Here is a close up of my square carbide lathe tool. The square insert is great for roughing out shapes and removing material quickly, and the inserts are very inexpensive when sourced from an online tool supplier. These inserts came from Global Tooling, which carries several different sizes and shapes. They come in a ten pack for about $25 depending on the size, and they are very sharp. Global also sells square inserts with a slight radius on the edges, which can be used for other shaping duties where the corners on a 90 degree cutter sometimes get in the way.
Making a carbide lathe tool is a simple matter of drilling and tapping a 1/2″ square steel bar right near the end, so that the bottom of the insert sits square to the end of the bar. The bar can also be recessed like the picture to seat the insert a little lower, and the bevel on the back side helps keep the insert from rotating while in use. Purchase some of the screws from the website, and use one of these to attach the insert to the end of the steel bar. After the tool is made, turn a handle and epoxy the bar inside it.
The easy way to make the handle is to route a 1/2″ wide slot that is 1/4″ deep through a pair of 16″ long by 1-1/2″ wide pieces of wood, stopping a few inches from one end. The routing may have to be adjusted slightly wider and deeper to allow the bar to be pressed in with epoxy, so size the dadoes to the bar being used. Once the dadoes fit well, glue the two pieces of wood together with the open ends on one side, and then turn the wooden blank on the lathe to create the handle. The closed side should be turned into the end of the handle, and the open side will be the top of the handle. 4/4 hardwood is perfect for this, because when the two pieces are put together they allow plenty of meat for turning a nice thick handle.
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