Susan Rosand

Why Round Skews Are Best!

Round Skew

Well, actually they're not the best, but they are the best for the kind of work that I do. I'm known mostly for my small scale turning. After reading Nick Cook and Alan Lacer's article about their favorite skews (2004 summer issue), I knew I had to horn in on the act. I do believe that your favorite skew will be the one you get good at and that will be dictated by the kind of work you do.

If you do a lot of small scale turning, I don't think that you can go wrong with a small round skew. These inexpensive skews are easy to make and user friendly. You can purchase small round skews commercially, but the steel in the ones that I have seen are too short for my purposes. I buy tempered 1/4" round 8" long high speed steel from Enco Manufacturing (800 860 3400; part #383 7015). I make a 10" handle and sink the HSS about two inches into the handle. That gives me about 6" of usable tool.

One of the things I like the best about my small round skew is that the shaft of the tool does not damage or nick the tool rest. I stick to 1/4" diameter skews because I've found that the larger round skews (3/8" or 1/2") tend to be a little cumbersome. When I need a larger skew, I switch to my traditional 1/2" skew.

My switch to a round skew took a little time. First, it was about 12 years into my turning career before I became just "fair" with a skew. I started out with a 1/4" square skew. That tool worked fine, but I did need to soften the edges since they regularly marred the tool rest. I then remembered reading about oval skews, but could never find one small enough for my needs. The next logical step was a round tool.

Actually, sharpening the round skew is fairly easy, although a coarse grinder (36 grit) is helpful when first shaping the tool (see American Woodturncr, 9.2:7, 9.4:11). If you are starting from scratch, first turn the tool into a screwdriver shape. Grind one side, turn the tool, and repeat until your skew looks like a screwdriver. Then grind the skew portion of the tool. The blunted portion of the tool is then ground away. Once the tool is roughly shaped, I switch to a 60- or 80-grit wheel and complete my sharpening. I rarely hone the skew because I don't find it necessary. I also free hand sharpen all of my skews. Although I don't make extensive us of jigs for sharpening most tools, I've never found a jig that gives me the bevel I desire on my skews.

Whether you use a round skew, rectangular, or oval skew, getting comfortable with one just makes your turning life a lot easier. It is well worth the time it takes to master it.

Bob Rosand is a frequent American Woodturner contributor. He lives in Bloomsburg, PA.

This article originally appeared in The Journal
The American Association of Woodturners
Volume 19 Number 3, Fall 2004.