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Making and Using Tools - Chisels, Gouges, and Carving Tools


A Very Cool Parting Tool by James D. Thompson


The parting tool is used to cut off (part) the wood at a certain point while it is still turning. It is also used to size certain locations on the wood while it is turning.

You use a pair of calipers, pre-set to the desired size, in one hand, and the parting tool in the other.  As you cut a groove deeper and deeper into the wood with the parting tool, the caliper is also in the groove.  As soon as the caliper will slide onto the remaining wood, you know you have cut deep enough.

This process is repeated at each location where you want a size established. This is a great aid in turning. It helps you keep track of the required various sizes at all the various locations on your piece.

Making Parting Tool

After pricing a parting tool for wood turning, I decided to make my own. I started with a high speed steel power hack saw blade. I ground off the teeth of the blade and then cut it to tough shape with a die grinder equipped with a cutoff wheel.

It is not necessary to worry about rounding over the edges of the blade because you will relieve the cutting edge as shown below. This will get you back to full blade thickness.

The bottom of the tool as shown goes against the tool rest.

Since this is a high speed steel blade the blue on the point is of no concern. Bluing high speed steel does not have any effect on it.

When I grind the tang to shape I want the centerline of the handle to be above the centerline of the blade. This causes the cutting force to hold the blade straight while parting.

For a handle, I turned one similar to the Sorby handle. Most of the home made tools I have seen have a handle similar to what you would see on a pigsticker mortise chisel. Kind of square and wrapped with duct tape. Not real attractive.

They think it gives better control. I find that a good looking handle gives good control provided that you make the centerline of the tang above tool center.

I drilled a 1/8” hole 3” deep in the end to start the tang in. Then I heated the tang and shoved it in. I added a little CA glue to make sure it doesn’t wiggle.

This is my finished parting tool. It works like a champ, and I think it looks pretty good. The wood is silk oak.

James Thompson
the Old Millrat in Riverside, CA
April, 2006

Tips from Old Millrat - James D. Thompson

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