Carbide Mini Turning Tool 3-Piece Set
Rockler has introduced a new set of carbide turning tools. The set of three tools comes in a nice box that can be put away for safe keeping when not in use. These tools are similar to the small Easy Wood Tools I reviewed a few months back with a few twists. First the shafts are not square on the top however they are flat on the bottom and they do work quite well. Second, they have is a rubberized handle on the distal end of the tool. This seems to help with the vibration these tools have and made working with them more enjoyable. I played with this medium sized tool set for the past 6 months and really enjoyed them. The cutters stay sharp about 70% as long as their Easy Wood Tools counterparts and that is a good long time. After several weeks of turning with these tools on a medium Jet JWL-1236, I then started turning with them on the Nova Comet II midi lathe and this is where the tools really began to shine. They are simply scaled better to work on this smaller bench top lathe. I turned bowls, pens, bottle stoppers and Lamps with this set producing a very nice finish, and the ability to continuously turn without all the sharpening breaks makes this type of tool a lot of fun to use.
The set comes with three turning tools and a nice wrench to switch out the iron. The first tool is the Rougher which is 3/8” square and works like a roughing gouge. It is very fast so aggressiveness will be an issue for the novice, however a gentle hand and a soft touch will yield very good success for this novice as long as he does not get carried away with using the rougher too long into the project. Next comes the ½” round smoother. It is a blast to use cutting flats as well as coves and beads, and is ideal for taking things from rough to ready Third is the parting or detail tool. it works like a diamond parting tool and makes details a snap. I really liked this set and felt it was a good option for this market, although in my hand I preferred the Easy Wood Tools to the Rockler. However the cost of the Rockler Carbide Mini Turning Tool set was a bit less. I would have a hard time justifying the higher cost of Easy Wood Tools based on performance as the cut performance was very close although to many turners feel is everything. Lastly, the tool that is missing from all these small sets is the skew chisel and that means you’re still going to be sharpening a tool and using it if you want that type of finish on your project.
Many master turners are shunning these (carbide tipped) types of tools. However, I think they do have a place in the modern woodworking shop (and maybe a less prominent place in the pure turners shop). I have liked all of the carbide turning tools we have tested. While doing this review Rockler has released an even smaller set for turning pens which I truly love to do. Hopefully they will let us test the new pen turning tool set also to determine if they are up to this same high standard. I give this set 4.5 out of 5 Stars, mostly because they do not stay sharp quite as long as the Easy Wood Tools and they take a little hit on feel which to me was mostly about balance in my hand. The pros were the rubber handles which just seemed to vibrate less than the other tools we have tested, bringing them up from 4 to 4.5 Stars. For under $200 this set is a great buy and well worth the purchase. You can get them here at Rockler.