Tool Rests

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Established Member
21 Feb 2015
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County Durham
Hope this isn't as devisive as sharpening but how long should a tool rest be? Didn't think to measure mine but I was having a play with some blanks less than 150mm long and the tool rest seemed a bit on the short side. In for a penny; round or scraper-shaped?
To some extent it depends on how rigid your banjo fixing is and of course the stem diameter has an effect on this.
I have solid cast iron on a 30mm stem up to 300mm long as my longest.
If stem diameter is a problem on rigidity you can manufacture them with some diagonal bracing from the ends to lower down the stem near the top of the banjo.

Day to day go to is a angled blade that gives me best support and finger friendly surface for most tasks.

I do have round ones, even a blade one with a small diameter hard steel front edge.

All have the access uses at times.
I tended to make them up as I went in the early days whenever I perceived a need for better access.


The cast Iron ones come into use for interrupted cuts with significant shock loads, I have a few other 'blades' that bolt onto the end of the stem seen in the image that were made up for awkward to reach places.


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When I had a Record CL lathe the tool rest was about 9" and that seemed OK. Bought a set of Sorby modular tool rests and found those much better.
On upgrading to a Jet lathe I found the toolrest supplied is horrible, far too soft so it has nicks from the edge of a bedan being rolled on it.
Although the sorby set has 4, 6 and 9 inch rests the 9 is the one that stays on the lathe. I guess it depends o the range of movement in your banjo as to which works.
Having said that my turning is pretty basic stuff so far.
The ideal tool rest is long enough to turn what you are working on. Sometimes I find a long rest can be awkward for turning short pieces between centres because it gets in the way of the tailstock. I have 6" 12" and 24" toolrests and those cover most eventualities.
On the same theme so hopefully OK in this thread, what is the accepted practice for looking after toolrests?

I mostly use the standard cast iron/machined edge rest that came with my Record DML350, but notice that occasionally the tool hesitates during a cut. There are a few visible but barely feel-able marks along the working edge. First thought is a clean up with fine emery paper followed by a silicone spray - or just leave it alone so as not to make matters worse.
Abrasive to smooth and polish the nicks out, don't use Silicone spray or Silicone wax products anywhere near your wood handling tools or equipement.
If it gets onto a finished surface it will prevent finishes and adhesives taking properly.

(Remember Silicones are often used as a release agent in epoxy and plastic laminate moulding)
As above I draw file if really deep dents then through the grits to a polished finish, I only do this when required.
Like CHJ and Paul, I have a number of tool rests for various task on the lathe one being as Paul mentioned when turning a short item between centres and I need to fit one between the headstock and tailstock.
Looking after rests some of them never seem to get dings but for the others, I have used a file resting along the rest and give it a gentle file this helps keeping the top of the rest straight this tends to be the cast type rest this needs doing to

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