I'm new here, and will try to find time later to browse through everything, but for now, is it possible to modify ordinary woodworking chisels as woodturning chisels?
That seems like a reasonable modification to me, but others with more relevant experience should be along soon with more information.
What are you planning to turn with those new chisels/skews?
Hello Ken, thanks for your response. I'm considering turning things like table legs, simple but not necessarily small things. At the moment I'm considering building my own treadle lathe, based on plans I've found that date back to the late '40's. I live in Phuket, tools like this are not commonly available, and when they are they are much more expensive than you would expect. So my question about the chisels is part of exploring the viability of scratch-building my own lathe and tools.
You can make good turning tools from chisels. Many turners make their own tools from files. I have tools for turning made from kitchen knives, a bayonet, a high carbon steel tube, rulers. I have never bought a turning chisel, although I have scrounged a gouge and a skew! They would all be appropriate for a treadle lathe. But if you harness your lathe to a motor, remember that files especially are brittle and can break with catastrophic consequences.
Jon (Feb 1, 2016)
Thanks so much for your encouraging response. I will not connect it to power, I'm happy with a treadle design for the time-being. I fully realise that the quality of the chisels and other tools I might use to make turning tools needs to be quite high to tolerate the stresses of the work. May I be so bold as to ask for a few photos of the tools that you have made?
One thing to remember is that most wood lathe tools have much longer handles than what you will get with a file or knife blade. This changes the amount of force transmitted back to the turner dramatically. Also regarding files, yes they are mostly brittle with the exception of the tang. This is usually quite soft and can easily bend if this is all the handle is attached to. Also look into spanners, they are quite tough and fairly hard and can be made into turning chisels by both grinding and forging. Good luck.
Jon (Feb 7, 2016), Philip Davies (Feb 7, 2016)
Should be fine to use ordinary chisels or to regrind them to the shape you want. If regrinding them be careful not to overheat the metal or they will need hardening and tempering again. That is not too hard to do if you need to. Many years ago as a boy I had a motor driven lathe with a bed made from part of a Model A Ford chassis, tail stock from two con rods and head stock was a block of wood with bearings and shaft. The chuck was simply a wing nut with sharpened tips that dug into the wood blank. The only chisel that I had was about 9" long and the tip was cut at about a 45 degree angle. Similar to what I now know as a skew chisel but sharpened on one side only. I made all sorts of things with this one chisel, table lamps, bowls, smokers stands etc, it wasn't difficult once I had mastered how to control the chisel. I now realise that I was totally wrong to use this chisel but it worked for me.
It is a long time since I was last in Thailand but they used to have have lots of blacksmiths/sword makers/farm tool makers etc that would be well capable of making you any type of carbon steel cutting tool. I would check out your local Thai wooden bowl makers as well, where do they get their tools etc. The bowls may all be hand carved but they will be using good steel tools to make them with.
Jon (Mar 27, 2016)
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