Turning tool question

Hello all,
The wife is getting me a a Delta Midi Lathe as my Xmas present next week (A little early so I can turn some ornaments) and I'm debating whether I should go for the set of eight turning tools Delta is offering, or the bed extension. I asked on the woodturning group first, but it seems like that group is fairly dead right now- so I'm checking here. I googled around for reviews on the Delta turning tools, and all I could find were reprints of the two reviews on Amazon- one said they were awesome, and one said they suck. Has anyone used these chisels, and if so, are they any good or should I hold off and get a better set later? In any case, they're just going to be used to hold me over until I decide what I want and need for the job, but I'm going to need *something* to use to play with my new toy right away!
Thanks
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On Fri, 03 Dec 2004 20:37:01 -0600, Prometheus

I bought the $30 set of HSS tools from Habor Freight as the set to start out with. These I can play around with a learn how to sharpen and not worry how my grinding is messing up the steel. I then have purchased roughing and bowl gouges and a scraper with more quality. It's like any set, you get a bunch and use some.
Seems to work for me so far
Allyn
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On Fri, 03 Dec 2004 20:37:01 -0600, Prometheus

When I researched turning tools, I bought the best I could find. I have a set of Sorby turning tools. These run anywhere from 30 to 120 dollars each, but the smaller ones are much less. Woodcraft carries quality turning tools and supplies.
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P -
Back in my lizard brain, I seem to recall reading here, I think, or about it, for sure, that surprizingly, HF's turning set was pretty good... Not pretty good for the price, but regular old pretty good... There are a *few* gems there, and who knows who's making them this week, but....
I like the advice about getting the HF set and the bed extension, if you want to turn longer objects - You might try to get a couple of really good chisels too, Sorby, etc... because you're saving the wife on money spent on gifts and additional ornamentation for the tree and home for *years* to come! Salad bowls, trivets, vases... C'mon, work it, boy! It really doesn't matter if you deliver (other than the RIGHT NOW stuff) She already knows anything she gets out of you will be a blessing, but WHILE she's buying the lathe, you wouldn't want her to get SHORTCHANGED here... Tell her your only thinking of her interests. She might spring for a whole Sorby set!
Chokes me up just thinking about it.
John Moorhead Lakeport, CA

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Prometheus wrote:

I'm not sure what Delta's tools look like. Low end lathe tools come in two flavors. One flavor looks like this
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber793
They come in all kind of different boxes. I have three sets of them that people gave me when they found out I had a lathe. They gave them to me because they are CRAP. They're just complete junk. They have little 1" tangs barely stuffed into too loose handles, they're extremely easy to burn at the grinder, and they don't hold an edge for crap.
The other flavor looks like this:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberG066
These are pretty good. I haven't experienced anything better, so I don't know how they compare to Crown or Sorby or Horky Floofychunk's $50 a pop tools. They are absolutely exquisite compared to the cheapo set. I think they're Crown knockoffs. Add a couple of bowl gouges, and you have a pretty reasonable set of tools.
Anyway, the bed extension is probably worth more, so if the bed extension is "free" I would go that route and then buy the (good) HF tools. Buy them in person if you can, so you don't have to wait until the middle of January to get them.
I wish I could use a bed extension. I have a JET mini, which is very similar to your Delta. I frequently wish I had even a few more inches between centers. I don't have room for one though, no way, no how, so it's moot.
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I bought the Harbor Freight 8 pc. HSS set when i bought my lathe. So far, they have held up well for the $39.99 price tag. Although, I have slowly replaced the ones i use the most with Sorby tools. Don't forget, you'll also need some method to sharpen the tools. A cheap bench grinder could work for starters. In any case, I'd recommend getting the $39.99 HF set and getting the bed extension. Can't go wrong. --dave

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I definitely agree. The Harbor Freight set has been said to be very good and is probably better than the Delta. The bed extension gives more versatility and (from years of experience) when you're doing faceplate work (bowls & hollowing) being able to move the tailstock far out of your way without having to remove it is very nice.
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An important criteria is to get tools made from high speed steel (should have HSS stamped on each one). Penn State has a set for $69 that includes a bowl gouge. Most other sets have only spindle turning tools. If you're going to make ornaments with hollow globes, you could use the bowl gouge. You won't need the bed extension for the ornaments, but it may come in handy. This woodturning thing is a bit adictive and, like boats, you'll soon decide you need a bigger lathe. I've done woodworking for years, but after trying woodturning on a Delta a few years ago, probably 2/3 of my shop time is turning now. Besides the Delta Midi, Jet also makes a mini. Harbor Freight has a low end starter lathe that many find very servicable as a starter. I think what you'd get with the HF is a larger capacity lathe for about the same price (or less) as the Delta. The HF comes from Taiwan or china, but I believe the Delta comes from overseas also. If you get the Delta, my advice is that you not sell it when (not if) you upgrade to a bigger lathe. It still will be great for it's ability to be easily transported in case you want to take it with you or just out into the back yard to turn on a nice day. You might also monitor rec.crafts.woodturning. Lots of good info there and exposure to people who can get you invited in to the WOW (world of woodturning) group which posts lots of pictures everyday. Lots on ornaments right now.
Have fun turning Art
Prometheus wrote:

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For now, and the foreseeable future, they're better than you, so get the tools. Reviews may have been on differently outsourced stuff, anyway. I've been using my "free with" set of carbon steel tools for nearly twenty years. They're still the ones I reach for for certain jobs, and I count 16 other tools (exclusive of one-trick wonders) on the holder, purchased since, from which to choose.

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Yeah, since I posted this, I've been thinking about the tools a little, and realizing that there's no particular reason why I would "need" HSS. Folks have been using carbon steel for a good long time, and it's not like the quality of lathe work has increased a thousandfold because of HSS or anything. I figure I'm going to go for the tools- If I change my mind about them, I'll be out $50 for the bed extension- but if I get the extension and decide to get the tools later, it's going to cost me twice as much.

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On Tue, 07 Dec 2004 18:26:44 -0600, Prometheus

HSS is still a good choice for turning chisels, same as it is for pocketknives. The alloys that survive turning metal at red heats (the original purpose of HSS) also have very good wear resistance.
For some sorts of turning, maybe even most sorts, you don't need it. But do something bulky in a high-toolwear timber and you'll be glad of it.
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On Fri, 03 Dec 2004 20:37:01 -0600, Prometheus

these seem to be about the best of the low-end sets: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberG066
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Fri, Dec 3, 2004, 8:37pm (EST-1) snipped-for-privacy@business.org (Prometheus) waves and says: Hello all, The wife is getting me a a Delta Midi Lathe <snip>
I got HF turning tools too, several years ago. Except I got the $10 set. Figured I could learn how to sharpen, and move up to a better set after I wore them out. And, if I screwed one up learning sharpening, no biggie. Well, I did learn sharpening of lathe tools, found out I prefer using a small belt sander for that, no particular grit. But, haven't worn the damn tools out yet, so still using them. I will admit I don't use them an immense amount, got other things going, but they're holding up nicely, and work for what I want.
I'm of the opinion that lathe tool sharpening doesn't need a jig. And, that angles and all aren't so critical, as a plane blade would need to be. Reason, you aren't working at fixed angles. You're hand holding the tool, so your angles aren't going to be consitent. Close maybe, but not consistent. So, sharpening on a belt sander is faster, easier, and does the job. Sure, you can use a jig, and put the same angle back on time after time. Then, when you use it, you're going to constantly be changing the angle it cuts at. I figure that close, is all you need, as far as sharpening angles for lathe tools. If it looks right, it's good enough. If I was making a living at turning, maybe I'd change my mind; but, I'm not, and I'm happy with results I get.
Huh. I just checked HF for their $10 lathe chisel set. And, it's now just 3 chisels. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberG100 I got 5 in mine. But, I'd still got with it; then, like I said, if you screw up one, not out much. You can always upgrade later.
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J T wrote:

Funny how mileage varies. Mine didn't last a month before they were falling apart.
You want a set of these damn things somebody gave me? I still owe you something for something or something I think. I threw the box in my trunk a year ago, and if it's still in there, you can have'em.

I pretty much agree. I still haven't gotten the hang of sharpening gouges though, even after trying some jiggery. My techique isn't quite right. They're good for awhile, but then one day I wake up and realize that I've boogered up the profile so they only cut right in the middle, and the edges are useless. All my skews are screwed too, come to think of it. The faces don't meet in the middle, so if you look at the blade edge on, it looks like
----------------------------------------------- |---------- | | ------------------- | | ---------- | | -----| |---------------------------------------------|
kind of. Not that exaggerated (or stairsteppy).
Lathe tools suck. Having to sharpen the blasted things perpetually is definitely the worst part of turning.
The other worst part is seeing half your stuff warp or split. If you turn it wet, you have to baby it forever to get it to come out right (ie dry evenly, without deforming or splitting), with a low success rate, and if you turn it dry, you relieve some stress and the whole damn thing goes kaflunk, and that's all she wrote. Either way, I find the ratio of success to firewood is dismal.
Turning is fun. It's everything surrounding it that's IMHO a real PITA. Best just to turn for the fun of making interesting shapes out of wood, and keep a fire going so you can save time by taking the work straight off the lathe and pitching it into the flames.
Except change dishes. I have a buttload of change dishes. All my spindle work though, every last bliffin' piece, has been a failure for one reason or another.
Or, put another way, I really suck at turning. Sure enough that's absolutely true.
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Sat, Dec 4, 2004, 2:26pm snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net (Silvan) <snip> You want a set of these damn things somebody gave me? I still owe you something for something or something I think. I threw the box in my trunk a year ago, and if it's still in there, you can have'em. <snip>
We're straight. I'll take 'em tho, unless someone else wants 'em, because I've got mine, and don't need 'em. I seldom turn down anything free. But, you might be better off keeping them, and practicing your sharpening.
I still haven't gotten the hang of sharpening gouges though, even after trying some jiggery. My techique isn't quite right. <snip>
I just kinda roll the gouge on the belt sander. Works for me. I've got one of those little 1" wide belt sanders, works great. I would say a jig with a gouge would just be a waste of time. Might work, but time consuming.
If you turn it wet, you have to baby it forever to get it to come out right (ie dry evenly, without deforming or splitting), <snip>
Try burying it in a pile of damp sawdust for a few weeks. Or months. There's something about drying in a microwave too, but I forget what it is. The archives has it.
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On Sat, 4 Dec 2004 13:26:20 -0500, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (J T) wrote: <snip>

My wife sharpens all my tools on her 1" belt grinder... she has thousands of dollars in sharpening tools and uses her grinder for everything but saw blades.. I can' sharpen a damn pocket knife, so I sure am glad that she's a "Foley" grad.. *g*
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Woodcraft has a set of 5 HSS chisels for $30 this month... You need chisels, that's for sure. And something to sharpen them. Woodcraft also has a special sale on their low speed grinder for $75.
You can't cut wood with a bed extension, nor sharpen chisels. I'd hold off on the extension for a while.
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On Fri, 03 Dec 2004 20:37:01 -0600, Prometheus

Is this a long bed or a bed extension ? If it prevents you getting it in the future, then definitely get it at the start. AFAIR, this is the difference between a foot and two foot ?
What are you going to turn ? Spindles or bowls too ? If it's just spindle work for the moment, you don't need many chisels so you can afford to spend on good ones. On a larger lathe you might also want a few sizes of skew etc. - on this lathe you can probably manage with just one for some time.
There are two factors to tool quality; shape and metallurgy. Apart from the bottom end, pretty much all "HSS" chisels are pretty good - even Crown. Unlike plane irons, there just isn't a big quality separation between middling and top-end (although there's always rubbish to be had).
Shape is a matter of grinding. I don't know any maker that offers a spindle gouge that's the right shape. So whatever you buy, then you're facing some grinding work first.
And that brings us to the most important lathe accessory - your grinder. This is something you really do need. HSS will survive a metalworking grinder for peanuts (and this is a great way to put a decent fingernal on your spindle gouge), but it's not the best way to get a good edge.
Sets also tend to offer some useless tools - scrapers, badly shaped bowl gouges. Look at sets, but judge them on what you're going to use, not what they put in the box.
Most sets include a flat skew rather than an oval. Now this is useful, and for straight spindle work it's the best sort - round those edges off on the grinder so it doesn't catch, but preserve flat face for stability. If you're learning though, or you want to turn lots of beads, then get a small oval skew where "oval" really does mean some near-round curvature.
By the looks of it though, if that HF set isn't made of cheese, then it looks like a bargain. They're remarkably like Axminster's $100 set.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

Just FYI, the Delta Midi he's looking at is very similar to the JET mini I have. On that one, the out of the box distance between centers is 14". That's an extremely optimistic figure, and it's all but impossible to use all of it. The bed extension doesn't give you any swing, and it doesn't turn the baby into a full-sized lathe, but it extends the distance between centers all the way to a whopping 40".
It's a pretty significant improvement, I'd say. (I don't have room for one though, so I'm stuck with somewhere around 11" being the longest thing I can turn comfortably.)
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On Sun, 05 Dec 2004 23:29:50 +0000, Andy Dingley

A bed extension- it'll be available whenever I need it later if I go for the tools. It's the difference between (IIRC) about 14" and 33".

Chessmen. Obviously, I'll try some other stuff for fun, but it's primary reason to exist is to turn chess sets. Small spindles and various parts for shop-made jigs and fixtures are probably going to get thrown on there as well.

Here we come to the crux of the matter. The Delta set has eight full-size chisels (No choice as to what is included) They are not, however, HSS- they are a "special steel alloy" which could be anything. I'm guessing they fall somewhere between carbon steel and HSS.

I've got a Delta 8" slimline bench grinder and a 4" belt / 6" disc sander, one of which is sure to do the job. Any advice either way? (FWIW, I can get a hollow ground on the end of the belt sander- I'm not looking at making a flat bevel)

That's going to take some experience, so for right now, I'm just going to take what they're giving, and upgrade to Sorby (or whatever looks the best) as I figure out what I need.

Boy, I sure do hear a lot about HF... I've never seen one, though! Must be somewhere I'm not. There is a set of 5 "mini" turning tools offered by Wilton (seems like those guys appeared out of nowhere for this holiday season...) for about $50. I'm planning on nabbing those at the same time as the lathe so I'm not sitting around waiting for the mail.
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