How Often Should You Sharpen Your Woodturning Tools?

Ken Rizza

Posted on September 01 2021

How Often Should You Sharpen Your Woodturning Tools?

When you’re turning a bowl with a gouge, you’re cutting a lot of wood in a very short time. Even the most high-end tools will eventually degrade, however, which makes it essential to know how often you should sharpen your woodturning tools. You need to know what to look for and when to sharpen your tools before they cause more problems than they solve.

How You Can Tell

Luckily, you’re not working in the dark when determining how degraded your tools are. Look out for the signs mentioned below.

The Sound Changes

When you cut into a piece of wood, it creates a distinct sound; you’ll eventually grow accustomed to it. When your tools are dull, that monotonous sound will change depending on how rough your equipment becomes. This rougher sound stems from your tools struggling against the grain, signifying that they can no longer cut through the wood without trouble. Pay attention to any changes in sounds when you’re working.

Difference In Smoothness

Along with rougher sounds, you’ll notice that your chisel or gouge no longer makes a smooth cut through the wood. Take note if it takes noticeably longer to shave off wood or if you begin to struggle getting your chisel through the grain. Any symptoms of a decline in quality when turning is a sure sign your tools need maintenance. You’ll also notice more tear-out, which is when the woof fibers are pulled, causing a roughness that will require special attention when finishing the project.

The Quality of the Wood Chips

Depending on whether you’re cutting, scraping, back-cutting, the quality of the chips coming off your work is a good indicator of tool sharpness for the technique being used. Hogging out a bowl should have sizeable chips of wood flying over your shoulder. Making the final cut to clean out the tool marks in a bowl with a negative rake scraper should produce hair-like whisker shavings.

How Often You Should Sharpen Them

Now comes the important question of when you should sharpen your woodturning tools. Tools can degrade surprisingly quickly and will need maintenance several times during a single project. On average, take time to sharpen your equipment about every 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes they can be sharpened less or more frequently, depending on how they sound, feel, and the shavings they produce. The moisture content and wood species must also be taken into consideration.

Don’t Let the Time Escape You

It’s easy to gain momentum while working, but you need to remember to take occasional breaks so you can inspect your work and your equipment. Take care of your tools and always have a reliable wood lathe tool sharpening system to service your equipment when they need it.

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