test report Pro-PM turning gouges



Test Report on Crown's New Pro-PM Turning Gouges by Gordon Warr for the Woodturner Magazine

Even as recently as the 80's, Crown Tools were tool manufacturers hardly heard of, yet in less than ten years, this Sheffield firm have become one of the leading names as tool suppliers. Their range of traditional hand tools is extensive and still growing, but it is for their turning tools that they have become best know. Here, the rate of expansion of tools offered is very impressive, on average a new tool introduced every month.

Crown buy their steels from leading producers, and now they have tracked down a steel better than M2, a harder grade than what has hitherto been available for making turning tools. It is still classed as a high speedsteel, and is loosely referred to as a super grade. Methods of manufacture, appearance, sharpening and use are all exactly the same as for M2 tools. The only distinction which Crown have made in order to make them visually distinctive is to fit them with ash handles stained and polished black.

At the present time, only gouges made from round bar are being produced, and following a recent visit I made to the Excelsior Works I brought back a small selection to try out. Mine is a fairly typical workshop in which I carry out a variety of work, so when it comes to comparing one type of tool with another I rely on a combination of experience and subjectivity. I would need a laboratory filled with sophisticated equipment in order to be truly objective.

However, one thing I did do with these new tools was to sharpen them, or I should say re-sharpen them. The tools are supplied ready for use, but by touching them up on the grinder I normally use I was at least giving a measure op comparability with my existing gouges.
So how did they perform, do they cut better, remove the waste faster, create an improved surface, or rarely need sharpening? It is this latter characterstic where these tools score, a direct result of them being harder, or tougher. Even the softest of woods have an abrading affect on the cutting edge of a tool, harder and grittier woods even more so. The harder the steel, providing the heat treatment stage does not make a brittle, the better able it is to resist the dulling which always takes place.

I tried out these tools for a variety of work on an assortment of different woods, and found they well lived up to expectations. It is though, difficult to actually measure the improvement in perfomance of these super grade tools over grade M2, but there is no doubt that less sharpening is required. What this also means is that because they stay much sharper for extended periods, they are at their prime in terms of cutting efficiency for far longer. This in turn means that thesurfaces produced, especially on those species which simply do not like tools of any kind, are far superior than is the case when using tools which have a quicker rate of dulling. What has to be remembered is that all tools, whatever the steel, can be made equally sharp, but then start to loose their edge the moment they begin to remove wood. It's the rate of dulling which is the important factor, or put another way, the retention of a productive cutting edge.

So it's thumbs up to Crown Hand Tools, they have found an excellent steel and know how to produce quality tools with it. My estimate aligns with that of the makers, that is, this super grade retains its edge for around three times that of M2, so it's less sharpening which saves both time and tool. Thus they are highly cost effective.