High speed steel or carbide

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i prefer the non carbide tools. main thing is cost is really high. plus carbide tools dont teach you proper turning techniques. take it for what its worth thats an opinion.

thompson tools sells some nice tools.


i have a mix and match of high carbon steel, high speed steel and a bowl gouge from thompson. id like to get his detail gouge. the high carbon stuff does ok but not great my high speed steel tools are good too but the thompson stuff is much better than both.

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I have mostly hss tools, some crygenic hss and a powder metal tool

I love my cryo and powder metal tools i have an easy wood rools finisher... I almost never use it and dont like using it. If you dont plan on diving way into turning qnd just want to do small stuff, they are super easy to use and can do much of what normal tools do.

Personally i could do without, but for reasons of sharpening, ease of use etc i can see why people like them, just not for me.

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I would reccomend....both!

If you are considering buying carbide, check out Capt Eddie Castelin's website / youtube videos. He's a down to earth guy, who makes and sells carbide tools for about half of the sale prices from woodcraft and PSI. If you are adventurous, you can build your own carbide for like $10-$20. They are very simple.

I use the HSS tools when I know I am going to be rough on them. If you have to rough out a square larger than a pen blank, I reccomend either an old fashion roughing gouge or a sharpened bowl gouge. Once you have it rounded out, I swap to the carbide. In my experience the carbide finished smoother, but HSS is more durable. I am not an expert by any stretch, I just started turning a few months ago, so my experience could just be the result of not doing thing "properly"!

I also reccomend an inexpensive HSS set because there are a few specialty tools that you will need for basic vessels. There are carbide alternatives, but I wouldn't want to spend that kind of money for the 10 secs a vessel it would get used. I got the HSS set from Harbor Freight (~$35 with 20% off coupon) and have no complaints.

I only have two carbide tools, the round, and the R2 (rounded off square).

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i say buy some high speed steel tools or you can buy some steel and make your own tools. you can easily make your own skew and scrapers, gouges are a little more difficult to make unless you know what your doing and have the right tools i prefer hss because you just have to resharpen and go to town

if you want to make your own e-z type tool there not that hard to make just need a handle, shaft, and some kind of screw mount to hold the cutting edge

http://www.globaltooling.net/ here is a company i have bought some carbide bits from they work prity good and they are cheap. i find the carbide tools are great for hoging material like hollowing out a box or something similar. only bad thing is you have to replace the bits. if you want to make a tool let me know and ill help you with it.

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I would recommend HSS steel tools because they force you to learn to sharpen which is an important skill. HSS will hold a finer edge than carbide and is much easier to sharpen. HSS tools are also cheaper, especially if you can find some at an auction or yard sale. I have an easy rougher and I like it for large turning operations where you need rough down a rather irregular object. However the easy wood tools are not cheap and the replacement cutters they sell are too expensive. You can find carbide inserts that will fit it for cheaper on a website called global tooling. You buy them in sets of ten for about $27 which isn't bad considering EWT want's like $15 for just one! Any way, go with HSS for your first time tools.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm late to the party, but ditto everything everybody has said already.

Both have their place. I have several HSS tools, and once you get the hang of sharpening, they are irreplaceable. That being said, I have a large carbide tool that I use for cutting into rock-hard-dry blanks, non-wood materials, and generally anything else ill-advisable that I chuck up in the lathe. They will cut basically anything using almost any technique and thus are good for starting turners, though as noted, you won't learn correct technique.

I found a wet sharpener to be a huge boon to getting good edges on my hss tools. I have the el-cheapo one from Grizzly (about $80 I think) and it works great. About 30 seconds per tool before each turning and they can shave hair.

I got my carbide tool from a fellow turner who actually makes them himself;


Enjoy turning!

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I have no carbide. I'm strictly HSS, although I'm looking at cryo for the next tool. My decision was based more on the "traditions" of turning rather than a majority of other reasons, but the overwhelming factor was price. I got my set from Harbor Freight for under $20.... great luck on a great sale the day I dropped by.

I've sharpened the skew a few times, and that's one that can be done either way. (Actually, a skew is the next purchase I'm considering, as I've monkeyed up the grind on both faces too much for my liking...)

By either way, I mean grinder or "hand sharpening" via your preferred method for sharpening your other blades.

One of the benefits of the carbide is you can simply replace the carbide cutter once it's done (supposedly completely dulling out a carbide bit takes a long time), and you just need to loosen the screw and rotate the cutter when it's dull. Sure beats paying $$$ for a tool once it's been ground down, in my book. But there's the added benefit of having multiple tools, each with a different grind or profile.

One other question you need to answer before you go HSS/ Carbide is sharpening: do you already have a grinder? If not, I'd suggest going carbide. If you do, you're still stuck with this question. The nice thing is you are not obligated to buy a fingernail grinding attachment: many people have made their own, myself included.

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  • 5 weeks later...

i bought an easy wood tools small finisher, i never use it..


Granted you can make your own for pretty cheap but i still wouldnt and dont care for the idea of a glorified scraper. 

If you are just going to turn to accent your normal wood working, as in spindles for a chair or whatever and you dont plan on it being a large part of your woodworking than yeah go for it, they are easy to use, safe and can produce decent results. If you want to get into serious woodturning there is no avoiding learning how to use and actually using traditional tools. There will be many times in woodturning where you just cant use only carbide tools and will need something for a specific project or cut so you inevitably will need to use traditional tools at least every once and a while.

That said.. you dont just need to choose between standard hss and carbide, i have a couple cryo hss and cpm tools that need to be sharpened very infrequently compared to standard hss. .... pluss im a tool nut and love getting and making tools. 



my recommendation is that even if you choose carbide, learn to use standard tools too, no one said you cant use both..

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