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Adrian Downes30/06/2020 01:29:21
8 forum posts
3 photos


Very young 60+ professional horologist here.

Covid19 furlough has enabled me to complete my retirement project some 10 years early & I now have a shiny new workshop 😊

I aquired the contents of an ex model enginees workshop some 18 years ago & it had been languishing in my front room ever since!

Whilst the main building is completed I'm still sorting out my bits & have yet to commission my equipment - 1962 Myford super 7 with attachments, clock wheel cutting engine, pillar drill, sensitive drill with tapping jig, lever press, grinding wheel, polishing motor & various other bits & bobs.

Anyways ..... Sorting through my toys I've come a cross several part sets of brazed carbide lathe tools painted in various colours - red, green, yellow, blue, silver/grey - Now I'm sure that the colours mean something but, for the life of me I can't discover what!

I'm pretty sure that it's a novice question but could somebody please put me out of my misery?

Thanks in advance


Brian H30/06/2020 08:04:08
1645 forum posts
108 photos

Hello Ady and welcome. There are a number of clockmakers on here who will doubtless be in touch later. I know that sometimes the colours are intended to identify the types of metal that the tools are intended for but in other cases it just depends on what colour the toolmaker uses!

Again, I'm sure that someone more knowledgable will be along soon.


Paul Janes30/06/2020 10:58:09
16 forum posts
2 photos

G'day Adrian,

I'm not a clock maker either but would advise you to use HSS tooling instead of the carbide brazed tools. The brazed carbide tools are more suited to heavier work than making parts for clocks. (unless you are building a copy of Big Ben). I bought a set when I got my first lathe and still have them because I seldom use them and prefer HSS or tools with replaceable carbide inserts. HSS blank cutters are inexpensive and can be easily ground to different shapes and sizes, more suited to making tiny parts.


Adrian Downes30/06/2020 11:56:38
8 forum posts
3 photos

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the welcome.

I'm pretty sure it's not just the toolmakers whim because I can find pictures of complete sets that carry the same colours, just can't find out what the colours mean & I'm ever curious about things,

Adrian Downes30/06/2020 11:58:38
8 forum posts
3 photos

G'day Paul 😁

They are indeed more than a bit heavy for my intended use, it's just that I have got them & would like to know what the colours mean - knowledge is power after all!

pgk pgk30/06/2020 12:50:44
1808 forum posts
288 photos

A quick google throws up pics of sets where the colour is related to shape and also many sets produced just in different colours presumably at the whim of the retailer.

Unless there is some difference in your previous owners relief regrind of them then I'd guess it's just another whim...?


Bazyle30/06/2020 13:30:54
5235 forum posts
201 photos

Colour is 100% meaningless except that it was the cheapest available tothe mnufacturer that week. Even when they don't come in sets they get painted. Unlike raw HSS they just always get painted. Also when you see mild steel bar ends with a colour splash don't expect it to mean anything as every stockist uses their own code.

Anyway back to important amtters - which wheel cutting engne do you have? Perhap the Chronos design if you got it from a model engineer. Are you a member of a BHI regional group or perhaps near a ME club? Most ME clubs have a few horologists and one of my clubs even has the retired Queen's Clockmaker who has given us some interesting talks.

Adrian Downes30/06/2020 14:49:17
8 forum posts
3 photos

Hi Bazyle,

I'm not so sure that colours are a whim. Some of the pictures of sets that I've seen do have descriptions of the tools :8 of one, 6 of another, ect. & the quantaties do seem to match up with photos.

You are correct about the wheel engine it does look like a modified chronos, can model engineers ever resist a modification?Wheel cutting engine

Neil Wyatt30/06/2020 15:47:35
17910 forum posts
706 photos
77 articles

Hi Ady,

Welcome to the forum.

With those brazed carbide tools the inserts are often left square at the front, so if they have top rake they won't work until you grind some clearance on the front with a green grit wheel.

I'm convinced this is the main reason why beginners struggle with them so much. No-one ever sells them as blanks in need of finish grinding but that's what most of the cheap sets are.


cheap carbide tools.jpg

Bazyle30/06/2020 18:18:45
5235 forum posts
201 photos

Yes that is a Chronos design. The company was started to market it then expanded.

Howard Lewis30/06/2020 18:25:25
3289 forum posts
2 photos


LOTS of experience on here, on all manner of subjects. Just ask!

+1 for HSS tools. An easier way of learning how to set up tools.

With a lathe, you can make all sorts of accessories, some quite specific for the task that you wish to perform.

If you can find your local M.E Club, you will probably find fellow ,horologists there.


Adrian Downes01/07/2020 00:59:59
8 forum posts
3 photos

Yippppeeee I've found my answer 😊

As I suspected the tool colour relates to the grade of carbide & what material it is designed to cut.

Generally speaking :-

Blue is for steel

Yellow for Stainless Steel

Red for Cast Iron

Green for Non Ferrous

Khaki / Brown for Heat resistant alloy - Titanium Alloy


Silver / Grey for Hardend steel


It's 1AM & now I can finally go to sleep & rest easy


Edited By Adrian Downes on 01/07/2020 01:01:37

pgk pgk01/07/2020 10:39:38
1808 forum posts
288 photos

I'm suprised at that. Cabide is available in different formulations but the brazed tooling usually sold appears to just be gash cheap sets whihc one might grind with differing relief angles.

If you have a definitive source of the different grades it could prove useful.


Adrian Downes01/07/2020 10:52:41
8 forum posts
3 photos





carbide grades chart

Edited By Adrian Downes on 01/07/2020 10:56:07

pgk pgk01/07/2020 11:07:48
1808 forum posts
288 photos

I'm aware of different grades.. just not seen them as economic brazed tool sets..unless the previous user made up his own?


Edited By pgk pgk on 01/07/2020 11:08:10

Adrian Downes01/07/2020 11:38:45
8 forum posts
3 photos

It's always nice to find out something new .....

As my old dad used to say

'A day without learning is as disappointing as a day without beer' 🍻 😁

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