Over the years of exploring wood turning forums, a name began appearing, Thompson Lathe Tools.
You know how it goes, you see a reference of a new tool and think “Huh, wonder if its any good?” After seeing this brand pop up more and more, I visited his website and took a look around. I realized that I’d been missing out. I’d read others rave about the extreme edge holding ability of these tools, but I didn’t realize that a lot of the professionals that make a living by turning more and sharpening less were using these tools too. That’s when I told myself that when I could, I was going to check out these tools for myself.
I still had a few questions before my decision to purchase was set.
Do I have to have a CBN wheel for sharpening these tools?
Which 3/8″ spindle gouge with a fingernail grind is used for small finial work?
What’s the advantage of the U shaped or V shaped bowl gouge?
I’ll be turning some large platters. What scraper would you recommend for cleaning up the inside?
I called the company owner, Doug, on a Friday at a quarter to five and had to leave a message. I figured he was doing the same thing I was and had called it an early day. To my surprise he called back that evening around 6 and answered all of my questions and then some. He said that sure, some people use CBN, but you don’t have to. You’ll get a finer edge with a CBN wheel, but that the edge created by a 80 or 120 grit aluminum oxide wheel will serve you just fine. Doug recommended his regular spindle gouge with a sharp fingernail grind for creating delicate finials. He also recommended the V shaped bowl gouge for the large pieces I was planning to make. The V shaped bowl gouge is a bit more stout than the U shaped and has proven to be an excellent choice. I also have a fingernail grind on this tool and have enjoyed every minute of it. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the three larger sized scrapers that Doug offers for some time and decided on the 1 1/4″ scraper. This size is large enough to reach a fair amount over the tool rest and flatten a big platter, but not so big that I can’t use it for 5″ plates or bowls.
After mulling it over for a while, I purchased the 5/8 V shaped bowl gouge, the 3/8 spindle gouge, and the 1 1/4″ scraper. Upon the arrival of these tools, I was quickly impressed. I feel that packaging says a lot about a person, and while this has nothing to do with edge holding ability, it does enforce the message that Thompson Lathe Tools sends. These tools are of utmost quality and pride is reflected by each item being shipped in sturdy plastic tubes or sleeves. Of all the tools I’ve purchased, these are the most sturdy. Even before placing these tools in handles, they just have more presence than any other gouge or scraper I’ve handled. The bowl gouge and spindle gouge both have a heavier cross section than my other gouges, which makes them incredibly sturdy and resistant to chatter. I can’t say enough about the 1 1/4″ scraper though. Wow, just wow. It’s made from 5/16″ thick stock and doesn’t even attempt to fuss when you’re cleaning up the bottom of a big platter or bowl. It should be noted that this isn’t the heaviest scraper that Doug carries. The two larger scrapers are made of 3/8″ and 5/8″ steel. WHAT?!
Doug Thompson sells his tools unhandled, which keeps costs down. If you’re a do it yourself kinda guy like I am, you can make your own handles and save some cash. However, what if you’re too excited about trying out your new toys? Cough cough. Sorry, tools. You can purchase interchangeable handles from Doug as well.
So, I quickly made some metal handles to try out my new gouge. The first victim that fell prey to this awesome 5/8″ gouge was a piece of hickory that was 21″ X 4″. I was absolutely amazed with the results. I had to sharpen my gouge once after starting this piece and had never had so much fun burying myself with shavings. I was floored with the edge holding ability of this tool and knew that the other tools were sure to be just as amazing.
About a month later, it was time to get started making ornaments. I pulled out my new 3/8″ spindle gouge and went to town making finials. This tool has great control and quickly felt like an extension of my body to shape wood with ease. Again, I was impressed with this tool’s ability to retain a sharp cutting edge. Making small finials requires a lot of repeated cuts with the 1/8″ tip of a fingernail ground spindle gouge. I could complete numerous finials per sharpening before performance was even noticeably compromised.
Like most scrapers, these are equipped with a rectangular tang. For this tool, I made a wooden handle and enlisted the tool for active duty. Anyone who has used a scraper knows that the heart and soul of a scraper’s viability is the burr that creates the cutting edge. With my standard M2 HSS scraper, I was constantly going back and forth to the grinder or burnishing the edge to bring the burr back to life. I’ll never go back! You can’t make me use an M2 scraper. Maybe I’m over reacting, but geez, this thing just keeps going. Now, you’re not going to see that same time interval as you would with a gouge, but it’s a scraper, people, and the Thompson scrapers are the ones you want next to your lathe.
Thompson Lathe Tools doesn’t just provide tools, they provide satisfaction and excitement. These tools are just fun to use. They respond as expected and seem to become an extension of your body that acts and responds instinctively. Doug is a great person to do business with and I will happily continue to support him with future business and reviews.
Also, I was not compensated in any way by Doug or Thompson Lathe Tools for writing this review.