Many beginning woodturners and even some experienced ones are confused over the question of sharpening their tools, specifically wondering how sharp an instrument needs to be. This is commonly further confused by the tendency for woodworkers never to restrict themselves to only one kind of woodworking. In other words a woodturner may find themselves at the wood lathe one hour and using a hand plane or perhaps a wood chisel another. Now the question becomes if the lathe tool needs to be as sharp because the hand tool. The answer may lie in considering the kind of wood and work each will do.

Hand planes are designed for removing wood leaving as smooth as surface as possible. They move across boards which are progressively flatter and flatter and also smoother and smoother and will leave a surface only as fine as the edge on their blade. finishing wood carvings In addition, they’re propelled with the motion of arms and hands and cover a reasonably small area in a comparatively large segment of time compared with a wood lathe.

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

Woodturning tools on the other hand will be the roughing tolls of the woodturner plus 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 can last only seconds rather than minutes in such circumstances.


Furthermore, 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 needed. Rather than the edge from water stones and leather strops, the rougher edge from the grinding wheel is enough for the woodturner.

Grinders using eighty grit aluminum oxide wheels will leave an advantage that is sufficiently strong and sharp enough to eliminate plenty of wood and last well. The top that is left out is ready for sanding or scraping. Actually, many spindle turners will use a skew chisel to leave a surface that won’t need any sanding or only that of papers higher than two hundred grit of finer. Some bowl turners use scrapers with an excellent edge to attain similar results.

The solution to the question of how sharp is sharp enough really is the sharpness that works for the various tools and the work accessible. It will vary for the tool used but the end results speak for themselves.

Darrell Feltmate is a juried wood turner whose web site, Round the Woods, contains detailed information about wood turning for the novice or experienced turner as well as a collection of turnings for the viewing pleasure. You too can learn to turn wood, this is actually the place to begin. Wondering what it appears like? There are numerous free videos on the website 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, check out making and utilizing the sharpening jig. Using only small amount of time, some shop scraps and a couple of dollars you can create a jig that may perform just like a hundred dollar tool and easily sharpen your wood lathe tools.