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twingall1
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Trying to save money by making mini turning tools (for turning chess pieces) with HSS drill bits ground to shape.. Probably should have posted before starting! Anyway, i had a few questions about best methods and also, best sources of HSS steel.

Firstly, Is all HSS steel the same? Any difference between a good quality lathe chisel's steel and an HSS drill bit?

The bits i bought weren't all that cheap, can someone tell me the cheapest source of good HSS steel? I heard masonary nails would do, but they're not marked so i wanted to check..

And finally, for the method: What's the best glue to use? How deep into the handle should i lodge the shaft? What's the best method of lodging the shaft?

A lot of questions i know! Thanks for any help you guys can give.

Here's a couple of pics of my first efforts before grinding to shape:






Many thanks,
Tom
 

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All HSS is not the same. Some HSS tools hold an edge a lot longer than others. Concrete nails are high carbon steel. You need to anneal them to make tools because they will shatter. The metal is too hard as it comes from the factory.
How far you stick them in the handle has more to do with the length it sticks out. I use about 2" for large tools. Something the size of a 1/4" drill bit will work at about an inch or so.
Twist drill bits aren't the greatest thing to use. They are too stiff and a sideways push can break them. Most people who use drill bits use just a 2" section and mount it in a larger piece of cold roll steel.
Files are good to use if you anneal them. They are too hard and too brittle as they come. Put them in the oven at 325 degrees for 1/2 hour and let them cool naturally. That will soften them up enough to be safe but leave them hard enough to hold a decent edge.
There's a lot to learn about metal when making your own tools. I've learned a lot but still have a tremendous amount to learn.
My favorite mini skew is made from a 3/8" spade bit. Here's a photo of some old tools I bought at the flea mkt.
 

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WT Tools and Enco carry “tool bits” in round and square a farily reasonable prices. Ie at WT tool in square stock ¼ X 8 HSS is $2.25 or ¼ X 6 HSS 5% cobalt is $4.50. Eight inch is the longest they carry but even 6” length gives you lots of tool usage.
http://www.wttool.com/index/page/category/category_id/15887/

Most woodworking tools are M2 HSS. This is the about the lowest classification for HSS but works fine for woodturning.

If you have a dead drill (or see someone throwing one away) it is easy to make a handle. This is a ¼” chuck from a $2.00 yard sale drill.
 

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M42 steel (8% cobalt content) works VERY well for pretty much any wood turning use. I use 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch round and square pieces (sold in 4 and 6" long sections) for my home made tools of various types. Seems to hold an edge much longer than standard M2 HSS, and doesn't cost much more. Actually much cheaper in the long run.

You can get them for a few bucks a piece on the web through many distributors from Ebay to Grizzly. Just do a search for HSS or M2 or M42 steel bits or inserts.
 

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twingall1
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Discussion Starter #6
Forge/heat treatment required?

Thanks for the tip: I bought a couple of 4" rod blanks of M42 steel. It hoodsa good edge and i'm pleased.
I just wanted to know: On one site selling m42 steel in bulk, they gave directions about heating/forging, and how to cool slowly after this. Am i right in thinking that most blanks bought would need this kind of treatment to make them their strongest/hardest? Or have i got this wrong?

Also- Could you hazard a guess as to what steel exactly the top brands of woodworking tool use?

Many thanks,
Tom
 

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Don't know your source but HSS is difficult to harden at home. It requires very high temperatures and precise temps along with precise times and sometimes even special envelopes to put the steel in.
It's very easy to harden high carbon steel drill rod which is why I use that in my shop.
You can buy prehardened HSS and simply grind the tips to shape.
 

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Also- Could you hazard a guess as to what steel exactly the top brands of woodworking tool use?
The earlier replies stated this. The most common steel is M2, especially in the UK where you reside. The vast majority of the Sheffield steel used by the likes of Sorby, Henry Taylor, Crown, Hamlet, Ashley Iles is M2.

Not sure of the Asia sourced tools. They rarely state the alloy, just "HSS" - if anything.

There are alloy steels and there are powdered metal steels like CPM-10V used by the likes of Doug Thompson.

As the other replies mentioned you have to look at the tempering of the metal in addition to the alloy/composition.

An earlier thread. A complicated topic.
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/metalworking-woodworking-39647/

Heat treating can make the metal hard but brittle, as mentioned earlier, or hard on the outside but soft on the inside, etc.

If you want to make you own tools, it is worthwhile to learn something about heat treatment, quenching, etc.
 

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I gather up old printers and dismantle - they contain several steel rods of various sizes, some square, some round. Seem to be pretty good steel. I harden them with a propane torch after grinding to shape. Granted the rods are smaller, 5/16" is about the biggest I've seen, but work fine for the smaller tools. Old files also work quite well.
 

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.... Am i right in thinking that most blanks bought would need this kind of treatment to make them their strongest/hardest? Or have i got this wrong? ...
Tom, you will need to specifically ask about any steel that you buy. Often, but not always it is in the annealed state which means that it would need to be quench hardened followed by tempering so that is isn't brittle. I don't believe that M42 steel would be the best for cutting tools. Hardness is not the main thing that you need to find in a tool steel. For woodturning tools, a steel with a high vanadium content (2% or greater) provides edge toughness and reasonable hardness.

BTW, using a twist drill can be dangerous -- the sharp edges can dig into the tool rest and the twisted part of the drill is actually quite thin ... and even more importantly is very brittle. I'm sure that you have experienced smaller drill bits snapping if they catch while drilling.
 
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