You get what you pay for.
I've had my lathe for 5 years now and I've bought a load of stuff for it
from the shows and regretted nearly all of the purchases I've
First set I bought were 8mm ones from Warco, I actually ordered the 10mm
but they sent out the wrong set, The actual holder material is soft
allowed the tips to twist, I got round this problem by thread
locking them on,
second point is the crap tiny torx screws, they are
made of chocolate and strip
their threads in no time, I've since
re-tapped to a larger size and use a Allen
screw instead to hold them
but still use a touch of loctite as well.
Second set were 12mm ones again from Warco, at this stage I gave up
order the 10mm set from them!!. These are much better if only
because they are
larger but a bit to big for my WM180 but I still use
for heavy material removal.
No it's better to have a couple of useful tools than a selection box of
My mates lathe came with a boring bar from a company called
Glanze which after a
search I found at Chronos. These while are more
expensive they should last a
life time. I would class them as upper
semi pro quality.
Index tips seem expensive but last quite a while.
You usually only use two sides ( of a 4 sides tip) but there are other
bars that allow you to use the other 2 sides. Shop around.
I hope this helps - I'm not biased but - YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR -
I found this site that shows the different shapes of index bits
BTW - I still finish my work with a pass using HSS with a gentle rounded
only use the tips for metal removal especially when I need to
take a heavy cut.
I sorta-agree with that.
But, do you want indexable carbide tools, or HSS?
I'd start with HSS, and learn to sharpen them. It's not hard to learn, a
good teacher can show you how in twenty minutes, and you'll learn a
whole lot about cutting metal that way - and that's what a lathe or mill
does, they cut metal. With metal knives.
Once you can make a knife blade which will cut steel from a lump of HSS
you will understand the cutting action a whole lot better than you ever
will if you can't.
Also, you won't break as many HSS tools in the early part of the
learning curve as you will break carbide tools, and they are cheaper to
replace - mostly you can just regrind them.
And there are some jobs which are simply better done with HSS. It's
sharper than carbide and less brittle, and for interrupted cuts and the
very best finishes HSS wins hands down.
In fact, if you aren't working in hard alloys and can put up with the
frequent sharpening needed, almost everything in the small lathe / model
engineering field is better done with freshly-sharpened HSS than with
For the step up to carbide, brazed tools are perhaps a useful learning
intermediary - you will break quite a lot of carbide while learning, and
will suddenly find inserts stop being cheap .. And yes, you will break
tools too, not just inserts.
However, as for indexable tools. Initially you want a 10mm square SCLCR
right-hand turning and facing tool, a parting tool, and maybe a boring
bar. That's it for starters, but - you are right, once you know how to
use them without breaking them you do want quality tools here. These are
expensive, sometimes very expensive.
Don't buy cheap indexable tools to learn on, they are a waste of money -
use brazed tools for learning about carbide.
The Q-cut parting tool has a good reputation.
Greenwood are supposed to be the bee's knees for indexable tools for the
small lathe and mill, but I haven't tried them, unfortunately they are
too expensive for me. About £150 for the three tools and some spare
inserts. http://www.greenwood-tools.co.uk /
Glanze (from Chronos) are - well, okay, sort-of, and a fair bit cheaper,
around £75. One thing though, the actual Glanze inserts aren't very good
for small lathe work, if you can get inserts made from aluminium they
work much better - most inserts are designed to last a long time in big
rigid machines, and they are not sharp, the edges are rounded. This
works okay in big machines, but not in small lathes.
Oh, on breaking tools - you _will_ break tools, and you *should* break
tools, especially disposable ones like small drills, brazed carbide
etc., while learning. If you don't push a tool until it breaks you won't
ever really know what it can do.
Just try not to break the expensive ones!
-- Peter Fairbrother
Mostly agree with what Peter said, but I'm pretty sure he meant to say
"made *for* aluminium", i.e. for cutting Al alloys, not "made from
aluminium" (wouldn't last very long). The "for AL" tips are sharper than
the ones for steel, so they are better suited to the dainty little cuts
we home engineers tend to use; the ones for steel have a less sharp edge
and are for hogging cuts our lathes are mostly not rigid enough to
Quote from Dave Baker: -
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 life.
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. -- Dave Baker Puma
I assume Dave Baker is exaggerating about regrinding HSS tooling every 5
minutes as that implies running the HSS at too high a cutting speed for
the material. Learning to calculate cutting speeds is simple and
important as too high a cutting speed for the material will kill
carbide as well, although the speeds are higher. I guess if you never
think that you'll need a custom ground tool then maybe you can buy off
the shelf insert tools and not learn the basics of grinding them
yourself, I often need oddballs and either grind my own in HSS or
sometimes carbide, I have acquired quite a selection of ones over the
years which now fill most requirements. I think that learning to grind
the basic tools is useful, certainly the first thing I had to pass in a
proper machining class, once the basics are learned then the choice to
use HSS or carbide may be better judged and the results each gives on
the machine in question can be judged as well.
A word of warning when buying tools for the Mini lathe. If the standard 4
slot fixed tool holder supplied with it is the same as the one that came
with my nearly 11 year old one then the distance between the base of the
slot that the tool goes in and the centre height of the lathe is just a
little over 8mm. So it would seem that the largest lathe tool to fit that
holder will have an 8x8mm shank but check if buying an indexable tool that
the replaceable insert doesn't sit slightly above this as it will then be
above centre height. You can correct a small difference by jacking up the
back of the tool with a bit of shim* so the tool points down at a slight
angle but this will affect the clearance angle.
The smaller 6x6mm shanked tools will work provided you put shim* under the
tool to bring it to height but the tool will not be as rigid as the 8mm
A set of "8mm" tooling was supplied with my lathe, however the braised on
carbide tip brought the height up to over 9mm which made it frustrating to
have to wait until I could solve the problem before I could have a good
play with my new toy! - I tried using the vertical slide (which I ordered
with the lathe) to mill off the excess but this only resulted, though my
inexperience and clumsiness, with a damaged brass feed nut - happily
Chester sent me a replacement free of charge the next day.
Luckily there was another model engineering show a week or so later where
I was able to measure the tooling and got a cheap Chinese set of "8mm"
indexable tools where the tips were at 8mm. I am still using those same
tools although now with more up-market tips nearly 11 years later.
I also bought the cheapest "quick change" tool post I could find (the hole
needed to be opened out to fit the lathe) which of course solved the
problem of the tooling being too big as it's easy to set to the centre
height but as the tool is now offset there is less rigidity.
The next problem with tooling was a parting off tool. Rigidity is all
important and I quickly found it was essential to clamp the saddle to the
bed, initially with toolmakers clamps, and then a purpose made clamp (over
the years the design of saddle has varied so my clamp won't work on modern
mini lathes but a number of suitable designs can be found on the
internet)- You can improve the rigidity a bit just by applying the handle
of the leadscrew nut thus clamping the saddle to the feed screw provided
the feed is disengaged. I didn't really solve the problem of parting off
until I bought one of the parting off tools with a replaceable carbide tip
from JB cutting tools it actually fits without shims. Some people find the
use of a rear toolpost with the parting off tool upside down the answer to
parting off easily, but although I tried making an attachment to do this
there really isn't enough room on the mini-lathe, however as the chuck is
bolted on and thus cannot come unscrewed and the lathe will run in reverse
there is no reason why you cannot put the parting off tool upside down in
the normal position and run the machine backwards to get the same effect -
of course making sure that the tip is at centre height.
With regard to sharpening, I always keep the tips of HSS and, when
necessary, carbide tools sharp by using a couple of strokes with a diamond
mini stone between cuts which aleviates the need to remove the tool and
resharpen on the grinding wheel. The one I use came from Arc Euro - the
orange handled fine one 070-030-00850 or is in the 4 piece set
070-030-00880. I noticed that the local pound shop had rather more chunky
versions which would do. As long as you follow the original profile of the
tool it's a quick and easy way to keep a tool sharp.
* a cheap source of soft aluminium to use as shim (and to protect work
from marking by the hard chuck jaws) is from individual trays of cat or
dog food - if you don't have a cat or dog your local neighbourhood fox
will be well pleased to receive the contents on a cold winter night.
Sorry to go on but I've had a lot of pleasure from my mini lathe for
nearly 11 years and hope that you get as much from yours.
Ps a book I would have found very useful if it had been available when I
got my lathe is Workshop Practice Series No.43 - The Mini-lathe by David
Fenner which he based on a series of articles he wrote for Model
Engineer's Workshop magazine. I also got a lot of help from the various
mini-lathe Yahoo groups.
Talking to my old mentor on the way to Harrogate, (Being a novice) I said
that I was struggling to make any sense of the brazed carbide tip tools for
my lathe. His response was "you're learning then..."
I've had no trouble at all with the indexable cheapo chinese sets, except
that the holding down screws sometimes appear to be made from toffee.
Many many thanks for all the advice! There's no such thing as 'going on' to
much as far as I'm concerned! It's all gold dust to me :-)
I can see there are two distinct schools of though on this topic, divided by
Carbide and HSS.
I don't have a bench grinder or anyone to teach me lathe tool sharpening.
Carbide inserts intended for Aluminium sound good for my purposes, but I'll
look at HSS if I have problems getting a good finish on metal, and perhaps
for extra sharp home made tools for turning acrylic and PTFE.
I'm surprised indexible tools are so expensive - is it justified, or are the
manufacturers running a cartel! I might risk cheap indexables and replace
Chas, where do you get your £2.50 inserts? Are they the sharper type for
I'm unsure what size tools I'll need. My Lathe is due on Wednesday (!!!) so
I guess I'll wait and measure up then, or decide to replace the 4 sided tool
The Glanze site shows handy diagrams of what they reckon each tool type is
for by the way:
Parting off will need special attention. I can't find a 'J.B. Cutting Tools'
web site. Are they online?
I've got a nice selection of cheap diamond grit sharpening tools. They don't
make much impact on carbide that I've noticed though!
I happen to have some 0.5mm thick mirror finished rings from a scrap yard
that appears to be Tungsten Carbide judging by the density (about 15.8
g·cm-3). It breaks like glass when severely bent, but I'd like to try at
making my own parting tool using it at some stage.
Again, many thanks for all the advice,
The tools used may divide by HSS/carbide, and some people only use one
or the other - but for most hobby people purposes both HSS and carbide
have their uses. Don't be fooled by the purists, try both.
You may have noted, as an aside, that the HSS purists tend to do small
precise stuff, while the carbide purists tend to do large or high-volume
That's probably because, for most purposes, HSS is best for small
precise stuff, while carbide is best for large or high-volume stuff.
A bench grinder is cheap enough, but someone to teach is maybe harder -
it's not that there's a lot to learn, but that it's very hard to teach
it in writing, and very easy in person. Takes considerably less than an
hour in person, but in writing ...
I tried to write a basic HSS right hand turning and facing tool hand
grinding introduction, and came up with "hold _this_ edge of the HSS
toolbit against the wheel".
Even before that it got tricky, hold it wrong and it can injure you. If
you hold it like _that_ it will hurt - but if you hold it like _tother_
it won't hurt, and if you hold it like _mether_ it will be nice and
But describing what's meant by _this_, _that_ and _tother_ in words is hard.
Then it's: grind _that_ bit so you see a flat. See it?
Grind it some more, until it gets really hot and then goes blue - you
have now ground it too much, the temper of the HSS is lost. Don't worry
though, you just have to grind it some more so the bit with the lost
temper is gone.
So, to grind quickly the idea is to dip the HSS in the water to cool it
before it turns blue - but if it goes "hisss" when dipped, then it
doesn't like it either, and may microcrack from the shock of meeting the
cold water; so dip it before it hisses, and before your fingers get too
Practice that a bit, so you know when it's going to hissss - in future,
if it gets that hot but it's perfectly the shape you want, then just
leave it to cool. If it hasn't gone blue then it's still tempered enough
for at least some cutting.
Now, grind the HSS so the flat covers the entire side of the HSS, and is
at angle X. Oh, and _tether_ angle should be straight.
Now, is the flat really at angle X? The angles used don't usually have
to be that accurate. If it's _this_ much out that's okay, if it's _that_
much out then it needs regrinding. Actually that's just grinding some
more, at a better angle, not "regrinding", whatever that means.
Now we grind the second flat, which is much the same as the first. It's
like _this_ and _that_. The angle is Y, and straight.
Now grind the third flat, which again is similar. The angle is Z _this_
way and X again _that_ way.
To sharpen, just grind the third flat again.
Many people smooth the sharp point out using a stone or diamond flat. A
few strokes like _this_ and _that_ will do it. You don't want to smooth
the cutting edge!
Well that's about how hard it is to learn to grind and sharpen HSS
tools. It's about all you need to know to start, and most of the rest is
just looking up angles and designs.
Describing it properly in words, without the _this's_,_that's_ and
_tother's_ though - well it ain't easy, is all I'll say.
Carbide inserts intended for Aluminium sound good for my
In a bit I intend to offer people here a starter set of carbide tools -
I used to be a HSS purist, but am now converting to the middle road.
Should be about £25 for a 10mm sclcr turning and facing tool, plus a
boring tool, plus six inserts.
It's a starter set - it won't last forever. It's not made from cheese,
but it isn't what-snap-on-use either. Intended for HSS people to get
used to carbide, and break three or four inserts while learning to use them.
I don't know if it's justified - can't afford the expensive stuff to
try. But I've broken too many "cheap" indexable tools to think them
Got a spare one you could send me?
-- Peter Fairbrother
Peter: I'll see if I can get some more, but if not I could snap a piece off
one for you as I managed to 'open' a ring without shattering the whole thing
recently They're flat rings, presumably cut from a sheet 0.5mm thick,
outside diameter ~13cm, inside diameter ~10cm. They were something special,
but the only idea I've had is they may have been the wear surface of a
thrust bearing. I'll try contacting you through the email address you post
with for your address details.
There's a series of 4 vids by Tubal Cain on Youtube which might help
Scrim. The first one is here
As a newbie myself, I feel he doesn't describe very clearly the "holding
the end rotated a bit" technique (to get the side clearance angles),
although he does mention the clearance angle is 10-12 deg (I thought it
was supposed to be 7, which shows it isn't critical). If you don't hold
it rotated you'll soon see that the ground area forms a vertical line
with the unground part, instead of the sloping line shown at 3:56 into
the vid, and you grind the whole side face of the new blank instead of
working from the bottom up to the top. But this is nit picking and your
perception of his demo may be different to mine.
If you prefer words, I found
helped me when I was starting out. OK, I confess I had a mentor, but his
role was mainly to slap me every time I whined that it was all too hard,
'cos it's not: sharpening a lathe tool is one of the easier skills to learn.
I imagine they have many other solutions which are not available to the
small workshop, but I'm not an expert on this subject. I'd like to know
more, if anyone is.
They can afford to pay big money for big iron, and places to put it,
after all - and it's much easier to do small stuff on a big lathe than
big stuff on a small one.
-- Peter Fairbrother
Bear in mind that the difference between the old tool steel bits and HSS bits
is that, whilst tool steel looses its temper at not much more than 150C, HSS
can still cut when its glowing a dull red. OK, it doesn't last very long under
that treatment, but HSS can still shift a lot of metal when it needs to.
Regarding small precise stuff I got a whole selection of HSS turning
tools and probably a lifetimes selection of slitting saws and side and
face cutters, including custom grinds, out of Horstmann in Bath when
they flattened the factory in Weston. IIRC that site made the clockwork
central heating timers and the like so lots of precision small parts,
much in brass IIRC. That site is now housing as I expect the product
produced there was obsolete and the property worth more for development,
the modern production moving to Bristol AFAIK and now electronic.
Many of the HSS turning tools seemed to have been ground for a specific
job and many have proved very useful for the variety of things I do.
Thanks folks. I'm definitely going to get some HSS tools too. Do they do
Cobalt versions as with drills by the way?
What about this for a plan: I get a set of pre-made HSS tools so I can use
the original form as a guide during sharpening and hopefully get away with
using just diamond coated hand sharpening tools. A combination of that and
using the earlier links to video and texts on the subject should add up to a
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