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These new turning tools from Rockler make it possible for any turner to use sharp, properly shaped cutting edges without having to buy and learn to use a dedicated sharpener.
Click image to enlarge

Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools

Save money while improving your turning

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 6-4-2014

The idea of replaceable carbide cutting edges for wood turning has become entrenched in the hobby because it saves money while providing the turner a renewable high-quality cutting edge. The design of these Rockler full-sized insert tools makes it easier to make clean cuts in more situations without running back and forth to a pricey sharpening machine.

The Basics

All of the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools feature comfortable and easy to control ergonomically designed handles. The grip area enhances those characteristics through the application of a rubber over mold that both cushions your hand while increasing the slip-resisting grip.

The overall length of the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools is approximately 19-1/2" with slight variation due to cutter shape. The ash handles are 13" long from the butt of the handle to the end of the stainless steel ferrule that locks the 6-1/2" shafts in place. We should note that while all of the tools in this review feature replaceable cutters, the various shapes cannot be interchanged amongst these tools because of the purpose-designed mounting for each cutter design.

All of the carbide cutters on the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools are easily replaced by removing a special screw, placing the new cutter and tightening the screw. Rockler includes a “key” type wrench with each tool that fits the star-pattern screw that virtually eliminates slipping and stripping. Of course before you replace these cutters you can simply turn them to the next sharp edge and immediately go back to turning. Rockler uses high-grade carbide to produce these cutters so they last a surprisingly long time before needing replacement. All of the replacement carbide cutters for these tools sell for $19.99 each. (5-28-2014)

The special star-shaped "key" and screw (left) make changing or indexing the carbide cutters simple. Each of the tools has a flat-bottomed shank (right) to make it easier to keep the tool level to the work and make cleaner cuts.
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S2 and SR2 Square Cutters

Both of these Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools feature four-sided carbide cutters that can be indexed to the next sharp edge when one becomes dulled.

The S2 Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tool (#49318) is designed for general turning, especially when creating straight sections and forming tenons. The cutter has four sides, each approximately 0.60" square. I also found this tool to be very handy for making small V-grooves and detail lines. The cutting edges on the S2 are straight to help when cutting flat sections.

See the Rockler web page for this tool – Click Here

The Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools SR2 version (#48535) was designed to make easy smoothing cuts and for creating convex surfaces. The carbide cutter on this tool is approximately 0.60'' square but each of the four cutting edges has a 2'' convex radius that makes it easy to handle when cutting these kinds of shapes.

Visit the Rockler web page for the SR2 tool – Click Here

D2 Diamond Cutter

The D2 Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tool (#49632) sports a two-sided diamond shaped carbide cutter that makes short work of producing smooth finishes in surprisingly tight areas and doing detail work around features such as beads and coves found on many types of turnings in addition to traditional spindle work. The replaceable D2 cutter measures approximately 1-1/2" long x 1/2" wide.

Visit the Rockler web page for the D2 tool – Click Here

The handles (left) are ergonomically shaped and given a rubber over mold that makes them slip resistant and comfortable. The full size length makes holding the cutter steady (right) much easier and far less tiring.
Click images to enlarge

Round Cutter

The R2 Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tool (#48723) has a round cutter that measures 0.60” in diameter and has a continuous cutting edge around its circumference. This tool is great for many shaping tasks at the lathe besides forming and putting a smooth finish on curved and concave surfaces. The round cutter has lots of uses in general turning work including turning small bowls, goblets and similar “hollowing” projects.

Visit the Rockler web page for the R2 tool – Click Here

In the Shop

Most of you know by now that I am a big fan of replaceable cutters on turning tools because they make it possible for more people to use quality tools at their lathes without having to buy a sharpening machine and bunch of expensive attachments. There are those who want to do exactly that and that is fine for them but there are lots of more moderate tool budgets out there that can benefit from the economy of replaceable cutting edges.

The Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools have a great handle design that simply feels very comfortable in use. The rubber gripping section has a tacky-feeling which gives you a great sense of control without having to squeeze the grip tightly. Working with relaxed hands is way better when it comes to making curves and other fine work. When you get used to the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools many of you will literally be a better turner just because you can lose the death grip and focus on being smooth and consistent in your tool presentation.

Using cheap carbide with a short life would kill the concept of replaceable cutters and Rockler is not cutting corners there. All of the cutters appear to be made from high-quality carbide that holds a sharp cutting edge a very long time. In my evaluation of these and other Rockler carbide-tipped tools I have yet to have the first cutting edge go dull. If you take your time and let the tool do its work without forcing it these edges will last far longer than you expect and that makes the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools an even better value when you consider the cost-per-use.

Video Your

The shanks on all of the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools are made from heavy steel to make sure they resist flex that causes finish-killing chatter. To make the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools easier to use all of the shanks have a flat surface along the bottom that indexes the tool to you tool rest. Here again it allows you to focus more on making the contours you want and less on gripping the tool to keep it steady.

Though I tried the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools on various species of wood and made a bunch of shapes I could find no bad habits in any of them. Set your tool rest properly, keep the pressure to a minimum to let the edges do their work and the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools will produce remarkable results for a very long time. There is no magic, just well-made tools that were designed right in the first place.

Conclusions

If you are looking to add quality full-sized turning tools to your shop check out the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools. These are well-designed and nicely made tools that are easy to use and produce great results.

The Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools sell for $99.99 each (5-28-2014) and you don’t have to worry about them wearing out or getting to short from repeated sharpenings. That price puts the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools at or under the price of many more traditional turning tools out there that require frequent sharpening or even a dedicated sharpening machine. For me that puts the real cost of the Rockler Full-Size Carbide Insert Turning Tools way below that of any other tools I have in my shop. I suspect you could say the same thing.

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