The lava chisel (Old and crusty, beware!) →
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Wood and steel lathes are completely different tools, right? I mean, you can’t cut or shape steel or rock with a wood lathe…how would you do it? A little trick I came up with a few years ago involves using an angle or die grinder in place of lathe chisels. Because grinder media are made out of cheap, disposable materials, you can quickly shape things like steel and rock very inexpensively. In a no forge challenge a few years ago, I mixed epoxy and lava rocks to create this handle. Due to the softness of the lava rock, I had thought it would have been possible to use lathe tools to whittle it down…but obviously failed. To form it, I used a flap disc and my grinder which very easily gave me the shape I was looking for.
Besides shaping materials that can’t be shaped with normal lathe tools, they also make shaping end grain far easier. If you’re struggling with catches with end grain, a flap disc can more effectively do the work. When I made this awl out of end grain, I was easily able to clean it up revealing a magnificent chatoyance. There are a few things you need to remember if you’re going to attempt this. Always wear safety equipment like face shields as well as breathing filters. Clean up sawdust so that any sparks you create won’t start a fire. Also, take your time and don’t force anything…treat things like your sanding instead of cutting. Use common sense: if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
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William L McNally
Tutor the Barbarian