Many beginning woodturners and even some experienced ones are confused on the question of sharpening their tools, specifically wondering how sharp a tool needs to be. This tends to be further confused by the tendency for woodworkers to not restrict themselves to only one kind of woodworking. Put simply a woodturner may find themselves at the wood lathe one hour and using a hand plane or a wood chisel the next. Woodworking mallet Now the question becomes if the lathe tool should be as sharp as the hand tool. The answer may lie in considering the type of wood and work each can do.

Hand planes were created for removing wood leaving as smooth as surface as you possibly can. They move across boards which are progressively flatter and flatter in addition to smoother and smoother and can leave a surface only as fine as the edge on their blade. Furthermore, they’re propelled with the motion of arms and hands and cover a fairly small area in a comparatively large segment of time compared with a wood lathe.

The wood that planes work with is normally fairly clear with few knots and irregularities. It has additionally been brought to a spot of relative flatness and finish prior to the planes start their work. Hand planes are really the finish tools of the modern cabinet maker. As such they need a very fine edge that leaves a finished surface ready for fine sandpaper or perhaps a cabinet scraper.

Woodturning tools alternatively are the roughing tolls of the woodturner along with the finishing tools. They’ll attack a rough piece of wood which could include bark complete with grit from felling on the woodland floor, all sorts of knots that add character to the finished piece or even cross grain and bark inclusions found in many burls. A fine edge will last only seconds rather than minutes in such circumstances.

In addition, a wood lathe moves the material so quickly that the fine edge of a wood plane would dull rapidly beneath the friction of the movement. Rather a far more robust, thicker edge is necessary. Rather than the edge from water stones and leather strops, the rougher edge from the grinding wheel is sufficient for the woodturner.

Grinders using eighty grit aluminum oxide wheels will leave an advantage that is sufficiently strong and sharp enough to remove lots of wood and last well. The surface that is left behind is ready for sanding or scraping. In fact, many spindle turners use a skew chisel to leave a surface that won’t need any sanding or only that of papers greater than two hundred grit of finer. Some bowl turners use scrapers with a fine edge to achieve similar results.

The answer to the question of how sharp is sharp enough really is the sharpness that works for the tools and the work at hand. It’ll vary for the tool used however the end results speak for themselves.

Darrell Feltmate is a juried wood turner whose internet site, Round the Woods, contains detailed information regarding wood turning for the novice or experienced turner in addition to a collection of turnings for your viewing pleasure. You too can figure out how to turn wood, here is the place to start. Wondering what it looks like? There are several free videos on the webpage dealing with from sharpening to making a bowl.
For full instruction in getting the tools sharp and in particular how to make a very inexpensive sharpening jig, have a look at making and using the sharpening jig. Using only small amount of time, some shop scraps and a couple of dollars you may make a jig that will perform such as a hundred dollar tool and easily sharpen your wood lathe tools.