Question: I have no turning experience, but my next tool purchase will be a lathe. I plan to turn everything from bowls to chess pieces. Should I buy a full set of lathe tools? Or would I be better off starting with two or three must-haves and adding tools as I begin to specialize? -Joe Ullrich, Grayslake, Illinois Answer: I firmly believe that a tool-turning set represents a very poor value. These sets are compiled by merchandising “experts” who are clueless about turning. The result is a collection of tools of which only one or two are actually worth having. You should buy only high-speed-steel (HSS) tools and avoid the cheaper carbon-steel ones. HSS holds an edge longer and you do not need to worry about burning it on the grinder. Powdered metal tools are now offered; but I find that they do not hold an edge any longer than HSS yet are often twice the price. When I was young, it was cheaper to buy tools without handles. I still do that, and size my handles so I can tell a 3/8-in. gouge from a 1/2-in. one. I also use different designs for spindle tools, faceplate tools, and scrapers to make it easier…
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