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Easy Wood Tools
This time they really are easy to use!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 3-19-2011
There are lots of turning tools on the market that claim to be easy to use. All too often that applies mainly to woodturners that are already proficient and the folks who thought up that tool design in the first place. A fellow named Craig Jackson from Lexington, Kentucky had a better idea and invested the time and effort necessary to produce turning tools that really are easy to use. It is also important to note that his Easy Wood Tools are made in America at his shop in Kentucky!
All Easy Wood Tools feature nicely made handles and heavy stainless steel shanks that are as tough as they come. Compared to many turning tools on the market the Easy Wood Tools are big but for a very good reason. Bigger turning tools are easier to use for all skill levels but this can be especially important for fledgling woodturners with minimal experience. Besides, bigger heavier tools are more stable and that makes them safer as well.
The handles and shafts are very well made and are probably tougher than is really necessary. However, the plan is for the handles and shafts to last forever with the actual cutting edges being all you have to replace. That is a major money-saver over the long haul.
Easy Wood Tools are available in three main types. The Rougher has a square cutter, the Finisher has a round cutter and the Detailer has a diamond-shaped cutter. The tools shown in this review are considered “mid-sized” but Easy Wood Tools are available in mini and full-sized versions as well. See the link to the Easy Wood Tools web site at the end of this review to see everything they have available.
The cutting edges on all Easy Wood Tools are actually high-grade carbide inserts which come very sharp and will stay that way a surprisingly long time under normal use. To further extend their lifespan each insert has multiple edges. When an edge becomes dull you can simply rotate it to the next sharp edge and lock it down again. Easy Wood Tools even include a hex wrench for doing that! When all of the available edges are used up simply replace the insert with a new one and the tool is essentially brand new again.
This replaceable insert can be an important point to new woodturners and veterans alike. Adding a suitable sharpening machine and related jigs to the shop can cost hundreds of dollars. Then there is developing the skill to use it effectively on the tools you have. With brand new (and already sharp) inserts for the Easy Wood Tools costing between $13.95 and $18.95 depending on the size and number of cutting edges you can keep your Easy Wood Tools equipped with sharp edges for lots of years without ever seeing a sharpening machine! For many with the tight budgets so many must abide by the cost of a couple inserts now and then is way easier to handle than springing for an entire sharpening outfit.
Common Angle of Attack
All of the Easy Wood Tools are designed to be used the same way. Set the tool rest so that the top edge of the cutter insert is at the centerline of the wood. Then you hold the tool (all Easy Wood Tools are used the same) level to the floor for all of the cuts. That’s really it! One setup and one presentation for all of the Easy Wood Tools. It just does not get easier than that.
That common setup and usage technique lets users focus on making the shape rather than learning to ride a bevel or manipulate a cutting edge to avoid dangerous catches. I expect that many beginning turners will only need an afternoon or a couple hours to get the feel of using Easy Wood Tools. After that they can focus on WHAT to do with them and not HOW to get them to work. That can cut a bunch of time off of the learning process, not to mention saving the expense of the wood sacrificed in the repetitive process of learning the old way.
They are Handled!
Notice that the handles on the Easy Wood Tools are large in diameter and long. I know that big tools occasionally scare some beginners but it is precisely that length and girth that makes them easier for all experience levels to use. Being able to brace the end of that handle against your side or on your hip provides lots of leverage and stability, both of which make turning much easier (and safer) because you have more control over the cutting edge.
The shape of the handles encourages the user to place a hand at the end of the handle where the most leverage is attained. Too often manufacturers get cute with the shapes of handles which can be confusing to beginners. The Easy Wood Tool handles feel good to the hand and are comfortable even when you lose track of time and spend hours at the lathe because things are going so well.
Windshield (sort of)
Just when I thought there could be no more accessories for the Easy Wood Tools I find that they have a nifty chip deflector that gets between the turner and the turning. It simply clamps onto the shank with a thumbscrew so you can put it anywhere you need it. The Lexan shield is large enough to actually catch most of the debris that would be headed your way yet is small enough to not influence the tool while turning.
In the Shop
Using the Easy Wood Tools is dead easy for anyone who has turned before and nearly that simple for new turners. I had my doubts about all three cutter shapes working as easily as the Easy Wood Tools literature says but they are right on the money. If anything, using these tools might be a bit easier. The only thing that the user has to remember is to use a light touch, as you should with any turning tool. Just guide the Easy Wood Tools and let them do the work. You also have to keep the tool rest close to the work, again just as with any turning tool. The Easy Wood Tools simply do not need any special consideration.
The only difference that might be hard for experienced turners to get is setting the tool rest to put the cutting edge at the centerline of the wood. We are so used to working above or below center with traditional turning tools that using Easy Wood Tools could mean breaking old habits.
For the major portion of this evaluation I used a piece of red oak that had been giving me fits with my traditional turning tools. For some reason this piece just frayed and chipped badly no matter what I did so I sacrificed it to getting familiar with the Easy Wood Tools. But when I started turning with the Easy Wood Tools the oak didn’t fuzz up as badly. Lighten up on the cut and these tools make fine shavings while leaving a surprisingly smooth surface on what I used to think was junk wood.
Carving out shapes with the “Finisher” is very easy. Not having to worry about positioning a bevel or edge lets you focus on making the shape you want. I also found that when making a cove type cut that the Finisher will cut up the slope, something that was always a dumb idea with more traditional turning tools.
The “Detailer” with its pointed cutting edge does require paying attention to how deep you go in a single plunge. If you move it straight in about half of the cutter depth and then use the sides of the cutting edge to open that groove a bit all goes well. You can use the sides of the diamond-shaped cutter to round the sides of a groove to make beads or other shapes that flow into other shapes.
Despite turning for a several hours with the Easy Wood Tools for this evaluation I never felt like I was near a catch. I also never had to turn a cutter because the current edge had gone dull. Considering all of the wood I cut up it looks like these cutters hold an edge a very long time.
The Easy Wood Tools are obviously well made (in America) and feature a very user-friendly design. Whether you are a veteran or novice turner these tools will be easy to use without sacrificing functionality. The mid-sized tools shown here sell for $119.99 each (3-19-2011). See the Easy Wood Tools web site for the full range of tools and pricing available.
If you turn wood, or want to, the Easy Wood Tools should be of interest. These tools can let a novice turner have fun sooner and that is what leads to learning. If you need basic turning tools, check out the Easy Wood Tools line. You too can be a happy turner!
Visit the Easy Wood Tools web site – Click Here
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