I turn a lot of small objects on the lathe—tiny goblets, miniature vases—and to shape these delicate pieces I make two types of miniature turning chisels. One chisel is simply a straight-edged tool that I use to remove small amounts of wood at a time. The small tip offers very little resistance to the spinning work, letting me take very delicate cuts in my work. The other turning Ux)l is hooked, or bent at the tip. I use it to get around corners, such as the inside shoulder of a hollow form.
I make both tools from Vi6-in. high-speed-steel drill bit blanks (available at most machinists' supply houses). The blanks are 10 in. long, and I fit them with wooden handles. Dry tree branches make good handle stock. I drill a slightly undersized hole in the end of a branch, then I hammer a blank into the hole.
I grind and sharpen the blanks on a medium-grit grinding wheel to the profiles shown in the drawings at right. As I grind the hook tool, the steel heats up. When the tip is cherry red, I quickly bend it into a small curve with a pair of pliers. If the steel resists bending, I use a propane torch to heat it some more until it's soft enough to bend.
The tips are soft from all the grinding, but I don't worry about it. My chisels are designed to take a very light cut, and I sharpen them frequently as I work, so I don't need a long-lasting edge. —S.P.
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