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This is a well-balanced set that represents a great value for woodturners.
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Crown 5-Piece Turning Tool Set

Quality tools that help you learn

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   I'm not usually a fan of buying sets of anything. It often appears that sets contain a few useful pieces mixed with others that represent more profit for the manufacturer than utility for the user. I bought the Crown 5-piece beginners lathe tool set on the advice of several experienced turners, but still feared that some of the pieces would go unused. Now, three-plus years later, all five tools in the Crown lathe tool set continue to be used frequently.

Balanced Selection

   The Crown lathe tool set includes a ¾" roughing gouge, 3/8" spindle gouge, ¼" parting tool, ½" round-nosed scraper and a ½" skew. Of those, the scraper and skew may be the least-used initially but quickly grow in importance as you gain experience. Once the basics of turning are learned, all five tools are very useful.

   The tools included in the Crown lathe tool set allow turning a huge range of objects. The roughing gouge handles the initial rounding of the blank and makes quick work of removing large amounts of wood. The spindle gouge is used to form shapes, including beads, coves and just about anything else with rounded or sloped features. The skew, though more difficult to use, can also be used for making beads, tapers and decorative grooves. The round-nosed scraper helps refine shapes and smooth surfaces left by other tools. The parting tool, in addition to cutting a finished piece free, is useful for creating square-edged features and more.

   All of these tools are used for many other tasks that become evident as your comfort level and experience grows. The selection of tools included in the Crown lathe tool set means a new woodturner grows into, not out of it.

HSS Material

Made from quality HSS, this set takes a very sharp edge, holds it even better and will last many years with minimal care.
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   All of the tools in the Crown lathe tool set are made from high-quality HSS (High Speed Steel), an important consideration. HSS material is very tough, takes a very sharp edge and then retains that sharpness far longer than carbon steel often used in many bargain-priced tools. HSS is also far more resistant to heat and losing their tempering during sharpening on dry grinders.

   The qualities of HSS material means less frequent sharpening and less material removed to restore the cutting edge. That extends the usable life of the tool substantially. They cost a little more initially but the savings down the road should make this a no-brainer for even the most cost-conscious buyers.

   I use the Tormek SuperGrind sharpening system to maintain the edges on my Crown lathe tool set. Though I keep them very sharp, touching up the edges frequently, three years of heavy use has produced no discernable loss of material or length.

Effective Design

   Crown has highly experienced people in their Sheffield, England facilities that obviously know how to design and manufacture quality woodturning tools. All of the tools included in this Crown lathe tool set have proven to be easy to use and cut very well in all species of wood. For the new woodturner, these attributes mean tools that help the learning process, not frustrate it.

At The Lathe

The size and shape of the Crown handle is only one reason these chisels are a pleasure to use.
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   When I bought my lathe, a set of low-dollar turning chisels were included. I decided to invest in a "good" set of chisels (the Crown lathe tool set featured in this story) at the same time. This proved to be a good decision but also gave me the opportunity to compare the two sets head-to-head while I learned my way around the lathe. The difference between the free chisels and the Crown lathe tool set was dramatic.

   No matter what I was doing, I did it better with the Crown lathe tool set. What is most telling is that often I would be presenting the tool to the wood incorrectly but the Crown chisels would cut better, with fewer "catches" than the same type of tool from the cheaper set. The Crown lathe tool set also made it very easy to see when my technique improved, leaving a smooth burnished surface as a reward.

If kept sharp these chisels can cut a surface that needs little or no sanding, and do it easier than you might think!
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   The Crown lathe tool set have nicely shaped turned hardwood handles and an overall length of 15". The shape and size of the handles give a comfortable grip that makes controlling and rolling the tools easier and more natural feeling. I have tried other handle shapes and sizes on some of the cheaper tools but found that closely replicating the standard Crown handle worked best. Unfortunately the quality of their cuts could not be repaired by handles alone.

   The 15" overall length of the Crown tools provides a good amount of leverage that reduces effort and helps maintain control of the tool while cutting. When you are new to turning your hands tire quickly, probably from the death grip most new turners have on the tools. The leverage of the Crown tools, along with the handle and edge designs, helped me learn to relax a bit which extended my time at the lathe considerably.

Conclusions

   While the Crown lathe tool set costs a bit more, I am convinced they are worth the extra money and more. The top-quality materials and manufacturing mean these tools will have a very long life, making them a long-term investment. The efficient, forgiving design of the cutting edges has proven to be a big help in my quest to learn the basic skills of turning wood. Instructional books and videos certainly help, but using tools that cut consistently shortens the learning curve a bunch.

   If I had to start in woodturning again, I hope I would have the good sense to buy the same Crown lathe tool set again.

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