WoodCentral's video reviews
The Skew Chisel: The Dark Side / The Sweet Side

The Skew Chisel: The Dark Side / The Sweet Side
by Alan Lacer

Alan Lacer, Woodturner: 2002
VHS / DVD, 1 hr. 30 min., $34.95 DVD, $29.95 VHS

    Alan Lacer has been involved in the woodturning field for over twenty years as a turner, teacher, writer, demonstrator and past president of the American Association of Woodturners.
    Within this video, Alan explains the use of the skew chisel - the tool many consider to be the most challenging tool in all of woodworking. Despite his focus on this one tool, there is something in this video for all woodturners - including those just beginning as well as those with many years of experience.
    Alan starts by describing the various types of skew chisels on the market. He uses effective visual aids to describe the modifications that he makes to maximize the efficiency of the tool. These modifications include grinding the proper skew angle (70 degrees), rounding the short point edge and chamfering the long point edge. (Since this video has been released, Hamlet has begun to sell "Alan Lacer Signature" skew chisels that meet these specifications.)
    Alan then describes the proper sharpening process - lessons that can be applied to other woodworking tools. He discusses grinder and grinder wheel selection, as well as proper sharpening techniques. He also describes the use of an MDF wheel for power honing and the proper use of a fine grit diamond hone for hand honing. His description of the sharpening and honing process is one of the best that I have seen.
    After shaping, sharpening and honing the skew chisel, Alan shows how to properly prepare the lathe. He talks about the need to prepare the tool rest and recommends replacing a 4 spur drive center with a modified dead center. He explains that the modified dead center acts as a slip clutch and greatly facilitates the learning process by eliminating much of the fear that a new turner might have about using this tool.
    Alan spends a considerable amount of time describing the various cuts that can be made with the skew chisel. These include planing, roughing and v cuts, as well as shoulder, peeling and rolling cuts. He also shows how the tool can be used to clean parting cuts and other rough end grain cuts, to minimize sanding.
    Throughout the video, Alan recommends the student use 1.5" x 1.5" soft pine as his/her practice wood. He outlines various exercises for the student and encourages them to create dig-ins, skates, and other turning problems, so they can learn from them. By using the modified dead center, much of their fear and apprehension can be eliminated. Throughout the video, Alan also emphasizes the need to wear eye protection and follow other safe practices.
    Alan concludes his video by turning a very small top with a large skew chisel. It is quite impressive to see the fine work that can be accomplished with this large tool.
    Overall, this video is very well prepared. The lighting, sound and production quality is quite good. Alan Lacer is a very good instructor and instills a confidence that this tool can be mastered by following the steps outlined in the video.

CLICK HERE to view a sample clip.
(2.7 Mb, Windows Media file)
. . . Steven Mellott