How To Sharpen Lathe Tools

Sharpening your lathe tools is perhaps one of the most challenging tasks when getting into the woodturning business.

Anyone who has used a lathe for a week or more understands the importance of regular sharpening of the chisels and other lathe tools.

Personally, I am new to woodturning (see what the 3 best lathes are for turning wooden bowls) and sharpening my lathe tools is one of the scariest tasks.

Unluckily for me, lathe tools seem to dull as soon as I finish sharpening them.

As it turns out, nothing dulls a steel tool like a spinning chunk of wood.

I have done lots of research on how to sharpen lathe tools.

Most of the results I get seem to lean on whether to use a slow-speed water grinder or a dry grinder.

Others compare using jigs and freehand.

However, I have learned that there is no right or wrong way to sharpen your lathe tool.

So, how do you properly sharpen your lathe tools?

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How to Sharpen Lathe Tools


  • Grinder
  • Protective gear (Eye protection, a pair of gloves)
  • Sharpening jigs
  • Dry cloth and bowl of water

A grinder is a primary item when it comes to sharpening lathe tools.

It is essential to wear protective gear such as eye protection and rubber gloves to reduce the risk of injuries during the sharpening process.

Whether you are an expert or a newbie, you might need sharpening jigs to ensure better results.

Step 1: Wear Protective Gear

Before you start sharpening your lathe tools, it is essential to put on some protective gear.

Your eyes and hands are the most vulnerable parts of your body during the sharpening process.

Small metal fragments from the grinder can disperse into the air and get into the eyes, causing injuries.

Protective rubber gloves ensure that you do not injure your hands.

Apart from wearing protective gear, there are other basic safety precautions you should adhere to to ensure your safety.

For instance, you should ensure your grinder is firmly fixed in position before you start the sharpening operation.

If you are working with a bench grinder, it is essential to ensure it is firmly held in position by clamps.

You might also need breathing protection to ensure you do not inhale any harmful substances.

Step 2: Prep the Grinder

The next step is preparing the grinder for the work ahead. That involves dressing the grinding wheel.

A used grinding tool develops a build-up of metal fragments which could significantly affect its sharpening capabilities.

When prepping a grinding wheel, you should consider using a diamond sharpening tool to rub around its outer edges.

That helps even out the outer edges of the grinding wheel while also getting rid of metal debris.

Step 3: Sharpening

Once you are done with all the preparations, the next step is to start sharpening your lathe tool.

You should slightly place the tip of the tool against the grinding wheel at an angle.

Slowly move the tool side-by-side while monitoring the pattern of sparks.

You shouldn’t grind the tool for more than a 10-second sharpening interval.

Additionally, ensure you do not over-grind the tool, making it vulnerable to breakage or cracking.

If the tool becomes too hot due to friction, you should dip it into a bowl of cold water.

Before you continue sharpening the tool, ensure you wipe off water from the surface using a dry piece of cloth.

How Do You Sharpen Lathe Tools?

Whether you are experienced or a beginner, sharpening lathe tools can be a bit challenging. The process involves more than just placing the tool over a grinding wheel for a few minutes.

You have to wear protective gear to reduce any risks of injuries; secondly, you have to prep your grinding wheel before starting sharpening.

Once all the preparations are over, you can now begin sharpening your lathe tools.