. The point is made to spin in ball races, so unlike the dead center, no burning is caused.
Tools for Bowl Turning
These tools are more on the expensive side. The bowl turning gauge is one of the main tools needed for this technique.
Bowl turning gauges are used for getting a rough draft of the final shape. The tool nowadays can also be used for the final finishing.
If used correctly, you can get through all of the wood-turning work with just this one tool. But doing so takes a lot of practice. Beginners usually leave marks on their work when using this tool. These marks can later be removed using a scraper.
If you want to go through the bowl turning route, you need these tools in your kit:
As mentioned below, using bowl-turning gauges usually leaves a mark on the work. To make your finished product smooth, you need to scrape down the project.
These scrapers can also be used for smoothening flat bottom holes such as goblets or eggcups besides your wood-turning project.
A round nose scraper is used to make the insides smooth. 20mm thick scrapers are better as they are stronger. These also give you a higher leverage force.
For outside, a straight-end scraper will do. These can be 25mm in size. 25mm scrapers are strong and can get closer to the surface of the wood.
Chuck Work Tools
A craft that involves hollowing out objects is called Chuck work. You could use scrapers for this kind of work, but it will take a lot of time.
Chuck work tools have battery power that speeds up the progress. Therefore, these are better for undercuts. Chuck work tools can be used with bowl-turning tools for making regular bowl shapes.
For turned goblets, you need a parting tool. Container shapes cannot be brought to perfection with regular chuck turning tools.
Parting tools have a lot of variety. If you are a beginner, get the standard parallel, rectangular section, non-fluted one. It's small, about 3mm, in size, and is perfect for starter work.
These are one of the best wood-turning tools you can get. We state this because the tools are pretty versatile.
Parting tools can be positioned on the side to work as a scraper. So, the device can serve two functions. Using the apparatus, you can cut recesses, shape tiny beads, cut dovetails, and get wood and chuck fittings.
Tools for Spindle Turning
Spindle turning techniques are used on long and lean woodwork such as balusters and chair rails.
In the technique, you place a square slab of wood between the tailstock center and headstock end of the lathe.
If you practice only the spindle turning technique, you can get by with just three primary tools. Two types of gouges and a chisel are all you need.
So, then you would use the gouge on the edges of the slab. A chisel is used for details and shaping.
The usage of the tools you would need for this technique is as follows:
Shallow Fluted Gouge
Coves are narrow concave curves often used in wood-turning. A shallow fluted gouge is a tool mainly used for that.
You could use the unit for concave shaping as well. The tool is typically used when roughing gouge cannot get in the crevices of your work.
If you can get the technique right, you can also use this one tool for detailing and beads. One of the best turning tools for when you're in a pinch!
Professional or experienced turners can use the device for all kinds of detailing in any woodwork. They can also use the unit in place of chuck working tools.
The difference between a bowl gouge and the spindle or hallow fluted gouge is that the latter is shallower. You can identify the tool easily with its unique "fingernail" shape.
As mentioned earlier, spindle turning techniques start with a square slab of wood. To get the perfect cylindrical shape, you need a good quality roughing gouge.
The tool is used in the initial stage to break down or to rough down the edges of the square wood slab. You could also use the product for curves that are not too deep.
Make sure you sharpen the tool as often as you can to get cleaner results. A properly maintained roughing gouge can take the place of a turning chisel!
Chisels are usually a tool that only beginners purchase. In the earlier days, the use of a chisel was sufficed by one of the hundreds of other tools that a woodworker had. But now, skew chisels are more widely appreciated.
Although beginners typically buy the tool, people with less experience find using the device a bit hefty.
The difficulty arises when beginners fail to sharpen the product properly, resulting in botchy woodwork designs. Learning to use contraptions can take some time.
But once you understand how the unit works, you will be able to appreciate its benefits. If you, as a beginner, find it difficult to use the apparatus, don't throw the product away. With practice, later on, you will find that the device is easier to use.
A chisel is used to add dimension and detail to cylindrical and convex shapes.
Beading tools are similar to chisels. The flat bottom of the product is used to add grooves in the designs on the woodwork. Another use that you get out of the tool is projecting spigots and dowels.
You should invest in a beading tool if you need to make intricate beads or convex curves. The ends of cylinders can also be finished off or cleaned with a beading tool.
Other uses of the unit include marking, decorating, adding "V" cuts, or making recesses.
Now let's move on to some of the tools that you can add to your collection for a little something extra. You can get by without purchasing these tools, but they are a part of the wood-turning process.
Unique Parting Tools
Special or unique parting tools are different from traditional parting tools in that they have a forked shape. Sharp corners at the end of the aid help elevate the fibers before the central blade cut.
The aid gives a much better and cleaner finish.
You could benefit from the apparatus used during chuck work. Diamond parting tools are used for cleaner cuts.
So, after you finish your chuck work, you could use a special parting tool to separate the base of the work. This will eliminate the need to clean the base with sanding paper later on.
Scrapper for Side Cutting
Different kinds of side-cutting scrappers are available for various tasks. One can clean the insides of a chuck work or any hollowed-out work. The unit works magic on parts that have vertical sides, flat bottom, and are turned.
Other variations can be used on undercut rims for bowls or chuck projects requiring vertical sides and rounded ends.
Ring tools can be used during chuck work. These will help you get a smoother interior on the space you just hollowed without needing a scraper.
Cutting Tool for Bead
Getting the shape of a bead just right can be time-consuming. If you're willing to spend some cash, there is an apparatus that will help you get your desired shape in minutes.
Cutting tools for beads are the best turning tools to get if you are a professional turner. The shape of the beads, in a way, shows the caliber of the craftsman. So the product can be a good buy if you want to take your work up a notch.
Different sizes are available to give you different shapes of beads. You only have to sharpen the top part of the tool, so there is not much maintenance required.
The aid can also be handy if you are not too skillful when it comes to shaping beads. Bead cuttings tools are not as precise as chisels, but they help produce beads that are consistent in size.
Ring Scraper (Captive)
The work of a bead cutting tool and captive ring scraper is quite close. But the device helps with smoother and cleaner undercuts. Also, you can use a captive ring scraper to make circular sectioned loose rings.
Almost all kinds of apparatus that you need for wood-turning need to be sharpened. A blunt aid can do more damage than good to your woodwork.
To sharpen your tools, you could carry a 6-inch grinder in your tool kit. The grinder also needs to have a wheel on the left-hand side.
For optimum results, invest in a tool sharpening angle guide. The guide will let you know what angle you need to use when sharpening the units without causing any harm. Also, to keep the grinder in good health, get a top-tier grindstone dressing.
These chucks will keep bowls steady in one place without the need for any woodscrews. Therefore no external damage is done to your wooden project that needs to be covered up later on.
Universal chucks can hold on to any shape, even cylinders of wood, so that you can work on the project comfortably.
The product especially comes in handy when you're trying to drill through stuff or hollow a wooden project. Examples include making vases, containers, or vessels and curved lids. If you've worked with wood, you know how hard it can be to hold a piece of wood in place when trying to carve out the bends in these designs. Universal chucks help you get rid of this issue.
Scroll chucks are like engineering chucks and have a T-bar tightening system. They are considered one of the best wood-turning tools.
When working on wood-turning, it is evident that you won't be using just one kind of drill.
So, having drill chucks help you use different kinds of drills on the same project without taking apart any part of the lathe.
A collet chuck is something that was invented for people who are on a budget. The product can give you all the benefits a good quality wood-turning apparatus can but at half the cost.
The apparatus is not the best for using when shifting from the outside grip to the inside grip. It consumes more time and has to be used in separate parts during the process. That is one drawback of this cheaper alternative. Also, jaw movement is limited and might restrict your creativity.
Limited jaw movement also means that more preparation is needed on the wood for it to be able to go through the jaw.
Nonetheless, collet chucks are a great unit to have if you are a beginner and want to brush up your skills. The product might not be practical for a large number of production or speed, but the unit is excellent for practice.
Buying Guide for Wood Turning Tools
There are a lot of wood-turning tools available in the market. You need to know about each of them in detail if you want to buy the best one.
Each tool has a few distinct features that you need to look out for when deciding on which one to purchase.
A lathe is one of the most common tools that people purchase when learning about wood-turning. Here is how you can ensure that you get the perfect one for you.
One common misconception when buying a lathe is that bigger is always better. A bigger lathe might look like it is capable of doing more, but that is not always the case.
Larger lathes can crowd up your room. By taking up too much space, they restrict your movement.
Also, small to medium-sized lathes are better if you are just starting. Even professional woodturners prefer to have a smaller lathe besides their large one. This is because smaller lathes can work in more detail into smaller wood projects.
A good size to go for when buying your first lathe is 900mm or a 36 inch one. The swing should range between 10 inches and 12-inch diameter over the bed.
You can buy this lathe at an affordable price as this particular size is mass-produced for the market.
So unless your output requires you to buy a lathe of a higher caliber, it's best to stick to the medium to small ones.
One thing that you truly need to avoid when turning wood is vibration. Lightweight lathes are flimsy and usually made of light sheet metals. They shake very easily.
Lathes that are heavier and weighty will reduce vibration. These stay in place and help dampen any unnecessary movement. Usually made of cast iron, these tools will give you professional results.
Besides that, another thing to check is the bearing. If you give the tool a test drive and the bearing is smooth, you can rest assured that the machine you are buying is of high quality.
The range of speed that one uses on a lathe will depend on the practice level of work. Just to be safe, it is a good idea to get a lathe that gives you multiple speed options.
Some wood-turning projects take more detailing and more attention. So a lower speed of turning might work. Projects that are heavier turn out better if a lower speed is used. Controlled speed will give you balance at this point.
Projects such as breadboards and tabletops turn out cleaner and more smooth at a lower speed.
But when you are making something you already know how to make, a low speed can be pretty annoying.
A good quality turning tool will have at least five speed-changing options. 400 rpm is a good speed to settle for when looking for a low-speed unit. For higher speeds, go for a maximum of 2000rpm.
Keep a few speed options in between these two ranges.
The bed needs to be aligned with the tailstock center and the headstock drive center to make drilling holes effortless. A bed that is straight and has no imperfections in shape is a must-have.
When selecting the material of the bed, cast iron is the way to go. Cast iron is heavier, so it reduces vibration. Also, the material is capable of reducing friction.
As cast iron is always sold machined, the tool rest and tailstock can slide smoothly. The feature improves the overall ease of use of the tool.
Workers who work on the lathe for long hours will highly appreciate this sliding feature.
Machined material such as cast iron also ensures better alignment between the tailstock and spindle drive center.
Your work surface is larger if made with cast iron. Ease of sliding for the tailstock by the bed increases the tool's overall lifespan.
Making sure that the cast surface is plain also ensures the proper placement of sensitive homemade projects such as steady rests.
Ensure that the tailstock barrel and spindle are parallel to the bed, and your wood-turning should come out a masterpiece.
The Capacity of Bowl Turning
If you buy a lathe that is too heavy, the bowl turning capacity of the tool will be limited. Larger machines have larger bowl banks. Therefore, they are always imbalanced.
Any tool over 15 inches in diameter will have a slower speed for safety reasons. Otherwise, roughing down banks to shape them can become quite risky. The rigidity and weight of the tool are what holds it back.
The standard maximum speed for a 15-inch bowl is 450 rpm. So, if you are just starting, a 5-inch-deep bowl with a 15-inch diameter will be the right option.
There are two kinds of headstocks; pivoting and sliding. Most lathes today have the pivoting mechanism. With this mechanism, the pivoted head stops the lathe bed from colliding with the bowl gouge handle.
Pivoting mechanism does not make you lean over the tool's bed. Therefore, projects such as hollowing bowls are easier and more comfortable.
A sign of a good quality headstock is the ease of position returning. So centering the straight-ahead position should be easy. Indent pins that help with this repositioning are also good additions.
The swivel mechanism should be able to hold its position for better rigidity. You could also try out headstocks that both slide and pivot. With sliding headstocks, you can save space.
The mechanism allows you to store the tool in the left-hand corner of your office. So then, you can make space to stand in between by sliding the bed to the right. When the bowl turns anti-clockwise, the worker should be placed on the left side of the bowl.
Attachment for Bowl Turning
The best lathe tools are the ones that come with a bowl-turning attachment. This attachment will hold the tool rest in place during your work. You can buy these separately, but an ideal lathe will have one pre-installed.
Space Between Centers
Longer beds will increase the size of the tool and also make it more unstable. This might cause vibrations that will ruin your work.
Most manufacturers will offer different variations when it comes to the length of the bed. The most commonly seen sizes are 20 inches, 30 inch and 40 inches. The bed length is also known as the space or distance between the centers.
A difference of 36 inches between the centers is suitable for beginners or general work.
But what if you have woodwork that requires a longer bed? Now, longer turnings such as bedposts or high lamps are made in sections and later joined. The whole thing is not turned at once.
If you find yourself having to turn something oddly long, you can position the tailstock on something like a woodblock at the end of the tool's bed.
Woodturning Scroll Chuck
When buying a wood-turning scroll chuck, keep an eye out for these features:
Ease of Change
When buying any sort of tools, it's better to get ones that can be interchanged. Scroll chucks that come with different sizes of jaws are the most useful ones to get.
This way, you can change the size of the tool based on the work at hand without having to purchase and store another extra tool.
Interchangeable scroll chucks should be easy to change. No lubrication or extra tools should be acquired for the changing process. Ease of change will help save you a lot of time.
Shape of Jaws
The jaw of the scroll chuck needs to be able to hold on to the wood piece properly. For this, we recommend going for a dovetail jaw.
Other kinds of jaw shapes, such as the engineering-style stepped jaws, are great for holding on to metal but not so much for wood.
Dovetail jaws will hold, grip and lock a turned-shaped spigot or tenon in place. Turning wood is hence safer and more efficient.
Also, the shape of the jaw you buy has to be able to expand and accommodate larger sizes of wood. Jaw shapes that can hold a recess shaped position with larger pieces like the bowl base are considered the best lathe tools.
Top-tier scroll chucks are always self-center. So the four jaws move outwards and inwards together coherently.
Modern-day scroll chucks can be constructed with many kinds of material. But, to get the most out of this tool, you need to invest in a steel chuck.
High-quality steel or any hardened metal chucks will last a lot longer. Even with regular use on the jaw teeth, these will not wear easily. An added rust or corrosion coating is a plus point on the steel chucks.
The holes, if placed in the correct position, will ensure better indexing on the tool. This part will come in handy when you are working on the reeded column. With indexing holes, you can move the chuck for routing jobs or drilling.
T bar operations are the system you want to go for. The main reason we recommend this is because it allows smooth one-hand tightening.
This operating system is a bit expensive, but the feature makes your job a lot easier.
If you have a tight budget, the tommy bar operation can be a cheaper alternative that also improves outcomes.
Smooth Thread Change
When changing the lathe, the chuck thread needs to be alternated as well. Thread inserts that are easy to add and remove will speed up your work.
Chucks that are too high increase the separation between the wood part and the bearing. With increased vibration, your outcome of the wood-turning is mainly affected. That is why a lower overhand is preferred.
Tools Such as Spindle Gouge, Parting Tool, and Bowling Gouge
Chisels, spindle gouges, and bowling gouges are the best wood-turning tools for shaping beads, chucks, and even for finishing touches. These are the features that these units should have:
If you work for long hours on your wood-turning project, your hands are bound to get tired. One thing that will help keep your hands from aching after work is a good quality handle. Thus, a long handle on a wood-turning tool is preferred. That way, you need to use less pressure when working.
Grips on the handles are a great plus point as well. Added grips give you a better hold of the tool, while the length of the tool provides higher output with low pressure.
Most wood-turning tools have to be sharpened after a while. Getting a unit that holds on to the sharpness for a long time can be helpful.
The feature will be of great use if you use your tools regularly. The ability to hold on to sharpness for a longer time means a lesser need for maintenance.
The best wood-turning tools are the versatile ones. As we've mentioned above in the uses, one wood-turning tool can be used in multiple ways. So, if the unit is flexible without being flimsy or less durable, you can use one device for various techniques.
Not only does versatility help reduce the overall cost of buying all these apparatuses, but it also helps save up storage space.
What the unit is made will decide how durable the apparatus is. So, we suggest going for hard metals. Added anti-rust and anti-corrosion coatings will help keep increase the longevity of the product.
Anything that feels like it won't break under pressure is a good choice when it comes to buying bowling gouges, spindle gouges, or parting tools.
Chisels are something that every professional or beginner wood-turning worker has heard of. Because the tool is used for fine detailing, you need to ensure the perfect one is bought for the perfect finish. For this, you need to consider:
Types of Wood Chisel
Three kinds of wood chisels are available for purchase in the market. These are:
These are considered one of the best wood-turning tools for heavy or rough use. This kind of chisel is mainly used for chopping mortises. Some examples of mortise chisels are registered, pig-sticker, or the sash mortise chisel.
Bench chisels are more versatile. Bench chisels are considered to be a multi-purpose tool and are used quite often by most woodworkers.
You can both pare and chop wood with this apparatus. The shape of bench chisels varies from registered, firmer to bevel edges.
Paring is quite a common task done while wood-turning. The aids are considered to be quite delicate. If you ever want to slice a thin piece of wood without getting any cracks, this is the unit you need.
To keep these in good condition, you have to sharpen them at a low angle. You can only use the model with your hands; no other tools, not even mallets.
Plastic vs. Wooden Handles
Ultimately this choice is up to the customer. Wooden handles look classier on an accessory but can add a lot of weight. The weight can act as an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your comfort.
Some people say that the weight that wooden handles add to the apparatus helps improve their balance. Some say that the weight slows them down.
Plastic handles, on the other hand, are much lighter. They are also comparatively less expensive. Plastic handles are more durable as well as they can withstand more blows than wooden handles. For durability, plastic handles are the better option.
Shape of Chisel Handle
The bond between the chisel and the handle is what keeps the apparatus working. These attachments can be of two kinds, tang and socket.
Tang chisels get their name from the pointed metal tang that they possess. The tang is attached to the wooden handle of a chisel.
Socket chisels have handles shaped like a cone. The handle is attached to the metal socket of the apparatus.
When it comes to choosing between the two, socket chisels handles have a longer lifetime. That is why most woodworkers prefer to work with this kind of chisel handle.
The durability of the product comes from the firm stance that the chisel takes on its cone-shaped handle. A unique shape and bond as such are what gives the apparatus strength to go through tough beating.
Tang chisels can break the handle into two if the same beating is introduced to the unit. Handles on the design break ever faster if the unit is used with a mallet.
That is why socket chisels are usually much more expensive than tang chisel handles.
If you are on a budget, you can still use a tang chisel handle without fear of the item breaking in half. This chisel handle often breaks when an unreasonable amount of force is introduced.
If you want to keep on using your tang chisel handle, you need to be careful not to use a metal hammer with the object.
Because the tang chisel handle is a bit fragile, you should use a wooden hammer. Doing so can increase the longevity of the product by a significant amount!
There are many kinds of wood-turning techniques; hence there are many kinds of wood-turning tools. Chances are you're not working on every type of wood-turning technique at the same time. So why not invest only in the aids you truly need?
Now that you have every wood turning tools explained with a buying guide, you can easily choose the ones that deserve your money.
Go for units that are versatile and get more than one job done. So, if you ever want to experiment with a new technique, you'll have access to some of the apparatus you need.
Organize your wood-turning kit with essential products, and you too can get professional quality wood projects at the comfort of your home!