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The Spindle Gouge

Monday 9 July 2018

The gouge descriptively known as the shallow-fluted gouge is often more commonly called a spindle gouge, although it is certainly not restricted to only spindle work, as you will see here.

A lesser-known use of the gouge is to bore holes, and since the tool is longer than most drill bits, this can be an important method for you to use. To do this, simply adjust the toolrest until the cutting tip is on centre with the tool horizontal. Next, you need to push the tool gently into the wood along the lathe's centre line. The hole is bored with surprising ease. You should withdraw the tool frequently to clear the waste.

As you will see opposite, the spindle gouge can be used for a variety of purposes from box hollowing, cutting coves – as it is most commonly known for – as well as forming beads on your turning. Follow these simple pointers and you can be sure to get the most from this turning tool. As I have stated before, mastering the tools is all just a case of practice.

Box hollowing

With a central hole bored, it is relatively easy to enlarge it. Rotate the gouge anticlockwise until the lower cutting edge is at about 9 o'clock. Start with the gouge in the hole and withdraw it while pushing the cutting edge firmly into the wood. With practice you can develop a kind of 'scooping' action, removing wood quickly to enlarge the hole to the desired diameter. Keep an eye on the internal shape and avoid undercutting the sides

Only a gouge

Gouges have much in common whether they have deep or shallow flutes, and the terms 'bowl gouge' and 'spindle gouge' are to some extent subjective. Some turners hollow bowls with a 'spindle' gouge. I frequently use a 'bowl' gouge on spindle work. Don't be restricted by names, but do remember that almost any gouge will cut more cleanly and leave a better finish if you keep the flute at around 2 o'clock and the bevel of the tool in contact with the wood

Cutting a cove

A spindle gouge is the traditional tool for cutting coves in spindle work. The cut is begun with the tool on its side, flute towards the cove. It is pushed into the wood and simultaneously rotated so that when it reaches the bottom of the cut, it is more or less horizontal. This is then repeated, in mirror image, on the other side of the cove. The trick is to get the two cuts to meet at the bottom, forming a continuous semicircular curve from one side to the other

Forming a bead

A bead is the opposite of a cove and it should not be surprising that to form a bead the tool movement is the exact opposite of that required to shape a cove. To form a bead, start on the top of the bead with the tool horizontal and the tip of the spindle gouge just in contact. Push the tool forward while rotating it so that when it reaches the bottom of the cut, it is on its side with the tip vertical. The finished bead should be semicircular in shape. Practice, practice!