Mastering a wood lathe is a wonderful feeling, and so is creating custom homemade lathe tools. Most homemade lathe tools start with old broken wood chisels given a second life. Ground, sharpened and fitted onto new handles, what was once a broken tool ready for the trash can become handy for woodworking again.
Dismantling Old Wood Chisels
Dismantle the old wood chisels used for the new tools. If the handles are plastic, use a small propane torch to heat the plastic enough to pull the chisel blades out. If the handle is wood, use a band saw or jigsaw to cut the old handle away from the blade. Use emery cloth to clean the metal shaft of old plastic or wood glue.
Custom Homemade Lathe Handles
Since not all handles are the same, this is a good time to design custom handles. Use scrap lying around the woodshop as a template. Turn a few templates on the wood lathe to find which style feels best. Some wood turners like long handles, while others will like shorter, tapered handles. Now choose wood stock for the new handles. Hardwood is best for all wooden tool handles. The handles must be at least 3 or 4 inches longer than the chisel blade shaft.
Connecting the Handle and Chisel Blade
You'll need to drill out the center of the handle for the blade shaft. Measure the diameter of the shaft. Place the handle in a bench vise or drill press jig, making sure the new handle is perfectly straight. Drill the shaft hole the same length as the shaft. Coat the blade with wood glue and place a small amount of glue in the freshly drilled hole. Place a piece of wood over the blade and tap the chisel shaft into the handle. Lay aside to dry.
Sharpen the Lathe Tool Blade
If the blades have rust or gouges, use a bench grinder to clean them. Use a wire wheel to clean the rust and a fine wheel to grind the edge down. Use an Arkansas sharpening stone to put an edge on the blades. Hone a fine cutting edge on the homemade wood tools with a Japanese water stone. Once the lathe tool has the desired edge, apply a two or three coats of Tung oil to protect the wood handle.