Tips and Techniques


Take care of your tool rest

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Front view of tool rest

The tool rest that comes with a lathe is generally cast metal. It is softer than the metal of the turning tools that rest on its surface and cause it damage.

There are replacement tool rests on the market that have a hardened surface. Purchasing one of these would be another option to ensure your tools have a smooth surface to glide along as you turn.

Tool rest side view

To create smooth flowing lines on a turning the surface of the tool rest needs to be smooth.

Rough tool rest surface

It is very hard to expect a turning tool to glide smoothly along a surface like this. Dents and gouges in the tool rest are often reflected in the turned wood surface.

Sharp edge on turning tool

The first step in preventing damage to the tool rest is removing all sharp edges from your turning tools. Scrapers, parting tools, and skews usually have very sharp edges. Catches while turning can force the sharp corners into the tool rest surface. Use a grinder or belt sander to slightly radius the edges of all turning tools where they may contact the tool rest. Rounding the edges slightly does not lose tool stability. It will actually help with operations like shear scraping and using a rectangular section skew.

Filing tool rest surface

Take a few minutes before starting to turn and clean up the surface of the tool rest. Run a file along the surface from end to end. Avoid filing in one place and causing a low area. Also, remove any sharp edges from the ends or anywhere your hand will be in contact with the rest.

Sanding tool rest surface

Taking a few quick passes with a piece of sand paper will remove any rust or residue from turning that may build up.

Waxing tool rest surface

Use some paraffin wax to lubricate the surface and fill in any small dings present.

Using WD-40 to remove excess wax

I use a little WD-40 on a paper towel to remove excess paraffin wax.

You should now have a smooth tool rest surface ready to perform its job without interfering with your woodturning designs.