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The Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System (left) is very well made and works at least as well as they claim. I have never managed to complete a hollow form in the past but finished the first attempt with this tool! And, this tool, is made by Carter Products (right) in the United States!
Click image to enlarge

Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System

No torque lets you focus on creativity

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted - 10-26-2011

Carter Products has always been known for designing and building exceptional equipment for band saws and other machines. In recent years they have expanded their focus to include woodturning. The Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System is the latest product from that effort and once again represents a home run. What is even better is that Carter designs and produces the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System entirely in the United States!

The Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System is a captive bar fixture that eliminates the operator having to fight the torque generated by the cutting edge within a hollow form. The increase in safety is considerable but because the bar is firmly captured between steel rollers mounted on ball bearings, the operator can focus on making cuts where they are supposed to be without having to fight torque at the same time. This is great for veteran hollow form turners but can be a huge help for woodturners like myself whose only experience with hollow forms has been blowing them up on the lathe.

The Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System looks like it might be over built but the forces it controls can be large so Carter built in a bunch of toughness. The materials and machining are first rate as is the anodizing that helps protect the aluminum components. The roller system uses fully sealed, lubrication free ball bearings to insure smooth operation. And the tough frame that supports the roller system allows smooth movement of the tool while it absorbs torque.

This outfit also includes a Carter Artisan Series 175 quick lock tool handle and the special Hollow Roller™ boring bar. This versatile handle system can be used with several tool bars that Carter offers. Carter also packs a special high-speed steel scraper bit with the kit. If you have wood, you are very close to turning wood when you bring the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System home.

The included tool rest (left) comes with a longer post so it will work with larger lathes such as my Powermatic 3520B. It also locks onto nearly any lathe bed. the Torque Arrestor (right) is at the heart of this system and really does work very well. Once you get used to it you hardly notice that it is there.
Click images to enlarge

The basic Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System can be used on virtually all lathes but you do have to buy a mounting stud to fit your tool rest banjo. That means if you change lathes the worst that could happen is needing a new stud, not a whole new system! For instance, for my Powermatic 3520B lathe needed the HR 1000-60 stud which fits the banjos on the Laguna 1643, the Oneway 2036 and 2436, the Powermatic 3520B and their 4224 lathes, all of which use a 1”-diameter tool rest post. See the Carter web site for the available studs and the lathes they cover.

Setting It Up

Actually putting the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System together is child’s play. OK, a big child at least for the part where the tailstock is removed from the lathe. After that it really is simple. Carter includes the necessary hex wrenches and the illustrated instruction sheet really does show you how to do it. If you get this wrong you are just trying to be difficult.

The instructions also talk about resetting the rollers that capture the tool easily using the hex wrenches included. My Hollow Roller assembly was set perfectly from the factory which I confirmed with a plain piece of paper that should just roll under the top roller with the bar.

The distances of the included tool rest and the Carter Hollow Roller™ are explained well in the instructions. One point to remember is that the Carter Hollow Roller™ block can be set to act as a depth stop. The flat portion along the bottom of the tool returns to full round near the handle and that stops any further forward movement of the tool when it reaches the rollers. Using that depth-limiting feature can prevent doing something embarrassing like cutting the bottom out of your otherwise beautiful vase. With that, we are ready to start making a hollow form.

In the Shop

Easily the most difficult part of setting the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System up was (left) removing the tailstock from the lathe. The supplied HSS (I say carbide in the video, my bad) cutter (right) makes using this tool even easier. It is a simple scraper but it is sharp and shaped well for this job.
Click images to enlarge

One of the features touted on the Carter site is that the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System is meant for veterans and new hollow form turners alike. That is welcome news to me since I have not successfully turned a hollow form with the gooseneck tools I bought a few years ago. I have tried them a few times and always managed to blow up potential vases or whatever they were going to become with a big time catch at the wrong moment. (Right now the folks at Carter are reading this a little more quickly and scanning for photos to see if I managed to jam their nifty tool out through the side of another dead vase. Let’s not tell them just yet that all is fine.)

When all is said and done, the cutter on the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System is a scraper and we all are capable of making any scraper chatter and catch if we get a bit over enthusiastic. I did make the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System cutter chatter several times but was always able to cure that issue with a lighter, somewhat slower cut. The good news is that the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System is very forgiving. If you can keep yourself from jabbing the cutter into the spinning wood you can turn a hollow vessel.

For me the transition from lots of chattering to making cuts in the shape that I wanted took about 20 minutes. Not having to worry about torque responses in the tool itself really does let you focus on applying the cutting edge to the wood in a sensible and effective manner. One of my major hollow vessel shortcomings before was accidentally making a zero wall thickness in a place that caused the vessels demise. With the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System I was actually able to maintain a wall thickness through a couple of curves without part of the project flying off.

I also found that once I had the approximate shape hollowed out that I could speed the lathe up and begin taking very light cuts to produce a much smoother surface than I have ever been able to get with previous hollowing tools. Remember that this is a scraper so sanding is still a fact of life. However by taking my time and developing a bit of feel for the Carter tool I was able to reduce the sanding time dramatically with a few light final cuts.

Video Tour

Conclusions

When I began this review I had some concerns about my capabilities using it. Those fears turned out to be unfounded as the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System made turning my first successful hollow object much easier than I anticipated. The Hollow Roller system really does take the torque generated at the cutting edge out of the equation. That let me concentrate on how I applied the cutter to the wood. I also think that the rounded design of the HSS cutter (I say carbide in the video, my mistake!) makes controlling the cuts easier. I could make long cuts moving the tool into the object or pulling it outwards. I felt a bit more comfortable with an outwards cut when trying to finish the surface.

Perhaps an even bigger surprise is the price of this all American Made system. The current street price is just $359.99! (10-26-2011) If you are familiar with Carter Products you already know the quality that they build into their tools. That means that with minimal care on your part the Carter Hollow Roller™ Vessel Turning System will be a lifetime investment that will make hollow objects much easier and way more fun to make.

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