Saturday, February 2, 2013

What's the difference between 10V steel and M2 steel for Woodturning tools?

I'm really enjoying using tools made from CPM 10V steel. I think this alloy is here to stay in the woodturning world. If you've been wondering what it's all about, here is a double ear-full of my opinion on the subject. This is my best effort at explaining the difference between standard M2 steel woodturning tools, and 10V steel tools.

Disclaimer: This is only my opinion! I am a woodturner, but not a metallurgist or expert.

M2 Steel Tools vs. 10V Steel Tools

M2 Steel, also called High Speed Steel, or HSS, is today's standard for Woodturning tools. It is a steel alloy that holds a sharp edge a long time, handles heat well,
and is easy to sharpen. M2 is a specific alloy of steel, being a combination of metals in a precise ratio. The heat treating process is what gives M2 its edge-holding ability. Proper heat treating is a very exacting process involving heat, temperature, and time. Top quality tools made from M2 HSS are accurately heat treated according to precise specifications. Heat treating can easily be done poorly, or improperly. An low quality M2 tool might have the correct alloy composition, but not have the edge holding performance that it would have gotten from proper heat treating.

This is why when we buy "off brand" (usually low cost) turning tools, sometimes we get a good one and sometimes we don't. What we get with top brand premium M2 tools is an alloy of the correct composition that also has been properly heat treated. This usually comes at a premium price. The easiest way to lower tool manufacturing costs is to make them in less developed countries and skimp on the heat treating.

In woodturning today, I believe that we get what we pay for. My M2 Signature Woodturning Tools are made by Henry Taylor, a company with a long standing reputation for quality turning tools, in Sheffield England, an area renowned for its quality steel tools. I have confidence that Henry Taylor Tools are as good as M2 steel tools can be.

10V, or A11, Steel is considered a Tool Steel. In the metalworking world, it is not usually used for cutting tools. It is very tough and durable. Everything that I said about the precise alloy composition and accurate heat treating of M2 applies to 10V (A11) as well. The two metals are very different, however. 10V is made using a process called "powder metallurgy", where the final product contains very fine particles of carbides.

Other powder metal tool alloys commonly found in woodturning tools are ASP 2030/2060, M4, and 15V. The extra hard carbide particles are what make powder metal tools hold an edge significantly longer than M2. 10V contains 10% Vanadium Carbides, 2060 has 7.5% Tungsten Carbides, and M4 has 4% Tungsten Carbides. The 15% Vanadium Carbides in 15V allow it to hold an edge even longer than 10V, but the edge is more brittle and can fracture more easily. I believe that 10V is the best compromise.

Powder metal tools, such as 10V, do hold an edge significantly longer than M2 tools in my experience. But that is only if it is sharpened properly. The hard carbide particles need to be sharpened with something harder than they are. If they are not, the carbide particles are not able to be formed into a part of the edge. Instead of being abraded into a sharp edge, they are knocked out of the matrix resulting in an uneven cutting edge, and end up doing very little to help the tool hold a sharp edge longer. This is why a lot of turners feel that powder metal tools don't initially get as sharp as M2 tools. They are usually not using an abrasive that will put an edge on the carbide particles.

Aluminum Oxide is softer than Carbide particles. The "white" wheels that came with your grinder are low quality aluminum oxide wheels. The "Pink" wheels, and some "blue" wheels, are also Aluminum Oxide. Norton and OneWay (among others) make excellent quality Aluminum Oxide grinding wheels. They will do a great job on M2 tools, but are not capable of forming an edge on carbides, and won't give you peak performance from your powder metal tools.

CBN, Diamond, and Ceramic are harder than Carbide, and can form a sharp edge on powder metal tools. D-Way and Opti-Grind make CBN wheels for woodturners. WoodRiver (sold at Woodcraft) and D-Way make Diamond wheels for woodturners. Norton SG wheels are 50% ceramic, their 3X wheels are 30% ceramic.
Sharpening with fine grit seems to make more of a difference in the quality of the cutting edge on 10V than it does on M2.

How do I choose between M2 Steel Tools and 10V Steel Tools?

In my opinion, the improved edge holding performance of 10V is most noticeable in a negative rake scraper. Even sharpened with fine grit regular Aluminum Oxide. I liked the 10V scrapers even more when I started sharpening with a Norton 3X, 120 grit wheel.

It wasn't until I started sharpening with a fine grit CBN wheel that I fell in love with 10V gouges. With the 3X wheel, I didn't feel like my 10V gouges got as sharp as M2. The edge on a gouge seems to be more sensitive to being sharpened properly. Honing with a diamond hone is another way to get a sharp edge on 10V.

Here's my recommendation:

If you sharpen with fine grit (100 or finer) Ceramic (Norton 3X), buy 10V scrapers and M2 gouges. You will be pleased with their performance.

If you sharpen with CBN, buy 10V gouges and 10V scrapers. You will love their performance!

If you sharpen with the white wheels that came with your grinder, and don't want to buy new wheels, buy M2 scrapers and M2 gouges.

If you hone with a diamond, you will probably love 10V tools, too. My 10V Vortex Tool is sharpened with a diamond hone. The performance of 10V is noticeable on the Vortex.

Try some 10V turning tools! You might just love their performance!

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Recently, my yoga instructor suggested practicing with an intention of Gratitude. I sure do have a lot to be grateful for in my life! Good health, beautiful home, great partner, wonderful feline companions, a rewarding job....

Woodturning is my "job". It continually offers me opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Probably Woodturning is even more therapeutic than yoga. They go together well.

Lidded Bowl made from Moose Antler, with African Blackwood,
14K Gold, 4pt Chocolate Diamond, and 24K Gold Leaf

I have been inspired by Kip Christensen's work for decades. In the 80s, when I was a cabinet/furniture maker, he wrote some articles for Fine Woodworking magazine about Woodturning. I totally fell in love with his elegant forms! My attempts to copy his work were primitive, to say the least. With lots of practice, and inspiration from many others in the field of Woodturning, I have grown and developed my signature style of artwork.

This piece offers gratitude to Kip, for his delightful antler bowls and for being a teacher of so many of us. Gratitude goes out, also, to all of the Woodturners who have inspired me over the decades. And profound gratitude to Mother Nature for the materials that inspire me to creativity. Especially to the Moose who grew this antler. Oh, yes, and not to forget: gratitude to the Canadian Woodturner who gave me the piece of antler. If it weren't for the sharing community of Woodturners worldwide, we would all still be in the Dark Ages. Thank you all. Special thanks to Shareshten and Melissa for bringing spirituality and gratitude into my awareness through yoga practice.

What and who inspire you? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sue's Blue Waterfall

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Often it comes from unexpected places. In my last post, I talked about my sister Sue's suggestion that I make a blue piece that looked like a waterfall. Her suggestion got me excited! Here is the result:
Sue's Blue Waterfall
I named it "Sue's Blue Waterfall", for obvious reasons. Sue's suggestion also nudged me gently into a direction that has been on my list for awhile. Now this style has gone from "I'd like to explore that further" to the top of my list.

My sister Sue is inspirational in other ways, too. Last week brought me a very rewarding experience of how great it is to have adult sisters. And of how much I can learn from them, and from Sue in particular. Though we have made different choices in our lives, we have very similar values.
(l-r) Karen, Sue, Cindy

Our middle sister, Karen, lives in San Francisco, I'm in Colorado, Sue's in Connecticut. The three of us got together at Sue's place for her 50th birthday.

We have all been in the same place at the same time a few times in our adult lives, but always in a bigger group. This time it was just the 3 of us for Sue's birthday.

We had the most interesting conversations!
Sue using the Pruney Chairs 

On her actual birthday, we baked a flourless chocolate cake, and pruned the rose bush. Well, Karen and Sue did the pruning. I took pictures.

How lucky I am!

Thank you, Sue for having a birthday so we could get together.

Thank you, Sue and Karen, for being my sisters!

Friday, January 27, 2012

American Craft Council Baltimore Art Show

The ACC Baltimore Show is one of the best places in the USA to see and buy Decorative Art Work. There are over 700 artists featured, with some incredibly creative work. At this show, there is truly something for everyone. You owe it to yourself to go, and to treat yourself to a new addition to your home or art collection!

It is also the only show that I plan to do on the East Coast this year. I will be in Booth #3501, at the Baltimore Convention Center, from February 24th at 10:00am through February 26th at 5:00pm. Come by and visit! I'd love to meet you!

For me, a show is a great motivator to get out to the workshop and follow some new ideas. Or maybe try to do justice to that delicious piece of burl that has been waiting for me. The weeks right before a show are usually my most creative.

Ideas come from all different places. My sister saw this picture on the ACC website, and suggested that I make one like it in blue (her favorite color), because that shape looks like water flowing. Great idea! I had been planning to make a piece in that style again. Maybe I can get it finished in time.
Here's a piece that I just finished, one of my first for 2012. This color scheme would look good on the flowing water design. 

Now I'm all excited to get out to the shop and start working! Hope to see you all at the Baltimore ACC show next month. Here are the details:

Baltimore Convention Center
1 West Pratt Street
Baltimore MD
(in the Inner Harbor area)
February 24 - 26, 2012
Booth #3501

Keep an eye on my website,, and my Facebook page to see what comes out of my workshop in the next few weeks.

Bye for now!