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Ultra Shear Woodturning Square Tool Techniques

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Curiously enough here at Woodpeckers, we pride ourselves on the marketing we do for our tools, but every once in a while we miss, and the Ultra-Shear Square Insert Turning Tools are a good example.

These excellent woodturning tools have been on the market for over a year now, and we haven’t shown their full potential. The video below shows the versatility of our tools — the only ones on the market with the Ultra Shear capability. Jeff Farris, the developer of the Ultra-Shear line of woodturning tools, shows the Square tools ability to rough, make tenons for scroll chuck turning and turning the outside of the curve, even in very detailed work.


We make three square insert woodturning tools. The Full and Mid-Size use the same inserts, and the Pen Size uses smaller inserts. If you’re turning bowls and furniture components, the Full-Size is your best choice. The Mid-Size is a great choice if you turn pizza cutters, duck calls, shaving brushes, and other palm-sized projects. The Pen Size tools are the right choice for pens, lace bobbins, finials, and other fine, delicate work.

Sadly, one of our competitors calls their square insert turning tool a “Rougher” and the name has stuck in the minds of turners everywhere. That name completely ignores the best applications for a square insert tool. Sure, of the basic insert tools the square is the best for roughing stock down to a cylinder, but there’s so much more it does well.

Any time you’re shaping an outside curve, the square tool is your best choice. Two examples of that would be beads in spindle turning and the outside of a traditional bowl form.

The square tool also is a great choice for forming a tenon to go in a chuck. It makes sure the shoulder is square. If you make the tenon just a bit wider than the middle of the insert (full- and mid-size, not pen), it will usually be just the right length to mount in most woodturning chucks.

All three tools come standard with a true square insert. In addition to the true square, we have inserts with a slight radius ground into them. The radius moves the corner away from your stock, making it a bit easier for some folks to use, particularly when smoothing outside curves. In the larger inserts, we offer true square, 4" radius and 2" radius. In the Pen Size inserts we have the true square and a 2" radius.

Carbide insert tools have been around for several years, and insert tools in general have been around since at least the mid-1980s. So, what makes Ultra-Shear different from all the rest? The list is long, but the three most important differences are the grade and grind of the inserts, the design of the tool shaft and the material and treatment used in making the shaft.

It All Starts at the Cutting Edge. Ultra-Shear’s development team started this project by interviewing dozens of carbide manufacturers, seeking out a partner that recognized the unique requirements of woodturning. For advanced performance at the lathe, you need a truly keen edge. That requires a carbide that doesn’t just last, but also is fine-grained enough not to crumble when formed to a really sharp angle. The result of months of testing and trials is a unique nano-grain carbide matrix, polished to a mirror-finish on the cutting surface and precision ground on the bevel. They are the sharpest, longest lasting inserts on the market.

Go Beyond Just Shaping your Project. Carbide insert turning tools are typically used with the tool on the centerline of the lathe, held horizontal to the ground. Ultra-Shear tools use this approach for roughing and shaping cuts. But, Ultra-Shear goes further. After initial shaping, roll the tool right or left and you will feel the tool land on another bearing plane, 45° from horizontal. With the tool at this angle, the wood fibers slice cleanly, leaving a surface that needs little or no sanding. It’s a technique called shear scraping , which usually involves trying to balance your tool on a round surface or a sharp corner. Ultra-Shear’s geometry makes shear scraping a simple approach even beginners can use, instead of something that takes years to master.

High Tech Steel; Higher Tech Manufacturing. A truly sharp cutting edge needs rock solid support to give you the best results. Ultra-Shear tools feature the same ChroMoly alloy steel used in NASCAR roll cages and crankshafts. The unique 5-sided shape of the tool shaft is machined on state-of-the-art CNC milling centers. Then the shafts go through a two-step hardening process that makes the shaft rigid and creates an ultra-smooth surface finish that glides easily across your tool rest and resists corrosion.

The full size tools have an 8" tool length (beyond handle) with a 15-3/4" handle, for a total length of 23-3/4". The mid size tools have a 4-1/2" tool length with an 11" handle for a total length of 15-1/2". The pen tools have a 3-1/4" tool length with a 9" handle for a total length of 12-1/4".

All Woodpeckers woodturning tools including are UltraShear Woodturning Tools are precisely machined and carefully inspected in our Strongsville, Ohio, factory, just south of Cleveland. Thank you for reading!