Woodturning is an art form that requires a variety of tools to achieve the desired results. Two of the most commonly used tools in woodturning are bowl gouges and spindle gouges.
While both are essential for woodturning, they have their own unique design and purpose, making them more suitable for different tasks. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the difference between bowl gouges and spindle gouges and why it is important to have both in your woodturning toolkit.
Whether you are a seasoned woodturner or just starting out, this blog will provide valuable information to help you choose the right tool for your needs.
What is a Bowl Gouge?
A bowl gouge is a specific type of wood-turning tool that is used to shape and hollow out wooden bowls. It has a long, straight handle and a blade that tapers to a point, with a curved flute and wings on the sides.
The blade length and overall length of a bowl gouge are designed to provide maximum reach and control when turning large, deep bowls.
Flute Shape and Design
The flute of a bowl gouge is shaped differently from a spindle gouge, with a deep U-shaped curve that runs the length of the blade.
The wings on either side of the blade allow for additional cutting surface and the ability to use a variety of grinds, such as Ellsworth or Irish, to suit the needs of the turner. The deep flute design gives the tool strength and stability, reducing the risk of flexing or breaking when turning large, deep bowls.
Best Use for Bowl Gouge
A bowl gouge is specifically designed for turning wooden bowls, making it ideal for creating deep and shallow hollows, shaping the outside of the bowl, and creating a variety of decorative details.
The deep flute and curved shape of the blade make it possible to reach into the center of the bowl for hollowing, while the wings provide additional stability and a cutting surface for shaping the outside of the bowl.
Advantages of Using a Bowl Gouge
- Specifically designed for turning wooden bowls: The bowl gouge is made specifically for turning wooden bowls, which means that it is optimized for this task. This makes it more effective and efficient than using a general-purpose turning tool like a spindle gouge, which is not specifically designed for turning bowls.
- More efficient and effective than other turning tools: The design of the bowl gouge allows for smooth and efficient cutting, making it easier to turn bowls of different shapes and sizes. The deep flute and wings provide additional stability and reduce the risk of the tool flexing or breaking, which can result in more accurate cuts and a better-finished product.
- Deep flute and wings provide strength and stability: The deep flute and wings of the bowl gouge help to provide strength and stability to the tool. This is particularly important when turning large, deep bowls, as it helps to reduce the risk of the tool flexing or breaking under the stress of the cutting process.
- Reduced risk of flexing or breaking when turning large bowls: The design of the bowl gouge, with its deep flute and wings, helps to reduce the risk of the tool flexing or breaking when turning large bowls. This results in a more accurate and stable cut, and a better-finished product.
- Variety of grinds allows for customization: The bowl gouge is available in a variety of grinds, which allows the user to choose the grind that best suits their needs. This level of customization makes it possible to create a wide range of decorative details and shapes on the surface of the bowl.
- Ability to create a wide range of decorative details and shapes: The ability to choose from a variety of grinds, combined with the design of the bowl gouge, makes it possible to create a wide range of decorative details and shapes on the surface of the bowl. This can result in a more unique and visually appealing finished product.
What is a Spindle Gouge?
A spindle gouge is a type of turning tool used in woodturning. It is designed for use on smaller, more detailed pieces, such as furniture spindles, table legs, and candle holders.
Flute Shape and Design Spindle
The flute shape and design of a spindle gouge are optimized for turning spindles, which are thin, cylindrical objects. The flute of a spindle gouge is shallower and typically has a uniform U-shape. This design allows for a smooth flow of chips and provides good visibility of the cutting edge, which is important for precise cuts and intricate details.
The flat flute design also provides a larger cutting surface, making it easier to remove more material with each pass of the tool. This is important for turning spindles, as the goal is often to remove material quickly and efficiently to create a smooth, uniform surface.
Best Use for Spindle Gouge
Spindle gouges are best used for detailed turning and shaping on smaller pieces. They are typically used for making round and square spindles, shaping beads and coves, and for making fine details on turned pieces.
Advantages of Using a Spindle Gouge
- Versatility: A spindle gouge is a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of cuts, from roughing out to fine detailing. This is due to its flatter grind and shallower flute, which allows for a smoother cut and less tear-out on the workpiece.
- Lightweight and Maneuverable: The spindle gouge is lighter and more maneuverable than a bowl gouge, making it easier to control for precise cuts. This is especially useful for smaller, more delicate projects where a bowl gouge may be too heavy or cumbersome.
- Flatter Grind and Shallower Flute: The flatter grind and shallower flute of the spindle gouge allow for a smoother cut and less tear-out on the workpiece. This makes it ideal for creating decorative elements, such as beads and coves, on spindle work.
- Wide Range of Materials: The spindle gouge can be used to turn a variety of materials, including hardwoods, softwoods, and exotics. This makes it a useful tool for both novice and experienced turners.
- Decorative Elements: The spindle gouge can be used to create decorative elements, such as beads and coves, on spindle work. This allows the turner to add unique touches to their projects and make them stand out.
- User-Friendly: The versatility of the spindle gouge makes it a useful tool for both novice and experienced turners. Novice turners can benefit from its lightweight and maneuverable design, while experienced turners can appreciate its versatility for a wide range of cuts and materials.
Comparing Bowl Gouge and Spindle Gouge
Strength and Durability
Bowl gouges tend to be stronger and more durable than spindle gouges, due to their heavier weight and thicker cross-section.
This makes them well suited for roughing out large pieces of wood, as they can withstand more stress and force. Spindle gouges, on the other hand, are lighter and more nimble, making them ideal for finer, more detailed work.
Grinding and Shape
Bowl gouges are often ground with a more aggressive bevel angle and a flatter profile, allowing for faster and more efficient cuts. Spindle gouges, on the other hand, are often ground with a shallower bevel angle and a more rounded profile, which allows for smoother and more controlled cuts.
Effectiveness in Turning
Both bowl gouges and spindle gouges can be effective in turning, depending on the specific task at hand. For roughing out large pieces of wood, a bowl gouge is often the better choice, while for finer, more detailed work, a spindle gouge is often preferred.
Flexibility in Use
Both bowl gouges and spindle gouges have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them will often come down to personal preference and the specific needs of the project.
However, spindle gouges are generally considered to be more versatile and flexible in their use, as they can be used for a wider range of tasks, while bowl gouges are typically more specialized.
Can a Spindle Gouge Be Used for Bowl Turning?
Yes, a Spindle Gouge can be used for bowl turning, but it is important to understand its limitations. Spindle gouges are designed for use on smaller spindle work, such as table legs or chair spindles, where the gouge is working on a smaller scale.
When used for bowl turning, the spindle gouge may not have enough length to reach the center of the bowl and may struggle with the larger cuts required in bowl turning.
Understanding the limitations of a spindle gouge is crucial in ensuring the success of a bowl-turning project. If the user tries to push the tool beyond its capabilities, they may find it difficult to achieve the desired result and could also risk damaging the tool or the workpiece.
If a user is interested in bowl turning, it is recommended to invest in a bowl gouge specifically designed for that purpose.
Alternatively, a roughing gouge or skews can also be used for bowl turning. These tools are designed for larger cuts and provide more control and stability, making them better suited for bowl-turning projects.
Choosing the Right Tool for the Job
In this section, the focus is on providing guidance on how to choose the right tool for the job.
Considerations for Selecting the Right Gouge
When selecting a gouge, it is important to consider the type of project being worked on, the desired outcome, and the individual’s skill level. Other factors to consider include the material being turned, the size of the piece, and the level of detail required.
Factors that Affect the Choice of Gouge
The choice of the gouge is also influenced by the type of wood being used, the tools and equipment available, and the individual’s preferred style of turning. It is important to keep in mind the limitations of each type of gouge and to choose the one that best suits the specific project requirements.
Expert Recommendations for Bowl Turning and Spindle Turning
Expert woodturners often have a preference for a specific type of gouge and will recommend the best tool for a particular project. It is always a good idea to seek the advice of a professional or to read reviews and forums to gain a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of each type of gouge.
Overall, the goal is to choose the right gouge for the job, taking into account the individual’s skill level, the project requirements, and the desired outcome. This will ensure that the project is completed to a high standard and that the turner is able to achieve their desired results.
Bowl Gouge vs Spindle Gouge Comparison
|For bowl turning and roughing out large curves
|For spindle turning, detail work, and small curves
|U-shaped or sweeping
|V-shaped or deeper
|Usually wider and heavier for stability
|Narrow and lighter for precision
|Usually a fingernail or shallow grind for smoother cuts
|Usually a deeper grind for better control
|Stronger for removing large amounts of material
|Not as strong for removing large amounts of material, but better for precision cuts
|Can be used for a variety of shapes, but not ideal for precision cuts
|Better for precision cuts, but limited in its ability to handle larger shapes
Note: The information in this table is general in nature and may vary depending on the specific bowl and spindle gouge models.
Bowl Gouges are specifically designed for bowl turning, with a curved flute shape that allows for smooth cuts in concave and convex surfaces. Spindle Gouges, on the other hand, are designed for spindle turning and have a straight flute that provides more control and precision in straight, cylindrical shapes.
Sharpening a gouge involves using a grinder to grind the bevel at the correct angle, then honing the edge with a honing stone to create a sharp, clean edge. The specific angles and techniques can vary between gouges, so it’s important to consult a guide or expert for proper sharpening techniques.
The best material for a gouge handle is subjective and can vary based on personal preference. Common materials include hardwoods like beech or ash, as well as synthetic materials like plastic or resin. The key is to find a handle that provides a comfortable and secure grip.
While a Spindle Gouge can technically be used for roughing out bowl blanks, it is not the ideal tool for the job. Bowl Gouges are specifically designed for bowl turning and will provide better results and efficiency in this type of work.
Yes, a Bowl Gouge can be used for spindle turning, but it may not provide the same level of precision and control as a Spindle Gouge. The curved flute of a Bowl Gouge may make it more difficult to achieve the straight lines and uniform cuts required for spindle turning.
Bowl gouges and spindle gouges are two essential tools for woodturning. Each tool has its own unique characteristics, flute shape, and design that make it best suited for specific types of turning. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each tool will help you make the right choice for your specific project.
Whether you are turning a bowl or a spindle, selecting the right gouge is crucial for achieving the desired results. It is important to consider factors such as strength, durability, grinding, shape, flexibility, and effectiveness in turning when choosing the right tool for the job. With the right gouge in hand, you will be able to create beautiful and functional pieces with ease.