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Turning Tool Selections
(I refuse to call them sets!)

Oh the pain and the grief of it all!  My arm is twisted well up my back as I type this page (pretty nifty, eh, one-handed typing?)  I have railed for years against the purchase of sets of turning tools, on the basis that I believe that these generally represent poor value.  Why?  because I reckon that most sets contain one tool that is little better than useless.  They also normally contain designs of tools that, whilst adequate for starting out woodturning, will soon be outgrown.  Sometimes though, special situations prevail and so we've provided answers to those situations here.

On thing about which I have had a "bee in my bonnet" for a long time is the seemingly ever-increasing length of most "standard" turning tools, primarily to satisfy the "bigger is always better" ethos which is prevalent in some important tool markets.  At the same time we have seen a huge growth in the adoption of smaller lathes and especially "bench-top" lathes - such as those produced in great number by Jet, Record Power, Axminster, Charnwood etc., typically with a fixed headstock and 10 to 12 inch diameter swing over the bed.  In order to use tools correctly and appropriately on lathes of this size the tools need to be proportioned to enabled them to be manoeuvred over the bed of the lathe and in the limited space between the workpiece and the tailstock.  The tools produced by most mainstream manufacturers fail singularly to meet this requirement. 

Click for a larger view of the CompacTool setAs has happened before when I have my soapbox out about something, I decided that The ToolPost would break the mould and devise a relevant solution.  That solution is the CompacTool set of six short turning tools which we have specifically designed to make turning easier (and more successful) on a smaller lathe.  These tools are manufactured exclusively for us by Hamlet Craft Tools, in Sheffield, UK in M2 High Speed Steel (HSS) in common with other good turning tools.  There are no compromises here - simply a willingness to identify and resolve a commonplace problem that the rest of the world seems happy to ignore.  These are not toy tools: they are more compact versions of the full-size tools with which you may be familiar and are equipped with suitably proportioned handles.  This unique set comprises:-

  • 1/2" Roughing Gouge
  • 3/8" Spindle Gouge
  • 3/8" Bowl Gouge
  • 1/16"  Narrow Parting Tool with modified tip geometry
  • 1/2" Rolled Edge Skew Chisel
  • 1" x 1/4" Bowl Scraper

For the absolute beginner, especially if the budget is tight, there may be a justification to purchase a carefully-selected collection of tools and certainly many folk prefer to give a gift in a pretty box than one that is necessarily the best considered.  So-o-o-o-o-o I have relented a little and selected a couple of tool sets from two of the better-known manufacturers, both of which represent good value for money.  I have then taken the step beyond and have pleasure in presenting the ToolPost's very own Journeyman selection of woodturning tools.

Why Journeyman?  Because in the "good old days" (when most artisans lived at starvation level!) the next stage of a craftsman's life after completing his apprenticeship was to go out into the world as a Journeyman, travelling the country, even the world, working for different "Masters" and absorbing all he could of their craft and art before returning home and, if he was lucky, setting up as a Master tradesman himself.  What I have tried to accomplish is a selection of tools that will remain with the aspirant turner for as long as he turns (barring loss, theft or errant behaviour!)  Each and every one of these tools is going to be as useful today as it will the last day you ever turn anything in wood: they are both basic and "eternal".  They are not selected on price, but solely on the grounds of usefulness.  I still have every one of these tools in my toolbox today and they form the core of my turning armoury.  The contents of this veritable Pandora's box, The ToolPost Journeyman Turning Tool Set, are:-

  • HCT065- 1.1/4" Roughing Gouge with 14" Ash handle
  • HCT068- 3/8" Spindle Gouge (round bar) with 10" Ash handle
  • HCT083- 3/8" Bowl Gouge with 14" Ash handle
  • HCT092- 3/16" Diamond Parting Tool with 10" Ash handle
  • HCT100- 1/2" Rectangular Skew Chisel with 10" Ash handle
  • HCT142- 1" x 3/8" Heavy Duty Bowl Scraper with 14" Ash handle

The tools are all supplied by Hamlet Craft tools, who produce excellent tools at very economical prices.  If you are "wedded" to some other brand we will happily put together an equivalent selection but the price will be adjusted to reflect the cost of the contents of the package.  Our standard Hamlet-based selection is priced such that it represents excellent value.  If you need to know more, just ask: I'm more than happy to defend my recommendations!

The other selections we have taken directly from manufacturers standard lists and are as follows:-

    Robert Sorby 67HS Beginners Turning Tool Set comprising:-

    • 3/4" Roughing Gouge
    • 1/8" Parting Tool (rectangular)
    • 3/8" Bowl Gouge
    • 3/8" Spindle Gouge
    • 3/4" Oval Skew
    • 1/2" Round Nose Scraper

    Hamlet Craft Tools "Ian Wilkie" 5-piece Turning Tool Set comprising:-

    • 1/2" Roughing Gouge (round bar type)
    • 1/4" Spindle /Bowl Gouge
    • 3/8" Spindle /Bowl Gouge
    • 1/2" Rolled Edge Skew
    • 1/8" Parting Tool



*NB: Prices quoted in pounds sterling. 
Value Added Tax will be added to invoices to EU residents unless
a valid VAT registration number is quoted when ordering.

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1997-2009 P. Hemsley.  The information on this website is the copyright property of Peter Hemsley.  Coeur du Bois and The ToolPost are trading styles of Peter Hemsley.  Whilst reasonable efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of information presented, no liability can be accepted for errors in this information nor for contingencies arising therefrom.  If you are inexperienced in any aspect of woodworking, we would strongly counsel that you take a course of formal instruction before commencing to practice