Carbide vs. HSS Tools

Just so you know I have done a 180 in my thinking when it comes to carbide tools. It turns out that carbide tools are playing a significant part in bringing folks into the craft of turning wood. Creating something on a wood lathe requires far less skill with a carbide tipped scraping tool than with HSS (High Speed Steel) tools. I was around when carbide tools were introduced by Craig Jackson of Easy Wood Tools and I had very strong reservations in the beginning.

There are 4 pillars of turning wood: 1) the lathe itself, 2) work holding devices, i.e. chucks, etc., 3) lathe tools, 4) sharpening systems for lathe tools.

Here is what I have discovered over the last 5+ years. Using just carbide tipped tools eliminates the need to own a grinder and a sharpening jig which can easily be 1/4th of the cost of getting into wood turning. Using carbide tools further eliminates the need to learn the skills to create a truly sharp cutting edge consistently in order to enjoy the craft of turning wood. The use of carbide tipped tools has allowed brand new turners to create acceptable turned items right out of the gate with very little learning required. In other words, it made turning easy. That has been a tremendous benefit to the craft of turning wood in general.  That is why I encourage new turners to begin with carbide tipped tools. We can take a brand new turner, young or old, give them a carbide pen turning set and watch them create beautiful pens immediately. That goes a long way toward developing an enduring interest in turning wood later on.

Carbide tipped tools scrape wood away rather than cut wood away. Although that puts the wood under tremendous stress and requires extra sanding to achieve a smooth finish, it works well enough for many types of projects. I would rather see someone become excited about turning because it isn’t that hard to do rather than turn them off to our craft because they perceive it to be difficult and they become frustrated and quit.

In most cases, high speed steel tools are ultimately the better choice, because it is better to cut wood than scrape wood. The vast majority of turners who stick with wood turning as a craft will eventually figure that out and add HSS tools and the appropriate sharpening systems to their repertoire as their skills increase. But meanwhile, the carbide tipped route is much easier for most people just starting out.

I use carbide tipped tools myself but only where I would have used a scraper anyway. That is for hollowing boxes, hollow forms such as small vases and Christmas Ornament globes, goblets, etc. Contrary to popular belief, a skilled turner can use a carbide tipped tool to shear scrape effectively to achieve a smooth finish.

I write to you this week from Chantilly, Virginia preparing for another woodworking show. We have not visited Chantilly for 5 years because we lost the venue to Walmart and there was no other facility large enough to host the Woodworking Shows. If you are nearby, I hope you will come see us as we have added several hundred new items. More show info at www.thewoodworkingshows.com because wherever you go, there you are.

Here is my inspiration for this week’s newsletter:

Hebrews 5:13   Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; 14 solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.

January Show Sweepstakes Winners:

$250 Gift Certificate Winner:

Valerie Erskine

$100 Gift Certificate Winner:

Rob Petschke

$50 Gift Certificate Winner:

Dan Merlo

We will notify the winners via email shortly. There will be a drawing each month of the show season. Stay tuned.

This Week's Sale Items-

10% off entire web site.

Must use coupon code

"feb10" at checkout



If you are able to visit us at the Woodworking Show, we have added approximately 100 new turning items in our booth this year. I have finished samples of the Laser Cut Kits, etc. I have samples of Edge Lit Signs I will be adding to the line in May 2016

Show Sweepstakes

I would like to announce that this year for the first time, Ron Brown’s Best, LLC will have a monthly sweepstakes drawing specifically for visitors at the various shows. You will have to enter at the show in our booth. Ask Sweet Janice for an entry form. First Prize is a $250 Gift Certificate for anything on our web site (we will have over 50 new items by the end of the show season). Second Prize is a $100 Gift Certificate for anything on our web site. Third Prize is a $50 Gift Certificate for anything on our web site. You need not be present to win. We will have different drawings for January, February, March and April. We will announce the winners on the web site and in one of the following newsletters.


As always there are tons of free stuff in the FreeDownloads section. Wishing you a Happy, Prosperous and Blessed New Year,


Ron, Janice & Chris Brown


  We will be leaving our Internet business in capable hands as we hit the road for 13 weeks beginning January 8th in Baltimore Maryland.  Here is a link to The Woodworking Shows schedule www.thewoodworkingshows.com

Show Change Announcement

The Detroit, MI show has been replaced with Chantilly, VA.


Feb 5-7, 2016

You may have noticed that some items have disappeared from www.ronbrownsbest.com, in the last week or so. I hate to admit it, but we cannot keep up with the demand for certain items and since it is the show season, we had to remove them temporarily. We will re-list those items and many more when we can fill your orders in a timely manner.

"Free Downloads HERE"