First Time Turning #2: Let's Talk about Gouges... 'cause nobody else is...

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Blog entry by Copperjock posted 03-24-2008 05:17 AM 2754 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Rough Stock Preparation Part 2 of First Time Turning series Part 3: If a bowl gouge is for bowls, then a spindle gouge is for... »

Alright, I have the mesquite block screwed top side into the faceplate, trying to turn the outside of the bowl.

I have read about letting the bevel of the tool “ride” the work. I don’t get it. No diagrams or photos I’ve seen really offer good info about the angle of attack. When I am in this position:

Pretty soon, I get this:

Which wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the violence of the gouge is quite unnerving and definitely makes me less interested in wood turning. I actually bent one of the tools slightly thanks to a gouge.

When I am in this position:

It seems safer, but all I get is dust, little or no shavings, and seems to take forever.

All the tools were freshly sharpened on my disk sander, however don’t necessarily have a good “bur” on the top side of the cutting edge. And this has been turned so far, at the slowest speed setting.

So this is where I am at so far. Classes are available locally, so there is always that as a last resort.

Your tips are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

-- All the test cuts in the world won't stop you from cutting the outside when you meant to cut the inside. doh!

10 comments so far

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5337 days

#1 posted 03-24-2008 06:42 AM

Looks like you’re using a shallow spindle gouge to do faceplate work. Do you have a bowl gouge? If not – look into them…

Whatever tool you use, (you could use a scraper, but it would take awhile!) the approach (tool to wood) should be made in line with the axis of the lathe center (gosh, I hope I’m saying this right). Looks like your trying to do spindlework (90 degrees to the axis), which works on long grain work between centers…

But, when you try that when turning a bowl blank you’re likely to get stuck and dig into the endgrain portion of your face mounted work…

Not sure if any of this helps, but hope so!

Bowl gouge, bowl gouge, bowl gouge…

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Copperjock's profile


130 posts in 5138 days

#2 posted 03-24-2008 07:06 AM

Looking up bowl gouge… I definitely don’t have a bowl gouge. I will look into getting one. Now that I’m looking, I defintely don’t have a roughing gouge, either.

“In line with the axis of the lathe center”... I’m trying to visualize this, but I’m not seeing it. Maybe you can scan and post a hand sketch of this.

Thanks, Dorje, thinking of the grain helps me understand my problem. It does suprise me the shape of the blade makes that big a difference.

-- All the test cuts in the world won't stop you from cutting the outside when you meant to cut the inside. doh!

View Copperjock's profile


130 posts in 5138 days

#3 posted 03-24-2008 07:30 AM

Looking at the gouges, relative to the grain, they are on exact opposite sides… just as it turns from end grain to side grain.

-- All the test cuts in the world won't stop you from cutting the outside when you meant to cut the inside. doh!

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 5361 days

#4 posted 03-24-2008 01:16 PM

The top picture seems to show you using the gouge upside down. With the cupped side toward the work you are sure to get a catch. Try turning the gouge over and rest the “bevel” against your work and rotate the handle until you start geting a cut.
The second picture is too close to be sure but you seem to have the bevel right side up but the fulcrum (rest )is set too low. I should be at or just higher than the center of your stock.
The angle of attack again for the gouge should be from the side and not on the end as you are showiing.

Lastly as pointed out earlier , you seem to be using a spindle gouge(left). What you should be looking for is a bowl gouge (right).

If you are going to continue with this craft, I would suggest you get a copy of this DVD will bring you up to speed very quickly.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5500 days

#5 posted 03-24-2008 01:27 PM

check out Mot’s videos re: turning a bowl.
Maybe they’ll help.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View odie's profile


1692 posts in 5180 days

#6 posted 03-24-2008 03:47 PM

MsDeb sent you in the right direction. Bob#2 also has good photos of a bowl gauge. REad, Read, read until your eyes hurt. there are some great beginner books out there. Also, you don’t want a burr on a bowl gauges … that’s for scarpers. Robert Sorby makes great bowl gauges right out of the package. Also tulsa must be big enough to have a Woodcraft store. They have great advice and turning classes. HAVE FUN with turnning.

-- Odie, Confucius say, "He who laughs at one's self is BUTT of joke". (my funny blog)

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5191 days

#7 posted 03-25-2008 12:52 AM

From the top picture it looks like you have the tool a long way from the tool rest. To minimise vibration & chatter you need to have the tool rest below the centre axis and fairly close to the work when cutting. you might find with the tool you have that a side rake approach will cut much better than pushing the point into the wood to cut, a side rake will also direct the scraps away from your face which makes things a lot more comfortable. Have the job spin as fast as possible without vibrating. Good luck and don’t give up, turning is very rewarding.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 5228 days

#8 posted 03-25-2008 03:36 AM


First things first. You own what seems to be a spindle gouge as opposed to a bowl gouge. What this means is that your tool is too fragile for bowls and mistakes will end in bent tools (it seems that this already happened). What this does not mean is that you got a catch because you used a spindle gouge. The catch would have been a lot more spectacular with a bowl gouge probably.

Second, the theory says that you have to cut with the bevel but the trick is to be able to keep the bevel rubbing very precisely. The way you hold the tool in figure 1, the smallest move of the handle up will make the tool catch. While a seasoned turner could control the bevel in that position (I can), as a beginner you have no chance. The tool is used as a fulcrum and the trick to control it is to make the part that hangs over the tool rest as short as possible. That means that you have to cut with the side not the tip of the gouge. In the video I posted in my blog you will see me using a bowl gouge sideways to rough up the work. This means a lot more control and large shavings.

In the last figure you use the gouge as a scraper. Scrapers are very inefficient cutters and leave a rough surface (unless you do sheer cutting, a story for another day). You should avoid scraping as much as possible.

What I suggest is you look at my video and see how I use the gouge. Then, when you get the funds, you get the largest bowl gouge you can afford. The video is here:

Good luck,

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Copperjock's profile


130 posts in 5138 days

#9 posted 03-25-2008 05:04 AM

Thanks, folks for all the good tips… the journey continues into the next blog…

-- All the test cuts in the world won't stop you from cutting the outside when you meant to cut the inside. doh!

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5214 days

#10 posted 03-25-2008 07:39 PM

Hey Copper, thanks for asking. I am picking up a lot from this, too.

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