Know your gouges

What’s the difference between a bowl gouge and a spindle gouge? And can you use a spindle gouge on bowls and vice versa? The short answer is yes but the explanation is longer To define the two could be a little dangerous as there are tools that could be classed as hybrids, but let’s first describe the main differences.

The gouges subdivide into two main categories, that of shallow and deep flutes, the bowl gouge being the deep one and the spindle being the shallow.

The first thing to look at is the sizes available, spindle gouges coming in %in up to %in. their size relating to the section of steel; therefore a 3/ein (10mm} gouge is made of steel of that size. That’s obvious, I hear you say, but just to confuse the issue bowl gouges are measured differently, a Win bowl gouge being made from %in steel, and the size coming from the edge of the flute to the outside of the bar.

As you can see from the picture the flutes look completely different, the spindle gouge’s flute being ground down to the centre of the bar and the wings removed, whereas the bowl gouge is ground out narrower and deeper in the manufacturing process; this makes the tool less prone to vibration and it will work further away from the support of the tool rest.

Spindle gouge grind

The spindle gouge will probably be supplied from the manufacturer with a grind on the end that will work but won’t be as versatile as the fingernail grind that we can put on it. When sharpening the tool we have to be very careful not to put a point on the too! (Pic.2). This would be caused by just putting the tool on a platform and revolving it, and will put a shape on the end like a centre punch. This will make the spindle gouge remove wood effectively, but a nice curve on the end of tool must be maintained achieved by either running the side of the tool up the grinding wheel (Pic.3) or by the use of a quality grinding jig like Oneway’s versatile Wolverine (Pic,4).

Both the spindle and the bowl gouge have a multitude of uses in turning and their paths will cross frequently; on a bowl obviously the stronger tool is an advantage but the spindle version could be used for any detailing like a bead on the edge or working near the spigot, basically where the bowl gouge will not fit in, I tend only to employ the bowl gouge on spindle work when the strength of a normal spindle gouge becomes an issue such as when I am working a longer way off the tool rest, because the shape prevents me getting in close to the workpiece (Pic.5).

Hybrid tools

The hybrid tools mentioned earlier are a cross between the two. They do tend to be bowl gouges with larger more open flutes and can be an asset in certain turning operations, but I would be inclined to stick to the normal ones at first.

One last thing to mention is the fact that tool manufacturers will make the gouges with flutes that are different to each other, so a %in bowl gouge from one company will be different from another, meaning that if you took the tools and tried to sharpen them to the same shape you could end up with tools that will behave differently in the cut.

I find that some of the gouges, such as the Robert Sorby range, work really well with the popular long grind on them whilst I like to use a Crown or Henry Taylor gouge with the traditional straight-across grind (Pic.6), and as for spindle gouges I like the ones from Ashley lies. Now, the downside to that is that all my tool handles don’t match when I hang them on the wall.

Present arms!

Do you sometimes have problems remembering how to present your gouges? There is nothing more frustrating tor myself or for my students than to make a series of good cuts only to ruin the work with a sudden lack of concentration. So it’s vital to keep focused during the process to achieve consistent results (see pics, opposite)

My preferred method is to liken the flute position of the tool to the hour hands of a clock and part of my demonstration banter is to tell the audience that you put the tool in at

10 o’clock or 2 o’clock and if it goes bang it’s the other one — slightly tongue in cheek but not too far from the truth.

If you are turning the inside ot a bowl you need to start with the flute pointing at 3 o’clock (Pic.1). Once the incision is made and there is something for the bevel to rub on, twist the handle to open the flute up to 2 o’clock (Pic.2}; this will make the shavings exit nicely from the bowl. You may even go to 1 o’clock (Pic.3); this will improve the cut even further, but beware that the closer you get to 12 o’clock the closer you get to coming off your bevel support and having a catch — ftute-up cuts are fantastic for finishing cuts but can be a little chancy, being something of a risk-reward situation.

Spindle work

On spindle work, techniques such as rolling a bead are as follows: tool starts at 12 o’clock (Pic.4), with the bevel rubbing it, then for the right-hand side it travels through 1 and 2 o’clock (Pic-5), ending at 3 o’clock (Pic.6) This procedure is, of course, reversed for the left-hand side.

Now it doesn’t matter how big the bead is: the tool will stilf travel in this way, just more slowly as the shape gets larger.

The last operation in which I use the clock technique is hollowing end grain such as when turning an egg cup or a box. The spindle gouge is presented to the centre of the wood at 10 o’clock (Pic.7) and then pivoted out on the toolrest with the flute closing off gradually to 9’oclock as it comes up the side (Pic.8).

These methods are not meant to replace quality instruction but are meant more as a referral when things don’t quite work out or even sometimes I will get the student to recite to me the flute position throughout the cut, the purpose being to build up muscle memory, hopefully to the point that it becomes second nature.

Stand at ease

I am often asked about the parallel to the bed (Pic.1), this stance allowing importance of the turner’s stance me to transfer the tool along the rest when and how I hold the tool at the lathe, I working between centres whilst still giving like to try and start my students down the right me the capacity to work the tool in and out of track by standing in the most effective the shape.

and comfortable way with the best grip Standing at right angles to the machine on the tool. However, many improvers who means that the sideways movement and come to me have already developed their transfer of weight from left to right foot techniques and I wouldn’t try to change and vice-versa becomes much more them unless I thought that it was inhibiting their difficult (Pic.2) The only time I tend to ability to turn successfully, change this is when I am working on i do most of my work at the lathe with my feet larger hoi low work such as vases where the majority of the cutting is down the piece rather than along it.

I tend to stand quite close to the machine as I find this gives me more control, As I am right-handed that’s the one that’s placed on the handle; this is wherever possible tucked in to the side of my body, the left hand being used to support the blade; the right hand is placed either in a hand-over or hand-under grip Pics.3 and 4). This, I find, gives me the most control and helps to stop any of the centrifugal force when the tool is presented onto the piece.

Spider grip

I quite often see other turners using a grip that employs the tips ot their fingers, a technique a friend dubbed ‘the spider grip I don’t see the benefit of this type of grip (Pic.5), especially as there are loose fingers that may get trapped, but as always if it works for you that’s great.

There is one tool that is sometimes used one-handed and that is the parting tool. Whether you are using it to size a piece or removing the finished work from the lathe, make sure that you grip up the blade to give yourself as much control over the cutting edge as possible (Pic.6)

How hard you should hold the tool is me of (he most difficult things to teach. Vibration can be caused by forcing the tool onto the work, so your natural reaction is to push harder, thus making the problem worse. A simple rule of thumb is that the too! must be held hard enough just to counteract any forces that are coming back to you.

One last thing on grip is the use of gloves when using the lathe. These can be quite dangerous for obvious reasons. I have found that fingerless cycling gloves are tight fitting and are about as safe as you could get, but I only wear them when i am working on a job where the shavings are cutting my hands, as happens especially when working with idlgbo; but I would never touch the wood whilst wearing them and wouldn’t dream of using them when sanding, however much heat was being generated.

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