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Best Bowl Gouge for Beginners

hockenbery

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Depends on so many factors.

Take a class, or join a local club and find a mentor.

If you took a workshop with me I would teach you how to use and sharpen the Ellsworth grind.
Good tools for this are the 1/2” ( 5/8” diameter ) Henry taylor, Henry talylor artisan, robust, Lyle Jamison .
These are all suitable for the beginner who has had some instruction on the use and sharpening
These gouges all take the Ellsworth grind well.

If you took a class from Cindy Drozda or Johannes Michelson they use different grinds and would recommend gouges with different flute profiles
A class, workshop, mentor will set you in a direction.

The old saying applies here if you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.

If you just want a gouge they all work.
They don’t all take specific grinds well.
 
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I would start with a 1/2" bowl gouge with a 40 or 50 degree grind. Minimum steel material should be M2 High Speed Steel. Try to avoid carbon steel as it does not hold an edge as long and tends to overheat when ground. As for brand, Robert Sorby, Henry Taylor and Crown offer a good quality gouge at a reasonable price.
 
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As you will hear from the responses, there's not one answer to your question. It's like, what's the best car for a beginning driver?

Some folks like to start with an inexpensive but functional gouge, as Brian recommends, and some folks think the slight advantage of a better quality tool will produce a more encouraging result. Some of the inexpensive brands have inferior steel or are marginally safe, but you are most likely OK with Benjamin's Best and Hurricane.

The more important question is probably, How are you going to sharpen? A bowl gouge, poorly used or poorly sharpened, won't get you a good result, regardless of how much it cost. You will need to learn both use of the tool and how to sharpen it properly.

The best way to start with any bowl gouge is with the help of a coach and most of us here are big fans of finding one at your local AAW affiliate chapter. Taking a class from a well known teacher or at one of the several schools are also excellent ways to get started, if that's feasible for you.
 
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A tool without the guidance to sharpen it is worthless. I have my students start with the best (1/2"V Thompson tool) and I show them how to sharpen it with 4 different sharpening systems (Vector Grind System, Wolverine Sharpening System, Woodcut Tru-Grind Sharpening System and the Tormek Sharpening Machine. Also if I have a student that I feel will not be able to grasp the intricacies of these systems I introduce them to the Sharpfast Sharpening System which is nigh impossible to run off the wheel to keep them safe but also gives an acceptable grind. They choose a system and when they move on to their own devices I'm fairly confident that they know what they are doing.
 
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In addition to having to work out a sharpening method, as a beginner you may want to explore different grinds on your gouges. Oneway makes double ended handle less tools. You can put on two different grinds and easily compare the two. (They need handles with a long cavity such as from Oneway or Trent Bosch). Handle less tools are easier to sharpen, too.
 
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In addition to having to work out a sharpening method, as a beginner you may want to explore different grinds on your gouges. Oneway makes double ended handle less tools. You can put on two different grinds and easily compare the two. (They need handles with a long cavity such as from Oneway or Trent Bosch). Handle less tools are easier to sharpen, too.
You can also get the double ended tools with the correct handle from Dway tools.
 
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Well, I am one who wants higher quality tools. Many seem to think that you are wasting good metal if you buy the expensive tools first, mostly because you don't know how to sharpen. I am not sold on that idea. I would suggest to get good quality tools, M2 high speed steel at the least. Sharpening with jigs makes that process simple. Learning the difference between sharpening and grinding is more difficult, but that should be taught along with basic bowl turning.

Now as for which grind would be best, if you want 'one tool does it all', then I would suggest a swept back grind, which has a fairly standard 60 degree nose bevel angle. This will get you through most bowls. Side note here, is that a lot of beginners tend to do the dog food style bowl, which has fairly steep sides and a small radius transition area going into the bottom of the bowl. A 60 degree bevel will have a rough time making it all the way through that. If you are getting 2, then I would suggest the 40/40 grind, and a BOB tool. I consider the 1/2 inch bowl gouges to be good starter tools. I use the 5/8 gouges most of the time though. Tried one 3/4 inch gouge and didn't like it. I do prefer my scrapers to the 3/4 inch gouge since they hog off material faster.

I guess to this I would add that I prefer the M42 HSS from D Way, and the V 10 from Thompson as my go to tools. Yes, you pay more, but you get a lot more for your money. You get far more cutting time from them than you do from M2. I was shocked when I went back to a M2 gouge after using nothing but Thompson and D Way tools for years. The difference is huge.

robo hippy
 

odie

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I am one who is a believer in M2 steel.....not just for beginners, but for seasoned turners as well.

Beginning turners are easily convinced that a sharpened edge that lasts longer is better than one that doesn't last as long.....and, who could argue with that, right? It seems to be an intuitive concept....but, is it really?

A freshly sharpened edge will cut well, and it immediately begins to dull, no matter what steel carries that edge. There is a "zone" of sharpness that is best for the task at hand, and wood characteristics you're working with at the moment. That "zone" will vary in duration somewhat, depending on those variables.

At that point where you're just beginning to pass through the "zone" to a level of sharpness that still cuts, but not quite as well as it could, it's much more difficult to make the decision to stop and re-sharpen when the act of passing through the zone is very slow and not distinctly evident. Harder steels make that distinction even more difficult, and the ultimate result is a turner will turn longer than he should have, and requiring a surface to be re-done because of it. (Turners who rely on power sanding to clean up torn grain may be less effected by zoning their tool edges, than those who will accept nothing less than a tooled surface that requires a minimum of preparation sanding for finishing. Eliminating the need for the coarser grits is the priority.)

I believe I have an advantage in learning about zoning the cutting edge, mainly because I spent the first twenty years of my learning experience completely isolated from other turners. I was forced to learn by my own wit and senses, as opposed to the great majority of turners who are influenced by other turners, modern methods, videos, books, clubs, mentors and etc. I wouldn't trade this experience for the world, because my perspective seems to have evolved a little differently than those who have journeyed though the learning process by traveling paths that are well traveled. (They followed the herd....so, to speak!) The main drawback to learning in isolation, is I have learned at a much slower pace, than if I had mentors telling me what I did wrong and correcting me. The positive aspect to that, is I apparently have blazed some of my own trails where other turners haven't tread!

In case anyone is wondering.....well, yes I have had a few of the exotic steel tools in the past, but the main difference is I turned with M2 (and a few carbon steel tools) for the first twenty years of my turning experience. Having that knowledge of M2 steels is why I have enabled myself to make a more thorough evaluation of steel performance, plus the human element in determining what the "zone" is, and how to apply that evaluation in an effort to have the finest tooled surface possible. A tooled surface that requires the bare minimum of sanding.

As always in these threads, very few will agree with my assessments.....whatever.....it is what it is, and I can live with that! It is not my purpose to teach, only to express my thoughts, and let the chips fall where they may! :)

-----odie-----
 

john lucas

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Pretty much everyone turns longer than they should before sharpening. You can easily tell by how easily it cuts when do make that first cut after sharpening. The advantage of the more wear resistant steel is it's still cutting good when you do decide to sharpen.
 
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I’m a believer in starting with “hi value” tools, Bens Best (my pick) and Hurricane are the 2 I’m familiar with. Both brands bg’s have parabolic flutes, tho slightly shallow. They will take the different grinds mentioned.

Why? Even with instruction/mentor a new turner needs to experiment. Instructors/mentors have their favs, and the new guy needs to experiment with other recommendations. Value tools enables one to get more tools - try different sizes, have several of the same tool with different grinds. Over time (could be several years) you find the size/grind you use the most and what you turn the most. Then it’s time to get expensive tools. Those value tools wont go to waste - I’m still using them up 10 years later.
 
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Well, I am one who wants higher quality tools. Many seem to think that you are wasting good metal if you buy the expensive tools first, mostly because you don't know how to sharpen. I am not sold on that idea. I would suggest to get good quality tools, M2 high speed steel at the least. Sharpening with jigs makes that process simple. Learning the difference between sharpening and grinding is more difficult, but that should be taught along with basic bowl turning.

Now as for which grind would be best, if you want 'one tool does it all', then I would suggest a swept back grind, which has a fairly standard 60 degree nose bevel angle. This will get you through most bowls. Side note here, is that a lot of beginners tend to do the dog food style bowl, which has fairly steep sides and a small radius transition area going into the bottom of the bowl. A 60 degree bevel will have a rough time making it all the way through that. If you are getting 2, then I would suggest the 40/40 grind, and a BOB tool. I consider the 1/2 inch bowl gouges to be good starter tools. I use the 5/8 gouges most of the time though. Tried one 3/4 inch gouge and didn't like it. I do prefer my scrapers to the 3/4 inch gouge since they hog off material faster.

I guess to this I would add that I prefer the M42 HSS from D Way, and the V 10 from Thompson as my go to tools. Yes, you pay more, but you get a lot more for your money. You get far more cutting time from them than you do from M2. I was shocked when I went back to a M2 gouge after using nothing but Thompson and D Way tools for years. The difference is huge.

robo hippy
I agree 100% with this. It is much more enjoyable to turn with a good tool. I have Robert Sorby, Thompson and DWay and all are good. It doesn’t take that long to learn how to sharpen.
 
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Nobody asked what size lathe you have. That will dictate the size of bowls you can make. Bigger lathe 5/8 bowl gouge otherwise 1/2”. The starter bowl gouge should be inexpensive because your going to learn how to sharpen it and you’ll be surprised how fast you will grind it away. Down the road, you will have the experience to choose a “better” bowl gouge. Many references above to different turners style bowl gouge. IMHO my recommendation for a beginner is to go with a gouge style that is popular so that sharpening equipment and Tutelage are readily available. I don’t think that you can go wrong with starting with the very popular Ellsworth style gouge.
 
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You know it is not 20 years ago, there are CBN wheels. When taught to use them properly you can expect your gouges to last at least 3 to 4 times longer than sharpening with a white wheel. So little waste using CBN because it never changes size so no matter which grinding jig you use it is right there when you set your gouge. When teaching tool sharpening is only second to ABC (anchor, bevel, cut). Yes a cheap tool will even last longer with a CBN wheel but why bother when for a few dollars more you get a quality tool. My starter set for a beginner is a 1/2"V bowl gouge, a 3/8" spindle gouge and a parting tool. You can do most everything you want with those three tools. And lest I forget a CBN wheel will not explode in an accident while sharpening like a white wheel will.
 
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Well, I am one who wants higher quality tools. Many seem to think that you are wasting good metal if you buy the expensive tools first, mostly because you don't know how to sharpen. I am not sold on that idea. I would suggest to get good quality tools, M2 high speed steel at the least. Sharpening with jigs makes that process simple. Learning the difference between sharpening and grinding is more difficult, but that should be taught along with basic bowl turning.

Now as for which grind would be best, if you want 'one tool does it all', then I would suggest a swept back grind, which has a fairly standard 60 degree nose bevel angle. This will get you through most bowls. Side note here, is that a lot of beginners tend to do the dog food style bowl, which has fairly steep sides and a small radius transition area going into the bottom of the bowl. A 60 degree bevel will have a rough time making it all the way through that. If you are getting 2, then I would suggest the 40/40 grind, and a BOB tool. I consider the 1/2 inch bowl gouges to be good starter tools. I use the 5/8 gouges most of the time though. Tried one 3/4 inch gouge and didn't like it. I do prefer my scrapers to the 3/4 inch gouge since they hog off material faster.

I guess to this I would add that I prefer the M42 HSS from D Way, and the V 10 from Thompson as my go to tools. Yes, you pay more, but you get a lot more for your money. You get far more cutting time from them than you do from M2. I was shocked when I went back to a M2 gouge after using nothing but Thompson and D Way tools for years. The difference is huge.

robo hippy
I agree. I have tools which were less expensive to start, but rarely use them, having since replaced them with better quality. I own a Crown Ellsworth Pro-PM 1/2" gouge. The steel sharpens easily and keeps it edge a long time. I'd buy another but they are now almost twice as much as when I bought mine a few years ago. Anyway, there doesn't seem to be any point in buying cheap tools just because you aren't an experienced turner unless you think it's a passing interest and you might not continue turning in the future.
 
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I own a Crown Ellsworth Pro-PM 1/2" gouge. The steel sharpens easily and keeps it edge a long time. I'd buy another but they are now almost twice as much as when I bought mine a few years ago.
If you buy the gouge without the Ellsworth grind already on it, you can save 25%. If you've worn one out, you certainly know how to grind it.
 
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If you buy the gouge without the Ellsworth grind already on it, you can save 25%. If you've worn one out, you certainly know how to grind it.
Good suggestion. Didn’t wear it out. Just wanted a second for turning larger pieces where I have to stop and re-sharpen. Because the steel holds an edge so long it isn’t often necessary. I’ve slowly decided to be extravagant possibly with something elsebalthough the second gouge would be a nic convenience. Still a good suggestion. Wouldn’t be tough to re-sharpen with the Ellsworth grind.
 
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I actually found the non
@Randy Heinemann you could also try one of the Crown Razor M42 gouges to compare M42 to PM. They are less expensive but hold an edge for a long time. Flute design is the same.
After the suggestion, I found the non-Ellsworth Crown Pro-PM at Hartville Tools online for less than I paid for my original Ellsworth with no shipping. It seemed like a sign so I bought it. I don’t know why I never thought about buying the non-Ellsworth version before. Guess when I bought the first one I wasn’t very experienced and didn’t know much about sharpening.
 
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