There have been several posts recently on sharpening and the resultant sharpness of lathe cutting tools. While pondering one of these recently, I was struck by the realization that gouges and skew chisels are traditionally ground to very blunt angles compared to most other cutting tools such as razor blades, box cutters, wood carving tools, home cutlery, etc. The edge angles for skews and spindle gouges typically are 30 degrees or larger and for bowl gouges the angles range to at least 60 degrees. How then do we ever manage to turn wood with these tools even when they have a perfectly sharp edge? Apparently, my muscle memory learned the answer long before I even realized that there was a question. The simple answer is that we seldom present a gouge or skew chisel to the spinning wood so that the wood hits the cutting edge head on. Almost always, the tool is positioned so that the wood hits it at an oblique angle. That is, so the wood slides along the cutting edge as well as climbing over the edge. Exceptions to this include using a skew chisel or a spindle roughing gouge in a peeling cut to hog out material, and most cuts using a parting tool. It turns out that when the cutting edge is presented at a skewed angle to the moving wood, the edge appears less blunt to the oncoming wood. A good analogy is climbing a hill at an angle rather than climbing straight up. Applying a bit of Trigonometry 101 to the problem, I calculated the reduction in effective edge angle as the cutting edge is skewed more and more from a head-on presentation. The results are shown below for actual edge angles of 40 degrees and 60 degrees. It is worth noting that the same reductions in effective edge angle will be obtained even if the tool is dull, that is, the tool will appear less dull with increased skew angle. Also note that the edge angle of a gouge may not be the same as the nose angle as one moves away from the nose. Why the bluntness? I would guess that it evolved as a means of adding resistance to battering of the tool edge by the spinning wood.