Les Thorne 12mm Spindle Gouge

Monday 9 July 2018

I must admit to being mainly a bowl turner and was intrigued by this tool. On first glance it looks like any other spindle gouge; but what is special about it that warrants Les Thorne putting his name to it? Closer inspection – and an explanation from Les – shed some light on it.

Les used to use a shallow Continental gouge machined from flat bar but this gave rise to chatter when, for example, cutting coves in a 125mm newel post; quite simply the tool was not strong/rigid enough to support the cutting edge that far away from the toolrest. A spindle gouge ground from round stock would be inherently stronger but the problem here is that almost regardless of the shape of the flute, a fingernail grind elongates and narrows the bevel as you move away from the tip of the tool.

Les' experience and the machining capabilities of Ashley Iles have provided a hybrid solution. On his signature tool the tops of the wings are machined away such that the bar is no longer round in section. This, together with the 30-35° bevel angle, means that the width of the bevel is constant from the tip of the tool to the end of the wing. This enables smooth cutting, particularly in tight coves, with less chance of the heel of the tool binding and blocking the cut.

In use

The Les Thorne spindle gouge tested was supplied both pre-handled and pre-ground. The tool, as a whole, seems nicely balanced and, whilst I appreciate that everyone has their own view on what feels right, I personally found that this one felt natural and comfortable in use. The gouge is also available un-handled for you to add your own handle or use in a hollow handle system.

In its primary use of cutting coves and hollows this spindle gouge works admirably, giving smooth, clean cuts with minimal tearout, even in soft woods and with tight coves of a width equal to that of the gouge itself.

The open flute profile on the tool is such that it clears away cut material without clogging – unlike the tendency of a bowl gouge when used in the same way. It also works well in a variety of other ways – turning beads, taking planing cuts, etc. – although not a substitute for a well controlled skew – and as some people advocate hollowing end grain bowls. All in all, this is a very versatile tool.


This tool provides the characteristics of a Continental gouge with the strength and rigidity of a gouge made from round bar. It is easy to use and suitable for beginners and experienced turners. The beginner might not realise the nuances behind the design in the same way that an experienced spindle turner would, but given the reasonable price, this must be a strong contender.