Woodworking Instructables 101: How To Sharpen A Lathe Tool?

Are you a DIY woodworker enthusiast who loves working with his hands? Did you recently purchase a lathe tool, but found yourself disappointed with the woodturning gouge’s performance? Does sharpening a lathe tool seems difficult to you?

Experienced woodworkers are well aware of this problem and they know how to sharpen a lathe tool. And that’s why they immediately sharpen the woodturning gouge to get better performance from the lathe tool.

And in this post, we will guide you through the steps you need to follow to sharpen your lathe tools. But, before we cover all of that, let’s go over the basics of wood lathe first.

How To Sharpen Lathe Tools?

how to sharpen a lathe tool

What exactly is a lathe? Simply stated, a lathe is a kind of turning tool. This turning tool is used to perform all kinds of woodworking operations.

Understand that there are many different kinds of lathe builds. But, among them, the wood lathe stands out.

Woodturning and wood lathes go hand in hand. If you are someone who loves working with your hands, then woodturning just might be your cup of tea.

Using the wood lathe, you can create appealing handicrafts with ease. Let’s jump to the main topic now:  How do you sharpen a wood lathe tool?

  • First Step: Know When To Sharpen Turning Tools

Determine if your wood lathe needs sharpening in the first place. To do this, you need to check the spindle or the bowl gouges for sharpness.

When you first buy the wood lathe, you’ll discover that the wood gouges aren’t as sharp as required for woodturning. And, that’s a bummer.

You can check whether the wood gouge is sharp or not by running your thumb across the edge. As your thumb runs across the edge, you want to be carefully observant of a bur. The bur is the portion on the wood gouge that does the cutting.

After having determined that your wood gouge could indeed use some sharpening, the next thing that you need to do is get the right tools to sharpen your lathe tool.

  • Second Step: The Equipment You’ll Need To Sharpen Your Wood Lathe

Before we go teach you how to sharpen your wood lathe, let’s make sure that you have the necessary equipment.

You’ll need:


Getting a grinder is quite necessary if you want to sharpen wood lathe tools. There are other ways to sharpen your lathe tool, but the grinder is the most common and efficient way that gets the job done.

Visor or Eye Protection

If you are using a grinder to sharpen your lathe tool, then it’s of utmost importance for you to get a visor that provides eye protection. If you are grinding a metal lathe tool, then this will prevent metal filings from entering your eyes.

Rubber Gloves

Wearing rubber gloves can create a massive difference in sharpening your lathe tools. The benefit of using rubber gloves is that it helps absorb the vibration caused by the grinder. Also, it protects your hands from calluses.

Getting rid of the debris with a Wheel dresser

Dressing the grinder is important to remove the debris stuck in the grit between the wheels. A multi-diamond T-bar works best for this purpose.

Sharpening jigs

Jigs are used to hold the lathe tool in place. With the help of a jig, you will be able to sharpen your bowl gouge with consistent bevel angles.

Angle Finder

You should also try to get your hands on an angle finder. An angle finder helps you verify the angles that need to be sharpened. Couple the angle finder with a sharpening jig, and the sharpening process will run smoothly.

Lathe tool sharpening does not have to difficult if you have the right tools. Once you have got all your tools ready, it’s time to move on to the next part.

You need to know that the main tool that you are going to sharpen your lathe tool is the grinder. To use the grinder to sharpen your lathe tool, you need to first dress the grinder.

Now, what do I mean by dressing the grinder?

Well, chances are, that debris remains on the grinder from past sharpening operations. You want to remove that debris and prepare your grinder for the optimum sharpening of your lathe tool.

Dressing the grinder involves using a diamond sharpening tool. Scrub the grinding wheel’s outer edges with the diamond sharpening tools. This will remove any debris on the grinder.

  • Step-3: Get your angles right during grinding

Lathe tools operate best at specific angles. Finding the right angle is crucial if you want to sharpen your lathe tool right. Using an angle finder tool can help in this matter.

  • Step 4—Make Sure That There Is Proper Contact

Position the lathe tool at rest and proceed to move the lathe towards the grinder. Keep going. And stop when you reach the point where the tool makes contact with the wheel.

Watch out for one thing: At all times, you must ensure that there is minimal contact with the blade and the wheel. Otherwise, the sharpening process will go wrong.

Be extra cautious not to press too hard on the lathe tool. If too much pressure is applied from your end, there is a high probability that the blade will bounce.

Step 5—First Phase of Sharpening Lathe Tools

Grinding the lathe tool against the grinder can be divided into two main parts.

The lathe tool needs to be pushed gently against the grinding wheel. Special care must be taken to ensure that the lathe tool is not in contact with the wheel for more than 10 seconds.

You’ll see some sparks emerge during this time. Sway your lathe tool from side to side during this short interval. You are doing it right if sparks are produced during the process.

Step-6: The Second Part

You should do the 10-second sharpening procedure a few more times. And when you are satisfied with the sharpness attained on your lathe tool, dip the tool in a bowl of water. Cooling allows you to hold a tool for the remaining part of the sharpening process. Repeat the entire process for the opposite face of the lathe tool.

Using Belt Sanders To Sharpen The Lathe Tool

sharpening a lathe tool

Slow speed bench grinders can often be quite pricey. The alternative to slow speed bench grinders is to use a belt sander and trust me it’s a great one among lathe sharpening tools.

And in case you are unfamiliar with the belt sander, let’s go over the basics first.

Belt sanders are power tools that are commonly used to shape wood and give it a finishing touch. You can also use the belt sander to sharpen your lathe tool.

If you are planning on using a belt sander to sharpen your wood lathe instead of the traditional grinder, then that’s a great option. Belt sanders are relatively more affordable, so if you have a tight budget, then belt sanders should be your choice.

However, there is one thing that you need to bear in mind if you prefer to work with belt sanders to sharpen your lathe tools.

You need to make sure that your sander can accommodate at least a 2-inch belt. The other advantage is that sandpapers have many different types of grits.

What are sandpaper grits?

Here’s the thing, Sandpapers are measured by its grit size. To know more about sandpaper grits, just do a simple Google search!

Belt sanders make it easy to proceed from one grid to the next. There is also no need to dress the wheel.  You will find plenty of tutorials on how to use a belt sander on Youtube. Here is one for you.

The final option is to sharpen the lathe tool by hand. However, this method isn’t easy, and you should steer clear of trying to sharpen your lathe tool by hand until and unless you’re an expert.


After reading our guide, you should now know how to sharpen a lathe tool and feel confident about it, right? If you found this useful, then let us know in the comment section and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more content like this.

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