Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Skewing around...

For years, I always used sandpaper to clean up my lathe turnings. Then about 2 years ago I ran across a video Peter Galbert has on YouTube on using the skew in place of sandpaper, and it changed my lathe turning completely. It has taken about that same amount of time to get it to work consistently for me, but I never gave up. I saw how nice and crisp the turning can get and how polished you can make the turning without ever touching it with sandpaper. I do have to admit, it's not as easy as Pete makes it look in the video but he explains it very well. So after a couple years of really working at getting the hang of this tool, I can now say I'm pretty much, "OK" at it. I would love to get as good as Elia Bizzari, or the master himself Curtis Buchanan, but they both have years on me and this is a tool that takes work and time to master.

The one major thing you have to know is, the skew has to be super sharp. Now I'm not talking just sharp, there's not just a quick run over a stone and use it for the next 6 or 8 turnings kinda sharp, I talking scary sharp, like in between EVERY turning it needs to be touched up and polished. The kind that should be able to cut the end grain on pine and leave that waxy, smooth, polished look behind, or the kind that all of a sudden you look down and there's blood all over, sharp, yeah, y'all know what I'm talking about. This is that kind of sharp.

For me, I've never had a set of stones to sharpen with because in my full on power tool days, I bought a Veritas sharpening system. It works great and I get great scary sharp results with it so I've never bought the bullet on good quality stones. So even if your using a powered sharpener or stones scary sharp is the only way to get your skew chisel to behave properly. If your using sandpaper on your turnings you should at least give it a whirl and try the skew. I'm not going to say it's a tool you just pick it up and sandpaper is a thing of the past. But if you hang in there and work at it, the skew could someday replace your need for sandpaper on the lathe. I'm getting there but I'm not where I'd like to be.


  1. Great post. I will have to grind my skew chisels this way and start practicing.

  2. Hey Frontier Carpenter,
    Thanks for the comment! I saw your post on making a brace and was floored by how well it came out. I so want to make one now. That was very very cool.