Diamond Dressers
and Honing Tools

Diamond Dressers Overview: In recent years the availability of various types of man-made/industrial diamond tools for use in a woodturning studio has grown tremendously. You can easily find a plethora of dressers for truing your grinding wheels, honing your woodturning tools and bench chisels and even for mounting on rotary power tools for power honing, cutting and shaping needs. Luckily, the cost of these tools has remained affordable, as they have become an indispensable tool for woodturners.

 Dressing Tools for Grinding Wheels

Various diamond dressers
for dry grinder wheels

There are two main types of diamond tools used for dressing, cleaning and truing the face of dry grinding wheels. 1) “T” style multi-diamond, or chip dressers, 2) Single-point diamond tools. Of the two, the “T” style tools seem to be the most popular. “T” style dressers are frequently used freehand, in conjunction with the grinder's tool rest, or on the flat plate of a sharpening jig. To improve the quality of the dressing, you can mount them in a jig like the Woodcut Tru-grind, which allows standard “T” style dressers to be used in the jig.

Craft Supplies USA's "T"
style diamond wheel dressers

Freehand dressing of grinding wheels is not as accurate as using the dresser in a jig, but with careful attention you can produce a flat and clean surface in short order. If you prefer the highest degree of accuracy when dressing dry grinding wheels, choose a single point tool. Most single point tools must be used with a jig system to keep the tools square to the face of the wheel. Manufacturers like Kelton Tools, Oneway and others have diamond jigs available that are easy to setup and use for maintaining dry grinding wheels.

This single point wheel dresser
is used in conjunction with a sharpening
jig to clean and true the face of the wheel

The advantage of a single point tool over a multi-diamond dresser is obvious… Single point dressers typically feature fine adjustment controls that advance the diamond forward in tiny increments, allowing you to remove the absolute minimal amount of abrasive each time you use the dresser. Single-point diamond dressers are typically mounted onto a sliding base plate, or another fixed mounting type of that increases the accuracy of the dressing.

Single point diamond dressing tools take slightly longer to setup and use than swiping a “T” style dresser across the face of the wheel, but they produce a much more accurate and flatter wheel face than you can get when freehand dressing. Having said that, most of the woodturners I know use some version of a “T” style diamond dresser on the grinder's tool rest, or on the flat plate of their sharpening jig.

Craft Supplies diamond wheel
dresser contains 1.5 karats of diamond chips

I’ve been using a couple of Craft Supplies USA’s “T” style diamond wheel dressers for years and they still look new. They have 1.5 carats of diamond chips in the head, suspended in a silicon carbide matrix and they are just the right size for use in Woodcut’s Tru-Grind sharpening jig. Another type of “T” style diamond dresser features diamonds on the surface of the head only, not throughout the head like Craft Supplies USA’s “T” style diamond dressers.

These diamond wheel dressers feature diamonds
only on the top surface of the tool

Although these dressers will also work quite well, they will not last as long as the diamond dressers with diamonds throughout the head, since the diamonds are only on the top surface of the tool. If you need to purchase a “T” style diamond dresser, take a look at Craft Supplies USA’s lifetime diamond dresser. It’s the best multi-diamond dresser I’ve ever used. Cost is about $40.00.

Close-up view of the diamond wheel dressers

Diamond Honing Tools for Woodturning Tools

Various diamond hones for use with
woodturning tools and accessories

If you need a diamond-honing tool for your woodturning tools or accessories, you’re in luck! There are dozens of different styles to choose from, including those that are made to be used freehand and a few that can be mounted in a power tool.

These large diamond bench hones
feature a dual-sided design with a
different diamond grit on each side

Diamond honing plates are also available for use on a workbench. Prices range from very affordable to high as a cat’s back, depending on the manufacturer and the number and quality of diamonds used.

This 1" diamond wheel can be
used in any rotary tool for honing
or sharpening tool steels

These EZE-LAP diamond hones are
my favorite hand-held diamond hones

The main diamond hones I use in my studio include small flat hones like EZE-LAP, that are great for the occasional touch up of a sharpened edge and diamond rod hones (straight and tapered), for use on the interior of bowl and spindle gouge flutes and hook tools.

These diamond hones feature a perforated design in
the honing face that reduces metal build-up on the hone

Specialty Diamond Tools

This diamond hone features diamonds on the
outer surface of the curved and tapered body

Specialty hones are also available with curved tapers, for use with carving gouges and select turning tools. These hones make it easier to hone difficult curved surfaces. Diamond sharpening/honing bits are also available for use with specialty turning tools like hook tools and some boring bar cutters. I’ve found that the quality varies quite a bit with diamond bits and you pay for what you get.

This diamond cone bit (lower) is used
to sharpen this Andre Martel hook tool

The lower end diamond bits seem to lose their diamonds very quickly and the uniformity of the diamonds on the surface varies from batch to batch. By contrast, the more expensive diamond bits last much longer and produce a better sharpened/honed surface when viewed under magnification. If you use any specialty tools that require diamond bits for sharpening or honing the cutting edges, you will be better served paying a few dollars more for higher quality bits.

Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.

Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.