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Tool Rest Length

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Jul 19, 2017
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I just started using my new PM3520. The lathe came with a very large tool rest; I believe 14”. I’m sure this is a benefit when turning larger bowls and for spindle turning but I don’t do any spindle turning and my bowls are in the 6”-10” diameter range (sometimes even a little smaller). What is a good tool rest length for the 6” -10” diameter bowls? Should I get an even shorter tool rest for bowls below 6”? I had a 10” tool rest that worked well for 6” and even 8” bowls on my midi lathe but I’m Now moving into more 8” and above bowls.
 
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Panning for Montana gold, with Betsy, the mule!
Tool rests are generally no more expensive than a good gouge, and most of us have more of those than we can count on our fingers.

Sooooooo.........consider the possibility that you could cut down a tool rest for a specific purpose, and still have the original length for when you need that.

You only mention the straight tool rest, and if you don't have any, a curved tool rest is great to have, too. Actually, a curved tool rest is more applicable to bowl turning than straight tool rests are.

It sure is great to have a tool rest that's perfect for a specific application, when you need it....... :)

I have close to 20 tool rests now.....o_O

-----odie-----
 
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While I don't have as many tool rests as odie, I have more than I might admit to my wife :) The one that gets the most use, and is used on virtually all 6-10" bowls I turn, is a 12" straight Robust rest. I did actually use the 14" cast rest that came with my PM a couple days ago, but it's been well over a year since it's last use.
 

hockenbery

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What is a good tool rest length for the 6” -10” diameter bowls?

working close to the post is best for the least vibration.
for bowls you can usually work close to the center post with the standard tool rests.
below are screen shots from demos using a powermatic.


For those bowls I would start using the standard rest. I would do most all of the turning with the standard rest.
When I reverse chuck to take off the tenon I like a shorter 6” Robust comfort rest by
hollowing a 10” bowl with the standard rest828B0D4C-C051-4649-8491-2800F0C5816D.jpg

hollowing a 12” bowl with a comfort rest. Not a good choice but it was what the club hadED60E647-840E-4CBB-8269-B20421D333C5.jpgE436DA97-8363-40D2-BC2E-73E3E98C0D16.jpg hollowing a 7” bowl shape standard tool restBE051A10-9EF3-4EDD-AFF2-149EF7BF47F9.jpg

Reverse chucking
6”comfort rest let’s me work close to the post.4064377E-4ED0-407D-AE55-A6210E893AF1.jpgAD955DA5-45EF-443D-BB85-CBD14EB8F715.jpg


Compare to a large comfort rest working out on the endC3135505-4296-4C82-B5A9-CF0D1547F6F2.jpg
 
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Joined
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All great feedback. I do have a small round too rest but I need to find an adapter to adapt up to a 1” post. The others with the 5/8” post I sold with my midi lathe. I have no problem buying more rests but don’t want to needlessly spend money especially after dropping $4500 on the new lathe. All the advice is very sensible.
 

brian horais

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I too have a variety of tool rests of varying length and shape, but nowhere near as many as Odie. Whatever toolrest you have make sure you maintain a smooth upper edge to keep from having the tool bounce on a dent. File it down periodically to keep it smooth. In that area, I find the Robust tool rests to be the best at maintaining a smooth edge. I think their upper edge is made of hardened steel. My intermediate length (10 inch) Robust tool rest is my favorite one.
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2010
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I just started using my new PM3520. The lathe came with a very large tool rest; I believe 14”. I’m sure this is a benefit when turning larger bowls and for spindle turning but I don’t do any spindle turning and my bowls are in the 6”-10” diameter range (sometimes even a little smaller). What is a good tool rest length for the 6” -10” diameter bowls? Should I get an even shorter tool rest for bowls below 6”? I had a 10” tool rest that worked well for 6” and even 8” bowls on my midi lathe but I’m Now moving into more 8” and above bowls.

I found the tool rest which came with the PM oversize for many things -- not just length but also its mass and thickness. It's been a long time since I turned a bowl, but my rule of thumb whatever I'm turning is to use a rest which is roughly comparable in length to the size of what you are turning, whether hollow form, spindle, or other. The PM standard rest is oversize for many types of spindle turning, and I found its thickness and profile difficult, particularly when I need to grip around or under the rest. When I had a Jet or PM, I rarely used the stock rest. I have a number of rests -- most of them Robust. The 'comfort' style may be better for bowl turning, but I use the 'low profile' version most of the time whatever I'm turning.
 
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which of the Robust tool rest types do you feel work best for bowls; the low profile or the comfort rest? I was thinking 10” as a good compromise but Robust sells only 12” and 9”. Probably the 9” would work best.
 

brian horais

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which of the Robust tool rest types do you feel work best for bowls; the low profile or the comfort rest? I was thinking 10” as a good compromise but Robust sells only 12” and 9”. Probably the 9” would work best.
I have the low profile 9 inch (I had to measure it and found out it is not 10 inches long). I like the smaller size of the lower support when I am turning inside a bowl. I have to admit though, I never wrap my hand around the tool rest like the picture shows on the Robust site. My rule is to never put a body part between the tool rest edge and the turning piece.
 
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I have 12, 6, and 4” Robust comfort tool rests. The 12 is used most, especially 8” and up bowls. The 12” is more functional than the 9” IMO. Vibration due to cutting near the end of the 12” is not much of an issue, but does occur. Many ways to address it, but usually s finer cut with a sharper tool does it. I also have the inside and outside Robust bowl rests. Just depends on the curve whether I use them or not. The 6” gets used on smaller bowls, and most of the time cleaning up the bottom of bowls, as well as other smaller stuff. The 4” only gets used on small spindle stuff.

Seldom is the height of the comfort rest any issue with the way Robust tapers the end, particularly with 8” and larger bowls. I find having room to run my fingers/hand under the tool on that curve beneficial. I tried a low profile and didnt like the lack of room.

Whatever you choose, get rests that have hardened steel rods for the tool to rest on. I have a few cast iron and mild steel rests that I dont use, replaced them with hardened rod type rests. Advanced Lathe Tools makes nice rests as well, but I dont have any. Their rod is 3/8” dia, and robust is 1/4”.
 
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I have the low profile 9 inch (I had to measure it and found out it is not 10 inches long). I like the smaller size of the lower support when I am turning inside a bowl. I have to admit though, I never wrap my hand around the tool rest like the picture shows on the Robust site. My rule is to never put a body part between the tool rest edge and the turning piece
I would second this recommendation -- both 9" length and low profile. Although I have 'comfort profile' rests, I prefer the low profile for almost any project.

12" vs 9"? -- I choose depending on the specific needs of the specific project -- profile, variations of diameter, etc.

When I said wrapping my hand around the rest, it was poor wording-- more hooking a finger or two on the lower edge of the rest, particularly when making deep cuts in complex spindle profiles with a diameter around 1". In turning hollow forms or when I did bowls, this is unnecessary. I take care that NO part of my hand or fingers gets between rest and wood.
 
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My best turning buddy Bill Noce (now deceased) solved the problem by taking a 1" round piece of steel and drilling a 5/8" hole in it, tapped it for a couple of grub screws so he could use the small tool rest from a mini lathe on a bigger lathe. When I sold his equipment for his wife I bought this setup. A great idea and a great remembrance of a great friend.
 
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I also have many tool rests of different sizes and shapes. What ever you are turning, you'll find out what rests you use most! ;)
 
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I never liked straight tool rests for bowls. They can do an okay job on the outside of a bowl, but on the inside, they are lacking, mostly because you can't get close to the curve of the bowl and have to extend out too far off of the tool rest. This is where specialized bowl rests come in handy. That being said, after using the hardened drill rod on top type rests, I will not use cast iron or plain steel ones ever again. It is kind of like variable speed on the lathes or CBN wheels, once you use it, you don't want to go back because they perform so much better. The inside bowl rest I made actually worked really well on the outside of bowls. Hope to see it back on the market soon. I did find that I don't care for the rounded ones for the outside of bowls, mostly because I have to change out when going to the inside of a bowl. Never cared for the round bar rests, at least not the 1 inch round bar stock. Mostly because when you drop the handle, it changes the fulcrum of your tool, and I didn't care for that. The exception to that is the box rests from Jimmie at D Way. Small diameter rod that was case hardened so it feels like the hardened drill rod type rests.

robo hippy
 

Randy Anderson

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I have a couple of curved tool rests but never use them. I stick with the standard 14" rest that came with my Jet 1642. I do a lot of natural edge bowls where the wings would hit the banjo and find the reach of the long rest lets me get deep inside. Maybe I need a longer curved one? When I started turning I noticed on lots of online videos that a good number of professional tuners do some very fine work with a long straight tool rest so just stuck with and am now comfortable with how to position it for what I need to do. When I try the curved ones I find I'm uncomfortable with how the tool pivots, where, how my hand rides along it, etc. I know practice would help but for now I stick with what works. I did try a 1" rounded bar tool rest and quickly found it didn't work well for me.
 
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Unlike Robo I usually hate tool rests with the welded bar, just do not care for them. I like cast iron. But I do like the curved tool rests with the welded hardened bar made by Robo. They work so well deep in the bowl with no flex even at the very end. Quite the shame that he is not making them to my understanding.
 
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I love the rests that Robust makes, besides straight they have curved rests in several sizes and also a very useful platform rest. The small curved rest is perfect for close work inside small bowls.
 

Roger Wiegand

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I do 95% of my turning with three rests, a long (10"?) one, a short (4-5"?) one and the large J-shaped rest, all from Robust. The long straight rest gets used by far the most, the short one is useful for getting in close to small spindles and such where the long rest won't fit. The J rest is the best I've found for working inside bowls.
 
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Unfortunately Robust doesn’t make a long rest for turning architectural parts such as balusters - and when there’s many to do, moving the rest becomes an interruption in the flow, forcing you to change tools with each move. I’ve made a 30-inch rest using a a 5/8 inch iron bar, but that’s for another thread.
 
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John, I think Robust makes a 24 inch rest, and I have seen a few of them by other makers. Not sure if Brent would make you a custom one or not. Steve Sinner could be another source. I do love the hardened drill rod. I did buy some 36 inch long pieces of drill rod to experiment with. It does need to be hardened, but the A2 is the best one to get and if you can find some one to harden it for you that would help.

When testing, prior to making my inside bowl rests, since the place that did the hardening charges by the pound, I tried one where it was hardened first, and then welded it to the metal support bar. As far as I could tell, it didn't change the tempering in the drill rod at all. Used a file and a hack saw blade, and got some scuff marks, but nothing I could feel with my fingers.

robo hippy
 
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