How To Sharpen Wood Lathe Tools Without Hiring A Pro!

How To Sharpen Wood Lathe Tools

Woodworking or woodturning, no matter what you come up with, the need for turning elements to create beautiful furniture is involved.

By elements, I mean the parts such as columns, pulls, spindles, and legs. So, for woodworkers, it’s quite obvious that turning is a must-know technique. A small wood lathe and some tools for turning are their best friends here.

However, it’s nowhere possible to create something good without properly shaped and sharpened wood lathe tools.

Even the store-bought tools will need occasional honing for right use. To make it even more surprising, the new tools also need honing before their first application. So, the frustration of how to sharpen wood lathe tools is going to appear.


Don’t be upset with that sad intro, I’m here to demonstrate an overall method on sharpening these wood lathe tools. These are my go-to ways of sharpening that is relatively easy for anyone. Freehand sharpening is my most preferable way.

It’s however, like riding a bicycle without any training wheels. You need to adapt to sharpening and turning at the same time. That’s when you can move from the grinder to lathe really quick and quite seamlessly.

Here’s my guide on sharpening using a grinder and some tips I didn’t share with anyone until now. There are a few things more we’ll discuss in the later section. Let’s dive deep.

Things You’ll Need

Of course, apart from the lathe tools, you’ll need a few things for sharpening process. The fruitful outcome partially depends on the tools you use in this process. So better have a brief knowledge about each of these required things. The pointers should be helpful.

  •  Six- or eight-inch grinder is the main cast for this sharpening series. It’s the very first choice for experts on sharpening or reshaping tools. And also, the process needs quite less time and goes effortlessly with a grinder. You can make the grinder mount on a bench or board. Your preferred worktop is just fine for mounting.
  • Sometimes grinder needs occasional dressing. So, you might want to collect a multi-diamond T-bar for the method to go well
  • The need for right bevel angles is more than important. So, no matter if you are a beginner or expert, make sure there are jigs in the list for better sharpening outcomes.
  • You will also need some basic stuff such as bowl, water, and dry cloths.

Prep Up For The Process

Take care of safety while prepping up for the sharpening process. You need to have some good quality protective gear for that. To deal with vibration you need hand protection wears. A rubber glove is best to absorb vibration and keep your hands protected from grazes.

Also never forget about eye protection such as goggles. You don’t want small metal fragments to disturb (or damage) your precious eyes.

Also, the grinder you are using needs to be stable. So, make sure it is ideally secured to the bench or worktop without making any movement at all. This needs to be sorted before commencing any sharpening process. You can use clamps to securely hold it in workbench.

Some other prep up concerns you may want to know about are:

  • Keeping some breath protective wears in case you have lung or respiratory issues.
  • Don’t place the lathe tool on wheel’s center ever.
  • The lathe tool should not get caught between platform and wheel. So, make sure to keep the platform close enough.

Grinding Wheel, The Main Hero!

For sharpening, of course, the main lead is a grinding wheel. It surely needs your right attention so that this sharpening process can go well. You need to prepare the wheel before actually going for work ahead.

There are several grinding wheel that often develops a reasonable build-up of metal fragments. This can have a huge negative impact on the overall performance, especially sharpening capability.

So, to make that thing never happen, you should use a diamond sharpening tool to dress the wheel. Just simply rub the tool against wheel’s outer edge. This will get rid of any extra dirt or debris from the surface and thoroughly even it out.

Right Angles Are The Way To Go

Some of you may already know that various lathe tools come with different angles of making cuts. So, you have to try different angles for sharpening them as well. This is extremely true for tools such as bowl or spindle gouges.

The process of angle sharpening also depends on user’s skill level and turning type implemented.

A very important tip here is to remember that increased tool control means shallower sharpening angle. So, when you start with a steeper angle, better tool control is possible. This way you’ll be able to avoid catches as well.

Follow the angle guide for different tools given below:

  • For roughing gouges, 45 or 35 degree works better.
  • Start with 50 or 60 degrees on a bowl gouge. Later you can make it lower like 40 or 45 degrees once the tool control starts improving.
  • For a spindle gouge, you can try 45 degrees of angle if easy control is necessary. However, with finer tool control it is okay to go with a 35-degree angle.
  • For a flat parting tool, you need to make sure that the edges maintain 90 degrees of angle.
  • You can go with a 45-degree angle with a diamond parting tool.

The Price Of Proper Contact

It’s not only going to be enough if you just implement right sharpening angles while missing proper contact. Once you are familiar with using right angles, make sure the contact to create that properly is also known.

Make certain that the lathe tools are placed over proper rest before any type of advancements. Keep on going like that until you notice the tool is contacting wheel. Blades should not press against the wheel of grinder. It should maintain a very slight contact instead.

Some cases involve pressing too hard or not maintaining a proper angle. This will lead to making extra vibrations or bounce blades off. And this is going to cause you losing the grip as well as tool control. So be careful about that!


  • Now we are about to go for the first phase of sharpening.
  • Hold the lathe tool and bring it near wheel. Don’t be too fast here, instead go gradually.
  • You need to limit the tool contact by not going for more than ten seconds. Slight pressure is a must here.
  • This will cause a very slight number of sparks, which is fine if your angle and contact level is right.
  • Now go ahead and try moving the tool with a gentle motion. The movement should be side-to-side.
  • You need to check the spark bursting pattern. These should be at the edge making a safe distance.


  • You should be going well with the ten seconds sharpening phase mentioned above. Do it a few times until the tool seems sharp enough.
  • Next, you need to dip it inside a cool water bowl and let it calm down. The grinding process will make tools quite hot and so this step is necessary.
  • As soon as you feel the tool is cool, go for opposite side.
  • Don’t put the wet surface on wheel.
  • Also, avoid over-sharpening any side of these tools. It’s only going to risk the robustness of your tools. And sometimes over-sharpening can make these tools prone to cracking.

What if You Don’t Have A Grinder?

It’s okay if you don’t have an electric grinder. You can still try sharpening the lathe tools by hand. In this case, you’ll need 1000 grit sanding stone.

Hold the sanding stone with one hand. Then simply place the lathe tool at a 45-degree angle with stone.

Now put little pressure to scrape tool back and forth over the stone. Keep on going this way until you are satisfied with the sharpening of your lathe tools.


You know the basic difference between shaping and sharpening, right? Shaping is about removing the minimal amount of material from lathe tool through turning. After that, you can try the sharpening process and results will be much more long-lasting. Experts say that touching up edges is more than enough to give a sharped result effortlessly and quickly. So, try shaping first and then go for sharpening.

Sharp Or Not, Quick Signs

It’s not going to work if you just think about sharping the lathe tools because it seems dull. It might be just fine and by over-sharpening, you are making it weaker. Are there any signs to check whether the tools are actually lacking sharpness? Yes, there are!

Try dragging the tool’s edge across your thumbnail. If you feel the edges are catching and creating curl then you’re set. You should always try to touch up the edges before using it but not overdoing it.

With more experience, you ‘ll be able to tell the difference but still, don’t take a chance and trust facts.

Wrap Up

So, that was all about how to sharpen wood lathe tools. Hopefully, a dull and less sharped tool will never upset you again. Just make sure you are in a good place about using the sharpening tools and methods.

Don’t try something out of your instinct and get the facts right. You should be able to know about everything related to using a grinder or any sharpening tool before actually trying the process.

Because it’s too common to witness newbies messing up with their lathe tool’s wellbeing and durability due to following wrong sharpening methods. Good Luck with Those Sharp Edges!

About Sam Maxi

Hi, this is Sam Maxi. I love talking about woodwork tools and my reviews are mostly based on the experience I have from my work. Apart from reviewing, I am a huge fan of surfing. Also, I love watching horror genre movies.

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1 thought on “How To Sharpen Wood Lathe Tools Without Hiring A Pro!”

  1. Hey,

    How are you? I was researching Wood lathe today and your website popped up. This was the article that I was reading.

    Great stuff! Thanks
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    Anyways, Have a Great Day


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