Tool Steel

Discussion in 'Tutorials and Tips' started by CindyDrozda, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. CindyDrozda

    CindyDrozda

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    John, that experiment is exactly what we need to see! I'm looking forward to hearing your results.
    CD
     
  2. Jeff Gilfor

    Jeff Gilfor

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    Just one last thought with regards to steel "strength":

    In metallurgy, hard and strong are completely different things, measured in different ways, and capable of imparting properties to the object of study that may be beneficial or not based on the use.

    Hardness is the resistance to deformation when a force is applied. The harder a metal is, the more brittle it becomes.

    Strength (also referred to as toughness) is the ability of a metal to absorb energy without fracture.

    Pure lead may be very tough or strong, but it sure isn't hard; whereas ceramics (couldn't think of a good well known metal example) are very hard, but not very strong.

    Alloying metals is tricky. Which particular alloy is best for any specific application may be the exact opposite of what you'd want for a different application.

    When we look at metals in a list or table showing relative toughness and hardness for each percentage of this or that, it may be easy to identify the hardest or the toughest; but it's not so easy to look at those measures and say which is the best for use as a lathe tool. It's always going to be a compromise between ability to get whacked repeatedly without breaking, and the ability to cut longer between sharpening sessions. Also, the ability to take a sharp edge may be contradictory to either of those goals. It's all a bit voodoo, smoke and mirrors.

    As a former engineer who taught fracture mechanics to other engineers in the Navy, I can tell you it's a VERY difficult call to say which steel is "best" for this or that application. Those decisions are best made based on empirical data, destructive testing, and years of use experience. Everything else is just BS!

    When a thousand woodturners say that a specific type steel holds an edge better than another type; you gotta give that some credence. When a company rep tells you that his/her steel is "the best" out there? Well, you gotta' take that with a grain of salt.
     
  3. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Cindy when I get back from Texas in a few weeks I'll try to see if I can come up with some sort of test. It will probably be subjective since I'm not an engineer or scientist. I'm just a wood worker who has been working in wood for about 35 years and sharpened all sorts of tools. However I will be the first to tell you that I sure as heck don't know it all and trust the opinions of those who make a living with the tools. However there's also a lot of "show Me" in me so I have to try and compare.
    When I first started turning with Thompson tools I was told they would not get as sharp as HSS or carbon steel. Well I sharpened my skews as best I could and I have all sorts from old files and Buck Brothers carbons steel tools to High speed steels and the Thompson skew. I went well beyond my normal sharpening procedures and these things were seriously sharp. Not only would they shave hair but the hair jumped off just looking at the edge. OK that's a little exaggeration but seriously theses tools were big time sharp. Anyway, I could not tell the difference other than the carbon steel didn't hold an edge anywhere near the HSS or V11.
    Now what we sharpen them with could make a difference. I have a 180 grit CBN wheel and a 180 grit sanding belt so I could compare those. I have Tormek which is supposed to be 1000 grit ( I need to find out for sure if anyone knows) and I think I have a 1000 grit sanding belt. Maybe I can draw some sort of comparison although my test sample will be really small. Anyway, could be fun and maybe I'll learn something.
     
  4. odie

    odie

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    This is an excellent post by Jeff, and should be considered by all who are following this thread.

    Jeff......Instead of calling everything else "BS", excluding experience and appropriate testing, wouldn't it be best to think of untested application as "theory"?

    I am not one who can give good comparisons of the various tool steels, because I'm feeling very comfortable with the sharpness and durability of standard M2 steel. I only have a couple of other tools with harder steel......tried them, and went back to the standard M2.

    There is no doubt that some of the other steels available will hold an edge longer, but I'm having a difficult time seeing the benefit to it. Because M2 is so easy to touch up an edge multiple times before returning to the grinder, the point seems to be lost somewhere between theory and application. One thing that seems to be accepted, is that ALL of the steels used for lathe tools have the exact same ability to acquire an identical edge, with an identical degree of sharpness.......but, the whole discussion seems to be around the ability to acquire that edge, and how long it will last. All this is much different than how well these abilities apply to hand held lathe tools, and how each individual uses them to get results on their work piece.

    Everyone should do their own testing and evaluation on the use of other steels. What works for me, may not hold true for everyone else.......or, anyone else, for that matter! For me, the one and only thing that counts, is results. Anything else is just theoretical discussion :D

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2013
  5. Jeff Gilfor

    Jeff Gilfor

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    I stand corrected Odie. You are, of course, spot on. My statement about the BS, was just to highlight the fact that representatives of manufacturers (for almost any product or service) will notoriously claim that "ours is the best..." I prefer to listen to the opinions of folks who actually work with whatever it is they are "hawking", rather than depend upon manufacturers claims.

    Also, my post was not meant to be demeaning to anyone. I was just pointing out that there's more to consider when deciding which alloy to make this or that out of than how hard or tough the metal is. There are always trade-offs.

    I also think that some of the newer powdered alloy metals used in some tools (Thompson, D-Way, etc..) actually do hold an edge longer than M2 steel. You just can't loo at just the Rockwell numbers. Too high, and you end up with carbide/ceramic brittleness; too low, and you end up with steel that is too "mushy" to use in woodturning. I always listen to the many folks who weigh in on these things on the several message boards I frequent. There's no substitute for empirical (and, yes, anecdotal) reports from fellow woodturners; especially ones who have more experience and skill than I (which includes pretty much everyone here).
     
  6. Jeff Gilfor

    Jeff Gilfor

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    Oh, sorry about the wordiness, but I have one more thing to add:

    Everybody has their own preferences Odie. You are correct in stating that you prefer "yours". Of course!

    Numbers, charts, and math do not equate to "feel" or "perception" in an art like woodturning. For instance, no one can argue scientifically that the modern solid state amplifiers are not more accurate, efficient, and powerful than the old vacuum tube equipment. Facts is facts! But, that said, there are a number of VERY influential and experienced musicians and audiophiles who swear that vacuum tube equipment produces a better sound. I suppose the same should hold true for woodturning tools. Some swear by cryo-steel, powdered alloys, or even carbide; while others (usually the true craftsmen/artists) can make the argument that they prefer the "feel" of old fashioned M2 steel from a good manufacturer.

    Bottom line is... it's the end result that counts, not the path (IMHO); sort of Machiavellian I suppose.
     
  7. odie

    odie

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    Again, very well put, Jeff.......:D

    There are truths here that you've expressed very well. Even though we all have our own preferences, all woodturners evolve individually. I have my preferences, and with few exceptions, don't feel my way is the best for everyone. I'm sure those who swear by the "designer" steels because the edge is more lasting, have their reasons.......and those reasons are important to them, and their individual style of turning, just as the same holds true for me.

    It's interesting that you've brought up the vacuum tube vs solid state equipment for reproducing music......and, how either is preferred over the other among those who take their music very seriously. I'm sure you are also aware of the vinyl vs CD controversy, as well. There is a whole industry based on the preferences of those purists who believe the old records with a needle produce the best quality of music. The analogy between that and the current discussion is very appropriate! :D

    ooc
     
  8. Jeff Gilfor

    Jeff Gilfor

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    True that!
     
  9. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    I have been using the D Way CBN (CBN electroplated to a steel wheel) wheels for 2 years now. I had some other matrix type (3/16 inch of material bonded to an aluminum hub) CBN wheels 8 or so years ago. Both of these types of grinding mediums have been around for a long time. Dietmer, who makes the Optigrind and Raptor wheels was making grinding things 20 years ago. Mostly, the woodturning world has just found out about them. There is no question that they are by far superior to other grinding mediums for the steel that we use. Do they leave a better edge? I can't say because it has been so long since I used standard wheels that I have no memory of how they cut. I don't thing Thompson tools were out when I last had 'normal' wheels. The CBN wheels, when compared to normal wheels of the same grit leave a more shiny surface. I have no idea why. Doing a comparison test would be difficult because there are so many different ideas on what cuts best. From Mike Mahoney and Jimmy Clewes who sharpen on 40 to 60 grit wheels to the Tormek and other wet wheels that sharpen at 1000 grit. You will find supporters on all sides of the issue.

    As far as edge durability goes, no matter which steel I am using, I always prefer a freshly sharpened gouge for the finish cut. The more durable edge holding steels do keep a working edge longer. This means you can take off more wood before the tool needs to be sharpened, but I think there are only minor differences in how long the fine finish cut edge lasts.

    From a writer from an old woodworking magazine said, "you know your saw blade is dull when you set off the smoke alarm".

    robo hippy
     
  10. adrian anguiano

    adrian anguiano

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    Testing the metals

    It honestly would not be hard to produce a scientific test for these tools.


    To take out the personal aspect you sharpen the tools to the same sharpness, perform the same task, the same number of times, then you look at the steel under a microscope. You can tell quite clearly if a steel is still sharp, if it deformed or was brittle with edge chipping, etc. Then you record the number of times it takes to sharpen the gouge back to were it started.

    If someone had all the tools and stones, it could be done.
     
  11. odie

    odie

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    Howdy Adrian.......

    I doubt that anyone is going to disagree that the hybrid steels are going to maintain a higher degree of sharpness with use, than plain M2 steel used in exactly the same manner. That is, if both have equivalent sharp edges from the start. The harder the steel, the longer lasting the edge will be.

    The point to consider is practicality when comparing all the different steels with each individual's ability to renew the edge and proceed. This won't be the same for all individuals. A "scientific" study won't take this into consideration, but will give a generic conclusion applicable to all turners, without considering individuality as a factor.

    For those whose sharpening techniques aren't as refined, thus frustratingly slow, or awkward, the practicality of using the softer M2 steel may be entirely different than someone who can renew an edge with speed and accuracy.

    My guess is that most newer turners would be better served with the harder hybrid steels, up until that point where his sharpening skills allow him to create a finely sharpened edge, taking less effort and time to acquire. That way, a longer lasting edge is of greater benefit to his efforts on the lathe, until that time when sharpening skills overcome the handicap of steels that dull faster. Remember this: If M2 steel is sharpened twice as often, it has the extreme sharp edge twice.....while a harder steel will only have that extreme degree of sharpness only once.

    One thing to remember, is a sharp edge begins to dull the instant it is first used. Harder steels will dull at a lesser rate than standard M2, but the rule is good for all steels, regardless of their Rockwell number......all steels begin to dull immediately. Dulling an edge just doesn't happen suddenly sometime later......it's progressive, and starts immediately.

    Most turners just aren't looking at this whole matter from the practicality standpoint as applied to their own ability to renew an edge.......and, what works for one turner just might be a handicap to excellence for another turner.......:D

    ooc
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2013
  12. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Odie The new tools aren't necessarily harder than the M2. That is if we refer to the Rockwell scale. Some might be but that's up to the manufacturer. What is different is the toughness of the steel. The particle metal steels used in the Thompson gouges for example grind about as quick as the M4 steel in my other gouge so the actual hardness is quite similar. However the particular make up of the particle metal steels is what makes the edge hold up longer. The "wear" resitance is higher in these tools due to the increased Vanadium. At least that's my understanding of how it works.
    I still haven't had time to work out a decent test. It will probably be a while I just have too much on my plate right now. Might be after Thanksgiving unless all the other projects go much faster than I think.
     
  13. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    Odie,
    My recommendation to beginners is M2 steels.
    They are 1/3 to 1/2 the cost, give the same performance on bowls to 12" assuming the turner sharpens before finish cuts.
    New turners usually need 3-6 tools so saves a good chunk if change.

    Sharpening more often improves the sharpening skills faster.

    Often new turners grind a bit too heavy and they make mistakes and have to grind out the dips they put in the gouge edge.
    Grinding away a $40-60 tool doesn't hurt as much as grinding away a $80-120 tool.

    Once a turner is in the market for a new gouge they should have the sharpening skill to give it a longer life.

    My 2 cents
    Al
     
  14. CindyDrozda

    CindyDrozda

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    M2 tools vs. powder metal tools

    Al, You make a very good point about cost savings when a person needs to buy several tools at once. If the M2 tools are sold for a lot less cost, that can really add up.

    I know that M2 used to be a lot less than powder metal tools, but I don't think it is necessarily always the case anymore (though it can be).

    Craft Supplies and Packard sell a 3/8" M2 bowl gouge (I assume 1/2" in diameter) for $38 - $75, depending on the brand and style (P&N, Sorby, Henry Taylor). A Thompson 1/2" bowl gouge (they are actual diameter size) costs $60.

    So if you like the P&N M2 gouge ($38) as well as the Thompson 10V ($60), you can save some serious money.

    Some of the other brands of powder metal tools cost more than the Thompson tools, some of the M2 tools come with handles, and your favorite flute shape might not be available in Thompson 10V.

    Some brands of M2 tools cost a lot less than the major brands. They are also usually made in Asia, and might not be up to the same quality standards as the brands that use English or Austrian M2 steel.

    A big reason to use Thompson tools, for me, is that they are made in the US. They are not shipped across the world several times before we get them. And Doug is a good guy, trying to make a business of offering a good product at a good value to the woodturning community.

    Things are changing rapidly for us in the tool world. There are more and more options for tool technology, and it is not always just a matter of cost anymore.

    John, I agree with you on the grinding. I find the Thompson 10V tools grind just as fast as M2 tools with my CBN and Norton SG Ceramic wheels.

    With a bowl gouge or spindle gouge, I don't think the 10V gives any advantages over M2 if they are both sharpened on Aluminum Oxide.

    Just my $0.02, once again.....

    Cindy
     
  15. odie

    odie

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. I read them the other day, and had to take some time out to consider my thoughts and come up with words that will make them understandable to others.

    Deducing from past interaction with other turners, it seems to me that the one big reason why anyone would want any of the exotic steels, other than standard M2, is the ability to hold an edge for extended use without the need to resharpen. Cindy prefers American made, and it's possible that others may prefer some steels because of how they respond to their own personal sharpening methods and style. The latter would be minimal, and the point is that darn near all turners seem to think that a longer lasting edge is the only goal to consider........then there is me, the maverick! :D

    I have come to a conclusion that M2, for my purposes, is the pinnacle of steels for turning. Man, that is so wrong, some of you will be saying! Well, given my reasoning.....it's so right! Is it possible, that for the purposes of turning wood by hand, there might be a point at which the usefulness of evermore longer lasting edges may exceed practicality?

    I doubt that anyone will disagree that a sharp edge, no matter what steel is being used, begins to dull the instant it is first used.......and, that is a continuing process, until the turner decides it's time to resharpen. Given the mindset that a long lasting edge is the focus, and the hybrid steels provide that at a much slower rate to dull it, I'm willing to bet that nearly all turners (including myself) will tend to sharpen less than he should. When "long lasting" isn't the focus, and sharpening, honing is not an inconvenience, I tend to sharpen (grinding, and/or honing) much more than most turners ever will.

    You see, when a sharp edge is renewed often, and long before need overcomes convenience, the degree of sharpness is not just higher, but much higher than when waiting until the need overcomes a perceived inconvenience. When the sharp edge is always maintained to the highest degree possible.......the quality of the cut will always be better! When the cut is at the peak of performance, the less disruption of the wood fibers, less sanding (less distortion), and better overall natural looking finish will be had.

    For sure, M2 is much better than carbon steel in holding an edge, but there comes a point when an increase in that ability actually works against the elements of excepted knowledge. When that point is reached and/or crossed, the result may be completely imperceptible to most turners, but only realized when the focus of thought revolves around that realization.

    What I'm trying to say here, will be completely missed by the "herd", but I'm willing to bet there are a few of you who realize, or have had similar thoughts, that the fineness of cut, at all times, and not the mechanics of sharpening is the real goal........:D

    ooc
     
  16. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    Reminds me of the smartphone commercial where the guy has an old flip phone and says it suits his needs, the 3 button doesn't work but it's easy. The other guys has a new smartphone that has an easy function.
    Point is Odie? Don't knock the new because you are satisfied with the old. Try a few of the "new" and then you can decide, don't take people's word and by all means, don't think anyone has to "prove" anything. Your loss.
     
  17. odie

    odie

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    Brian......One of your typical "low information" responses......

    If you had been paying attention, you would know that I have tried "the new".....and I base my conclusions on my own findings with it. As I've said, the new steels will hold an edge for a longer time than M2, but the point of why this is a false ideal is lost to you, as I expected from the herd.

    As I've said many times before on these AAW threads.......the only real criteria from which to base judgments is by the results one is getting. Some of the herd turners won't get great results, no matter what tools and equipment they choose to use. Some of them know they aren't, and some of them falsely believe they do, because they don't know what a great cut is, until they have produced one.......

    Now......do you have anything of substance to contribute to thought worth contemplating, concerning the subject matter in this thread?......or, is your only purpose to show how juvenile a response you can make?

    ooc
     
  18. Brian McInturff

    Brian McInturff

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    Yes, in your narrow minded world it was a juvenile response, but meant for humor purposes. Love how you reference "the herd", WOW!
    I've just never understood the purpose of your responses. Most, in one way or another seem to try and push a point of what you use is the best(tool steel, grinding stones, sharpening, honing, etc) and everyone else is wrong or not doing it correctly. Maybe I've misinterpreted and I'm sorry if I have, but I doubt it. Sometimes I get the feeling, or I should say a word comes to mind when I read some of your responses...
     
  19. Steve Worcester

    Steve Worcester Admin Emeritus

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    Uncalled for.
     
  20. John Van Domelen

    John Van Domelen Retired Forum Admin

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    Play nice, act like adults.

    I've not had to give anyone a "timeout" in over a year.

    I would not want to have to do so now....
     

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