What Type of Woodturning Bowl Gouge Should I Buy?

Facebook Member Looking for
Bowl Gouge Purchase Advice

Someone in our woodturning facebook groupΒ  was asking about what type of bowl gouge he should buy, he was a new turner and was getting some conflicting information. Since I already spent an agonizing year or more trying to figure out what to purchase I thought I would write a dissertation on what type of woodturning gouge to buy.

Yes, I did it again. Just starting babbling on and on ….really, I was just trying to help. Anyway, thought if anyone stumbled on the topic in the woodturningbasics.com blog, they might benefit from it so I reposted the facebook post here.

Hey Mike …I’ll be glad to give ya my 2 cents worth πŸ™‚

Actually a really good question but has 100 answers or more! I would like to do a blog post on my experience with tools, but I’ll share what happened to me.

I’m assuming you’re pretty new to turning wood.

When I first started the only way for me to do it was with a harbor freight lathe and the expensive (60 bucks) set of harbor freight turning tools.

I’ll stick to the tools.

The harbor freight (HF) tools were really junk. A terrible way for me to start. I turned a little candle holder and a small bowl. I had no idea that in my set of tools there wasn’t a bowl gouge! Somehow I turned a bowl with the woodturning tools that came in the set, probably used the scraper the most and I used the spindle gouges on the bowl ….A BIG NO NO you can get hurt really bad doing that.

Let me back up and say, if money isn’t an issue. Get D-way woodturning tools from www.d-waytools.com Dave is the owner, good guy and will help you.

Carbide Turning Tools
Are The Best For Beginners

Then get a set of carbide turning tools like the Easy Wood ToolsΒ  get a square scraper and a round scraper and a detailer. You get many uses from a carbide tip and when it gets dull just screw on a new carbide insert.

Square Edge Scraper
Round Edge Scraper
Cheaper Round Edge Scraper
Carbide Detailer

Carbide Insert Woodturning Tool
Easy Wood Tools Pro Easy Rougher Carbide Lathe Turning Tool 3200 New

These tools are almost foolproof and you don’t spend time sharpening woodturning tools, you just change the carbide tip. I made my own carbide tool and found myself using it on a piece that I was unsure of when using a turning gouge. In other words, when things got tough ….I switched to the carbide woodturning tools.

Start With a Cheap Set
Of HSS Woodturning Tools

But if money is an issue, get a HF set of turning tools or a Set of Benjamins Best from PSI. I know everyone makes fun of them, but read some of the reviews, some of these guys won’t buy anything else ….so it might be worth a try if you have a tight budget….a nice way of saying, “you’re broke”. The cheap price allows you to have a set of woodturning tools. More importantly is that you can use these cheap tools to learn how to properly sharpen your woodturning turning tools.

Sharpening Your Woodturning Tools

You can try freehand sharpening your bowl gouge and other woodturning toolsΒ  if you want, but sooner or latter you will want to get a Oneway Wolverine Grinding Jig, you’ll need these two pieces:

Vari grinding jig
Wolverine grinding jig

oneway wolverine woodturing tool sharpening jig
Best way to sharpen your woodturing tools, gouges and chisels is the oneway wolverine sharpening jib

Woodturning Tools I Would Start With

Now, after some practice on your cheap turning tools, when you get a Sorby or Dway turning tool, you won’t grind away half of the tool metal or more to learn how to sharpen. Like I said before, if money isn’t an issue …go with to expensive tool and learn everything with it, I’m sure your total experience will be more pleasant, but your expensive tool will be gone in no time unless you are a natural at sharpening woodturning tools!

If I had a little money, to start I would get a:
1″ Sorby round nose scraper
Sorby 1/2″ bowl gouge
Sorby thin kerf parting tool
Sorby roughing gouge

My first choice would be D-way tools, second choice would be Sorby

I mentioned PSI, Penn State Industries before they have a set that includes everything to get you started, its on the cheap side …the metal is HSS, but still will need to be sharpened frequently so it is good for practicing. These are the specs for this kit. https://www.pennstateind.com/store/LCSIXW.html

If a high quality large, HSS steel turning tool set has been on your wishlist, now is the time to buy. Includes a Spindle Gouge (1/2″ Dia, 22-3/8″ length), Diamond Parting Tool (3/16″ dia, 16-3/4″ length), Round Nose Scraper (3/4″ dia, 17″ length), Bowl Gouge (3/4″ dia, 16-3/4″ length), Roughing Gouge (7/8″ dia, 19″ length)and Oval Skew Chisel (1″ dia, 18-3/8″ length)

cheap woodturning tools from psiHope that helps ….I say this for you or anyone getting started. Rmember you need to learn how to sharpen your tools, dull tools are dangerous. So… why not get a set of cheap tools, get a sharpening jig, practice sharpening until you know you can put an edge on your tools and then buy the good stuff.

If I had the money to buy the good stuff, that’s what I would do. I would not take my advice and would have purchased a 200 dollar bowl gouge and then probably spend the next 3 to 6 months grinding it away to nothing ….I never listen to anyone, you would think after all these years I would πŸ™‚


Remember, I didn’t have any money…so I didn’t waste good tool steel LOL

No Wood Turning ….Gets Me Mad!!!

No Wood Turning ….
Gets Me Mad!!!

I don’t know about you, if you turn wood or consider yourself as a woodturner, do you …do you just want to go out and start turning bowls, tool handles, candle sticks, lamps, baseball bats or under the seat “personal protection device”? And if a day goes by and you’re not turning wood…..Do you get angry at yourself for not getting into the shop???

Woodturning Passion?

I do. That is, I get mad if I miss a day of doing some woodturning. I guess it’s my addictive, compulsive personality. When I fall in love with something, I want it all the time. Probably a bad character trait, but maybe it’s the difinition of “passion”!

I’ve become addicted to the hobby of woodturning. I guess you could say I’m addicted to turning wood. I was a little apprehensive at first, you need a lathe, lathe accessories and some turning tools and off you go. Putting everything together took some time and I purchased probably some of the cheapest stuff out there, harbor freight lathe, harbor freight woodturning gouges and a lot of DIY type tools. Not the best but my setup could turn a branch or log and I made a wood bowl!

I was addicted after that first bowl!

Somebody said, “that new woodturners are always so impatient“. That was me. I tried and tried to make my projects look like a piece of art, or just a nice looking bowl. But most didn’t turn out. I watched videos on new tools, new woodturning techniques and I practiced…. and I practiced.

I’m a better woodturner
after I’ve practiced.

But I still need more practice, I love learning new wood turning techniques. I love making your own tools. And I now really enjoy trying out real, professional or high quality wood turning tools like the new Sorby 1/2″ Bowl Gouge.

I was like a kid at Christmas, I just couldn’t wait to try that Sorby Bowl Gouge and when I as I used it, I was just as excited. I also picked up a quart of Food Safe Salad Bowl Finish by General from the new Woodcraft store in Buffalo Grove, IL …..can’t wait to try that out. I have a couple of blanks ready to finish so maybe I’ll be able to finish with my new bowl gouge and try the Salad Bowl Finish …..will keep you posted on how that goes.

general food safe salad bowl finish
Food Safe Salad Bowl Finish By General

I tell you all this because I wanted to share the fact that I really try not to let a day go by without doing some woodturning. Sometimes a week will go by because I’m to sick to go out, but …..I watch videos or read about woodturning.

And….. a whole day has gone by, it’s too late to do anything except to type a few words, to diclose the fact that I did not turn anything today and I was really “disappointed or upset” that I didn’t get to lathe today!

Another Day Gone….No Woodturning!

I actually wrote this yesterday and sadly another day has gone by without any turning due to a bad reaction to some new medicine I was taking …..sometimes, life just sucks! I literally thought I was gonna die, started shaking, hard time breathing, hallucinations, couldn’t walk ….should have woke up my wife but it was 3 am and I wrote her a note in case I didn’t make it through the night. But I did …that’s my life, hope you don’t mind me sharing the good and bad of it ….along with some good woodturning tricks, tips and thoughts!

As they say, there’s always tomorrow (sometimes) πŸ™‚ But I was pretty scared last night so I share this word of God with you Psalm 103:15As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.” The older I get the more inevitable it is that life is really short. God says our life is like the grass and flowers of the field, here for a couple of days, weeks….beautiful and healthy and then gone. So are we. Question you need to ask yourself is are you ready?

#Woodturning Tools, #Woodturning Supplies, #Woodturning Videos, #Woodturning Lathe, #Woodturning Ideas, #Woodturning A Bowl, #Woodturning Accessories, #Woodturning, #Woodturning Tools, #Woodturning Supplies, #Woodturning Accessories, #Woodturning Books, #Woodturning Bowl, #Woodturning Chisels, #Woodturning Chucks Chuck Jaws, #Woodturning Carbide Tools, #Sorby Bowl Gouge, #Food Safe Salad Bowl Finish

Wood Turning My Second Wood Bowl

I really wish I documented my first wood turning bowl!

I grabbed a piece of willow that was laying in the river for 10 years or more, surprisingly it dried quickly and I was able to turn it. It was soft, there were many spots that were almost rotten, however, I still turned it and my wife has it on the table with some apples in it πŸ™‚

my first wood bowl
My First Turned Wood Bowl from a Piece of a Willow Tree

I finished the bowl with mineral spirits from rockler.com, although I could have gotten the finish cheaper elsewhere, I wanted to make sure the finish was safe to put food into.

Now my second bowl was from the wood pile that was destined to be firewood. I’m almost positive it’s a piece of ash, it’s very hard and very difficult to shape…. although that could just be because I have a Harbor Freight Lathe πŸ™‚ It had a diameter of 11″ or so, it was perfect for my harbor freight lathe.

My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck
My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck

This is really the first time I started a bowl or any wood turning project and had my Nova Chuck, I wasn’t sure if I should make a tennon or make a recess. I ended up making a recess on the bottom of the bowl for the Nova chuck jaws, first I cleaned up the end of the log and then I flattened it.

I had some cracks and checks. Just mixed up some CA glue with wood shavings and also used some plain ole wood glue with wood shavings. Basically, you stuff the crack or hole with wood shaveings or sawdust and squirt some CA into it or you can use plain ole wood glue, but remember both will take on a different color when you apply a finish to the project. You just need to experiment to see what works best for you. Most wood turners seem to be using CA or an Expoxy mixed with the wood shavings. You can look up more on the subject and also search for “stablizing wood” you’ll get a good idea on how to use the different glues and expoxies on your wood turning projects. Did you know that you can use CA glue for a finsh? I need to find a good supplier for CA (superglue) glue in a larger container. I ended up getting small tubes and they always dry up or harden if not used right away.

I suppose I should tell you how I started.

I grabbed the ash log, it had a diameter of 12″ and I cut it to length of 12″. Then I cut the log in half, thru the center of the log.

I wanted to mount my face plate on the outside (bark side) of the log so I flattened that area of the log by running it through the band saw, the other bowl project I just used a chain saw. Next I flipped the log over and traced a circle from the faceplate side and cut the circle out using the band saw. It was a rough circle and I’ve watched some guys just mount the log without rounding the corners …..looked a little to dangerous that way so I wanted to round it off first.

Creating a wood bowl from ash log
Prepared Ash log blank to be turned into a wood bowl

I mounted the faceplate with attached log, pushed my live center into the log and started turning. You can see by the image what I had and how it was working. So far so good, I like the shape, I’ve been sharpening my tools by hand, I haven’t had the time to set up my oneway grinding/sharpening guide. I really need to do that because I want to see what these tools can do before I invest in anything expensive or I try some of the carbide tipped tools I plan on making.

All I can say is this that wood turning is a log of fun, very addicting! Already I wish I had a lathe with a little more power πŸ™‚ The harbor freight

Laguna Revo 13\36 wood lathe
This Laguna Revo Wood Lathe wreaks of quality, gonn be my next purchase!

has turned some of the softer woods very easily, but this dry ash is really tough on the lathe. I was thinking of a Laguna or Nova Wood Lathe, several guys have these and love em!

For instance if you’re looking for a new lathe check out some of these features. I have a couple of other Laguna power tools and really like them.

The Revo 18|36 Lathe from Laguna combines power, precision and advanced features, resulting in a turning experience like no other. The lathe features a polished steel bed for the utmost in strength and stability, and the smoothest possible movement of the headstock, tailstock and tool rest. A full 18” of outboard capacity allows you to turn large bowls, while 36” of inboard capacity lets you turn long spindles, table legs and island legs. The lathe is powered by a unique motor that converts a 1-phase input to a 3-phase output. This 3-phase output delivers smooth, even power, even when the lathe is under heavy loads. It also provides infinitely variable speed within the two general speed ranges without sacrificing power or torque at lower RPMs. The anodized aluminum control panel is exquisitely designed, and angled for easy visibility and accessibility to all knobs. It features a large blue-hued digital read-out that gives you precise RPM readouts at all times, and easy adjustments with the comfortable rubber-coated knob.

Second bowl for me, a lot less tears, less gouges and a lot less tear outs! I used my Woodstock Bowl Gouge and 1″ scraper for most of it so far. I also used the skew to create the recess for the Nova Chuck.

I think I’ll make up some of Cap’n Eddie’s OB Shine Juice for a finish. One thing I didn’t think of is how do I deal with the insert hole for the Nova Chuck Jaws? I know with a tennon I can just cut it off, but not sure how to deal with a hole in the bottom of my bowl….. guess I’ll have to do a little research!

Maybe I’ll shoot some video of turning and finishing this bowl. I will post some pics of how it turns out and will try to do a sequence. My wife thinks they are beautiful, all I see are the imperfections …..I could easily throw them away. Oh…I need to tell you about the cup I made from gluing up about 5 2×6’s …. looks really cool!

keep your eyes peeled for different sources of free wood
Every township, city or county cleans up after storms, just ask if you can pick thru the wood…. free wood for wood turning projects.

And…. I have another project in mind. I was driving past a local city landfill…. organic stuff, and I found some pine with a 8 to 10 inch diameter. I have a lamp project in mind!

You gotta keep you eyes open for downed wood, cable, electric and phone line guys are always around keeping the right away clear for their lines…. an excellent place to pick up enough wood to turn for a whole year!

I did a post on how and where to find free wood for your turning projects. Not quite done with it, but I think it will help some of you guys out. Will try to get that stuff posted in the next week of so.

Until then….. happy wood turning!!!

WoodTurning Gouge Sharpening and Grinding An Elsworth or Fingernail Grind for Woodturning Gouges

Grinding An Elsworth or Fingernail Grind for Woodturning Gouges

One of the toughest choices I had to make when getting started in wood turning was deciding which type of woodturning gouge or wood turning chisel to purchase and use.

It gets complicated really fast.

You have to know or learn about steel, that is the steel used in your tools. Brand names become important and deciding on a budget for your woodturning tools is really the major factor.

Knowing what type of steel is used is important because that will tell you how long the woodturning tool will stay sharp and how long it will last. Woodturning tool steel is important also when considering or learning how to sharpen the tools, will it cut green wood easily? ….will it slice thru dry wood?

I watched all kinds of youtube videos, read a bunch of books and did a lot of googling for “woodturning tools” and the amount of information was really overwhelming!


Affordable Wood Turning Chisels
Get Started with the most expensive woodturning chisels you can afford!

I purchased a cheap set of HSS woodturning chisels from Harbor Freight. I think there are about 8 tools and the regular price is around 60 dollars. I had a coupon and ended up getting the set for less than $50, in fact, I think I had a 25% coupon and I paid around 48 bucks for the set.

They were kind of sharp to start with, I found out after a while that they were no where near the sharpness they needed to be. I can tell you how many times a gouge dug into a bowl and stopped the lathe πŸ™‚ …..I don’t know how it did’t break those poor tools….. I read of guys paying just as much for one woodturning gouge and having the steel shank break in two! So, I guess I was pretty lucky.

I could go on and on about gouges but I wanted to share how you can get a fingernail grind on a cheap woodturning tool to experiment with while you are learning.

Here’s the deal. Buy a cheap set of chisels, start to learn how to use them, buy the jigs you need to sharpen the woodturning gouges and chisels and then figure out which woodturning chisel you like best.

Once you get a handle on sharpening and abusing your cheap set of woodturning tools, you can now think about which tools you really like. No need to guy a whole new set, because now you can spend some money and buy a good, expensive or more expensive, wood turning tool. Eddie Castelin says, “Hey, no need to buy a set of tools ….just buy the one you like to use and learn to use it well, after you master that move on to the next!”

Of course if budget isn’t an issue you can get a set of Sorby Woodturning Tools or Hamlet woodturning gouges & chisels or the famous David Ellsworth Signature Gouges …I think made by Crown. You can find good deals on Ebay, best deals on Amazon ….then again, if you have a local woodworking store in your area they can always use the business. Check your local area for Woodturning clases, you might have some luck Googling “woodturning” or even your local college might have classes.

I saved the best for last.

The Ellsworth or Fingernail Grind ….A Swept Back Cutting Bowl Gouge Grind

Ellsworth Grind for Woodturning tools
Woodturing Bowl Gouge with Ellsworth Grind, known as Irish Grind or Fingernail Grind

Since I really wanted to learn how to make bowls, I tried to learn as much as I could about the woodturning tools needed to turn wood bowls. As it turns out, no pun intended :), there are a number of variations of something called a fingernail grind or the ellsworth grind….check out the image (if I found one). These bowl gouge grinds allow you to do a variety of cuts but they are:

  1. hard to master
  2. hard to sharpen

You can spend anywhere from $60 to $200 for a bowl gouge with an ellsworth grind already on it, all you need to do is learn how to use the tool and keep it sharpened.

Wolverine Oneway Grinding JibTo keep it sharpened you need a sharpening jig similar to or a Oneway Wolverine Sharpening jig, something designed to sharpen a variety of woodturning chisels and gouges. There are different manufacturer’s of this system and youtube can provide you with some homemade solutions, Eddie Castelin actually shows you how to make one of these jigs ….he also sells them. Eddie is a long time wood turner, quite a character who suffered a stroke. If you appreciate his videos, you should consider supporting him! This is his youtube channel

Captain Eddie’s WoodTurning Channel

he is a wealth of knowledge ….he is affectionitly known as Captain Eddie!

I don’t know why, but it seems like I can write for hours….late at night. All I wanted to do is share a cool video I found that educates you on how to put an ellsworth grind or fingernail grind on a standard bowl or spindle gouge.

Why is this good?

Because you can take your cheap bowl gouge with a standard bowl grind and turn it into a fancy and effective fingernail grind ….oh, I should have mentioned it can also be called an Irish grind.

Turning an older or cheaper woodturning bowl gouge into a ellsworth grind will allow you to practice using this unique grind at little cost. If you break a 20 or 30 dollar chisel you won’t go busto! Maybe the most important aspect of this whole process is that you can learn and fine turn your woodturning gouge/chisel sharpening skills. It won’t be long before you can shape the Irish grind or Ellsworth grind on your woodturing tools, and it won’t be long before you can effectively use it.

I have yet to use an expensive woodturning gouge with the ellsworth grind such as a Sorby or Crown (Ellsworth) but all the reviews I’ve read tell me that they are a dream come true, they cut the hardest wood like butter, the sharpening last’s 3 to 6 times as long. So, maybe like you, I’m awaiting the finances to get one of the beautiful woodturning tools, the great difference being the type and hardness of the steel …but that’s for another day and another discussion.

How To Grind An Ellsworth Grind or Irish Grind on a Standard Bowl Gouge

So, watch this video about how to take a standard woodturning bowl grind and grind it down to the shape of the fingernail grind, which is the basis of the Irish and Ellsworth grinds. This is one of those videos that you don’t want to lose, after you watch it I would download it and create a folder on your computer with important woodturning videos!