How to Make Your Own Carbide Tipped Lathe Tools

How to Make Your Own Carbide Tipped Lathe Tools

To begin with, if your were searching for wood turning tools with carbide tips you might have a hard time finding them because these special tools are made with carbide inserts. Usually a piece of 1/2″ steel, round or square, notched out in the end to accept a small square, round or triangular carbide cutter that is screwed onto the steel shaft and the far side of the shaft has a long wood handle!

Rockler Carbide Insert for wood turning tools
Typical Carbide insert about 1/2″ x 1/2″ from Rockler

OK…. now, I’ll tell my short story.

In another time, when money was falling out of my pockets I probably would not have thought about building things for my own use. I wouldn’t have thought about being self sufficient, and I certainly would not have thought about trying to save a few bucks by making my own tools!

Turns out that being sick for the last 15 years or so has left me penniless, we have a house, we have food and we have each other. I told someone the other day, I have lived life with an abundance of money and have experienced complete destitute, no money, no food, sick and no doctors willing to help you get better.

Although I’ve always been goal oriented and always wanted to make more money so we might have a nice retirement and pay for the needs of our children, I had almost gotten there….. if fact I was there. Turned out I was lied to, had a partner who stole from me and in times where no man left behind means integrity to those we serve with, this guy (my partner) did everything he could to make all the liability to land on me.

Enough said about that. I’m sure we all have our sad stories…. not even sure why I wrote that stuff ….must be old age 🙂

Just let it be said that although money should not be the focus of your life, having money gotten thru smart hard work can provide a lifestyle that few know. That’s how I lived my life, I found that those who I thought were friends really were not friends, After I lost about 3 million dollars and was left destitute with 3 young kids and a wife I ran into a guy by the name of Dan O’neil. Just met the guy, we knew nothing about each other but he donated his time to help me put together a house from a pile of ruins ….I will forever be indebted to him! I was able to start over.

I’m not sure why I shared that, maybe you’re down on your luck ….have no money and want to start playing around turning projects on a lathe and just don’t have the cash to buy expensive tools….. well, hang tight because I want to show you how you might be able to make your own carbide woodturning tools.

Most WoodTurners Start Off with A Cheap Set of Woodturning Chisels and Gouges

So….I really wanted to say its better to have money than not have money.

But when you find yourself in a position to move forward in your life or project, you need to grab the bull by the horns, learn some new things, experiment and give it a shot.

In this case we are looking at chisels and gouges for turning wood on a wood lathe.

How Do I Get Good Woodturning
Chisels and Gouges Without It
Costing Me A Small Fortune!

You can go out and buy a cheap set of lathe knives, but you’ll get what you pay for…..garbage. Cheap woodturning tools are good for one thing that I can say from experience. You can learn how to properly sharpen a woodturning gouge or chisel and not fear that you are going to ruin your 100 dollar wood-lathe gouge!

However these cheap chisel and gouge sets can serve a purpose, you can learn how to sharpen these tools by using other specialized sharpening jibs, some free, some $150 or so. You can wreck the whole set by free handing the sharpening, grinding the chisel down to the wood handle 🙂

Woodturning is one of those hobbies that might look like it would be pretty easy and cheap to get into and get started. Like I said you can get cheap chisels, but they won’t perform well or last long. The steel is cheap, soft and won’t hold an edge. Or you could spend over 100 bucks a gouge to discover the difference. This approach has one problem, if its one of your first gouges you will probably ruin it at some point, whether the sharpening or thru misuse. Check out my post on where to buy woodturning tools and equipment. So, my advice would be to start with a cheap set of tools and then buy the more expensive tools on a one by one basis, learning the ins and outs of that tool.


How to Get a Good Set of WoodTurning
Tools For Little Money

You could try building your own wood lathe tools.

Are you handy, do you have basic wood turning and woodworking skills, do you have some knowledge of steel and how to work with it?

Recently a set of tools has entered the market that looks like a standard wood lathe chisel or gouge, but in reality it simply has a carbide insert cutter screwed into the end of a length of steel. You can go to and read some of the reviews of woodturners who purchased these carbide tipped tools already made …..they say they wish that they would have started out with a tool that had a carbide insert!

This guy left a review on Rockler for Full Size Carbide Turning Tool

I’m hooked
I don’t know that I will every purchase another “fixed blade” turning tool again. I wish I had tried these before I invested in my expensive sharpening system.

Who wants to spend time sharpening when there is wood to be turned ! buy one.

It’s been said these are great for newbies because they are unforgiving, you have to beat on the thing to destroy it. These tools look just like a standard gouge except the end accepts a square, round, or diamond shape carbide wood cutter screwed to the metal shaft. They stay sharp much longer than standard tools, they come in a variety of widths, they can be resharpened….or just purchase a new tip for 5 to 10 dollars.

Rockler has several styles and sizes of carbide turning tools, check out the video for Full Size Round Ergonomic Carbide Turning Tool Item # 48723

Rockler's full sized carbide insert woodturing tools

These actually look like fun and I’m thinking of creating a set for myself, if it works out good I might get set up for 20 to 30 custom carbide insert tools per month. You can check out the prices online, almost all run around $100 to $150 per tool. Remember, no sharpening. They last 7 times longer and they are newbie friendly.

So I thought I would get some materials and create some tools that make it easier to turn wood, easier to gouge out the interior of a bowl, cup or vase and would even get some of the pro’s to check them out.

So, if money is tight but you have a lathe and you want to start to understand the difference between cheap Chinese tools made with inferior steel and a bowl gouge that has a carbide insert cutter ……well, you can make one yourself. Or if I’m successful in my project, you might be able to get one from me. I’ll probably just start of with a couple of sets and sell them on ebay. Have you checked out ebay for Carbide Wood Lathe Tools?

Carbide Insert Woodturning Tool
Easy Wood Tools Pro Easy Rougher Carbide Lathe Turning Tool 3200 New

When I was researching lathes, tools, jaws, chisels, gouges, and all the other necessary wood turning accessories it became overwhelming!

Don’t let that stop you. If you are brand new and money is tight check Harbor Freight’s wood lathe, if you have a few more bucks look at Laguna’s Revo 18|36 Wood Lathe or Nova’s ….even Jet makes a decent one.

Then you just have to do the research on what tools to use while turning a project. Most of the time we start with cheap stuff and end up being disappointed while swearing up and down because of catches and broken steel shafts. Building your own carbide tipped lathe tools will bring much satisfaction, fast and clean cutting ….not to worry about sharpening because you can just get a new carbide insert for 5 to 10 bucks.

Researching Carbide Insert
Woodturning Tools

Hope this info has been of help, I know I spent countless hours reading reviews, books and watching YouTube videos just to try and find out what the best way to get started would be. For me the order goes like this:

1.start with a cheap lathe
2.need faceplate or chuck for securing wood blank to the lathe
3.get a cheap set of gouges and chisels if you’ve never turned wood before. some how to videos on YouTube to get you started.
5.those cheap tools will dull out fast, so you will need a sharpening system (try Oneway Wolverine Grinding Jig), invest in a good one because it will work on expensive as well as cheap stuff…… but you can practice your grinds on the cheap stuff until you get it right.

I started all this because I wanted to talk about making your own carbide tipped lathe tools, and as usual I get excited and go down the first rabbit trail I come to…..I apologize for that!

By the end of this week I should have all my materials needed to make a gouge with a:
1.circulate carbide cutter
-2 cutter sizes, 1/2 and 5/8 inch with a 30 degree angle of cutting

2.steel rod for all tools mentioned, I think I got:
-(1) 4′ piece of 5/8 steel
-(1) 4′ piece of 1/2″ steel
-(1) 4′ piece of 3/8″ steel

3. carbide insert cutters
-10 pcs 15mm square cutters
-10 pcs 14mm square cutters
-10 pcs 12mm square cutters
-10 pcs 5/8″ circle cutters
-10 pcs 1/2″ circle cutters

I won’t start until I get all the materials and caught up on a few projects, when I do, I’ll post a video and if they turn out pretty good ….put them up for sale maybe eBay although I just might set up a full eCommerce store for wood turning tools and jigs.

I’m not metal guy, I can design/draw and build any house, commercial building/ but I never learned about how to work with metal for projects we are discussing. So, this is all new to me. Wish I had a small metal lathe, but then again, I’d have to spend more time learning how the thing works.

Although I still draw a few plans, I mostly design and build websites for local marketers, people with brick and mortar stores who want an online presence. Consequently I spend probably 50% of my time each month learning what is new with design, social marketing, email marketing, online marketing apps and the list goes on because it is always changing.

I love messing around with my lathe and wood turning projects because I can focus on one thing, learn a new trade and enjoy the peaceful time it takes. I’m always learning and hope to continue my different quests until the end….live life and love it fully!

I will start a whole category in this blog on how to save money by making your own tools and jigs. I sincerely hope you find it helpful and hit the like buttons or whatever is the button of the day ….really, if you could just share an interesting post with your followers I would appreciate it.

I ran into this guy a while back, his YouTube channel is “your home workshop“, a young guy (by my standards) just sharing on how he decided to create a few wood turning tools on his own. It really inspired me since I don’t work that much with metal/steel, this guy whipped up a handful of turning tools in no time.

Check out his video on: How to Make Your Own Carbide Tipped Lathe Tools …click on the image!

Make your own carbide wood turning tools