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© by Russ Zimmerman, December 2016


If you know what you are looking for, is your best bet. Second I would recommend joining the American Association of Woodturners. Your membership will give you access to the Association Journal, the “American Woodturner,” which is full of tips, photos of inspiring turnings, advertising, and information on the Association’s Annual Convention, held in different cities around the country.


In 1979 I went to England to organize a tour for woodworkers to visit the Woodworker Show in November. I also wanted to contact someone from Sorby because I had issues with their bowl turning gouges, which were then handmade of carbon steel. I did meet with a director and showed him the tools, and we agreed something needed to be done. At that time the issue was about to become moot, because turning tools were soon to be produced in HSS by a quite different process. Peter Child’s “Superflute” was the first, a nominal 1/2” long and strong bowl gouge. Meeting the Sorby director lead to a wholesale arrangement with another company he owned that was making tools under another label. (His family would eventually sell Sorby.) The first bowl gouges I received were an amazing improvement over carbon steel. A while later I received a second batch, still good, but nothing like the first. A student who bought one of the first and needed another noticed also, because the first were so good. Turns out the first were T1 steel, HSS with tungsten; the newer ones were the now much more common M2 HSS steel. Since then varying tool materials have proliferated, and prices have skyrocket, and it is much harder to buy tools without handles which is what I sold, providing for my students a great way to practice spindle turning, and tool control. Powder metallurgy in tools is now common, and I have a few of the original Jerry Glaser’s tools whose edge holding quality I love, even though they are not HSS. I was happy to be able to buy them without the aluminum handles, which in a cool shop draw the heat right out of your hand. There are so many choices of tools available, that I can’t begin to tell you which is the best. I will provide links to the standard sources I am most familiar with further down the page. But for those of you starting out, I have this suggestion: Make a beginning set with tools from Penn State Industries. There you can order the tools I described on the Class Detail page at the China price, with excellent handles. For example, the last time I looked, (December 2012), those six tools cost $88.25 plus shipping, and you could add a 3/8” bowl gouge for $16.95. (Presumably they are a little higher now.) They are reported to be M2 HSS and in my shop they have decent edge holding qualities. Their handles can be recycled when the blade wears out, if you can find unhandled tools. (In case you are wondering, I recommend against carbide tipped tools because of the difficulty of creating a sharp cutting edge.


Packard Woodworks, Inc               Craft Supplies U.S.A.                    Woodcraft Supply 


I’ll be adding to this list as you send inquiries: DOUBLE STICK TAPE This is for attaching dry bowl blanks, etc. to faceplates without screws. Back in the late 70s, I wrote a “letter to the Editor” of “Fine Woodworking,” praising the use if Permacel P-50 double stick tape. (Ornamental turner Frank Knox had written about it in the Journal of International Wood Collectors Society several years before.) IWCS My letter produced all sorts of positive and negative comments about double stick tape over the years, with the negative ones never being specific. I was the first to sell it just to woodturners, but of course other suppliers started selling it eventually. But it was expensive and suppliers started substituting other brands, while still using the picture of Permacel tape in their catalog. Very misleading! I had stopped selling it in 1993 or so, but I still had a few rolls for my own use, until last year when I needed more. I Googled for a supplier and after a few dead-ends, found one. where you put P- 50 in the search and go to the product made by Nitto(Permacel). Buy 1” size to minimize waste. Directions for use: When you don’t want to use a chuck or screws, this is great. I use a 2 3/4” faceplate for up to 8” bowls and I once did a 14” bowl with a 6” faceplate. It works because the strong cloth middle holds a lot of rubbery, stretchy sticky adhesive. (1) You need a piece of wood with the surface to be stuck to be stuck to the faceplate as flat as your faceplate. I use a 12” disc sander. (2) Use a compass to draw a circle a bit larger than the size of the faceplate where you want to mount the faceplate. Be sure to leave the mark of the compass pivot point in the bottom in case you have problems later on. See the “Warnings” section, below. (3) Cover the faceplate with 1” tape strips, working from one side to the other. Trim the excess. (4) Remove backing from tape and put faceplate in position in the center of the circle. (5) Press  faceplate against blank, and here are some suggestions as to how to do this. The absolutely best way, and most expensive,  is with a bearing press, if you have one around. A simple alternative is with two large handscrew clamps with long enough jaws to reach the faceplate rim. Or now I have a piece 2”x4”x 8” screwed to the wall near the floor. I put the blank on the floor near the wall. Take a longish 2”x4” and put the end under the piece of wood on the wall and use as a lever to press the faceplate into the blank. (6) Mount the faceplate on the lathe and try to pull the blank off. If it comes off, see the warnings below. (7) Turn the bowl, sand and remove from faceplate, which is done by slowly pulling on one side of the bowl. You will see the adhesive stretch and eventually let go. Warnings: (1) If the bowl pulls right off when testing, the wood surface is either fibrous, or dusty, or end grain, or not flat. (2) If the bowl loosens during turning I am always aware of it; you should notice that the bowl is not running quite true. This is most likely because the bowl has warped (distorted) while turning or sanding, and the bottom is no longer flat. Surely you have noticed even kiln dried bowls going out of round as the inside is being removed or the finished bowl is being sanded. If distortion has occurred, you can remove the bowl, sand the bottom again and draw a new circle using the pivot point left by the compass when you drew the first circle. Then go back to (3) above. (3) I have had people say they started a bowl one day and left it on the lathe overnight. When they came back the next day, the bowl had fallen off. What happens is either the bowl is heavy enough that gravity overnight does the same thing that your steady pull does. Or the blank has warped, loosening one side of the blank from the faceplate. Or the shop is too hot and the rubbery adhesive does not hold as well. (4) Related to the last point in (3), a student living in Hawaii reported his bowl blank loosening in his 85O shop. (There is no question the tape holds better in a cold shop.) SHELL AUGUR I just got a call from a student who had finally worn out the shell augur he bought from me.  This device bores a 3/8” hole through the length of a spindle mounted between the drive center and a hollow tailstock center. If the base of the lamp is longer than the augur, usually 28”, you can bore from each end and the holes should meet in the middle. I Googled and the only U.S. source I found carrying the item was Craft Supplies USA . Otherwise I think you will have to get them from England. I recently discovered a You-Tube video describing how to use a shell augur for boring a hole in a lamp. Using the shell augur PINK GRINDING WHEELS If you check the pictures of my grinder in the gallery you will see that it has a white wheel that is now grey with dust and a pink wheel. I used to sell the pink wheel by Pacific Grinding Wheel until it was impractical to order 50 (minimum) at a time. The white wheel (Norton 38A) I liked almost as well and I was  able to buy it from Norton in a reasonable quantity--for a while. So where do I send people for my preference, the pink wheel? Woodworker’s Supply where I bought my first. At their web site search “pink wheel” and the last time I checked two choices came up. Choose Pacific Grinding Wheel, and I would recommend you get 60 grit which removes steel at just the right rate. They are expensive. Two will probably cost more than your grinder. Don’t forget to buy the bushing to reduce the 1” bore to 3/4”, 5/8” or 1/2”. I would also suggest getting a dressing stick, a 1”x1”x6” piece of silicon carbide used to true up the surface of the wheel. I prefer its simplicity of use to all the other gadgets dreamed up that seem more interesting I was checking other suppliers and if you don’t like the prices of the pink wheels, search the three sources under Other Tool Suppliers. But remember that even if the initial cost of a wheel is high, you’ll have years of use.