Technical Thursdays – The Bowl Gouge – Part 2

Monday 9 July 2018

When using a bowl gouge it is wise to lead with the bevel. By placing the bevel lightly in contact with the work, the angle of cut is determined before the cut is started. This leads to greater precision in using the tool.

Initially the surface is uneven and the tool may bounce on the surface. You should resist the impulse to grip the tool more tightly, but instead, gently draw it back to the edge of the workpiece, maintaining the bevel at the correct angle. See the four pointers below for advice on how to get the best results.


Draw the tip of the tool off the edge of the bowl blank and aim to take a shallow cut from the surface. Keeping the bevel in line with the face, push the tool firmly forward to begin the cut. Keep the flute at about two o'clock – rotating the gouge anticlockwise is a common and dangerous mistake. The cut should always occur on the lower wing, just to the right of the tip. The depth of the cut is regulated by moving the tip of the gouge into, or away from, the surface


Make a shallow groove with the point of a skew to locate the tip of the gouge. Begin the cut with the bevel at right angles to the wood surface, and the flute at three o'clock. Push the tool tip gently into the wood and immediately rotate it to bring the flute to two o'clock. Push in and round, pulling the tool handle back to keep the bevel in contact with the freshly cut surface. Continue the cuts towards the centre stopping each cut just short of the previous one


When the lump in the middle starts to get in the way remove it, bit by bit, with a series of cuts in towards the centre. Each cut is begun by locating the gouge on the steps left by the previous series of cuts. Maintain the flute at two o'clock and keep the bevel in contact with the freshly cut surface. If the resulting surface is smooth, then you have the bevel in contact. Continue until most of the wood is removed and the bowl is almost completed


Make the final cuts by sliding the gouge down the curved side of the bowl, gradually feeling for the cut. Lead with the bevel, making first contact with the heel rather than the cutting edge. Gently swing the gouge handle outwards a tiny bit. This moves the tip in towards the surface. Do this very carefully, feeling for the point at which it just starts to cut. When the cut is established follow the curve of the bowl in a smooth sweep towards the centre, keeping the flute at two o'clock