Don't throw your money away on pre-ground tools.
HSS definately. Get five or six 1/4" square HSS bits, and the same
number of 3/16" HSS bits. Maybe Two or three 3/8" bits. They make good
shims to raise up the others upon, to get them to center height, if you
are using the Myford clamp type tool holder.
The 1/4" and 3/8" tools are slow to grind, but easy to see when so
doing. TH esmaller bits are cheaper, and take far less time to grind,
but are harder to see when grinding, so you have to have at least an
idea of what you are trying to achieve. The small bits are plenty strong
enough to do honest work on a Myford sized lathe.
Those will last you a VERY long time.
Get a decent small bench grinder, and learn to grind your own tools
If you buy the pre-ground HSS tooling, you will have to learn how to
grind them soon enough, and if you buy indexable, like as not, you will
become annoyed with metalworking altogether, before you reach the point
where the inserts start lasting long enough to seem worth the price.
Buy or download a copy of the South Bend Lathe book, How to Run a
Lathe. It has some worthwhile info on tool shapes. Watch the angles,
though. Try to avoid getting caught out, and grinding a tool that is
supposed to be held in an upwards angles tool holder, if you do not have
them (typically, like the ones made by Armstrong, they have a 15 degree
HSS everytime. Indexables will not make you a better turner and will cost
you alot of money. Get HSS and the grinding is easy. Everytime you just lick
the tool up on the grinder you save money. Been a turner all my life and
made good money, now just a model engineer and only one indexable in the
shed that someone gave me and I never use it.
I wish I could meet the members of the group and within a few hours show
them how to grind tools.
Depends mostly what you are working on. If it's mild steel, brass/bronze
and ally then HSS is best for the hand lathe.
For stainless cobalt-HSS or carbide is a help, and for anything harder
than stainless carbide (or even diamond, ceramic or CBN) is necessary.
HSS is sharper (when freshly sharpened) and much tougher than carbide -
carbide is harder, but it is far more brittle. Carbide also works
longer, harder and better at high temperature, but this doesn't matter
much in hobby work - the brittleness of carbide is far more relevant.
I'd start with some HSS (or cobalt-HSS) blank square bars and a cheap
grinder. Should cost about £30 in all, about the price of a single good
indexable tool plus a few inserts. If you can get someone to show you
how to grind HSS tools that's a big plus, but it isn't that hard to
learn. You can then make almost any lathe tool you want, but some like
parting tools and boring bars are better bought.
Many people like indexable carbide parting tools, even for softer
metals, and there is some merit in this, perhaps because the cutting end
is wider than the blade of the tool.
However after a bit of experiment and practice I'm getting good results
with a HSS blade-type parting tool - sharpen frequently, mount rigidly
so it's central on the crossslide and absolutely at right angles to the
lathe bed, and lock the carriage and top slide.
The only time I use brazed carbide is for small boring bars. Regard them
as disposable, but they aren't very expensive. Good for getting into
smaller holes, as indexable boring bars need a large hole, and grinding
boring bars from HSS blanks is very tiresome.
You might want to buy a cheap set of brazed carbide tools as an
introduction to the brittleness of carbide - otherwise no. Another
cheap-ish introduction to carbide is the TPUN RH tool available on ebay
from marypoppinsbag - but throw away the horrible screw, make a suitable
thick washer and use a proper M5 allen bolt instead.
But start with HSS, not carbide.
-- Peter Fairbrother
A beginners thoughts:
Most here seem to say buy blanks and grind your own.
But, if you are a beginner isn't that just adding something else to learn
and worry about? Is it not better for a beginner who already has a lathe to
buy some ready to use tools so that they can get the hand of using the lathe
first? Then later on learn to grind their own tools?
I mean, if you screw up the grinding you're never going to begin turning,
right? Or the turning could be terrible with a rubbish home brew tool. You
get down and potentially give up.
When I got my ML7, also got 1 tool, clearly ground by the previous owner. It
worked ok, but I went out and got a set of cheapo tools to get the hang of
the lathe. Then I started grinding up the cheapo tools to get the hang of
grinding. Then lastly I bought some good blanks and now make my tools.
Its all very well old timers saying home brew is best, but for a beginner,
that to me seems like a route to possibly not ever getting going. Or a
recipe for added problems.
Beginners, and I still consider my self a beginner after 2 years of owning
my ML7, need it simple.
So I say get some cheapish ready made tools, get the hang of the lathe, find
the limitations, and then look at grinding your own tools a little later on
( or in parallel to learing about turning. That way you get to play at
lathing immediately, with out the added pressure of grinding tools.
Personally I prefer replaceable tip tools, and would have them anytime over
basic HSS blanks.
Nice to learn how to sharpen tools etc etc., but in practice I prefere to have a
new tip at the twist of an Allen key.
Peter A Forbes
Prepair Ltd, Rushden, UK
If you are a beginner, begin by learning how to grind tools. It is
part of learning how the lathe cuts, and why it won't, at times.
If you never understand the basics of the physyics of cutting metal,
you will never understand why you are not getting the results you wish
to, or understand what has gone wrong (or right) with your set-up.
An eight year old can learn to grind a decent tool. It is an
elementary level skill.
All new skills come with a learning period. Best to get it over and done!
Pity! You were stuck using one tool, and had no other options. Had you
learned to grind your tools early on, you would have had ALL options
open to you right away.
Gawd! You make it sound like getting three angles ground so they meet
at a sharp edge, is some kind of bloody great miracle! It isn't!
If you had started out learning to grind a tool for yourself, right
off, you would be a lot further along. You would not have run into
whatever stunbling blocks that have held you back, and you would have a
far greater skillset in hand, IMO.
Grinding tools is not pressure. It is a basic skill, that should
require about as much concentration as learning to tie ones shoelaces.
If you are getting scared by it, you are spending too much time
considering the problems, and not enough time grinding tool blanks.
Not to be feared!
But if you never try it, you will never learn it!
Once you have this skill, all options are open.
Even if you buy ready made tools they will rapidly need to be sharpened so
you would still need a grindstone and learn how to use it. One might as well
go the whole hog and grind your own from the start.
If you want to get straight to turning then, buy HSS tools ground to the
conventional shapes. Learn to keep them sharp to begin and in the
background, practice grinding your own.
I like Spareys book "The Amateurs Lathe". Some of it is out of date, I
find the the tool profiles work and I now only ever use carbide indexable
tip (not brazed tip) for cast iron and HSS for everything else. I don't use
any exotic materials in my projects (yet!).
So long story short, stick with HSS and learn to use the grinder. The
trickiest ones are the round nosed tools, but it's just patience and
practice in the end.
And a golden rule, if you haven't got the right profile tool, start with a
new blank, don't modify an existing one otherwise you end up never having
the right profile!!!
I started out with HSS blanks and grinding my own, bought a set of
indexable tips and now use HSS home ground again, leaving the carbide tips
for roughing cast iron. It's a hobby for me and the grinding I find a great
de-stresser! (not distressing). I find it easier to get a good finish with
sharp HSS rather than carbide.
I might suggest you're not using the right carbide inserts then. To repeat,
yet again, something I've posted many times over the years. Most carbide
tips are designed for high powered machines and high volume work. For use on
steel they have slightly rounded edges to create sturdiness and resistance
to chipping and they rely on machine rigidity, horsepower and rpm to push
them through the material being machined. What you need for small lathes and
hobby use, regardless of the work material, is razor sharp edges which
you'll only find on uncoated (usually) non-ferrous carbide inserts. Edges
very similar to what you'd grind on HSS anyway. They will generally be
bright silver or perhaps carbide grey. If the tips you are using are gold,
black or any other dark colour they won't cut worth a damn on a small lathe
on most materials. They'll just push off the work and tear it to shreds.
What you have to appreciate is that what the carbide insert manuals and
guidelines mean by finishing cuts on a CNC lathe are still probably deeper
cuts than the roughing cuts most of us use on manual lathes.
If you stick with inserts designed for aluminium you'll get perfect results
on steel, cast iron, brass, bronze and just about anything else you want to
tickle away at a few thou at a time on a small lathe and the inserts will
last almost indefinitely if you don't abuse them. HSS might get the same
finish but it'll blunt every five minutes. If you want to take 4mm deep cuts
in EN40B then sure you need 10 hp and an insert designed for roughing steel.
I use a single carbide insert turning and facing tool with non ferrous tips
for 95% of the work I do on my Student. HSS has its uses when you need to
grind a special shape or make a very small boring tool for a one off job but
for most turning and facing I'd say get the largest shanked tool your lathe
can accept, some sharp non ferrous inserts to fit it and you can forget
buggering about on bench grinders every five minutes for the rest of your
My mate's £50,000 CNC lathes can use a steel specific, rounded edge insert
and still get a mirror finish on hard materials like EN52B and 21/4N valve
steels. If I try to use the same insert on my Student it just buggers
everything it touches. My 40 year old machine has 50 times the backlash his
new ones do though, half the rpm, one tenth of the hp and no coolant. It's
just a matter of horses for courses.
If you want to spend your life learning how to sharpen tools rather than
actually cut metal then HSS is the very thing. You'll just die very
accomplished rather than having ever made anything.
I completely agree.
Whilst you can get a better finish with HSS on a small lathe, the only
thing I use HSS for on my ML7 is screwcutting.
Everything else I use carbide insert tips.
My favourite tool is one of these:
Sandvik GC4025 insert with a 0.2 radius tip. This grade is designed
for stainless but works pretty much perfectly for just about anything.
And if I need a *really* fine finish or half a thou' or so taken off,
then I use an SCLCR holder with a CCGT insert made for aluminium, like
fine, even on stainless. (ignore the mispelt 'CCGP' in the
Life's too short and time in workshop too limited to spend all your
time grinding HSS, albeit this is defintely a usefull skill to have.
However, if you get the HSS grind wrong - which beginners always do-
then you'll be constantly frustrated with the poor cutting ability and
lousy finish until you get it just right.
I was when I did and I agree whole heartedly with the overall tone of
this thread. In general get HSS blanks and grind your own. I have a
few indexables I keep for nasty jobs like stainless and getting below
the skin on burned & rusty brake disks, but for 95% of normal daily
use you can't wear out HSS fast enough to worry about - not playing
about in your own shed, production work is a different kettle of fish
This part I have seen before from various sources, hence heading back to
HSS which does work for me
What you need for small lathes and
This part I haven't seen before - I'll have a hunt round and see if I can
find some at resonable money.
Question is, why do the sets sold to folks with little lathes always come
with steel grade inserts?
Peter Hi, a friend of mine by way of a gift of a couple, introduced me
to the CCGT (aluminium) inserts a while ago when I still had time to
go into the workshop. In planning a return to work :-), I haven't yet
found an economic source (ie less than =A35 each), have you - or is it
one of those instances that the bullet just has to be bitten?
Keith (short of both time and money)
I was fortunate enough the get an apprenticeship with Coventry Gauge &
Tool where preparing tools for lathe work came second only to general
Although I didn't touch a lathe between 1962 and 2005 I still retain all
the skills I gained during the apprenticeship and sharpen all my tools
by hand on a bench grinder - I really do mean _all_ my tools - today
I converted a broken 1.4mm carbide drill to an end mill and made a 0.3mm
wide carbide parting off tool from another damaged 0.5mm drill. 95% of
my lathe tooling is HSS but I do have a few indexable carbide tips that
I use as if they were HSS (as far as reginding/sharpening is concerned)
these are used on 'difficult' materials such as Stainless Steel, Spring
Steel and Cast Iron.
For me, each tool material has its particular merit and knowing which to
use and when is the skill. Buying pre-ground tooling might be alright -
and even necessary - in a producion environment but for 'hobby/home
workshop' use it is imperative to cultivate the skills needed to keep
all tools sharp - a blunt tool is a liability!