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What is a Parting Tool?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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A parting tool is used in woodworking to cut a finished wood turning off of a wood lathe. Shaped much like a pointed spear, the "V" form of the parting tool is able to cut very close to the chuck and remove only a narrow portion of wood. While intended to cut the work loose, a parting tool is also useful in cutting small grooves into a work piece as well as creating small decorative lines. In the hands of a skilled wood worker, a parting tool can be used for several tasks.

When creating work on a wood lathe, one of the most critical operations is in the removal of the piece. Unskilled wood workers often choose to remove the finished piece from the end stock using a band saw. While this is an allowable practice, a skilled wood worker would not choose to use a saw to cut his work free. By using a parting tool to remove the piece, the wood worker has control of the cut and is also able to shape the very bottom of the turning to his liking.

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The key in most wood working projects is to use the proper tools, and wood turning is no exception. Wood lathe tools are manufactured of very high-grade steel and are able to be sharpened to a razor's edge. Sharp tools make smooth and precise cuts on a lathe much easier. Dull tooling creates rough and ragged surfaces that require extensive sanding in order to repair them. When a dull tool is being used, the wood often is ripped off of a project instead of being cut off.

While wood turning tools are typically sharpened many times over their lifetimes, a parting tool is never sharpened down to a stubby length. This is mainly due to the parting tool's need to cut through a work piece that may be of some size. A short tool would not be able to reach into the turning and cut all the way through. While sharpened down, parting tools may be used to add decorative touches to a turning; a full size parting tool is used to remove a turning from the lathe.

One method used by experienced wood turners to maintain a sharp parting tool is alternating sides when cutting a turning loose. By using both sides of the V-shaped cutting tool to remove a turning, one side does not suffer all of the abuse and heat. Maintaining a cool tool temperature is one secret to having a properly sharpened turning tool.

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