Monday, 10 January 2011

Homemade lathe tools ... ...

I actually made these tools in the run up to christmas, but I never got round to writing a post about them, christmas being it's usual hectic self.

So here it is ;-)

I've had my lathe for about a year now, I haven't used it as much as I might like, but I'm looking to change that this year. I started with a basic set of lathe chisels, which I bought at the same time (not much point having a lathe with no chisels) they aren't anything special, but they are enough to produce things, like small pots, bowls and other things, so in order to extend the range of what I can make I also purchased a new chuck ( a small screw chuck) and I have made a couple of collet chucks as well, but I found recently that I could do with a new chisel or two for making various things.

Now I could have bought something that would do the job perfectly well, but I decided to make some tools, figuring this would give a me a better understanding of lathe tools in general, and also allow me to make a tool specifically for set purposes.

This is what I ended up with -

They are Oland tools.

They will allow me to make a greater range of bowls and such like, and for less than the price of say a new bowl gouge, and from what I have read while researching they are more versatile tools.

I made them from various things I had lying around, I made two in the same way, but from different tubing to test which one works the best, the third tool is along the same lines, but meant for smaller stuff, and believe it or not the cutting bits will be made from masonry nails (yes masonry nails) which I will have to make into the required shape, and then sharpen, this isn't as difficult as it sounds.

Here is a picture of the respective cutting bits -

The top one is  a nail, yet to be shaped, the others are hss lathe bits.
Like the caption says the top one is a nail and I will have to mess around with it to make it usable for turning. The other 2 bits are high speed steel blanks for metal lathes, these need to be shaped a little to get the right sort of edge on them, but being high speed steel they are very hard and will keep a good sharp edge.
You may have noticed the slight notch out of one of the bits (the middle one) I ground it into the bit to help with holding it in one of the bars as the grub screws aren't as tight as I would like, I may have to make new ones.

I got the two steel bits from ebay for a grand total of 4 quid (plus 1.50 postage) not bad really, considering  a lathe chisel can be very expensive, all three together probably cost me about 15 quid in all, plus the time to make them, a good bowl gouge can cost 30 quid or more for one, I got three for half the price ;-)

To fix the bits into the holders I've drilled and threaded hole, which I then use homemade grub screws in to fix the bits.

Grubs screws - 

You can see I have already had to make a new screw and thread.
The screws are made from a length of threaded bar, which I cut a groove in so as I could use a screw driver to do them up, I then tapped out the holes I drilled in the holders. The cutting bits slide into the tubes and are a good fit, so I can get a pretty tight fixing.
I had some steel tubing in the shed which is what the bottom one in the picture (above) is made from, the top one in the picture is a piece of metal electrical conduit I had spare, both seem to work well. I still might grind the ends down a little more, as you can see I've already ground them a little to round them off.

The holder for the smaller bits (the ones I will make from masonry nails) is a piece of solid square bar, I had to first drill into the centre of the bar to make a hole to take the nails, then another hole was drilled at a right angle to the first hole so as I could use a grub screw to hold the nail in place.

Here is a picture - 

It still needs a little work.
You can see it's more or less the same as the other two tools, I still have to grind the end down some what to make it smaller and thus easier to get inside smaller bowls and vases and the like, but it'll only take a couple of minutes on my bench grinder, making the nails into a workable tool may take longer. You can make out the grub screw, which fits almost flush with the surrounding metal, but I will no doubt need to modify it a little once I've ground the end of the bar down more.

And that's pretty much it really, I have yet to test them out, but I'm confident they will perform well (fingers crossed)
In the end I decided not to turn wooden handles for each of the bars, so instead I used natural string, which I wound tightly around the ends of the tools to make a nice handle, then I used mod podge to seal it all, this also helps to make sure the string doesn't unwind.

The handle - 

As handles go it's pretty good.
Here are all three again so you can see I used the same method for all of them.

Almost reading for a trial run turning something.
These are the first tools I've made from scratch for a specific job, I've modified plenty before to better suit a job.
I am quite proud of them to be honest, although I'll no doubt do a lot of swearing if they don't work ;-)

Here are some of the things I've made so far using my other chisels - 

A plant pot maker - 

I wrote a post about it ;-)
This was made from part of an old fence post, I try to recycle what I can, I recently acquired a 60 year old pear tree, which some one offered on freecycle, I had to cut it down as it had been hacked about to make room for a shed, if I hadn't taken it, it was destined for the bonfire, now it's in my shed waiting to be turned into interesting things, so in a way it will live on, still a shame it had to be cut down.

Here are a couple of things I made last year, a pot made from eucalyptus from our garden and a kids rolling pin for using with play dough.

My daughter loves the rolling pin.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Welshy and I are amateur wood turners too. We're thinking of getting a micro lathe to make crochet hooks so we can get the shaft the correct size, which is hard to do when carving. Your handmade tools have given us the idea of making our own when if we get a new lathe.

  2. Thanks for reading.

    If you are interested my lathe is this one --->

    It appears to have gone up slightly since I bought mine, but it's a good lathe and easy to use.

    I have plans to turn some birch and pear wood into bowls and various other things, which was the reason for making the oland tools.