The advantage of plain ol' M2 steel........

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by odie, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. odie

    odie

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    It's simple really........M2 steel dulls quicker than all those exotics.....and therein lies the advantage. You see, when the edge dulls quicker, there's less mental debate on whether it's time to re-sharpen, or not. It's my opinion that many turners want to extend the time they can turn, without re-sharpening, especially the new turners, who are taking way too much time before returning to the lathe. Very understandable......but, they are developing an attitude against frequent sharpening, when the opposite should be the final goal. When sharpening is done more frequently, the overall advantage is the tool has a higher degree of sharp during the entire turning process, specifically because it's sharpened more frequently. That may seem like an outlandish statement, but let's talk "horse sense" for a moment........it's human nature to wait until a tool needs to be sharpened, instead of the best possible moment to be sharpened. You can't change that, but you can create a circumstance that necessitates a more advantageous condition, resulting in a better overall surface quality on your turned project, right from the tool.....and M2 steel does that.......:D

    -----odie-----
     
  2. William Rogers

    William Rogers

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    I don't have many exotic steel tools. I think it makes sense for some tools like a skew. However I do have the Thompson bowl gouges and for me they do hold an edge much longer. Since you are making many repetive cuts to remove material I think they are an advantage over M2 steel. Even with these I will sharpen for the final cuts. I also have a Thompson scraper, Cryogenic skew, and M42 detail gouge. I've been rolling a burr on the scraper and that also seems to work welll, but admit I most likely don't sharpen as often as I should. Learning the detail gouge uses, so can't comment on that. I tend to sharpen the skew often and use mostly my Sorby M2 skews, where the Cryodenic skew falls into the trap you suggested.
     
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  3. Ely Walton

    Ely Walton

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    Great tongue-in-cheek wisdom, Odie! (I do appreciate your starting these and other thought-provoking threads.) Yes, as a relatively new turner (for bowls, at least), I had to get it in my head that my expensive bowl gouge (D-Way) is expendable and not a long-term investment (like a hand plane for example). And the payoff is that, as you say, a freshly sharpened gouge really does make a big difference in the joy of use and the finished surface.

    Ely
     
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  4. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I don't think using a tool that gets dull quicker changes the attitude of sharpening. Now your just turning longer with a dull tool. Wouldn't it make more sense to use a tool that holds an edge longer and just get into the habit of sharpening often. Then you almost always have a sharp tool.
     
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  5. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    From a writer , American Woodworking magazine, or some thing like that: "How do you know when your table saw blade is dull? If you are setting off the smoke alarm, that is a good indicator." Since I do all of my bowl roughing with the Big Ugly tool, which needs to be sharpened maybe once a day, I only have to touch up my gouges....

    robo hippy
     
  6. odie

    odie

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    You know, John.......I think if you take a poll among turners, your way of seeing this would be the overwhelming majority opinion. This, among other universally held beliefs, should be examined with a little more perspective. To the point, I'm speaking about what human nature dictates, and not necessarily what might make more sense, when examined intellectually.

    I look at it this way.......Take two bowl gouges, both identical in every way, including the sharpening process, except one is M2 steel, and the other is made from a steel where the longevity of the edge is longer. They both have identically sharp edges from the start, and both will begin dulling the moment they are used.......but the M2 will dull at a quicker rate. If we're on the same page here, then we can agree that practical experience (or "human nature", if you will) means that we all begin turning, and WILL continue turning for as long as we are seeing acceptable results. If we can visualize the progression of "sharp to dull" as a straight line, then there is a grey area where there is contemplation of just when the best timing for a re-sharpening is to happen. That "grey area" will be a shorter part of that line with the M2 steel than for the more exotic steel. (Still with me?) What that means to us, is there is a shorter moment of contemplation with the shorter grey area with the M2 steel.....and, the likelihood the decision to resharpen will be quicker in forthcoming is with the M2.......while the likelihood the tool with the extended grey area will be used for a longer period of time, before the decision to resharpen is made......

    Now that I've muddied the waters, I'm hoping maybe a few people can see the connections I'm trying to make between what is possible, and what is the more likely to occur......given theory doesn't always equate to results when the human element is thrown into the mix......o_O

    -----odie-----
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  7. john lucas

    john lucas

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    But the new turner will not stop to sharpen. They just keep struggling pushing harder and harder. It just seems to me if you have a tool that holds an edge longer then they at least get the advantage of that. Most new turners never actually get the tool sharp to begin with. I have proven this in my classes. They go the grinder and then as I'm watching them I can tell they are struggling so I take the tool to the grinder and suddenly they are getting shavings. I understand what your saying but in reality everybody waits too long to sharpen. I did yesterday while turning chair legs for a lady. I let my roughing gouge get too dull. It was still cutting aggressively but when I stopped to check the wood I was getting some tearout. I quickly sharpened it and it was gone. Told myself to not wait that long again. Since it was still cutting pretty well a beginner would have kept on going.
     
  8. RichColvin

    RichColvin

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    Odie,

    I think there is one more thing. I am of the opinion that walking away from the lathe, even for a few minutes, lets you come back to the turning with a new approach.

    Rich
     
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  9. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    In beginning bowl classes I insist that the students use the Ellsworth grind and.

    Sharpen before Roughing the outside
    Before refining the outside shape
    Before roughing the inside
    Before establishing the inside wall thickness
    With small 10” bowls of softer hardwoods they are usually sharpening a useable tool edge.

    When turning a finished bowl
    Before starting the outside
    Before refining the curve
    They sharped before the finish cut on the outside
    Before shear scraping the outside
    Midway through the shear scraping
    Before hollowing the inside
    Before establishing the wall thickness
    Then whenever they begin to feel bevel drag

    I tell them when they go to larger bowls they may need to sharpen more often.

    For advanced students - One of the cool things about cutting the inside wall surface using the shear cut with the front of the left side wing is that using the push cut to remove most of the wood uses the right side of the gouge. This means the left side stays sharp longer because It only does light finishing cuts. This cut is sensitive to bevel drag so sharpening is a must whenever you get some drag.
     
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  10. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I know. Lets all turn with carbon steel tools. Then they would dull really quickly and we would figure out how to tell when it's dull. About 2 minutes after you start. :) But then look how much sharpening experience you would get.
     
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  11. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Very good food for thought, Odie. I just checked and roughly ½ of my tools are M2 steel. The remainder are mostly Crown Pro PM (M4) and Thompson CPM 10V (a.k.a., AISI A11).

    I can envision that if I am making the last several passes in a turning to get the final curvature "just so" while using a tool made of M2 steel that I will likely be touching up the cutting edge several times in the process. If using one of the more exotic steel tools then I might refresh the edge let's say perhaps ¼ as often. In either of these two scenarios, let's assume that the time spent refining the surface of the turning is about the same if we don't count the time spent sharpening. If we accept that assumption then we could argue that when using the M2 tool more of the final surface will have been cut with a tool that is near the peak of sharpness compared to the exotic steel tool where most of the surface was cut with a tool that is still acceptably sharp. My assumptions here are based on edge sharpness behaving like a decaying exponential function which is a reasonable behavior often found in the real world. If the decrease in sharpness were linear, I don't think that we could draw a conclusion about one steel being better than the other with respect to getting a more refined finish.

    With respect to the big picture, what does all this mean? I think it depends on each individual and their goals ... and maybe how much they like to sand. :D If turning green madrone to final thickness is your thing then all this probably sounds somewhat like the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin lemma.

    Of course, John is right about beginners not recognizing when they ought to stop and sharpen a tool, but on the other hand, they also will continue to use a completely dull exotic steel tool far longer than they will use an M2 steel tool ... as long as they can get dust and don't push the piece of wood off the lathe in the process. Just don't ask how I know this. :rolleyes:
     
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  12. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    Another easy option is having multiple tools to use during the turning.
    I usually take a hand full of tools to the grinder and sharpen all of them up at one time.
    When I go back to the lathe I have multiple skews, scrapers and bowl gouges that are sharp.
    When one tool gets dull I place it in a pile of tools that need sharpening, this way I always have a
    sharp tool in reserve and sharpening is quicker when I sharpen multiple tools of the same design
    and only have to adjust the grinder jigs once for each type of tool.
     
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  13. odie

    odie

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    I knew this response of yours was coming, John! .......Actually, there is an in-between spot for the M2 steel, and, if used to the best advantage (which is what I'm attempting to explain) the M2 steel can be superior, specifically because the "human element" makes it so. You know.....the short grey area, as opposed to the long grey area. ;) There is a point where making the grey area even shorter than it would be with M2 steel, which is what a carbon steel tool would do.....is not at that point where the best advantage is to be had. (All my opinion, of course!)

    But, it's ok, John. I knew there would be those who would disagree with my beliefs.....and, I'm ok with it. :D I know there is quite a large segment of turners who don't like me to use words like....."herd think"......but, by in large, the expression does exist in truth.

    Howdy Ely.......not really "tongue in cheek"......because I'm expressing my true beliefs. Like I said, I fully understand my thoughts won't be accepted by very many other turners, or perhaps none at all......but, they are what they are! :eek:......and, they are derived directly from my hands on experiences. My results, specifically that which are the result of tool usage, are there for all to see.......:D This talk of the "grey areas", and how it applies to tool usage, in conjunction with "the human element", is only but a very small part of my overall mental make-up, as a turner of bowls.

    -----odie-----
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  14. Gerald Lawrence

    Gerald Lawrence

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    The answer to sharpening may be if having a problem turning a piece= SHARPEN, if in doubt =SHARPEN.
     
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  15. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval

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    When doing a remote demo, they asked me from the other side why I was sharpening so often! I told them I'm trying not to sharpen as often as i usually do because you guys didnt pay me for sharpening lessons! The thing is, I sharpen a lot, I think is because my distaste for sanding... Even my Thompson tools, the inside final cuts I sharpen with every final cut...
     
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  16. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I do like Mike does ... I have a bunch of bowl gouges and as soon as one gets dull I grab another one and continue with minimal interruption. That helps avoid the temptation to try to get just a little more use out of a tool that really isn't as sharp as it needs to be for making a finish cut.
     
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  17. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Personaly I never saw the reasoning behind having several tools ready. It only takes me seconds to sharpen. It gives my back an feet a break just taking those 5 or 6 short steps to the grinder. I haven't timed myself but I'm sure it's less than a minute and probably more like 30 or 45 seconds to go from standing at the lathe back to standing at the lathe. It relaxes my body. I'm like Emiliano. I sharpen really really frequently. When a tool is really sharp, not just pretty sharp, it is relaxing to use. Your hands are just barely holding the tools. Sometimes on final passes it feels like I'm letting the weight of the tool do the work. That's how a tool should feel. When I'm rough shaping I do force the tool but even then you can tell if it's really sharp vs kinda sharp.

    Lately I've been trying to learn the difference in cut and feel of a long bevel vs a really short main bevel. I use a really short main bevel and the tool looks a lot like the Michelson grind. I have 3 bevels. A main bevel that is about 2 mm and then I grind most of the lower portion away and then grind off the lower sharp edge. I am comparing this to a single long bevel with just the bottom sharp corner ground off. People who use the Michelson grind claim they get fewer catches. So far I haven't been able to figure that one out. I don't seem to get any more catches with the longer bevel but then I don't get many catches anyway unless I do stupid things. What I am most interested in is how they cut. There is a distinct difference in the sound they make as the wood passes by. I think I have more "feel" of how the wood is cutting with the shorter bevel but that's really subjective. What I do is make a pass or two with one and then switch tools and make a pass. Both are Thompson V gouges with the main grind being identical. Sharpening is about the same time wise. I thought it would take longer to do my 3 grind but it only takes one or two very light passes to do the main grind followed by may 2 passes on the next grind and then I hit the bottom corner. With the long bevel It takes longer to grind because I have to move slower to remove that much metal, and then I hit the bottom corner so near as I can tell it takes about the same amount of time. I feel like on convex cut the shorter bevel is easier to use but it's such a subtle thing. Would love to hear everyone's comments on this.
     
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  18. Mike Johnson

    Mike Johnson

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    When you are operating (2) lathes at the same time one with the left hand and one with the right hand
    at the same time multiple tools are required. :)
    My tool grinder is located in my metal working area a distance away from my wood lathes so methods will
    vary depending on each persons work shop layout.
     
  19. Fadi Zeidan

    Fadi Zeidan

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    As a newbie, this is a great conversation and thank you all for sharing.

    When people say “when tool gets dull”, newbies do not know what dull is as you guys said. It certainly is still cutting fine to me so is it dull?

    When people say “sharpen often”, newbies do not understand what does that mean? How often is often? Once per bowl? Twice per bowl?

    This thread is answering these questions and I’m absorbing it, hopefully will put I for good use.

    Last bowl, I used 3 gouges, Jamieson (Thompson), Thompson, and Henry Taylor superflute. Used all 3 on the same bowl and sharpened them before I started and half way through. Part of it because I was testing different grinds, and different sizes, and part of it because I was wondering “is it dull? Let me try this other one” but I can’t say it was clear to me that it was dull. Now I have a reference of how often people sharpen and at what stages, next is understanding and feeling the difference to realize it is time to sharpen.
     
  20. odie

    odie

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    Fadi......

    My best guess is re-sharpen during the course of turning one bowl.......about 25 times.

    As you say, the definition of "dull" is different between turners. As you gain experience, what you thought was sharp at one time, will now need re-sharpening.

    I use several gouge sizes and grinds, plus several scraper configurations during the turning of a bowl, but I'm more like John Lucas, in that I sharpen each individual tool at the point I feel it needs it. My grinder is only one step away from the lathe, but usually hone about 10 times between times I use the grinder......so, when I say re-sharpen, I'm including re-honing in that statement.

    So......just how does a turner know when it's time to re-sharpen? First, you have to know what sharp is, and many turners are good with a level of sharpness that would not be acceptable to me. Some of these other turners know it, and just don't care to take it to a higher level of sharpness than they do......while others don't know what they don't know! (If that makes sense! :rolleyes:)

    -----odie-----

    I agree with John......about 30-45 seconds, and you're back to turning. My grinder, and all the essentials to sharpening are only one step away......
    IMG_0693.JPG
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017
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