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Woodturning with Rotary Texturing Tools
By Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Highland Woodworking recently asked me to test out their set of Rotary Texturing Tools for Woodturners . I have other types of texturing tools and enjoy using them, so I was eager to try out something new. I have only had these a short time, however, it is clear to me these tools can easily add new embellishments to a range of turned wood items. They are so simple to use and there is virtually no learning curve.

Initially, I thought of these as knurling tools capable of leaving a heavily textured and "grippy" surface, similar to what you might find on metal knobs or bolts that were intended to be tightened or loosened by hand.
After inspecting the tools, I assumed they would be aggressive and possibly create a tear out in the wood. However, the surface left by the tools is quite smooth with no tear out. After using them, I found the textured surface didn't even require sanding!
These turning tools are best used to add decorative interest to turned items. There is some improved grip but not anywhere near what I had imagined. After reflecting on their use, I am pleased they were not overly aggressive nor did they require lots of sanding.
How I Used Them

It is recommended that the tool rest be set in line with the center line of the wood blank, and then run the lathe at a slow to medium speed. The texturing wheel should be applied straight on the rotating wood with medium force. I tested this on a range of settings and woods. I discovered, like most turning tools, they work well within a range of settings. I preferred the texture left by running the lathe at about 600- 700 rpm with the tool rest near the center line. I also preferred the look created by making several passes over the same area.
When different tools are applied to the same area, they create a slightly more random appearance. The texture left on lighter colored woods is more visible vs. darker woods.
The woods I used were ambrosia maple, cherry, walnut and poplar. You can view the texture left by each tool on the poplar blank below.
All settings remained the same for each tool. The speed was in the 600-700 rpm range. The tools from left to right below correspond to the texture and width pictured in the preceding photo.
The tools are solid and feel robust. A foam pad covers the handle and provides a comfortable grip. The texturing wheels turned smoothly right out of the package. The Set of 3 includes the following sizes: 1/4" x 16tpi, 3/8" x 16tpi, and 3/8" x 12tpi. You can order them either individually or as the Set of 3 .

A word of advice, take care in how you set these tools down. I was careful to extend the cutting wheels over the bed of my lathe so as to not mar my lathe. Another option would be to set the tool down on its side. This also protects the texturing wheel.

I am happy with the performance of the tools. They represent a good value. I certainly enjoyed experimenting with the various combinations of patterns and textures.

Which one makes sense for you? In my mind, there is not a specific tool I would recommend purchasing first. I think this is a personal preference. However, if pressed to choose, I would likely, select the smaller tool. The justification would be that I am more likely to use it on smaller turnings or that I only want a narrow band to decorate an item.
Fortunately, these tools are inexpensive in the world of turning tools. Just pick one and add others as needed. If you purchase them now (October/November 2017), there is currently a nice discount on the set of 3 tools .

Curtis was a former President of Central Texas Woodturners , is a member of the American Association of Woodturners , and is a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin . Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he works and teaches. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at www.curtisturnerstudio.com or visit his Instagram: tx_planes .

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