How to Sharpen Lathe Tools with a Belt Sander in Minutes?

Do you need to sharpen your lathe tools? Have you tried grinding them with a bench grinder but are still not satisfied with the results? Well, it’s time for plan B. If you have access to a belt sander, this is what should be used instead of a bench grinder. The belt sander will give you the perfect angles on your lathe tools and make it easier for them to cut through any material that needs sharpening.

Related: Best Belt Sanders: Reviews and Buying Guide

Table of Contents

  • Why Should I choose a Belt Sander to Sharpen Lathe Tools?
  • Sharpen Lathe Tools (Step by Step Guide)
  • What angle to sharpen lathe tools?
  • What grit stone sharpen lathe tools?
  • What speed should sharpen lathe tools?

Why Should I choose a Belt Sander to Sharpen Lathe Tools?

  • Belt sander is affordable than a bench grinder. Grinding wheels also work well, but it is a bit pricey for a mere sharpening job.
  • It is easy to change grits in a belt sander.
  • Comparing to a bench grinder, belt sander causes less friction.
  • It is easy to sharpen lathe tool in a belt sander as it cuts very fast.
  • The wide flat pattern on the belt does not require frequent dressing.
  • Belts are comparatively cheap, available, and give the best service while using wax lube with it.
  • You can hone the tool in less than a minute.

So, the above reasons how that it is pretty convincing to use a belt sander to sharpen the lathe tools and belt sander may considered as the best way to sharpen lathe tools. Now let’s jump into the process:

Sharpen Lathe Tools (Step by Step Guide)

Step-1: Items you need

To get this method done, you will need a belt sander with a 2-inch belt, belt grit (grits from 80 to 120 may work fine), and the dull lathe tool you are going to sharpen.

Step-2:  Prepare the belt sander

Install belt of two-inch. You can’t just use a 1-inch belt for this purpose, because it doesn’t grind the turning gouges that evenly.

Do not install the belt too tightly; keep the belt between not too tight and not too loose.

Step-3: Sharp the lathe tool

Now, with gentle pressure, put the lathe tool on the belt sander. I would recommend sharpening the tool keeping it away from cutting edge.

Slightly turn the tool so that the belt sander hones the tool all the other sides. Explore sharpen a knife with a belt sander to learn more abut belt sander usage.


Hold the tool lightly. If you put pressure on it, the sander might just unnecessarily eat away much of the metals.

Check the tool at every stroke. Remember, a belt sander cuts fast. You don’t want your tool turning fragile, do you? That is why it is important to check after every stroke.

Step-4:  Cool down the lathe tool

As you have put the tool on a belt sander, with constant friction, it will turn hot. So you need to cool down the tool after finishing the job. If you don’t consider cooling it down, the tool may dampen a bit.

Step-5: Test on something

After certain strokes, when you feel sharpened enough, test it on walnut or something to make sure it is sharpened enough.

Always put on goggles and gloves for self-protection. The flying metal pieces may harm your skin in the long run. To avoid any unpleasant, even keel goggles and gloves at hand.

Now, as we have come across how to do it, we should know the difficulties you might face while sharpening with a belt sander.

As I have done extensive research on the users, people find it challenging to find a position to hold the lathe tool on a belt sander. They are often confused about which direction they should have the lathe tool on it. Some users would rather go a sharpening jig to sharpen a lathe tool.

On the brighter side, a belt sander is cheaper and does the job in the quickest possible time. So the decision comes down to you whether you are willing to choose it or not.

Related: How to Sharpen a Knife with a Belt Sander?

What angle to sharpen lathe tools?

The angle of a lathe tool can vary depending on the type of material being cut. A quick rule of thumb is that if you are cutting soft materials, a smaller angle is needed (approximately 10°) use a larger angle (approximately 45°) for harder materials.

For woodturning, typically an angle of 25-35 degrees appears in most books and manuals.

Some people may recommend an entirely different range though, so as with everything it pays to experiment! With power tools it’s best to consult your user manual or try them out first to find what works for you… but when they start getting old and worn then there’s no choice but to sharpen your tools!

Related: How to Use a Belt Sander? [9 Effective Steps]

What grit stone sharpen lathe tools?

The secrets to a sharp lathe tool are a little bit of oil and the right grit stone. Before you start, use some papers or even a stiff-bristled brush to clean dust off the tool’s face. This will help ensure that it cuts smoothly and does not clog with particles of metal shavings from previous cuts. Next, submerge the edge in the container of oil for a minute or so; this will help prevent rusting while you work.

Hang one grit stone at each end of your belt sander (or hold them between your legs) and turn on the machine. A coarse grit stone should be at dead center relative to your bench grinder wheel; this will allow you to sharpen both sides of the tool equally. With high-speed grinding, turn the lathe tool straight up and down (instead of moving it back and forth) to remove metal evenly from each side. The grit stone should be slightly higher than work surface level to avoid putting a groove in your bench top.

As you grind, move the belt sander back and forth to sharpen the edge. As soon as you see a wiggle (or slight bow) in the line of metal, it means that your tool is sharpening evenly on both sides. A flat belt sander will also pull down any protruding points along the cutting edge; these are potential weak spots.

After grinding, clean your sharpening stone and then use a finer grit to produce a mirror pattern on the tool’s surface. Continue until no impurities appear in the oil, or you can see your face reflected clearly in the blade when it is held up to light. If you do not have a belt sander, just use an electric hand grinder with a grit stone (hold the tool at about a 30 degree angle to the wheel).

What speed should sharpen lathe tools?

Speed varies depending on the type of material being machined, but typically speeds around 115-120 rpm might be appropriate. More specifics will depend on the lathe’s specifications, and may vary from one machine to another.

Sharpening in general is a balancing act of reducing both cutting edge bluntness and sharpening too quickly, with excessive sharpening actively clogging the cutting edges and dulling it even more quickly.

Different types of material require different approaches to speed and feed rates so as not to overload or scratch them. The ideal speeds can vary greatly depending on what you are making or trying to achieve with that stroke

Final Words

A handheld belt sander can be a bit troublesome, but it’s not an impossible task. If you don’t have tons of wood turning works on your shoulder the choosing a belt sander can be an ideal choice in this situation. Moreover, a belt sander doesn’t cause much friction; and less friction is good for wood turning tools.

If you are not a first-timer using a belt sander and willing for a faster yet finer result, then go for a belt sander to sharpen lathe tools. Plus, it is much cheaper comparing to grinders.

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