A few months ago, I posted some videos of my wood turning efforts with the Easy Wood Tools. These tools are fairly new at Highland and I wanted to give them a try. I started with the Large Rougher which has a rectangular tip on it and has turned into one of my favorites especially when starting a project. You can move a lot of chips quickly and easily. In fact I would venture to say it is excellent for a beginner who wants to jump into turning and produce something immediately on the lathe.
The next month I moved to the Easy Finisher and made a video of that one showing less success. The tip on the Easy Finisher is round and like all the others is very sharp. Unfortunately, I let some ingrained habits take over and violated some of the rules put forth by the manufacturer for using these tools. I blew one small bowl apart and then got a nasty catch (is there any other kind?) as I was working on a larger walnut bowl. My conclusion was that I needed more practice and that perhaps the Finisher should be named the “little bit harder to use” tool.
As it turns out, the people from Easy Wood Tools were watching and got in contact to offer some suggestions. At the time, Rory Curtis was the National Director for Easy Wood Tools and called to offer some suggestions.
He suggested first of all that the best grip is to have your thumb on top of the tool and your finger underneath. Using that grip leads directly to Rule #1: Flat on the tool rest. Now if you are a beginner and have never learned to use a bowl gouge, that grip is easy. If like me, you spent many hours learning that delicate little compound curve motion to move from the edge of a bowl to the center with a conventional bowl gouge, then you will find you have to make a conscious effort to keep the Easy Tool flat on the rest. Keeping it flat is critical.
Rule #2: Level to the floor. That one is different too. Not many of my other tools are used level to the floor. That same compound curve motion from Rule #1 that takes months to learn with other tools can lead you wrong with Rule #2. My instinct is to constantly adjust the angle of the gouge as I feel the bevel and watch the cutting edge. It is hard to get away from long established habits, but when you come off level with the Easy Tools, bad things happen.
Rule #3: Set the tool rest so the top of the tool is even with the center of the work piece. This one is not much different from what I normally use. I do set the tool rest a little further back from the work, but these tools are long and heavy and a little more space helps keep them flat on the rest.
I think it is fair to say that for some tasks I pick up the Easy Tools first. I especially like the Rougher for starting a project and for making a flat bottom in a bowl. The Detailer is so much easier for me to use than a skew chisel. If you are a beginning turner and want to learn to make something quickly, these tools fit the bill. If you follow the Rules, they are as easy to use as advertised.
Having grown up in the South, I know that up North, stories begin with “Once upon a time.” Down here they begin with “You ain’t gonna believe this.” If you want to see a remarkable use of the Easy Wood Tools, go watch Bob Kennedy using the Easy Tools “in the dark.” You ain’t gonna believe this!! Amazing!!
CLICK HERE to see the complete line of Easy Wood Tools sold at Highland Woodworking.