What Type of Woodturning Bowl Gouge Should I Buy?

Carbide tipped wood turning tools from Easy Wood Tools

Facebook Member Looking for
Bowl Gouge Purchase Advice

Someone in our woodturning facebook group  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 🙂

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 Tools  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 tools  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 🙂


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