Home Forums General Discussion Forum Cutting Graver Material

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      Going to work on making a balance staff, i have tonnes of “blued” steel and some silver steel to play with over the xmas holidays.

      Was wondering what i should be cutting it with.

      It will be using hand and tool rest style!




        Hey Jonathan, to start we may be better off referring to Bobs videos on learning to turn, check that out and let us know if you have anymore questions, also if you have not had much experience on the watchmakers lathe get some brass stock from the hardware store and practice with that first, it will be easier to cut and experiment with but by all means have fun ;) ..,. William


          The answer I would give is exactly what William has posted.
          In short you would use high speed steel HSS, it is the best to learn with as the hardest part in learning to turn by hand is sharpening the graver. You can buy jigs for this which does make life a bit easier. Carbide gravers are for later, you will need some form of diamond lapping wheel or a diamond hone to sharpen a carbide graver. They keep their cutting edge for longer, can cut through hardened steel easily but they are quite brittle. Start with the high speed steel, size is something you will have to decide for yourself, I like to use 1.5mm square but I know others who like 2mm and 2.5mm. You can buy handles to put the graver into but I find a good size pin chuck works well for me, dont try what Bob does in his videos and use the graver without a handle, you will stab yourself in the hand and to begin with a handle makes it easier to use.
          Good luck and keep us informed :)

          david pierce

            You may want to go to YOUTUBE and bring up WATCHMAKER TURNING BETWEEN CENTERS by Steffen Pahlow. He makes a small part on a set of turns using a carbide graver.

            Bob Tascione

              Hi Jonathan,
              As both Paul and David pointed out the carbide gravers are great for cutting through hard steel that may otherwise be difficult or impossible using high carbon or even HSS. I think David is referring to the video where Stephen Pahlow is cutting a hardened piece in a turns without having to draw back the hardness. Carbide gravers are also great for removing work hardened balance staff rivets etc. Definitely good to have one or more. When starting out though, I feel that using either a high carbon steel or high speed steel graver is much easier on a beginners already taxed patience/frustration level. Once you get a good feeling for using hand gravers your chances of breaking or chipping carbide graver tips and edges should lessen. Also using carbon or HSS gravers will give you a chance to practice sharpening and grinding different angles and corner radii and observe the effects on cutting and finishes. They’re also fairly inexpensive when compared to carbide gravers so having a few with different cutting edge and radii configurations for a fairly low cost is possible. HSS is my preference as I often use an electric grinder to sharpen my gravers. Grinding can produce a lot of heat which is often enough to temper a high carbon graver where a HSS graver will still maintain a very hard edge under the same heat conditions. HSS is an alloy that allows for high hardness AND toughness and is less affected by temperature than normal carbon steels. That being said…high carbon steels were used with great success long before HSS or carbide gravers appeared.
              Also as William suggests, if possible grab some brass stock to mess around with just to get the hang of using hand gravers. Much easier!
              Also also…as Paul suggests, DON’T follow my bad habit of holding these gravers without using a handle of some type. Really a dumb habit I have. I think I mentioned in the video that it was a bad habit I picked up. That video was made about 24 years ago. You would think I would have learned by now from the war wounds my hands have suffered but…nope, still doing it! :)

              Hope this helps Jonathan,

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