basic tools for pole lathe turning

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

Moderators: jrccaim, Bob_Fleet, gavin, Robin Fawcett, HughSpencer

basic tools for pole lathe turning

Postby richnfamous » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:20 am

sorry if this has been covered before: what would you recommend as a basic set of tools for a pole lathe beginner?
new member
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 10:36 pm

Re: basic tools for pole lathe turning

Postby SeanHellman » Fri Jun 20, 2014 10:11 pm

Depends on how much you want to spend. Almost any gouge from ¾ inch upwards will do for roughing and any inch plus flat chisel will work. I use heavier weight firmer gouges picked up second hand. Electirc lathe tools are fine but will need to be reground to a more acute bevel. 25+ to 35+ degrees inclusive angle. Normal flat carpenters chisels work just as well as anything else. Ashley Iles do a good set of pole lathe turning tools.
"Scarcely anything is original- it`s very hard to be totally inventive, so I am not terribly interested in originality. Vitality is all I care about" Clive James
Green wood courses, tools, demonstrations.
User avatar
Posts: 928
Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:13 pm
Location: South Devon

Re: basic tools for pole lathe turning

Postby TonyH » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:46 am

I have some of the carbon steel (part numbers beginning with a T rather than HS) tools from Henry Taylor, which despite being intended for power turners seem to have the same bevel angles as the AI set. The T5 is especially useful - a large 1 1/4" skew. Since it is the corners of the skew that cause problems wider is good for starting out, because it puts them further from the work.
Posts: 88
Joined: Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:32 pm
Location: Bedfordshire

Re: basic tools for pole lathe turning

Postby jrccaim » Mon Jun 23, 2014 4:49 am

I have been absent for some time. At my age you can expect some problems :) Anyway, you need three basic tools. A skew, a gouge, and a parting tool. I would not buy or make a single tool until you learn to master these three tools. You can make all but the gouge, if you have a bench grinder. I use carpenter's gouges all the time. The bevel grind is on carpenter's gouges is wrong for a power lathe -- but we are pole lathers, right? Carpenter's gouges are cheap, and useful for other purposes. The skew could easly be ground out of a cheap, or flea market, chisel. Ditto the parting tool. Consult the net for shapes. But if you buy, just buy those three to begin. Now how big? Gouges come in all sizes, likewise skews. What I recommend is 12 mm. Then start small. Make tool handles. Do not try to turn a one-metre candlestick with furbelows and quirks. Your tool handle is maybe 15 cm long and ohh a couple cm at the thick end. The gouge is for roughing. The skew, for finesse. It will take you a while to learn its wiles. Better to hog up a tool handle than to ruin your cocobolo candlestick. The parting tool is used to cut the piece off to size. It requires some practice too. When you are thoroughly fed up with tool handles, do not buy any more tools. Instead, turn out a ball or an ellipse. Keep going at 15 cm (plus or minus a lot) until you are comfortable, and can turn anything you can think of.

Now you can branch out. Put something really long in the lathe. Say 30 cm. A foot! Oh boy, world cup time! It will be, of course, rived stock drawknived (and possibly spokeshaved) to rough cylinder. The very first thing I found is that the more you do with a drawknife the faster you will turn the thing. The second thing I found out is that roughing a 300 mm with a 12 mm gouge to a cylinder is a infernal. Very labor-intensive. So my next purchase would be a 50 mm roughing gouge. When I was starting out some years ago, I bought a cheap asiatic set of tools from It was the basic three, gouge, skew, and parting. I still do 90% of my turning with this cheapo set. I meanwhile got some Japanese carpenter's gouges aand as I said I use the biggest one -- about 40mm -- for roughing to cylinder. Later on you can branch out into form tools and whatnot.

Warning. I am a tool minimalist. I love tools. But I follow George Dyson's immortal dictum: "Never buy anything you can make, and never make anything you can find." If your wallet will stand it, buy what you will. Lastly, just as important as the tools themselves is the means to sharpen them. Dull lathe tools are the worst possible way to learn to turn ( have tried it :)). As a rule commercial tools are dull. Might as well use your teeth. And what is good enough for a power lathe is sad sack indeed for a pole lathe. Sharpening is way off-topic. Consult this board.
User avatar
Posts: 1082
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:53 am
Location: Willow, Alaska USA

Return to Polelathe turning

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest