Category Archives: Turning Tools

Lathe Accessories for a New Turner

Chick here for printable PDF

Here is some advice I wrote for a new turner who has just purchased a Powermatic 3520C lathe. He was looking for advice on chucks, faceplates and a drill chuck. A threw in a little extra stuff.

Join the American Association of Turners (AAW)

You should join the AAW for there Journal magazine ASAP. The great mag easily pays for membership. It has lots of GOOD stuff for beginners and experience people. Go here:  https://www.woodturner.org/page/MemberBenefits

You should also check out the AAW’s Woodturning Fundamental magazine and other stuff for new people. Go here:  https://www.woodturner.org/page/FUNdamentals

Take A Class – Try before you buy!

You should take a class with a well known turner and/or a well known school. Try tools before you buy!

If you live in Colorado. Then take a class with Trent Bosch or a beginner class at Anderson Ranch. Or Google “woodturning classes”.

Turning Tools

I recommend taking a class and going with tool set used by your teacher/mentor. Otherwise my tool set is here:  http://www.carlford.info/pages/jigs_tools/modern_tool_set/modern_tool_set.pdf

Faceplates

Faceplates are a no brainier. The Oneway steel 4″ faceplate is the best out there. You don’t need stainless steel.

Note: Oneway is the manufacturer name.

Avoid the cast iron, thin steel ones and aluminum faceplates on the market. They are OK for making Jam Chucks, etc. But, not for everyday work where you “ride the plates hard and put them away wet”.

The faceplate that comes with the Powermatic 3520C is an exception to the no cast iron rule. It is OK. But, to small. Only 3″. Get a 4″ one.

If you want to go big. I would wait and see. If you go there, I would go with a Oneway Versa Hub with a 6″ Versa Plate. You could go the Versa Hub & Plate route for the 4″ faceplate. However, removing the plate from the versa hub to put in screws tends to be to much trouble for a 4″ plate.

The info here is out of date on the tools stuff. Use my new modern tool set stuff on my blog. But the screws and faceplate stuff is still good here: http://www.carlford.info/pages/demos_classes/natural_edge_bowls/My_Ellsworth_Class.pdf

Drill Chuck (Jacobs Chuck)

Any of the “MT2 Drill Chuck” search results on Amazon will do. I would go with keyless. You don’t need high quality.

Currently (2/2019) the “PSI Woodworking Products TM32KL Keyless 1/2-Inch Drill Chuck with a 2 MT Mount” looks good for $38.

Look for a Rohm Supra chuck made in Germany if you want to waste some money on high quality you don’t need. There are some nice Rohm MT2 chucks on eBay. I just purchased one for $106 for my drill press.’

Note: Your Powermatic 3520C has a MT2 (Morse Taper #2) hole in the tailstock. The headstock is 1-1/4 by 8 threads with a MT2 hole.

Woodturning Chuck

Now we get to the more controversial subject of chucks. I will try to stick to the middle of the road and be brief.

Wood Magazine has a good intro to how chucks work and terminology here:  https://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-tips/techniques/woodturning/four-jaw-lathe-chucks

Think about Jaws First

Sooner or latter most people decide they need/want more than one set of chuck jaws. Different size jaws, different shape, etc. Thus you should look at the cost of extra jaw sets BEFORE you pick a manufacture. Because you can NOT interchange different brands of chuck bodies and jaws. Vicmarc jaws only fit on Vicmarc chucks, etc.

Note: Vicmarc, Oneway, and Nova are the names of well known manufactures.

In general, extra Oneway chuck jaw sets tend to be cheapest. Then Vicmarc, Nova and then Easy Wood is out of this world expensive!

Oneway has a good jaw size and shape table here:  https://oneway.ca/products-category/chucks

Chucks in a Nutshell

I agree with most of the professional turners that Vicmarc makes the best chuck bodies. The VM120 chuck is loved by many. However, all these people tend to be in the “dovetail jaws are best camp”. They tend to turn mostly dry wood. They often expand the chuck jaws into a recess in the bottom of a piece. Making generalizations like this is obviously going to elicit negative responses from some people. Go with a Vicmarc VM120 if you are in the dovetail jaws camp.

I turn mostly green wood from FRESHLY cut logs from trees. Fresh cut wood is soft and cuts like butter. Thus, I am firmly in the “profiled serrated jaws are best camp”. They work better on green wood. I ALWAYS clamp my jaws down on to the OUTSIDE of a tenon. Expanding into a recess in the bottom of a green wood piece almost always ends in disaster.

You can ONLY get serrated jaws from Oneway and they only fit on Oneway chucks. Thus I recommend the Oneway Stronghold chuck. It is also loved by many. I have 5 of them. I don’t like the smaller Talon chuck by Oneway. Go with a Oneway Stronghold if you are going to turn bowls or hollow forms out of green wood.

You can get dovetail jaws for Oneway chucks and extra Oneway jaws are cheapest. So you can have the best of all worlds with a Oneway Stronghold.

Dovetail Jaws verses Serrated Jaws

The advantage to dovetail jaws is you can removed a piece from a chuck and then remount it latter. It will still run almost dead true, with no wobble, etc. If and only if the wood has not warped. You can’t do this with serrated jaws that are clamped down over a tenon. You can if you expand the serrated jaws into a recess. However, dovetail jaws expanded into a recess are better.

You have to cut a dovetail for dovetail jaws. This can be a huge source of pain for new people. They make dovetail scrapers that will cut a “perfect dovetail”. However, they tend to catch. Then all hell brakes lose. Serrated jaws use a simple straight tenon that is easier to create.

Other Chuck Manufactures

I started out with a Super Nova chuck. I still really hate that chuck. It’s the chuck key that I really hate! The newer Nova chucks that use a simple Allen wrench key are OK. It’s hard not to like the low price of the Nova SuperNova2 direct thread chuck bundles on ebay. But, extra Nova jaws tend to be expensive. Some people love Nova chucks. They are not going to agree with me here. Sorry, it’s my blog.

The new kids on the block, like Hurricane chucks use to be cheap. No more! I see no reason to go with one of these new kids when the above well known manufactures are in the same price range.

Record brand chucks just splashed onto the scene in the US. They have existed for a long time in Europe where they are known for being made by Nova. Why not go with a cheap Nova on eBay?

Sorby and Axminster chucks are UK companies. They generally are not cheap in the US.

When it comes to chucks for Mini Lathes the field has gotten pretty muddy. I have not been keeping up. I still like the Barracuda2 Chuck by Penn State Industries. Mostly, I like the $149 price. I don’t known that it is any better than the look-a-likes by other manufactures.

There is no way on the face of the earth I want anything to do with these new “no jaw screws” chucks! Like, Easy Wood Tools, Easy Chuck, etc. Jaws need to be securely screwed on to a chuck! Otherwise they are just an accident waiting to happen. Sooner or latter jaws with out screws will come flying off and kill you.

Chuck Size

Bigger is always better in the US. Thus sooner or latter someone was going to come out with chucks bigger than the Vicmarc VM120 (5″) or Oneway Stronghold (4-1/2″). They are just trying to knock these chucks off their well earned thrones. You don’t need any of the bigger chucks. The extra weight will just be a pain in the ass when you take them on/off the lathe. It is the chuck jaw size of work ranges that makes a difference. Not the chuck body size. Well, maybe if someone made an 8″ chuck it would be better. But there is no real difference between a 4-1/2″ chuck and a 5″ or 6″ chuck.

Turning Smocks

Get yourself a turning smock before “he who must be obeyed” complains about wood shavings in the house. I like the AAW Turning Smock best. It’ll make a good valentines day gift! 🙂

Travel Tool Set

I recently created a new Travel Tool Set that I can EASILY take to demos, club meetings and symposiums. I have been using it full time in my studio recently to test it out. I am real happy with it. See photo below.


The heart of the system is a new 5/8″ Quick Release Tool Handle from Jimmy Clewes. It works really good. I saw Jimmy use it on the 2018 Norway Woodturning Cruise. I was real impressed with the Quick Release mechanism that Jimmy has come up with. Just a simple 1/4 turn of the handle with your hand (no tools) locks a tool in place or releases it. You can change tools real fast. So, swapping tools does not interfere with the flow of a demo.

Set Screw Handles



Set Screw tool handles like the Hosaluk, Oneway, Bosch, Jordan, etc handles have been around for a long time. Loosening the set screws, taking out a tool, inserting a different tool, and then tightening the set screws takes too long in a demo situation. It also takes to long for most people at home. Thus these handles are best for the semi permanent mounting of tools.

Collet Handles



Recently collet tool handles have come on the market. Like the Robust, Serious, Kelton, Carter, etc collet tool handles. These handles use standard off the shelf metal working collets that have been around for a long time.

The ER32, ER16, etc collets are used to mount round rods in metal lathes. The collets are designed not to slip in tough metal lathe turning situations. Thus, they are not ideal for a tool handle. They weight to much and they are not cheap. When you add a steel nut and mounting, plus the collet the handles get to heavy overall and they are not balanced. They are way to heavy on one end.

Jimmy’s Quick Release Handles



Jimmy’s Quick Release Tool Handle is sort of like a collet handle. It uses an eccentric (offset) collar to QUICKLY lock a tool in place with just a simple 1/4 turn of the collar. You need to get the amount of offset JUST RIGHT to make one of these work and Jimmy has done it! The Quick Release Units are aluminum and weight very little. I REALLY like them!

Jimmy sells 16″ or 22″ long Ash wood handles that come with an aluminum Quick Release Unit or just the Quick Release Unit. 5/8″ Quick Release Units are $60, 16″ handles are $85, 22″ handles are $95 on 11/2018. You can only purchase these directly from www.jimmyclews.com or www.woodturningtoolstore.com. Jimmy also sells 3/8″ and 1/2″ units.



I thought about purchasing just the quick release mechanism from Jimmy and then making my own handle. I quickly realized this was a stupid idea. STRAIGHT grain hardwood blanks are not cheap. Jimmy’s only charges $25 MORE for a nice ash handle with a quick release. Jimmy’s handle shape is very close to my preferred wooden tool handle shape. Thus I just purchased a 16″ handle from Jimmy for $85 and customized it with my own rain bow colors.

Note: I DO NOT get any kick backs or anything like that from Jimmy or The Woodturning Tool Store. I paid full price for my stuff from Jimmy. Jimmy also sells Set Screw Units that look very similar to his Quick Release Units. I like the looks of the Set Screw Unints. However, I like the Quick Release Units better.

1/2″ to 5/8″ Bushings



Tools with a 5/8″ or 16mm shaft fit no problem in Jimmy’s 5/8″ Quick Release Unit!

For smaller tools, Jimmy’s sells bushings with set screws that convert 3/8″ or 1/2″ shaft tools to 5/8″. So you can mount them in 5/8″ Quick Release Unit. However, the bushings are not cheap. $27 each on 11/2018. If you don’t want to waste a lot of time swapping bushings with set screws then you need one bushing for each 3/8″ or 1/2″ tool. I needed 6 bushings. This was going to get expensive real fast.



Jimmy’s bushings are only 2-3/8″ long. The bottom of Jimmy’s Quick Release Units is solid. Thus, any tool you stick in there never goes in there more than 2-1/2″. This is not a problem. When tools come with a wooden handle the tool only goes in about 3″ or less.

I decided I don’t need any silly set screws for $27. I super glue or epoxy my tools into wooden handles. This works just fine. If I don’t need a set screw then I can make my own bushings no problem. I just need to glue my tools into some short chunks of steel tubing with a 5/8″ outside diameter (OD).



I purchased some 5/8″ outside diameter, 0.509″ inside diameter steel tubing from www.mcmaster.com. 3 feet for $24 + shipping on 11/2018. I then sliced off 2-1/2″ lengths with a hack saw. Each of these cost less than $3. I press fit and super glued my 1/2″ tools into my bushings.



In the photo on the right Jimmy’s 1/2″ bushing is on the left. My chunk of 2-1/2″ long tubing is on the right.

However, I ran into a small problem here. A 1/2″ is really 12.7mm. Most tools are NOT made in the US. They are made in Canada, Europe, etc to mm standards. They are advertised as 1/2″ or 12mm. But they vary all over the place and they are frequently over sized. If they are over 12.8 mm they will not fit in a 0.509″ ID steel tube. I had to grind down some of my tools to fit in the 0.509″ ID steel tubing. This was far from easy! I have one of Jimmy’s 1/2 bushing. Some of my tools would not fit in Jimmy’s 1/2″ Bushing.

Note: Think about it. 1 mm is almost to small for me to see. .8 mm in something like 12.8 mm is really small!



Thus, if I had to do it again I would hedge my bets. I would purchase 1 ft of 5/8″ OD, 0.509″ (12.93 mm) ID steel tube, www.mcmaster.com # 89955K148 $10 and 1 ft of 5/8″ OD, 0.527″ (13.39 mm) ID steel tube, www.mcmaster.com # 89955K289 $8. All prices on 9/11. This would cost less for the tubing and a lot less for shipping.

I don’t have any 3/8″ tools. If, I did then I would also purchase some tubing from www.mcmaster with a 3/8″ ID. Something like # 89955K829.

Note: 16mm is very close to 5/8″. Thus, you probably will not run into a lot of problems with 5/8″ tools. 5/8″ is 15.88 mm. I did not run into any problems with my 5/8″ tools fitting in Jimmy’s 5/8″ Quick Release Unit.

My experience seems to suggest that McMaster shipping is sort of flat rate. Anything that fits in a 6″ x 12″ x 18″ box ships from their Robbinsville, NJ warehouse to my studio in Poughkeepsie NY for around $10. Weight is a don’t care or a very small multiplier. If I fill the box up with lots of steel it may cost $12 or so. This is my OBSERVATION. Not a McMaster policy, etc. Your mileage may vary! Shipping anything that comes in a 36″ tube adds another $12 to the shipping cost. This amount varies more.

Rectangular Tangs



My 1/8″ P&N Parting Tool and my Al Stirt style Shear Scrappers have rectangular tangs rather than round shafts. I mounted these in the above 5/8″ OD bushings, the same way I would mount them in a wooden handle with a round hole. I cut 3″ long shims from a 1/2″ OD wooden towel. The shims plus tang fit nicely in a 1/2″ round hole. I first insert the tang in the hole. Then I drive the shims in. Cut off any extra shim that sticks out. Then I drip in some super glue.

The SECRET here is to cut the shims lengthwise out of a LONG dowel BEFORE you cross cut them off the end of the dowel.

My Tools



The tools in my traveling set are the same tools I recommend in my “My Modern Tool Set” handout.

Left to right in the photo. 1. 88 Degree Spear Point, 2. Left Hand Shear Scraper, 3. Right Hand Shear Scraper, 4. 1/8″ Parting Tool, 5. 1/2″ Hosaluk Double Bevel Detail Gouge, 6. 5/8″ Ellsworth Bowl Gouge, 7. 5/8″ Jordan Bowl Gouge, 8. 1/2 Stirt Bowl Gouge.

Note: To cut weight and cost, I decided to live with out a Spindle Roughing Gouge. I will just use my 5/8″ Jordan Bowl Gouge if I need to rough down spindles.

Tool Roll


Photo: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jimmy had a nice leather tool roll (custom made?) on the Woodturning Cruise. After looking around a bit I decided to order a “Dickies Work Gear 57007 Grey/Tan Small Wrench Roll” from Amazon. $10 on 11/2018.

I cut off the stupid little straps and anything else I did not like. Then, I added a chunk of double sided velcro from local big box store to hold the roll closed. I also cut out some of the stitches between compartments to make bigger compartments. Now I am really happy with my new tool roll.

I am also really happy that I made by own 1/2″ to 5/8″ bushings rather than purchasing Jimmy’s bushings. Jimmy’s are nice but they have a flange that makes a place to put a set screw. The flange would stick up and take up to much space in my tool roll.


Better Bolt for Munro Hollower II

If you have a Munro Hollower II then you probably have discovered that the Button Head Cap Screws (bolts) on the bottom are not the greatest. The allen head wrench hole in the heads strips out easily because the hole is to shallow.

If you purchased your Munro Hollower II from Steve Sinner at Advanced Lathe Tools then it comes with better Socket Head Cap Screws. The allen head wrench hole in these is nice and deep. However the standard height socket head cap screws are a little to tall. They stick down below the bottom of the cutter head. Some times they catch on the tool rest when you pull the tool out of a hollow form.

Low Head Socket Head Cap Screws work a lot better. They fit just right. See photo. You can get them from www.mcmaster.com. Part #92855A613 “Low-Profile Socket Head Screws, M6 x 1 mm Thread, 12 mm Long” $8.39 for 25 on 11/2018.

In the above photo the Button Head Cap Screw is the black one on the left. Standard height Socket Head Cap Screw is in the middle. Low Head Socket Head Cap Screw is on the right and in the bottom of the cutter head.

Note: The above only applies to the Munro Hollower II (or Hollower2). If you have the Mini Hollower or Wundercutt10 Hollower then you probably need a different size bolt.