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Buying Tools - upgrading from an introductory set

Joined
Sep 26, 2022
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Gibsonburg, OH
First-time post & fairly young turner.

When I first showed an interest in woodturning about five years ago, I was given a gift of an introductory kit of tools (Benjamin Best, I think). They were enough to get me started and interested in the craft. Since then, I've added a few carbide scrapers. But now I'm looking at upgrading my go-to tools - particularly my bowl gouges. I've talked to some folk at stores about my upgrade path but I'm looking for some more insight. I'm looking to start with a 1/2" or 5/8" bowl gouge and then add a 3/8" in a little bit. I'm coming up with two names repeatedly: Carter & Son and Robust. As each is around $150 / tool (with handle) I don't want to make a mistake. So, I thought about asking here. I can imagine that this might be a Chevy / Ford sort of argument - both make good tools and it's a case of personal preference. If that's the case, I'd appreciate hearing that.

Please let me know if any additional information would be helpful. And thanks to everyone for their time and insight.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2022
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Victoria, BC
I'm a rank beginner and I have a 3/8" Henry Taylor bowl gouge that I like. Probably going to add a 5/8" to the mix for roughing.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2006
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Location
Cooper City, Florida
Website
taxmancpa.com
Thompson, Carter, & D-Way all make excellent tools that you will not outgrow. I haven't used any Robust, but have never heard anything but praise for all of their products.
Depending on your budget, Sorby, Henry Taylor, and Crown are also fine tools usually at a lower price point - and often available in the used market.

Good Luck shopping!
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2010
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Location
Kentucky
I have many Thompson bowl and spindle gouges and really like them. The one Robust and couple D-way tools I have are also very good. For lower prices -- but not that much lower -- I would recommend Packard brand tools over Sorby.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2009
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Location
TN
I've always been a proponent of having better tools than I am a woodworker, and fortunate to be able to be in that position. I started turning on and off nearly 30 years ago. My initial assortment was all Sorby tools. Over the years I've added a couple Crown, Henry Taylor and others. These are very good tools and will give you years of service. Lately my purchases have been Thompson gouges and Hunter hollowing tools, my next will be a couple Robust. I still use all of the original Sorby's (except a couple that I've worn out) but really like the brands I've purchased more recently :). You can save some money by purchasing just the steel and adding your own handles, you'll find it's not very difficult and is good practice.

PS - I did buy one Benjamin's Best gouge years ago just to practice sharpening with, don't think it's seen more than 2-3min of use on wood...you'll really like getting better tools...
 
Joined
Jun 6, 2018
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La Grange, IL
+1 for handleless tools. Much easier to sharpen, and much easier to transport to class & play dates.

If you're open to other brands, Oneway makes double ended tools. This means I can try and compare two different grinds.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
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Sterling, CT
tools that can be removed from their handle makes sharpening a lot easier. if you prefer wood handles that you can make yoiur self, you can buy quick release collets and attach them to your wood tool handles.
 
Joined
May 4, 2010
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Bozeman, MT
My recommendation is a little different. It depends on where you are on the learning curve (and how much is in your piggy bank).

If you are still learning to sharpen, if you have to work to get the same grind each time and sometimes/often accept 'close enough,' OR if you do not yet make clean and controlled cuts with your bowl gouge most of the time, I would recommend any of the English gouges (Crown, Taylor, Hamlet, Sorby) or the store's brand made for them by those folks, in M2 steel. They will be less expensive than what you have mentioned and their flute shape is fairly standard and forgiving. I would also encourage you to get a 1/2" (US, shaft diameter)/3/8" (British, flute width) size, as it is much easier to control than the larger gouges. If this is where you're at, you may not yet be able to appreciate the advantages of the more expensive tools.

If you are comfortable sharpening, can get the same edge each time you sharpen, and like the shape you get, AND you have pretty good control of the gouge, the more expensive gouges (PM, cryo, M42, V10 steels) have some advantages that you will be able to appreciate. Be aware, however, that the Thompson/Robust/Carter/D-way gouges will have different flute shapes from Benjamin's Best, from the English gouges, and from each other. You may have to adjust your grinding technique to get the result you want, and you may have to adjust your presentation of the tool to the wood, but if you're at this level of skill, you shouldn't have too much trouble doing so. Just don't get a "U" shaped gouge, IMHO.

Also, at this level of skill, most of us try out different gouges to see which one works the best in our hands. Different folks find success with different gouges--that's why there are so many different suggestions above.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2020
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Bath, Maine
If you are using the Ellsworth grind
The Jamieson gouge made by Thompson is a great gouge.
The robust gouge is strong second.

Pay attention to this. As others have mentioned, there's a lot of good brands out there, with several excellent flavours of steel. If you're just starting out you probably haven't developed a preference for a specific grind, but not all grinds are possible (or optimal) for certain flute shapes. The Carter was the first "real" gouge that I bought (after playing with Benjamins), but it doesn't work with the Ellsworth grind.
 

Emiliano Achaval

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In my experience and, judging from comments made on this forum, in the experience of others, U shaped flutes make it challenging to put on the most popular grinds.
U shape gouges are almost exclusively used as bottom bowl gouges. If someone attempts to put a grind on one, it is because they do not understand what they are doing, and most times bought the gouge by mistake. I have seen this many times. A few club members have shown me their U gouges. I have a few, I love them. Nothing better for platters and of course the bottom of bowls.
 
Joined
Apr 20, 2006
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Location
Erie, PA
I mainly only use Thompson Tools because I strongly feel they are the best. If there were no Thompson tools I would use D-Way. When you take your son to a turning lesson at a toolmakers shop and while that lesson is going on you steal the info on where and how the tool maker gets his tools made and you start a company on that you are worthless. Don't ask me the info is out there if you care as I know some don't.
Now Thompson sells V gouges and U gouges and for me I prefer the Vs as I myself find the U gouge more aggressive and the V is much easier to control (I have talked to turners who feel the exact opposite). The shape of the U makes it near impossible to put wings on it,it just does not work. As Emiliano states I use the U as a tool to cut he transition from the side of the bowl through the bottom on difficult woods. You know when push comes to shove we each have to try and find what we each like but strong preferences may help lead you to a quicker outcome.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2021
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Location
Benton, AR
I starting attempting to turn in earnest 13 months ago. Given my personal traits, I decided to learn beginning with the higher end tools. My first couple of tools came from the nameless company that Bill mentioned. I have since bought D-Way and Doug Thompson. Both of these companies have personally responded to my questions and done so promptly. Doug even returned my call at 7:30pm. While I don't have the experience or resume` to offer a REAL opinion, I found that 1/2 inch bowl gouge from Thompson to be one sweet tool.

I experimented sharpening tools with the handle both on and off the tool. I now sharpen with the handle removed from the tool, much easier to control and see the edge on the wheel.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2019
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Location
Lebanon, Missouri
I started with Bens Best tools, about 10 yrs ago. As I started to get more serious about turning (~ 6 yrs ago), I paid a lot of attention to what few tools I used the most - 3/8 & 1/2 spindle gouge and 5/8 shaft bowl gouge. Those are the tools I upgraded. The BB’s still do just fine for all my other tools, mainly parting and flat and nrs scrapers.

Steel - Thompson’s 10V does hold an edge the best, and for a 5/8 shaft BG the one he makes for Lyle Jamieson is the one - I think it has a larger flute/nose radius vs his std V. It does have straight, not parabolic sides, but takes a long wing Ellsworth type grind just fine. A parabolic flute is a little easier to grind for a long wing and 40/40 but the difference in use is minimal if any.

I prefer Crown M42 Razor tools. Hartville tool has about the best prices on them and last I checked they were a great value (performance/cost) compared to others. The other brands mentioned are all good just not as much value IMO. Mfr tool handles can be removed pretty easily so dont let that get in your way.

I make many of my own wood handles sometimes for more length but also to remove the tool for sharpening - mainly 5/8 BG’s. I like Cindy Drozda’s insert tool holders - made of AL they use set screws to hold the tool. Hasoluk makes a similar steel version. Lot cheaper than the collet versions. I had no issues with them.

IMO its the turner not the tool when it comes to the finished product. Primarily edge holding is the benefit of the better tools. Dont think better tools will automatically make you a better turner. I can make the same stuff with my BB gouges, I just have to sharpen more often.
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2007
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Eugene, OR
Well, first there are flute shapes, U, V, and parabolic. The U is not suitable for the 40/40 grind or swept back grinds, and is commonly used for BOB (bottom of bowl) tools with a 60 to 70 degree bevel and a slight arc to the nose rather than square across the top. The V shape is more of the Thompson and D Way shape. The first V gouges were from Glaser, and the V was way too steep. The Thompson and D Way are pretty similar. The Lyle Jamieson V gouge is more open than the standard Thompson. Both work well. The parabolic flute is very popular, but I don't think I have any, having pretty much gone with the V flutes.

Next there are metals. Standard M2, V 10, M42, and some others. Standard M2 was a huge step up from the old carbon steels. You can not get them hot enough on a grinder for them to lose their temper. There are several 'holds the edge 5 times longer' metals, which are available. I don't think those compare to the V10 or M42. I have a number of both of these, and all are from Thompson or D Way. Yes, they do hold an edge 5 times longer, no questions about that. As far as either one holding an edge longer than the other, I can't tell. You can hog off a lot more material with them before you need to go back to the grinder. Still, for the final finish cut, I go for a fresh edge every time, unless I am doing a number of 6 inch bowls, then I can go for a couple. D Way was the first that I know of to have the M42 HSS. Thompson was the second to have the V10. Now, many have those metals.

I don't have any of the Robust gouges. They have a coating to help keep the edge. Not sure of the technology behind it, but I have had 'coated' drill bits in the past and didn't think they were an improvement over the standard bits. The other products Robust makes are of highest quality.

I don't own any Carter tools.

Oh, I do have a bunch of videos up on You Tube, mostly about bowl turning.

robo hippy
 
Joined
Sep 26, 2022
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Gibsonburg, OH
WOW! Thank you all for your responses. I think I've read through them all. Rather than quoting any single post, I will try to answer as many as I can. If I miss someone's statement, please accept my apologies.

I think I'm fairly good at sharpening. Obviously, I can always do better. I was fortunate to pick up a Tormek grinding station with the wood-turning fixtures a couple of years ago. It makes sharpening a breeze (at least for me). The slow speed of the Tormek helps prevent me from making a mess of my gouges and other tools. I believe that I am doing an Ellsworth grind on my tools.

I'm open to other makers - I'm looking at Thompson now. Turns out he's a fellow Ohioan! I might drop him a line and inquire about his options. Thank you for sharing on V vs U tools. That was something that I was confused about.

I'm also intrigued by Oneway's double-ended tools.

I guess that I'm going to have to do some more research/reading before I'm ready. Still appreciate any more information. Hard to have too much!
 
Joined
Aug 6, 2009
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Lummi Island, WA
I began with a few Benjamins Best tools - great to help get your chops down on sharpening, and graduated into the English products by Crown, Sorby and Hamlet...but quickly discovered the advantages of better steel and flute shapes with D-Way and Thompson tools. The gouges from Robust are great for the 40/40 grind.
Woodturning is a small, niche market within the tool trade. I like to support local companies built by people who worked hard to develop quality tools and fully support both them and their customers. Most are friendly competitors. As Bill has mentioned, the ethics of the company's leadership play a large part of my decision making and I avoid supporting those willing to get ahead at any cost.
 
Joined
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Bozeman, MT
I'm open to other makers - I'm looking at Thompson now. Turns out he's a fellow Ohioan! I might drop him a line and inquire about his options. Thank you for sharing on V vs U tools. That was something that I was confused about.

I'm also intrigued by Oneway's double-ended tools.
Doug Thompson has a functional web site that shows nearly all that he makes. There are a few tools he makes for professional turners to sell, such as the Jameison fluted bowl gouge, that are not shown, as they are not purchased from him. https://thompsonlathetools.com/

The double ended Oneway or Glenn Lucas tools really appeal to my cheapskate nature. The negative on them would be that the non-solid portion that forms the shaft would be more flexible and less resistant to vibration than a solid shaft. This would be most noticeable when extended far off the tool rest.
 
Joined
Apr 20, 2006
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Erie, PA
You will have better luck talking to Doug Thompson if you call him, no emails. For me the Oneway double ended tool always felt like it was vibrating, gave it to a friend who liked them.
 
Joined
Feb 26, 2019
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Lebanon, Missouri
The double ended tools initially appear to be a better value, but it depends on how one likes to use tools. I think they are great for someone traveling with tools. In my own shop I want a handle on each tool ready to use vs having to flip the tool around.

I have not used a double ended tool but they should not vibrate more than a regular tool of the same design. The resonant frequency will be lower though, due to the increase in mass.
 
Joined
Dec 24, 2019
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Portland, OR
I have a bunch of D-Way and they are great. I really like the geometry of the Robust bowl gouge though. I am also a big fan of making my own handles.
 
Joined
Feb 3, 2010
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Adelaide Hills, Australia
Well, first there are flute shapes, U, V, and parabolic. The U is not suitable for the 40/40 grind or swept back grinds, and is commonly used for BOB (bottom of bowl) tools with a 60 to 70 degree bevel and a slight arc to the nose rather than square across the top. The V shape is more of the Thompson and D Way shape. The first V gouges were from Glaser, and the V was way too steep. The Thompson and D Way are pretty similar. The Lyle Jamieson V gouge is more open than the standard Thompson. Both work well. The parabolic flute is very popular, but I don't think I have any, having pretty much gone with the V flutes.

Next there are metals. Standard M2, V 10, M42, and some others. Standard M2 was a huge step up from the old carbon steels. You can not get them hot enough on a grinder for them to lose their temper. There are several 'holds the edge 5 times longer' metals, which are available. I don't think those compare to the V10 or M42. I have a number of both of these, and all are from Thompson or D Way. Yes, they do hold an edge 5 times longer, no questions about that. As far as either one holding an edge longer than the other, I can't tell. You can hog off a lot more material with them before you need to go back to the grinder. Still, for the final finish cut, I go for a fresh edge every time, unless I am doing a number of 6 inch bowls, then I can go for a couple. D Way was the first that I know of to have the M42 HSS. Thompson was the second to have the V10. Now, many have those metals.

That's a good summary from Reed.

At last count I have about eight different 'brands' of bowl gouge, including all of the mentioned HSS alloy steels, plus a few others, and close to (if not all) of the available flute profiles, that being a particular interest of mine.

The way I work is to refresh the edge on every tool in my rack that needs it and then work my way progressively through them on the lathe before refreshing the edge on any that need it. The point of mentioning that is that I'm using all of my bowl gouges from the different makers one after the other. That way I am constantly experiencing any subtle differences.

In my experience, there is minimal difference between the steels I use, with V15 cutting just a bit longer (but eventually rougher) and M42 giving the finest finishing cut off a fresh edge. A 3x cryogenically treated M2 steel that is made well can also be a reasonable performer.

The most significant difference for me is in the flute profiles. One is not necessarily better than the other, but they respond and perform differently with the different bevel grinds. It then comes down to personal preferences and you won't know that until you try them.

If I could only have one bowl gouge flute profile it would be my original Roy Child designed parabolic flute made by Henry Taylor, which they called the Superflute. That is a genuine parabolic flute profile and I find it the most versatile.

If I could only have one steel I would have M42. Its fine carbides give the finest cuts and it holds its edge very well.

After those I would go with a V10 or V15 steel with a V flute. They are honest workhorses that can do a lot of work for you hogging off a lot of wood.

If I was to remove any bowl gouges from my rack I would start with the U flutes. They are best for the inside bottom of bowls and platters, but an appropriately ground parabolic bowl gouge can do that job equally as well.

I've rarely regretted buying any of the many bowl gouges that I have acquired over the years. It is hard to get it badly wrong if you stay with the brand names mentioned in this thread. I reckon buying one bowl gouge at a time and spending time with it to learn how it works best for you before buying your next bowl gouge is an excellent way of progressively upgrading your tool kit.
 
Joined
May 4, 2010
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I do the same thing. I started buying shovel handles from the hardware store. They make great handles.
Rusty, if you're making gouge handles of 48-54" in length, you might actually have longer tools than David Ellsworth! Or are you using the shorter, D- handled shovel handles? :cool:
 
Joined
Jul 27, 2020
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Durham, NC
I’m a fan of the oneway master cut double ended bowl gouges. The flute design is a nice parabolic on nice m4 steel. It gives me a nice sweeping 40/40 style profile that rips through a lot of green wood, and can also handle the delicate finishing work.
Being without handles is great for sharpening, of course. I use them is 5/8ths and 1/2, so both sizes can have the same grind, have the same response, same feel, so better to get really dialed-in with your tool.
They are not fancy, they aren’t one of the super premium, special gouges that folks save up for and buy the special tool, to last a lifetime. This lets me think of it, and use it the way I use sandpaper, as a consumable. And my gouge buying expense is probably similar to sandpaper. I feel just fine using it up, throwing it out and getting another.
 
Joined
Aug 14, 2007
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Eugene, OR
For handles, I don't think I have any over about 16 inches. Most are in the 12 inch plus range. I do all of my heavy hogging off with the Big Ugly tool, which is a 1 inch wide scraper. Far more efficient than a gouge for roughing. The only need for longer handles is if you are turning more like Stuart Batty. His style, as near as I can tell, is adapting to a long bed lathe. You don't want to lean over or brace up against the lathe, which is still leaning over, so you stand up straight and extend your arms out farther away from your body. This saves you from bending over. I use the sliding headstock or on my Vicmark 240, it pivots 30 degrees to the lathe bed. This allows me to stand up straight and keep my arms in close to my body for all of the bowl turning I do.

robo hippy
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2022
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Kenton, OH
I guess that I'm going to have to do some more research/reading before I'm ready. Still appreciate any more information. Hard to have too much!
Hi Matt, I wanted to put my 2 cents in on the subject.
I started with Buck Brothers tool set that were given to me by my Dad. These were great for starter set and to learn to sharpen.
Now that I have more experience about the tool steel, I went towards the Alan Lacer tools he offers on his web site. They range from M2 to M42 to his signature Uber skews.
I have purchase several tools from his on line store and am very pleased - Most of the tools are from Sheffield England.
I also make my own handles. Here are a couple of pics showing 3 different tools I have made handles for.
If you select it he will also put the grind on it for you so it is ready to go when you get it.

5/8 bowl gouge with hard maple handle that is a little over 18 inches in length. ( Alan Lacer store)
Heave duty bowl scraper with curly maple handle around 17 inches in length. ( Alan Lacer store)
Spindle roughing gouge with curly maple handle around 17 inches in length. ( Alan Lacer store)
 

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Joined
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Kenton, OH
A couple of pics of my SRG with curly maple handle.
 

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Joined
May 2, 2020
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Florissant, CO
First-time post & fairly young turner.

When I first showed an interest in woodturning about five years ago, I was given a gift of an introductory kit of tools (Benjamin Best, I think). They were enough to get me started and interested in the craft. Since then, I've added a few carbide scrapers. But now I'm looking at upgrading my go-to tools - particularly my bowl gouges. I've talked to some folk at stores about my upgrade path but I'm looking for some more insight. I'm looking to start with a 1/2" or 5/8" bowl gouge and then add a 3/8" in a little bit. I'm coming up with two names repeatedly: Carter & Son and Robust. As each is around $150 / tool (with handle) I don't want to make a mistake. So, I thought about asking here. I can imagine that this might be a Chevy / Ford sort of argument - both make good tools and it's a case of personal preference. If that's the case, I'd appreciate hearing that.

Please let me know if any additional information would be helpful. And thanks to everyone for their time and insight.
Worse…..you have to throw Mopar into the argument!! Been there and I now have a mix. Due to my turning club and watching/listening I have Sorby (Mopar) but also have a set of Woodriver spindle gouges. I say set as I started with a middle one (like you are doing for bowl gouges), liked it and added to both sides.

I currently have a mix of bowl gouges and keep wondering if I need to do the same so they feel the same. That is, same grind, etc.

Best wishes. Will now go back and try to learn from the other responses. Great question that needs to be revisited.
 
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