Technical Thursdays – The Bowl Gouge – Part 1

Monday 9 July 2018

A 13mm bowl gouge, or deep fluted gouge, is so versatile it could almost be renamed the 'versagouge.' Used instead of a spindle roughing gouge its first task is to true up the blank. Keep the gouge almost at right angles to the blank and take light cuts with the tip, running the fingers along the toolrest to keep the cut straight.

The flute of the tool points to about two o'clock and the bevel is in contact with the wood. The flute always faces the direction in which the tool is moved. In this article, I will show you how you can get the most from this versatile tool.


The same gouge may be used to true the face of the blank, again at right angles to the surface, taking a light cut near to the tip of the tool. This gives good control of the gouge on the uneven surface. The flute is now at 10 o'clock as the gouge is pulled from the centre outwards. In this cut the bevel is not in contact, but as the surface obtained is not the final one, its quality doesn't matter. The aim is simply to remove waste wood efficiently


When working on the underside of the bowl, do not decrease the angle of the tool to the surface. In this shot, the lower wing of the gouge would cut along its entire width if the cut were to be attempted at this angle. The heavy cut would almost certainly cause a catch, which would cause a great deal of damage to the blank and might even dislodge it from the lathe. This can be avoided by maintaining an angle close to 90 degrees


After marking out the holding spigot and the foot of the bowl, the underside is shaped. Working from the centre out towards the edge with the bevel of the gouge in contact with the freshly cut surface and the flute at about 10 o'clock will result in a smoother surface than working in the opposite direction. Again, the angle of the tool to the surface ensures a light, easily controlled, cut. If your surface has many small ridges, you are lifting the bevel off the surface


With most of the waste removed, the surface may be further refined by shear scraping with the lower wing of the bowl gouge. The gouge is rotated until the flute is pointing at about seven or eight o'clock and the lower wing is held at an angle of about 45° to the vertical. Light contact is made with the surface and the gouge is drawn around the curve with a smooth movement. Very fine shavings build up on the toolrest and the surface achieved will require very little sanding