Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Baxter, Tennessee
Making your own tools.
By John Lucas
The easy way to make your own tools is to start with good steel. Used planer and jointer blades that are High Speed steel donít need any heat- treating to make them useable for wood lathe tools. They are hard to cut and shape however. I use an angle grinder with a metal cutting blade to cut the steel and the same tool with an abrasive wheel to shape the tool. You can use a regular grinder to shape the steel but it will be slower.
You canít drill High Speed Steel with a normal drill bit. If you want to make small cutters for your hollowing tools simply cut a notch in the side instead of trying to drill a hole. You can use the metal cutting wheel in the angle grinder for this.
To make tools out of high carbon steel you will have to learn some heat- treating. Itís fairly simple. Heat the steel until it is red hot and non magnetic. Simply touch it with a magnet every now and then as it gets red hot. When it is not attracted to the magnet it is ready. Now let it cool slowly. This softens the metal so that it can be drilled and shaped. To bend it you will have to heat it red hot again. It will bend where it is hottest so move the torch to heat the area that needs to bend. I use a MAPP gas torch instead of propane. It is hotter. Propane works for smaller tools it just takes longer to heat.
After shaping the metal you need to make it hard enough to hold an edge. Heat the area where the cutting edge will be to a dull red. Check it with the magnet again. When it wonít attract the magnet itís ready. Immerse the metal in water or oil to ďquench itĒ. If you donít know what kind of steel you are heating, use oil. Peanut oil or mineral oil works well. It has a higher flash point. Completely immerse the red hot area in the oil to keep from starting a fire. Do this outside just in case. The metal should be very hard now. It is too hard to hold an edge without chipping. You will need to anneal or soften the metal.
To anneal the metal sand the area lightly so the steel is shiny. Now heat it slowly. I pass it in and out of the flame observing the color of the metal. When it first changes to a straw color quench it again. Now it should be soft enough to sharpen. If you heat it to purple or blue youíll have to start all over. Fortunately itís easy to do this do this. Only the tip really needs to be the straw color. If you accidentally blue the area behind the cutting edge donít worry. The tool will still work it will just not hold an edge very well once youíve ground the tool far enough back to hit the blued area. Just go through the heat and quench cycle again. If you want to try to harden the metal to a specific hardness then use drill rod and order the hardening instructions. It will tell you what medium to quench the metal and what temperature you need to achieve to anneal it and get the desired hardness.
I often heat the steel to 450 degrees in the oven. This tempers the entire piece. I set it on a brick to even out the heat and then heat it for 30 minutes per ľĒ of thickness. When itís done simply turn the oven off and let it cool.
Itís easy to make a tool from good metal such as old screwdrivers, allen wrenches, or drill rod. Drill bits donít make good tools and files are dangerous unless you heat treat them properly. Instead of files buy good steel from MSC, Travers, Enco or other machine tool companies. Any questions, just ask. Need to make a tool but donít feel comfortable doing it. Stop by my house and Iíll work with you. John