#3 and #4 Mike Hunter Hollowing Tools
Hunter Hollowers Overview: One of the great things about woodturning is the tremendous amount of new tools that come out every year that make woodturning easier and more enjoyable. Last year I began using a few of Mike's tools and have since become a huge fan of his tools.
Hunter tools feature small razor sharp, mirror finished round carbide cutters in various sizes that fit different hollowing tools. One great benefit of these tools is they never need sharpening! When the round cutter eventually dulls, you simply use the included Torx wrench to loosen the screw and rotate the cutter to a fresh edge. Once the entire cutter is dulled, replacement cutters are available for about $20.00.
Close-up view of
Mike's carbide cutter
The Hunter hollowing tools come in several variations, including hand held tools and inserts designed for popular hollowing tool systems like Jamieson, Bosch, Jordan and others. I have been using his #3 and #4 handheld tools, as well as the 3/16" square angled cutters and the 3/16” round shaft boring bar inserts for quite some time. Mike also offers a #5 hand held tool with a 5/8” shaft that is tapered near the end. Swan neck tools are also available, allowing easy access for difficult to reach areas like under the neck of a hollow form, or under the rim on a bowl.
The #3 hand held tool is 3/8" in diameter and is a great size for working many smaller projects like goblets and small boxes. The #4 hand held tool is 1/2" in diameter and is great for working on larger projects like bowls, platters and some hollow forms. The #5 hand held tool is optimized for boxes and deeper vessels, with a 5/8" tapered shank and a 3/8" cutter. Retrofit cutters are available in three different versions to fit cutters on popular arm brace style and captured hollowing systems. These tools can be used for side grain turning projects, as well as end grain hollowing tasks.
Hand Held Tools
The #4 tool (top) is 1/2" in diameter.
The #3 tool (lower) is 3/8" in diameter
I have been using the #3 and #4 hand held tools on various projects like boxes, bowls and even a few platters. The extreme sharpness of the cutters tames difficult timbers quite easily and leaves a very smooth surface right off the cutter. They have performed exceptionally well on tough, fuzzy and wild grain areas like crotch grain, spalted timber and heavy multi-directional figured areas as well. On larger bowls, I have been using the #4 tool to create undercut, or back cut rims. Although you can use these tools for making some spindle cuts, I have not used them on any pure spindle oriented projects yet.
Inserts for Boring Bars
Close-up view of the 3/16" square-shanked
cutter, mounted in a Jamieson boring bar tip
The retrofit inserts I have been using in my arm brace and captured hollowing systems have been in a word, superb! For almost thirteen years, I have been content to hollow using standard 3/16” HSS cutters, switching to Tantung teardrop scrapers to smooth out the interior walls if necessary before sanding. This combination has worked very well for me, but it’s not my favorite combination any longer...
3/16" square HSS cutting tip (upper) compared
to Hunter 3/16" round carbide cutter (lower)
I now prefer to do the bulk of my hollowing with the standard 3/16” cutters as before, but when I get close to the final wall thickness, I switch over to Mike’s 3/16” carbide inserts. These are used to bring the interior walls down to the final thickness, preparing it for sanding. I no longer use the Tantung scrapers at all, as the Hunter hollowing tools leave such a smooth surface that they are unnecessary. In fact, the Hunter inserts leave such a smooth surface you can easily eliminate course sanding on the inside of your forms.
These Tantung teardrop scrapers are no longer used
Although you could use Hunter hollowing tools for the entire hollowing process, I prefer to use them only as final finishing tools. The difference in the quality of the cut (these tools cut, they do not scrape) made by these Mike’s carbide cutters is remarkable. Whether used freehand or in conjunction with a hollowing rig or boring bar, the cutters are easy to control and deliver excellent tactile feedback.
Learning to Use the Hunter Hollowing Tools
There is a wee bit of a learning curve to understand when hollowing with these tools, as the cutter has to be rotated clockwise into the cut slightly, with a presentation that is slightly above centerline and angled down a bit. This varies slightly depending on what type of cut you are trying to achieve and what type of project you’re turning. Instructions are included with the tool to help get you up to speed quickly.
This tool is really designed for finishing cuts, although I know of many turners who use it for gross profiling cuts as well. It will not hog off wood like a gouge, but you can easily produce tissue thin shavings with its super sharp cutter head. The cutters are extremely sharp, so watch your fingers and knuckles when mounting and dismounting your tools.
To me, the real beauty of this tool is revealed when you are making the final cuts to perfect the profile, or to smooth the surface to prepare it for sanding. Few tools exceed your expectations these days, but these tools far exceeded my expectations in every respect. If you enjoy end grain hollowing, or are looking for a new finishing tool to use with other projects, give these tools a look. More information on Hunter hollowing tools can be found here.
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.