Woodworking catalogues have pages full of woodturning tools that range from the familiar to the exotic. Prices of course, run the gamut from inexpensive to taking out a mortgage. Wood turning enthusiasts tend to be wood turning tool enthusiasts as well and a browse through the catalogues can encourage a feeling of despair in the wallet. However, many woodturning tools are both easy and inexpensive to make in the home shop.
A good look at turning tools will reveal that there are three parts to any tool; the tip, the shaft and the handle. Handles are obviously easy for a wood turner to make. They are a piece of turned wood and in fact are often used as a beginner project. Shafts may be integral to the cutting tip or the tip may be attached. Regardless, they are generally made of tool steel and steel these days is fairly cheap and plentiful.
Most commercial woodturning tools will be made of high speed steel to withstand the shock of turning, the heat of frequent grinding, and lessen the need for frequent sharpening. However, heat treating high speed steel will be beyond the abilities of most home shops and thus its use will be held to times when only grinding is needed to shape it.
These times are actually quite frequent. Consider a scraper. Many home shops have small planers that use high speed steel blades that require occasional replacement. They may be discarded but it is better for the environment and the wallet if they are reused. The edge first needs to be blunted on the grinder to prevent injury while working the blade. Next the outline of the grinding edge is required to be drawn and then ground to shape. Now the tang is ground on the other end and the handle is turned on the lathe to receive it.
Skews are no more difficult to prepare. Some of the larger suppliers for the metal turning industry will carry high speed steel, rectangular tool bits that are easily ground to skew shape. One end needs to be raked back about seventy degrees at the grinder and the sides brought back about thirty degrees from the center line. Take a good look at one of your existing skews and copy your favourite cutting angles. Once a tang is ground on the other end all that is needed is a newly turned handle.
Gouges can be made by dressing a narrow grinding wheel to the required thickness for the groove and rigging a jig to hold the shaft, a round tool bit, so it will neither roll nor go out of line. Some patience will allow for the groove to be cut and then the tip to be ground to shape. Once again a handle is required.
Of course each of these tools will require a minimum cost of material and a varying cost of time. At first the time element may be high. However, people who like to make things of wood often find satisfaction in making the tools they use. Perhaps it is in your future to attempt making a tool and saving the cost of a new one while simply gaining a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment in the making.