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Tips for copy turning

Inexperienced turners find copy turning quite intimidating. But making two or more pieces the same need not be difficult. After all, when you have turned the first you have proved your ability.

Copy turning attachment

A copy turning attachment for your lathe is one option. But it’s only really worthwhile if you have a great many items to do. The attachment must be paid for, set up and taken down, and may get in the way when not in use. It may not even save time. For most turners it’s probably better to save money and benefit from the practice that hand turning will give you. Soon you will be able to make duplicates so quickly that you will surprise yourself. Making lots of the same item is an excellent way of building your skills. You will find you can then make other shapes much more confidently and fluently. And why take up woodturning if you don’t want to do the turning?
When you make a set of turnings, they need to be very similar, both to each other and to the original pattern. But it’s rarely necessary for copied items to be indistinguishable. Slight variation is almost always acceptable, even desirable. It shows that the items are handmade. If you look at antique furniture you may well see minor variation in the spindles. It’s part of the charm of the piece. Of course, this is not an excuse for sloppiness. Generally, the closer together you place two items, the more closely they should resemble each other. At the other extreme, if the items are to be sold separately, a family resemblance may be enough.

Critical dimensions

The most important dimensions of a spindle being copied are usually the overall length, the maximum and minimum diameters, the diameter of any tenon or fitting, and the position of beads or other prominent features. The exact size or shape of beads, fillets and coves is not normally so critical. If one finished item does not stand out markedly from the others, the set is probably OK. But the tighter the specification, the more care has to be taken with measurements, marking out and the turning.

Tips for copy turning

It’s probably not worth attempting copy turning (unless you are doing it just for the practice) until you are able to produce beads and coves with reasonable reliability. Assuming you can do this, first make one complete item to your satisfaction. This proves that you can do the job, and is a sample that acts as a guide for the rest. Make a holder for it that positions it just behind the lathe so you can see it when working on the others.
When doing the rest of the items, it helps if you break the task down into steps and put all the items through each stage before going on to the next. The advantages of this are first that the practice gained from carrying out that step on the first item is immediately put to use on the next. Secondly, you can see as you go that each one is within tolerance. You should start with some spares to allow for any rejects along the way.
This is not the most efficient method of production, as you must spend time changing over the blanks. So with more experience you will probably complete each item before going on to the next. However, by working in small steps the turning is simpler, mistakes may be less likely, and you will soon become quick and confident at each stage.
You may have a motley collection of scrap wood to work with. If so, it makes the copying easier if you start by making the blanks identical. You will then have a stack of cylinders all the same size. Make them just slightly more than the maximum diameter of the finished piece to allow for sanding.

Marking out

Make a template by marking the key points from your sample onto a piece of thin ply. You can offer this up to the spinning blanks and mark circles on them with a pencil. The number of points and circles will depend on how accurate you want the copies to be. Usually, I mark the centre line of each bead, the position of any tenon and the overall length of the item. I don’t normally mark or measure the width of beads or hollows or fillets. This is partly because if there are too many lines drawn on the blank it is confusing and leads to errors.
If this is a job you will repeat in future, label the template, sketch the item on it with the marks for the key points in the right places, write the relevant finished diameters and size of the blank and put it somewhere safe.

 Prepare the tools

Sharpen and lay out the tools for the job. If possible, have enough pairs of calipers to make all measurements that you need – not usually more than three or four. Set them to slightly over the relevant finished diameters to allow for small errors and sanding. In softer wood the calipers can damage the surface, so if possible don’t use them right on the crown of  a bead. Calipers without lock nuts can open slowly in use, which is a common source of error. Lay them out in order so you don’t mix them up. You might label the calipers to correspond to the positions on the marking strip. With practice, you may find that you only need to use one or two pairs. You can judge other diameters by eye, using the measured diameters or sometimes the drive centre or tail centre as points of reference.
Use a parting tool to set the bead diameters with the calipers. When you have set the diameters, if the shape permits it, part in on each side to block out the beads, centred on the marked lines. With practice you will have the confidence to set the width and depth by eye. The parting cuts both locate the beads and make clearance for the gouge or skew. Sometimes there is no room for the parting cut, for example if there are two beads side by side. Then you will have to make V cuts instead with the skew or spindle gouge.

Turn the shape

When copy turning, turn the beads first, then the coves, then clean up the fillets. Measure if you need to, or if the size is critical, but try to set the width of any fillets and the depth of coves by eye. Aim to get all fillets on an item of equal width, and all coves and beads properly shaped. If you shape them properly, the finished dimensions should come out right each time. Pay particular attention to the shape of larger coves and beads and sweeping curves. Size the tenons, if any. Like many turners, I use a spanner to get the diameter right, cutting with a parting tool.

When you have finished the batch, line them up and pick out any rejects. If you need small sets, sort them into groups that match best. Here are a few spindles I made using these methods. They are part of a batch of 200. After sawing the blanks to size and turning the first three, the only measurements necessary were to mark the positions of the beads and to size the tenons. Because these spindles are small, I used multiples and fractions of the tool width to position the beads.

small spindles copy turned by hand

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The skew chisel. Learn to use it and see what it can do.

Lots of woodturners fear the skew chisel. Skews dig in alarmingly, seemingly without any warning or provocation. Some people don’t use them at all. But can you really call yourself a woodturner if you can’t use a skew chisel? It’s perhaps  the most useful and versatile tool of the lot for spindle turning, so it is worth persevering with it. Just watch Woodturner21’s videos on YouTube to see what the tool is capable of.
You probably already have some idea of how to use the skew chisel for cutting beads and planing a cylinder. You can find the basic principles in turning books and DVDs and I don’t mean to repeat them. All I can tell you is what you already know – that you need lots of practice – and show you how to get the most from it.

Tuning up

First, tune up your skew chisel. Although you can use different grinds, the default has a skew angle of about 70 degrees and a bevel length of about 1.5 times the thickness of the tool. A long bevel makes it easier to see what you are doing, though can make the chisel cut in deeper when you get a catch. Make sure the edge and the points are really sharp, and not rounded over.
A long bevel and straight cutting edge are easier for sharpening on a diamond hone. But it’s OK to use either a straight edge skew chisel or a curved one straight from a grinder. Platform sharpening is probably the easiest method. Try the edge on your thumbnail – if the edge or the point slides without biting in, it’s blunt. Make sure you keep the chisel sharp all the time you are using it. You must grind away the sharpness from the long side edges of the tool so they slide easily on the tool rest. Nowadays you will probably find this has been done at the factory if you buy good quality tools.
If possible, use a strong, rigid skew chisel of about 10mm square to practice beads (dealers sell these as ‘beading and parting tools’. You can easily grind it to a skew angle), and one about 18mm wide for planing. Of course other sizes work perfectly well. But a short edge gives less scope for catching on a bead while cutting on the point, and a wider tool helps keep the long point clear on a cylinder.
Now check your tool rest. Make sure it is smooth. Rub it with a bit of wax to cut friction. Set it a little higher than for gouge cutting. This puts the skew’s handle in a more convenient place for you.

Set up the lathe

Have the lathe running slowly so you can see what is happening at the point of cut, and you don’t feel threatened by the spinning wood. Put on your face shield, just in case. Later you will probably want to use higher speeds.
If you are nervous, use a conical fixed centre (one without any teeth) in the headstock and a revolving one in the tailstock. Make a pilot hole about 6-8 mm wide and deep in the headstock end of the blank. The cone centre will give friction drive only, with nothing else forcing the wood round, and is safer than holding the wood in a chuck. You can adjust the tailstock until the friction is strong enough to drive the blank but it will stop turning if you cut too deep or have a bad dig-in. A ring centre will also drive the work safely, and doesn’t need a pilot hole.


Practice on soft timber.  Start with a blank you have roughed down into a cylinder of about 40mm diameter and about 150mm long. You may find bigger pieces intimidating, and long or thin ones whippy, neither of which is helpful. Choose a blank that is straight-grained and without knots.
Don’t try to make any specific item at first, just keep making beads and planing cylinders. Make beads of about 12-18 mm wide. Use a parting tool first to make a clear space either side of each bead for the skew chisel to work in.
Use the short point of the skew chisel for cutting beads, although it is possible to use the long point or the edge. Stick with the short point until you are happy with it – later you will try the long point and may end up preferring it. I think the short point is easier to start for many people.

 Rough out the shape of the bead

The first few times, use a scraper to make a shallow bead shape that you can then follow with the skew. The scraper seems easier, but don’t be tempted to keep on with it. When you see the difference in the surface the skew makes, you will understand why. Then, with the lathe switched off, present the skew to that rounded surface, first at the top and then moving down to the bottom of the curve, keeping the point in its proper cutting position as you go. The chisel will begin almost flat on the rest and twist over. After you have made some shallow beads, try some that are fully semicircular. On these, the tool will end on its side. See how you have to move the tool to keep the point in the right place. Repeat the movements round the curve, so your muscles begin to learn the action.
Although you will be cutting with the point, the bevel must float (not press) on the cut surface to support the tool. Twist the skew as you go round the curve to keep the point in the cutting position. The edge will be close to the wood, but don’t let it touch. If it touches when the lathe is spinning you might get a catch. When rolling the bead with the edge, the movements are slightly different.

Make a cut

When you are ready, switch on and take a cut round the roughed-out bead. Go slowly so you can see what is happening. No rush. As slow as you like, if using a high speed steel chisel. Carbon steel can overheat if kept in the cut too long. Take a thin shaving. Steer the point all the way round the curve, repeating the movements you started to learn earlier. Try for a smooth, even cut and don’t put pressure on the wood.
Pay attention to the handle movements. They are what you are practicing. As you try to go round the curve, you may have a tendency to complete the movements either too early or too late. Either will make a poorly shaped bead.


Don’t work too long on one bead, cutting too deep into the wood, because if the blank gets thin it will start to vibrate. Start a new one. You may find one side of the bead easier than the other. Concentrate on the easy side first, making half beads, until you understand the process and feel ready to change over. When you get a catch, correct it with the scraper or start again on a fresh part of the blank. This is because the damage can interfere with the free movement of the skew.

Planing cuts 

Planing uses the edge of the skew chisel. Keep the long point up, clear of the wood. Have the cutting edge at about 45 degrees to the lathe axis, because that gives a slicing cut with the shaving coming off near the short point. The key is to keep the bevel floating, without pressure, on the freshly planed surface. It’s easy to let the handle lift a little, and immediately you will get problems.
At first sign of trouble, lay the handle lower. Feel for the sweet spot in which the cutting is smooth and quiet and easy. If the handle is too low, the edge just lifts out of the wood, so does no harm. As long as you pay attention to keeping the bevel in contact and the long point clear of the wood, you should not get digs when planing. At the ends of the blank, let the cut run off the wood, not onto it, as there will be no bevel support at that point
When you can plane a cylinder without problems, you can practice steering the cut to round over the end – this is another good way to make beads.
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Gouge vibration – causes and prevention

Gouge vibration is a problem that besets people when they are learning to turn bowls.  The gouge bounces on the wood, and no amount of pressure seems to stop it, however strongly they grip the tool. The more they continue, the worse the vibration gets. Unsightly ridges appear on the turned surface. It usually affects the outside of the bowl. This gouge vibration has two causes.

Irregular bowl blanks

This is the most obvious cause of gouge vibration. When roughing out an uneven blank, it is very easy to push the gouge forward into a low spot. When the high spot comes round, it hits the tool bevel and knocks it back. This immediately sets up an in-out rattling vibration. To overcome it:

  • Increase the speed of the lathe (as consistent with safety, and not so fast that the machine shakes or there is any risk of a chunk flying off, which would be highly dangerous). There will be less time in each revolution for the gouge to move forward.
  • Lower the gouge handle or twist the gouge so the cutting edge is more square to the wood. This lets the wood be sliced off before it gets to the bevel. But caution is needed. It could be risky if the tool pushes too far into the gap and the cut is too heavy. Keep the tool rest close.
  • Take care not to push the gouge against the wood. If pressure seems necessary to stabilise the tool, apply it downwards against the tool rest.
  • Reduce the feed rate – allow the high spots time to come to the tool and be sliced off.
  • Adjust the tool rest closer and use a bigger gouge. Small gouges can flex and set up vibration. If the gouge reaches too far over the tool rest, it magnifies the effect of incorrect technique. The gouge is harder to control.
  • Make sure the gouge is sharp. Blunt tools make for hard work.
  • Cut the bowl blank closer to the finished shape before putting it on the lathe.

Pressing the bevel on the wood

More baffling is when gouge vibration begins for no obvious reason part way through a cut that has been going smoothly. As the cut continues, the vibration rapidly gets worse. The cut becomes noisy, and when you examine the surface, there are spiral ridges.

The cause is pressure of the tool bevel on the wood. Any attempt to control the gouge vibration by pressing harder will fail. It is often said that the bevel should rub the wood, but this is not strictly true. The bevel should be aligned with and in contact with the cut surface, but should not press against it with any significant force. Pressure compresses the softer parts and when a harder area comes round it throws the gouge out. The vibration is slight at first, but each time the hard parts come round the effect grows. The softer parts are cut deeper and the ridges get bigger and bigger.

  • When gouge vibration begins, stop or adjust the cut immediately.
  • Make sure the gouge is sharp, and move the tool rest closer if necessary.
  • Move the tool back to a point where there is no vibration and the bevel can rest quietly on the surface. Align the bevel in the direction of the cut, then lift the heel of the bevel very slightly so that the wood contacts the cutting edge before the bevel.
  • Make sure there is no pressure on the wood, but stabilise the gouge by pressing down against the tool rest and holding the tool handle to your body. Don’t extend it too far over the rest. Restart the cut, moving the gouge forward slowly enough  to remove the ridges as they come to the tool.
  • Sometimes taking a heavier, more positive cut will help eliminate the problem.
  • Setting the toolrest too high can cause the bevel to contact the wood before it reaches the cutting edge. Either raise the tool handle or lower the rest. The cut should be at centre height or slightly below it on the outside of the bowl.


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Torn grain. How to prevent tear-out.

Some people spend hours sanding a bowl to get a reasonable finish. But, apart from the tedium, not to mention the cost of sandpaper, excessive sanding can have a bad affect on the finished bowl. It is not the best way to deal with torn grain. Heavy sanding should rarely be necessary, and there are a number of things to try before getting out the 40 grit. I thought it might be worth setting down some of the things that help to prevent torn grain when turning bowls. This article is based on my own experience and analysis, so includes some untested assumptions.

To achieve a good surface without torn grain, you have to cut the wood in a way that allows the shavings to separate cleanly without damaging the underlying material. As the gouge pushes between the shaving and the wood beneath, it acts as a wedge.  Side grain shavings have to bend to slide up and over the wedge. If the shaving is stiff, it will not bend easily, and because its fibres extend back into the main body of the timber, the stress can start a split that runs ahead of the cut. This split may run deeper into the wood than the line of the cut.

On the end grain areas, the edge of the tool impacts the side of the fibres and pushes against them. They can break below the surface and pull out. If that happens, the fibres are not cut, but torn apart. Tearing usually occurs either where the surface is changing from end grain to side grain as the wood rotates, or where locally disturbed grain opposes the cut. These are situations where the force comes from below the fibres, lifting and bending them. It is where a split can easily start and propagate.

To prevent torn grain during final cuts, you need thin, weak shavings that cannot transfer much force back into the uncut fibres. They must only be made to bend through a small angle, and the uncut fibres must adhere to each other strongly enough to resist being split apart.

How to get a good surface

  • The first thing to do is of course to sharpen the gouge. The edge is then better able to cut the fibres before any gap opens in front of the cutting edge.
  • Increase the lathe speed (as consistent with safety. A chunk separating from a fast-spinning bowl blank is dangerous). For a given feed rate, the shaving will then be thinner and less robust. This allows it to separate from the timber with less stress on the remaining wood.
  • A slower feed rate will also remove less wood per revolution, making thinner, weaker shavings. They can bend and break easily without much leverage on the fibres not yet cut. Many beginners rush to complete cuts before something goes wrong. Let finishing cuts be slow and gentle.
  • A lighter cut will also make the shavings thinner so they pull less. For best results, make the final cuts as light as possible. A very sharp gouge makes this easier.
  • Use a smaller gouge. The tighter radius at the point of cut will take a narrower shaving, which again will be weaker and will separate more cleanly. This is why the curved edge of a gouge will sometimes cause less torn grain than a skew chisel when spindle turning.
  • Make sure the bevel aligns with the surface underneath, without pressing on the wood. If the heel of the bevel lifts from the surface, it changes the top angle and the shaving has to bend more to get into the gouge flute. The tool is harder to control too, and tends to make grooves in the surface.
  • On the inside of the bowl, a short bevel will fit the curved surface better than a long one. It reduces the top angle and improves support and guidance of the tool.
  • A keener, more acute sharpening angle on the gouge will also affect the top angle. Any sharp edge will cut, but a smaller bending angle for the shaving will usually reduce the pull on the fibres.
  • Present the cutting edge at a skewed angle. The effective top angle and bevel angle are at a maximum when they meet the oncoming wood square on. If you skew the edge, the wood sees the angles as smaller and more acute and the shaving slips over the edge more easily. Also, the skewed edge takes a narrower shaving. A traditionally ground bowl gouge (ground square, or nearly square, across) can be used with the wing at a very skewed angle, giving a very clean cut.
  • If necessary, make the final cuts with a very gentle scraping action. The lower wing of a swept-back gouge, with the flute closed and the handle down to skew the edge, will take extremely fine, fluffy shavings. It removes very little wood on each pass. You can also use a flat scraper, on its side to skew the edge. The scraper is easier to keep sharp than a gouge, and can be given a rolled burr using a burnishing rod. Shear scraping like this will usually get rid of ‘macro’ torn grain but does not leave a burnished surface as a bevel-guided cut can.
  • Use a negative rake scraper flat on the rest. Beginners sometimes unintentionally lift one side of the tool off the rest, which causes minor dig-ins that tear the grain. The shaving has to bend sharply as you cut it, but the top angle is too great to create a wedging action. Provided the shaving is thin and there is no vibration, a reasonable or good surface may be achieved. Light cuts help with this. Too much tool projection can cause vibration, and so can thin walls on the bowl. Most woods respond best to a correctly used gouge.
  • Cut the wood ‘with the grain’. Turn the outside of a bowl from bottom to top. Turn the inside from the rim to the bottom. Then the fibres approaching the tool are short and running out of the surface of the wood. Any split that begins to form will follow them and exit the surface before doing damage. In addition, the fibres are supported by those below. Then the gouge can cut them rather than break them off.
  • Wet problem areas with finishing oil or water. It lubricates the cut and softens the fibres to allow the shaving to bend easily. Wood with high moisture content usually cuts better.
  • Some timber species  are more prone to torn grain than others. Their fibres are more brittle, or separate more easily. It is possible to apply shellac or other sealer to reinforce the uncut fibres. This makes them more resistant to splitting apart. 


If your best efforts still leave noticeable torn grain, you will need to sand to remove the damage. There will almost always be some sanding needed to remove tool marks too. 120 grit counts as coarse. I usually start with 120 or 180, and the sanding takes only minutes. If you sand just the defect you can end up with a depression, so you have to sand away the surrounding high areas too. Sometimes you can get away with spot sanding with the lathe stationary, then blending it in with the lathe running.


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Square chisel is nice for planing cuts

Homemade square chisel

Today I did a simple bit of spindle turning on my Titan 315. I made half a dozen large mallet heads for sale as wall decorations. I did most of the work with a square chisel. Almost any timber would do, but my customer supplied some straight-grained reclaimed pine. Not much use for a functional mallet, but OK for this purpose. Soda treatment will give them an aged appearance. The pine contained a lot of resin, which made sanding harder but made the workshop smell good.

A square chisel is great for planing

Homemade square chisel
Homemade square chisel

I like using a square chisel and have several. I made the one shown here from an old vehicle leaf spring. They are all carbon steel – as far as I know manufacturers don’t make them any longer. You could easily convert a modern skew chisel or scraper. They have a bevel each side like a skew chisel. The carbon steel gets blunt quickly, but flipping them over gives you a fresh edge. A wide square chisel is great for planing cuts. I think they are nicer to use for this than a skew.  If they are wide, the points are easy to keep clear of the wood. So the risk of catches is minimal. They were a standard part of the turner’s kit at one time. But really there is probably nothing they can do that a skew can’t. Perhaps you aren’t confident with a skew – if not, look at my post on learning to use a skew.

Drill cross-holes before turning

The mallet heads are  thick in the middle with a gentle curved taper to each end, 80 mm maximum diameter and 475 mm long. I drilled the angled cross hole for the handle before turning them. This is easier than trying to get the hole properly placed in the finished item, and the turning removes any break-out where the drill comes out. The lathe handled them easily, turning at about 1500 rpm and making large amounts of curly shavings. The sturdy tool rest and firm grip on the blank seems to eliminate vibration and made the cutting effortless.

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Another use for my homemade chuck

I have been making a batch of finials using my homemade chuck. They are to be screwed onto some 12 mm threaded steel rod, and for this they need a blind axial hole.

The chuck insert for this job is just a short length of the threaded rod. Ideally, to make sure it runs true in the chuck, the insert would be made by cutting the thread on  a bit of plain rod, leaving one end unthreaded to go in the chuck. The studding works well enough, though with a little run-out.

I start by preparing the blanks, each with a hole drilled in one end, of a diameter that will screw onto the rod fairly easily.

The running lathe draws the blanks onto the chuck. I wax the thread between items and the blanks align themselves as they go on. The variable speed is turned down and I hold the blank tightly to stop it turning. When it nears full depth on the thread I let go. It only takes a second or two. I move the toolrest out of the way to avoid getting my fingers trapped. Then I bring up the tailstock and toolrest. I have been roughing this batch down using my Alan Lacer skew chisel flat on the rest with its handle low to give a sliding and peeling cut. The middle of the curved edge takes off the waste quickly.

The next job is to rough down the narrow part of the finial. I could do this with the skew too (I would have to use the smaller size because there is not enough room for the large), but I normally use a 10 mm scraper. 3 1/2 adjacent cuts give me the right width. I judge the diameter by eye using the chuck body as a reference. Dimensions are not critical.

I then plane the remaining wider part with the skew. This makes sure the widest part of the finial has a good surface without tear out from the roughing stage.

I use the skew to shape the upper part of the finial, which is like a pointed egg in shape. This can be done either with the long point or the edge. I used both on this batch – it all makes practice. Then the skew planes the lower part of the narrow section – one parallel cut to the left then one to the right to make a short taper.

Then I use a small spindle gouge to make a cove beneath the egg section, and a very small homemade gouge to make a tiny cove separating the two planed bits.

Then I use my favourite 10 mm skew chisel to scrape an undercut at the bottom of the finial. This will let it fit closely to a curved surface when finished. I do this very carefully as I want the undercut to finish as close as possible to the metal thread in the chuck. I usually stop short by about half a millimeter and remove the last little bit by hand later. Occasionally I misjudge it and the point of the skew touches the thread. No harm done with a scraping cut, but that means it’s time to resharpen. I also use the edge close to the short point to plane the little fillet next to the cove beneath the egg.

Then I move the tailstock back and use either of the skews to trim off the centre mark. The small one seems to work best. A light cut stops the finial screwing further onto the chuck, which can throw it out of true.

A quick sand, then I grip the finial with a friction mat and switch the lathe on in reverse to let it wind off the finished job, which will be ebonised.



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Alan Lacer skew

I am always looking for something new, and recently bought a pair of Alan Lacer skews, the large and the small, and have been trying them out. This is a review of the tools.

I taught myself to use a skew chisel very early in my turning career and have worked with various styles of chisel, wide and narrow, thick and thin, carbon steel and high speed steel, manufactured and homemade, curved and straight edged. All have worked well, but though my favourite has changed from time to time, the one I keep picking up for smaller spindles, and also for scraping details of faceplate work, is converted from a beading and parting tool, with a square section of about 10 mm. Sometimes I have favoured a Richard Raffan-style curved edge, other times a straight edge, which is easier to hone.

In the beginning I would cut beads by planing with the edge of the chisel. Later I changed to using the short point, and finally, on softer wood, to the long point. I think you can get used to any tool with practice. The key requirements of a skew chisel are reasonable rigidity, well-ground bevels and a sharp edge and points.

My first impression of the Lacer skews was that a bit more blade and a bit less handle would have been nice. But the steel is generously thick and heavy, which is important for larger spindles, helping to avoid blade flutter and vibration. This is why I like my square section chisel. The Lacer bevels are long, which I like, and that makes honing easier. The cutting edges were not ready to use as supplied, but a little honing soon sharpened them up. The handles supplied are very substantial, too fat for my hands, though of course yours may be different. I removed the handles and turned them a bit thinner. In any case, it is only laziness that made me buy the tools with handles, I could have made my own.

The tools have one long side rounded nicely and the other left square. The arrises on the square side are rounded over a little with the intention to help them slide on the tool rest. This is very important, and if your chisels don’t slide freely, soften the arrises yourself before trying to use them again. The Lacer chisel arrises were not very well rounded and did not slide properly. A few minutes with a coarse and a fine diamond hone improved things. Wax on the tool rest helps too. I wish lathe makers could find a durable low friction material for toolrests.

The Lacer cutting edge has a very pronounced curve in the middle, almost a hump really. The edge at the long point starts at 90 degrees to the blade. By the time it gets to the short point it is nearly parallel to the side of the blade. The long point and the adjacent cutting edge have no skew angle at all. The short point is very obtuse, and the cutting edge close to it acts more like a knife than a chisel. The ‘hump’ in the middle projects a lot, though of course it is just part of the curve, not separate. With the chisel flat on the rest and the handle down, the hump can be used very effectively to rough down a spindle from the square. I’ve never been a great fan of skew chisel roughing though, as the tool must be kept very sharp for its other functions and roughing can put a lot of wear on the edge.

For me, the shape of the edge is going to take some getting used to. Before buying, I half intended to re-grind the tools to a more traditional shape. I wanted a couple of heavy-section wide bladed tools and thought that these would do even if they had to be reshaped. But they suit Mr Lacer, so I shall give them a fair trial before changing them.

I am finding that the short point is too obtuse for cutting on the point, making for poor visibility. This limits the tool somewhat. The short end of the curved edge is OK for planing a cylinder or rounding over a bead, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s better than the traditional. A ‘knife’-like edge does help avoid dig-ins though.

The non-skewed part of the edge can be used like a straight chisel, which works nicely for simple planing of cylinders or tapers. Long point down helps prevent digging in.

The long point cuts nicely round a curve. The weight of the tool helps stabilize it, though it will take a bit of time before I get used to the weight. Some might find it too heavy, and the tool might be a bit too big for use on a smaller lathe. The thickness of the blade also means that the bevel is very long and this means more time at the grinder. Visibility using the long point is good. It leaves a nice polished surface as you would expect. But the lack of any skewing at the point means the blade needs to be twisted away from the wood when squaring off end grain. Normally with a skew chisel, if it is held upright on its long edge, the skew angle automatically gives clearance to stop the edge touching the end grain.

So I conclude that these are excellent tools, heavy and workmanlike, needing a little tuning up (but that could apply to others on the market too). The Alan Lacer grind is not essential to the use of a skew chisel. Other well-known turners have their own preferred signature tools. Any heavy-section blade can be ground to the Lacer profile, and that profile can be changed if necessary.

Here is another post about Alan Lacer skews.