Using The Bowl Gouge

Using the Bowl Gouge well and generating a slicing cut will give you one of the best finishes you can get when making a bowl. Here I will do my best to explain how to use the bowl gouge. Hopefully it will make sense.


Stand at your lathe with the shaft of the bowl gouge resting on the tool rest, the flute should be pointing over the outside edge of your shoulder. If you’re working left to right then the flute is pointing to 1 o’clock ish or if you’re working right to left the flute should be pointing to around 11 o’clock ish.


The handle should be held low to the floor so the bowl gouge is almost vertical.


When you lift the handle up from the floor the tool the shaft of the bowl gouge pivots on the tool rest, bringing the bevel and cutting edge on to the wood.


By pushing your handle arm back down to the floor you pivot the shaft away from the wood turning off the cut as you take the cutting edge away from the wood.


So by lifting your handle arm up from the floor you turn-on the cut and by lowering your handle arm back down towards the floor you turn-off the cut.


You wont need to move much and the speed of this movement is quite slow. You need to have full control over this movement so that it is a smooth action. You are not hitting a nail with a hammer!!!


Pressure is applied to hold the tool to the rest with the other hand. The bowl gouge should not be allowed to bounce around on the tool rest as this will lead to an uneven cut.


The hand on the handle does not need to be gripped with white knuckles. If you grip the handle of the tool firmly, then stick out your little finger on this hand the pressure of the grip will be about right.


Hold the bowl gouge against the tool rest and lift the handle so just the bevel is rubbing. Then slide the bowl gouge along the tool rest without cutting and when you get to the end of the tool rest lower your handle take the tool back to the beginning of the tool rest and repeat the process a few times so you get the idea of the required action.


Once comfortable with this action, raise the handle a little more so that the cutting edge starts to cut. Repeat this action and you should be successfully using your bowl gouge.


The higher you lift the handle the more wood you cut the lower the handle when cutting the finer the cut.


While using the bowl gouge, listen to the cut. You will hear the different sound of a fine cut to a heavy cut. You you will also learn to feel the cut so in time you will be able to look at the shape you are creating rather than watching the tip of the tool.


You will know if you have the cut right if you see shaving like little curly pig tails coming off the wood. The cutting action is a slicing cut along the surface of the wood.


You do not want to lift the handle to far otherwise you are getting towards horizontal and then you will create the dreaded catch.


Once you have mastered this action you can learn a lot more about using the bowl gouge. With the bowl gouge it’s all about using the bevel and the cutting edge.


Hope that helps those of you that want to learn how to use the bowl gouge.




Olivers Woodturning