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Grinding Lathe Tools on a Belt
Sander Part 3
By Mikey on October 3, 2011
This is the last article in Mikeys series about grinding lathe
tool bits. In part 1 he discussed his experiences with grinding
bits, why he uses a belt sander instead of a bench grinder
and introduced some terminology about tool bit shapes and
angles. In part 2 he covered tip geometry and tool shapes in
more depth. Here he describes the actual process of grinding
a tool bit.
Gri ndi ng a tool
ALWAYS wear eye protection, hearing protection, a dust mask
and leather gloves when grinding. No tool is worth sacrificing
your body parts.
Remember, no angl e works i n i sol ati on
Think about what you need with regard to shape, strength, tip
access, and the type of material(s) you will use the tool on.
Choose your relief and side rake angles and when you are
clear on what you intend just grind it that way. This thought
process is illustrated below.
Lets grind a general purpose right hand tool from a 3/8 HSS
blank that should work with steel, aluminum, plastics and
stainless. It is not optimized for any of these materials but
should work fairly well with all of them. You can rough, face
and finish by varying the lead angle of the tool. By choosing a
general shape for multiple materials we need to think about the
compromises these choices force on us:
The overall shape will be half-way between a rougher and a
facing tool. To allow this tool to face into a shoulder well
give it an end cutting edge angle of 80- 85 degrees. This
more acute angle reduces tip strength a little but is of no
concern on a small lathe even when roughing, though it
does add to the equation.
To reduce cutting forces we will use a conservative side
relief angle of 15 degrees and a more aggressive end relief
angle of 15 degrees; both changes will improve facing,
finishing and edge penetration. In addition to turning you
can also use this tool for chamfering with the side and end.
Since I am losing some strength by using greater angles for
side and end relief as well as from that more acute end
cutting edge angle, Ill try to conserve some strength and
compromise chip clearance a little by keeping the side rake
conservative at 15 degrees. Back rake is at the high end of
the standard range at 15 degrees to further assist the side
rake in improving chip clearance; it also boosts finishing
potential.
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Well use a nose radius between 1/64 and 1/32 to allow a
deep cut while still giving a fair finish.
A LH tool is the same except the shape is reversed.
As you can see, multi-purpose tools require some
compromise. I have given more emphasis to tip strength
because we will also be using this tool for roughing, which
creates large cutting loads in harder materials. Well discuss
this further in the End Notes.
General Advi ce:
If you are new at this I suggest practicing on mild steel key
stock from the hardware store, not HSS. It grinds easily
and is cheap. J ust cut it to the same size as your HSS
blanks so you get a feel for handling a bit.
Let the belt cut; you want to use only moderate pressure
enough to keep the belt cutting continuously and keep the
tool moving back and forth across the entire width of the
belt. The steel will show you some color to indicate how hot
it is getting. HSS can get into the low red range without
compromising the steel but if I see anything beyond dark
straw I know I am using the wrong grit, my belt is worn or
Im putting too much pressure on the tool when grinding. It
the tool gets too hot to hold let it air cool or just set it down
on a brick it cools fast.
The usual sequence I follow when grinding a tool is to cut
the side first, then the end, followed by the top. This isnt
written in stone. You can grind the top face first to ensure
the top and side cutting edges meet exactly at the edge as
they should think about it.
Seen below is my grinding setup. It is a HP Craftsman 2 X
42 belt sander with a custom steel table settable to precise
angles. The platen is a 2W X 9 L X 1/4 thick piece of O-1
ground steel to which a Pyroceram liner is epoxied; it is dead
flat after years of frequent hard use. It is equipped with a 24
grit Aluminum Oxide belt, soon to be coated with a wax stick
lubricant. This belt cuts very fast and very cool when using only
light to moderate pressure applied toward the belt and I highly
recommend it for shaping. J ust ease up on the pressure as
you near the end of the grind to eliminate coarse grind marks.
After shaping, you can change to progressively finer grits and
David Morrow
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is determined by the angle with which you present the tool to
the belt; as you grind it you are grinding the side relief angle at
the same time. For this tool the side cutting edge angle is
approximated so that 60% of the side is ground off when I am
pressure into the belt as the tool is moved side to side across
the belt with the other hand. Be sure to relax your hands and
sight along the top of the tool where it meets the belt; keep
that edge parallel to the belt to help you maintain your cutting
angle and prevent facets from forming. Dont rush the grind
take your time and work safely.
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Note the dark straw discoloration after grinding the side; this is
about 490 degrees, which is less than half of the way to barely
red hot. The tool cut readily in about 2 minutes and cooled
of the tool under the end edge, will be 15 degrees. I am
presenting the tool to give me an 80-85 degree end cutting
edge angle relative to the side cutting edge angle. For this cut
the block is used to move the tool side-to-side while my other
seconds.
The last face we need to cut is the top. I have added an
auxiliary table to provide support for the tool on the right side
of the belt. The belt is tracked to the right so it overhangs the
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platen about 1/16; this is to prevent cutting the belt and
angles help me set the back rake. I align the tool to the 15
degree line and bring the tool to the belt without changing the
angle. As the tool is fed straight into the belt it will begin cutting
the side of the tool closest to the table. As the cut progresses
it cuts closer and closer to the side cutting edge, which is
presently on top of the tool; I stop just as the cut reaches the
top edge. The result is a 15 degree side rake and a 15 degree
back rake.
Remember to use the wood block to apply steady but only
moderate pressure so the belt cuts continuously, while
controlling/maintaining the back rake angle with the other hand.
Its easier than it looks just a straight push into the belt.
When done correctly the tip of the tool will be at the same
height as the shank of the tool.
The above photo shows the finished top surface. I checked the
progress of the cut 4 times. When resuming grinding just align
the top edge of the tool so it is parallel to the belt and you
wont produce facets. Grinding time for the top was about 90
seconds so total grinding time for the entire tool is under 4
minutes. This is typical. Cobalt tools usually take a minute
longer, while a square tool takes 2 minutes less.
If you add a nose radius you can use the tool as it is. If you
hone it with a diamond or Arkansas stone it will cut better and
last longer. I usually cut the nose radius manually with a
diamond stone rather than use the belt. I find I can control the
radius better this way. If you choose to grind the radius use a
fine grit belt and angle the table to match the angle at the tip of
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the tool. Blend the radius smoothly with the side and end
faces.
Here the
nose
radius
has
been
formed
and the
tool has
been
honed
briefly
with a
diamond
stone.
The flat
tool
faces
make it
easy to
hone the
tool
quickly.
Now, lets see if this tool will cut:
A 0.050
cut in
6061-T6
Aluminum.
I then
increased
the lead
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with
decent
chip
clearance.
A 0.025
pass in
12L14
steel.
Again, a
finish pass
was made
halfway
with an
increased
lead angle
to a depth
of 0.005.
Note that
the tool
faces well.
This cut in
steel was
effortless
for the
lathe, with
little
resistance
when
feeding
and
excellent
chip
clearance.
We know
that we
can easily
double the
depth of
cut.
Here is
another
angle to
show how
the tool
cut these
different
materials
and the
effect the
lead angle
has on the
finish.
Cutting
speed was
the same
between
roughing
and
finishing.
A bit more
lead
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angle,
speed and
some
cutting
fluid would
give us a
mirror
finish. By
the way,
these
finishing
cuts are
very
accurate.
End Notes:
Our general purpose tool works reasonably well, at least in
mild steel and aluminum. It would work even better if the
angles were optimized for each material but even with the
compromises we made it is certainly better than standard
geometry tooling on a hobby-class lathe. I hope this point is
made well enough to convince the new guy that learning to
grind a tool is a skill worthy of his time.
I would encourage you to experiment with your angle changes
until you find what works best for your lathe. The 25-40%
modification range is conservative but works well for me. You
will need to find what works for you. When experimenting I
suggest using cheap import blanks and keep careful notes on
what you did and how it worked. When you are happy with
your results then grind a good tool from a blank you trust.
Keep your notes so you can refer to them to either regrind the
tool or reproduce it. I also suggest grinding material-specific
tools instead of general purpose tools; they work so much
better and require far fewer compromises.
With that said, I have found the following to work well in my
shop:
For all roughing tools and tools meant for most steels, it is
better to keep relief angles conservative, from baseline to
25% above baseline, and boost side rake into the 30-40%
range. This reduces cutting forces but preserves edge and
tip strength because the edge is better supported. Side
rake above 40% does not seem to provide greater
advantage for steel; in fact, edge life falls off so cutting
forces may increase.
For finishing tools I tend to go 30-40% above baseline on
relief angles because this really helps the finish. I keep side
rake down in the 25-30% range to keep strength
reasonable. I use a nose radius just a bit bigger than 1/64;
this is enough for a mirror finish on most materials. I also
increase back rake for finishers into the 30% range this
focuses the cutting forces at the very tip, which is okay
since finishers are used with very shallow cuts.
The only facing tools I use are Knife tools, described
below. I have one for hard stuff and one for softer stuff and
they work superbly. Keep relief and back rake angles in the
baseline-25% range but boost side rake into the 25-40%
range. Since facing tools cut with the side edge we need
more strength at the edge and conservative relief angles do
this.
Brass likes an increased relief angle in the 30-40% range.
Hone your brass tools and keep them very sharp.
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Delrin likes 30-40% relief angles and a large side rake (in
the 40-50% range) to increase chip clearance and keep
cutting temps down. Use lower speeds and higher feeds
and keep your tools razor sharp. Your aluminum-cutting
tools will also work well with Delrin.
Stainless steel likes fairly aggressive (30%) relief angles.
Side rake can be more conservative (25%). The important
thing with SS is not to allow it to work-harden; keep your
tool cutting continuously and it will work great with
stainless. Use a lot of cutting fluid.
Tool steels and semi-hardened steels cut best with baseline
relief angles and side rake in the 30% over baseline range.
This keeps edge strength up and cutting temps down.
Cutting speeds matter here; rough slow and finish fast. If
you get it right the metal will sizzle as it comes off.
Manual skills take time to develop so I suggest you stick with
mild steel key stock until you are confident in your grasp of the
content here. Give it some thought and see if you can grind a
tool with the exact angles and shape you intend; then slap it on
the lathe and cut something with it. It wont hold an edge long
but it will cut. When you can grind a tool easily in mild steel
then go to HSS. When HSS works out, try cobalt.
Cobalt is good for tools used on abrasive or harder materials
that cut at higher temperatures tool steels and
semi-hardened steels, primarily. I also prefer cobalt for the
tools I use most often such as the Knife Tool described below,
as it holds an edge longer. Cobalt takes more time to cut so
dont rush the grind. HSS will work fine in most cases,
however, and cobalt on a hobby lathe is not absolutely
necessary.
Since a tool can last a lifetime if honed and cared for, I
suggest using the finest tool bits you can find. My personal
choice are Cleveland bits, all made in the USA (not Mexico), in
both HSS and Cobalt. Other US makers produce good bits
also. Import bits vary in quality so its hard to judge them; they
do work okay but dont seem to hold an edge as well. Poland
and J apan make some good ones, though. If you hone your
tools before storing them and before critical cuts you wont
need to regrind them very often, if at all.
When you are happy with the tools you grind you may wish to
do a head-to-head comparison with your standard tooling. My
expensive carbide turning tools sit in a drawer as a result of
such a test.
I should mention belts and grits. I use a 24-grit Aluminum
Oxide belt for shaping and usually step up to an 80 grit belt for
smoothing before I hone on a fine, then an extra-fine diamond
stone. When I want a polished tool, such as a fine finisher, I
will step up from 80 to 120, then 220, 320, 400, then 600. The
600 grit will put a mirror finish on the tool. I then use a
Translucent Arkansas stone to final polish the tool. To be
honest, I rarely grind a tool to a mirror finish any more unless I
need the finest finish possible. Honing works fine in most cases
and takes only a few minutes.
Finally, let me share the Knife Tool with you. Popularized by Ian
Bradley of the UK, it is a superior facing tool and will cut to a
shoulder better than the standard facing tool shape. It is also
my thin work finisher. The nose radius is very small but is
there. Due to its shape it is very stiff. When used with a slightly
negative lead angle it cuts shoulders and faces cleanly and
without chatter in all materials. If you grind a small (1/32 wide)
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flat at the tip instead of a radius it will finish surprisingly well.
The tool angles given below are for a general purpose knife
tool.
Grind a 15 degree side and end relief angle, a 15 degree side
rake angle and use about 10 degrees of back rake. Note that
the side cutting edge angle is zero so you approach the belt
with the tool bit parallel to the platen and stop grinding when
the cut reaches the top of the tool. The end cutting edge angle
is 65-70 degrees. Keep the nose radius small so you can cut
fairly sharp corners in the shoulder. If you need to cut a
shoulder very sharply then omit the nose radius. Remember
this is a finishing tool so hone it after grinding.
If you understood this description of how to grind this tool then
you understand what you need to know to grind any other lathe
tool Congratulations!
This 11-year-old cobalt knife tool is one of my favorite tools.
When used with a slightly negative lead angle it can take
whisper thin sizing cuts off a thin work piece or give you a
mirror-finished facing cut. Honed after every use and before
critical cuts, it has seen the grinder only on the day it was
made. Try one you will like it!
I hope this helps you grind a good tool and enhances your
enjoyment of this great hobby.
Best regards,
Mikey
J uly 2009
Related posts:
Grinding Lathe Tools on a Belt Sander Part 2
Grinding Lathe Tools on a Belt Sander For the New Guy
Modifying a Craftsman 2 X 42-inch Belt Sander For Tool
Grinding
Tubalcains Lathe Bit Grinding Videos
Harbor Freight 130 Belt Sander Review
Posted in How-To, Instructional | 2 Comments
2 comments to Gri ndi ng Lathe Tool s on a
Bel t Sander Part 3
Harley Pebley
November 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Reply
Got here from the Make Magazine blog article. You
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have set a whole new group of gears spinning in my head
You mentioned using wax stick lubricant on the belt. I searched
around but couldnt find any information on how to do this. Do
you just apply the lubricant to the belt as it runs? Or to the tool
stock before you start grinding (like you would with cutting oil)?
How much do you put on?
Thanks!
Harley
Mikey
November 18, 2011 at 11:03 PM | Reply
Hi Harley,
Yes, you just push the stick wax into the running belt
and it will stick to the belt. I put enough on to see it go on a
few seconds of application. Hope that helps.
Mikey
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