If you are into wood bowl turning, you need the best bowl gouges. Decisively, bowl gouges are perhaps the most fundamental tool needed for woodturning.
It provides the easiest way to achieve smooth cuts for wooden bowls or round objects. That’s why I made a list of the top lathe bowl gouges on the market today.
Best Bowl Gouges for the Beginners – [My Top Picks]
- Best Value Pack: Hurricane 3-Piece Set
- Best 5/8 inch: Carter & Son Toolworks 5/8
- Best 1/2 inch: Robert Sorby 842XLH
- Best Fingernail 1/2 inch: Robert Sorby 842FLH
- Best 3/8 inch: Hurricane 3/8
Best Bowl Gouges for the Money – [Top Picks of 2023]
Here are the top 7 bowl gouges for the beginner woodturners you need to know about.
1. Hurricane 3-Piece Bowl Gouge Set – Best for the Money
- Three different sizes.
- Made from M2 High-Speed Steel.
- Holds edge very well.
- Bad finish on the handles.
This set of gouges is perfect for anyone looking to start crafting wood bowls. The gouges are made from high-quality M2 HSS steel, and have a long beechwood handle for better leverage.
This three-piece set is perhaps the most convenient collection of bowl gouges. It consists of the basics that are helpful for beginners and skilled craftsmen alike. Therefore, making it best for the money set, you can ever find.
The set includes three different bowl gouges with Superflute like shape. They vary between the sizes of 1/2″ flute (5/8″ shank), 1/4″ flute (3/8″ shank), 3/8″ flute (1/2″ shank).
All these sizes are appropriate for administering any grind and finishing cuts.
These tools are made from the finest of materials such as M2 High-Speed Steel (HSS). This enables its remarkable ability to hold edge that is guaranteed to last 8X longer than any carbon made unit.
The long beechwood handle also adds to the durability and better leverage.
2. Carter & Son Toolworks 5/8-Inch Bowl Turning Gouge
- Made with M42 cobalt HSS.
- Comfortable aluminum handle.
- Heat treated to 68HRC.
- Maintains easy sharpening ability.
- Poor packaging.
This M42 Cobalt HSS bowl gouge is incredibly sturdy and well-made. It comes with a relief edge, which reduces the risk of catching. Overall, this is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a quality bowl gouge.
This specific bowl gouge is, on the whole, another level. If you need bigger sized bowl gouges, then look no further than this 5/8″ bowl gouge from Carter & Son Toolworks.
You will be surprised to learn how sturdy and well-performing this tool is.
This bowl gouge takes the concept of strength and durability to the extreme. It is assembled to precision with the M42 Cobalt HSS blade. The material provides high tolerance over any wear and tear with superior edge holding ability.
Moreover, it is very easy to sharpen it, and the blade is heat-treated to 68HRC for extra durability.
Most importantly, this M42 bowl gouge ensures an enriched woodturning experience. Thanks to its super sharp edge and the inclusion of a relief edge, which lessens catching.
Meanwhile, the length measures an overall 26-1/4″ enabling easy grip while the long 16″ ergonomic handle features a solid construction of aircraft-grade aluminum that provides heft and stability.
3. Robert Sorby 842XLH Deep Flute – Best 1/2” Bowl Gouge
- Long length.
- Hardened with high-speed steel.
- Makes delicate and intricate cuts.
- Resists softening the blade.
- High price.
This tool is ideal for shaping bowls, making profiling cuts, and finishing intricate cuts. Its tempered blade resists softening and overheating, and the long length makes it comfortable to hold.
This 1/2” Bowl Gouge has the perfectly moderate size to tackle all kinds of tasks. Whether it is about shaping bowls, profiling cuts, or intricate finishing cuts, it can execute all with smoothness and keeping importance to details.
This tool is tempered to perfection with high-speed steel, allowing for high durability as opposed to carbon steel. Due to this, it can keep a razor-sharp edge six times longer than carbon steel.
Not to mention, this blade resists softening as a result of overheating and heavy turning because of the high heat-resisting capability of HSS (high-speed steel).
Also, it has a total length of 23 inches for easy hold and leverage. The 17-inch handles are made of hard white ash and consists of brass ferrule.
Its long length makes it comfortable to hold. While the HSS blade is 9 inches making it a suitable length for any woodturning.
4. Hurricane 3/8-Inch Flute Bowl Turning Gouge
- Perfect for finishing touches.
- Long length despite small bowl gouge size.
- Very durable.
- Prone to softening of the edges.
This small bow gouge is affordable and perfect for applying finishing touches to your woodwork. It is made with M2 high-speed steel (HSS), which makes it durable and long-lasting.
The tool is an ideal woodturning instrument. Its fine quality and affordable price make it quite a catch. This small bowl gouge is perfect for applying finishing touches to your woodwork.
It comes with an astounding length of 24 inches. Moreover, the product features extra-long handles of 15 inches for an easy and comfortable hold.
The flute’s length and width are 6″, 3/8″ respectively, while the bar stock is 1/2″. Usually, small bowl gouges work best with small or medium bowl sizes. However, this one has a long length to make it usable on any size of wood bowls.
Consequently, it is built with M2 High-speed steel (HSS), allowing for increased durability and sturdiness. It also enables a first-rate edge holding ability that can last 8 times longer than carbon steel.
Besides, the handles are made of beechwood that also helps with durability.
5. Robert Sorby 3/8-Inch Bowl Gouge
- Can produce delicate cuts.
- Milled from round bars.
- Enough mass.
- Suitable for heavy grinding.
- Needs longer handle.
The build quality of this tool redefines performance, allowing for delicate or heavy-duty cuts with ease. The comfortable hardwood handle is easy to maneuver, making it a reliable choice for any user.
This is another 3/8″ bowl gouge from Robert Sorby, which redefines performance with the build quality. Milled from the finest round bars, it can produce the most delicate cuts to huge profiling cuts.
Indeed, this small bowl gouge is reliable whenever you need it.
This tool is both simple and easy to use. Since it is milled from round bars, the product features both heft and stability for the effortless user experience.
It measures a total of 23 inches long that assists with easy hold and leverage. The hardwood handle is also a pleasure to hold and easy to maneuver with.
It is capable of delivering only excellent and refined results. The fineness and mass of the steel make it possible to use this tool for heavy grinding and turning.
Also, it holds the edge well and sharpens very easily. The solid built also provides extra sturdiness and durability for long-lasting use.
6. Hurricane 1/2-Inch Woodturning Bowl Gouge
- Sturdy and durable.
- Beechwood handle and HSS blade.
- Perfect medium size.
- All-purpose use.
- Can come poorly sharpened.
This Hurricane Woodturning bowl gouge is a versatile tool that can handle a variety of tasks, making it perfect for any woodturner. The high-quality blade and durable handles make it a great choice for beginners.
This Hurricane Woodturning Bowl Gouge can be the perfect all-purpose bowl gouge that lends its versatility to its medium size. It has a Superflute shape to scrape away waste and provide perfect finishing cuts easily.
The bowl gouge features a total length of 24 inches, and it is comprised of 15 inches of long and comfortable handles for easy grip.
It includes a flute length of 6″ and width of 1/2″, while the bar stock measures 5/8″. These measurements make it capable of handling all kinds of woodturning tasks. Also, it makes it perfect for beginners too.
Additionally, the blade is constructed with the highest quality of M2 High-speed steel. This allows top tier edge hold and its ability to last eight times longer than high performing carbon steel.
At the same time, the handles are also made of beechwood, famous for its ability to withstand rough use. With all these qualities mentioned, it provides superior durability and sturdiness.
7. Robert Sorby 842FLH 1/2-inch Fingernail Bowl Gouge
- Durable and long-lasting.
- Blade molded with high-speed steel.
- Ergonomic design.
- Prevents softening of blade.
- Need to hone edges before use.
This fingernail bowl gouge is designed for both comfort and durability. The high-speed steel is superior to carbon steel, making it a versatile and reliable tool. The hard white ash handle and sturdy brass ferrule make it comfortable and durable.
The 842FLH from Robert Sorby is the best Fingernail bowl gouge on the market today. Not only is it particular about applying fingernail grind so well, but it is versatile at the same time.
This bowl gouge is useful for making both large shaping cuts, or delicate shearing.
This tool is molded with high-speed steel that is superior in every way compared to normal steel variants. The razor-sharp edge is capable of shaving through wood effortlessly, plus it has six times the lasting power than carbon steel.
Moreover, high-speed steel has properties to withstand high temperatures; as a result, it prevents the softening of the blade.
You can’t expect less of any quality from Robert Sorby since utmost attention has been paid to its design. With a length of 23 inches, it provides a good hold and a comfortable grip.
The 14-inch handle is crafted with hard white ash and sturdy brass ferrule, making it long-lasting too.
Best Bowl Gouge for Beginners – [Updated Buying Guide]
Many kinds of bowl turning gouges are out there in the market with so many different outcomes. Yet in all honesty, you only ever need to keep a few key bowl gouges in your arsenal.
While choosing a bowl gouge depends on your taste and preference, some tips would be helpful if you follow.
1. Size and Shape
Bowl gouges are available in various sizes and shapes. The flute width represents the size of the bowl gouge. The standard flute widths are – 1/2″, 3/8″, 5/8″ and 3/4″.
In the beginning, you’ll be comfortable with the 1/2″ bowl gouge. Later you can use the other sizes as per your demands.
Sometimes manufacturers specify bowl gouges by their shaft (aka shank) widths. So you should understand whether the size mentioned is the flute width or the shaft width.
Otherwise, you may end up purchasing the wrong size bowl gouge.
You should also look at the shape of the flute of your bowl gouge. There are different shapes of bowl gouges available on the market:
- Deep V-shape.
- Deep U-shape.
- Shorter U-shape and more.
More traditional bowl gouges used to have the deep U & deep V-shape flutes. These are not effective and do not produce a smooth cut.
Professional bowl makers primarily use the shorter U-shape flute (aka super-flute), which renders an excellent result.
Bowl gouges can be made of different materials – High Carbon Steel, HSS, M2 HSS, and Cryogenic M2 HSS.
The older bowl gouges used to be made of high carbon steel – those tools required to be sharpened frequently and used to wear out quickly. Besides, High carbon steel requires an extra coating to withstand corrosion.
HSS stands for High-Speed Steel, which is an alloy of Molybdenum, Tungsten, and Chromium. HSS tools are durable and can withstand high temperatures without wearing out.
The M2 HSS is the enhanced variant of high-speed steel, which is better than the normal HSS. The Cryogenic M2 HSS is the most eminent steel, which is more wear-resistant and more long-lasting.
So make sure you’re picking a bowl gouge made of HSS or other variants of HSS.
The length of the handle of a bowl gouge plays a vital role in bowl making. The substantial the bowl gouge is, the larger the handle will be.
If the length of your bowl gouge is not in an optimum size, you’ll lose balance while removing materials. So make sure the handle length is suitable for you.
With that being said, you can substitute the handle anytime with a proper one.
The most commonly used handle materials are – Hardwood and Metal. Most bowl makers prefer the hardwood handle over others.
These handles are convenient, simple to restore, and replace. So make sure you’re choosing a bowl gouge with wood handle.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a bowl gouge?
A bowl gouge is a woodturning lathe tool that is used for removing materials from wood to make a wood bowl.
What size bowl gouge should you get first?
At first, you should get the 1/2″ bowl gouge. Once you get comfortable with your gouge, then you can use the other sizes – 3/8″, 5/8″ and 3/4″.
Can you use a roughing gouge for turning a bowl?
It’s not a good idea to use roughing gouge for turning bowl. The reason behind this is the shape and structure of roughing gouge are not suitable for turning bowl.
Especially when there is in-grain on the workpiece it can be dangerous.
Can you use a spindle gouge for bowl work?
Just like Roughing gouge the Spindle gouge is also inappropriate for bowl turning. The tip of a spindle gouge is relatively thin compared to a bowl gouge which can break at abnormal pressure.
That’s another reason you don’t want to push too hard past the tool rest.
Can you use a bowl gouge on a spindle?
Well, it is possible to use bowl gouge on an end-to-end spindle mount workpiece. But due to the thick tip and round shape, you won’t be making any tight cutting. In this case, a spindle gouge would be a perfect option for you.
Can you use a round carbide as a bowl gouge?
Yes. You can absolutely use round carbide tip bowl gouge for bowl turning. But you should keep in mind that the round carbide tip works well only on the interior of the bowl.
And it’s not advisable to use the same on the exterior of the bowl.
How to sharpen a bowl gouge?
Like the other woodturning tools, you should use a slow-speed or variable-speed bench grinder to sharpen your bowl gouges. If you want more efficiency, you can use a sharpening jig.
Bowl Gouge Vs. Spindle Gouge – What is the difference?
Bowl gouge and spindle gouge both are similar woodturning tools. The bowl gouge has a curved (U-shape or V-Shape) flute, whereas the spindle gouge has an open flat (Shallow U-Shape) flute.
Bowl gouges are mainly used for making a wood bowl. Spindle gouges are used for detailing in spindle turning projects.
What is a fingernail bowl gouge?
The word “Fingernail” refers to the grind of the bowl gouge. A fingernail bowl gouge has 50 to 55 degrees of bevel angle with swept-back side wing. The fingernail grind is also known as Ellsworth grind and Irish grind.
Hurricane woodturning bowl gouge is the set that I call the best bowl gouge for the money. It is perfectly suited for beginners as it provides three amazing quality bowl gouges to begin with.
In addition, it is highly durable and the blade maintains the edges really well. There are endless possibilities that this set can provide and you won’t get tired of it.
I am also impressed at how Robert Sorby Deep Flute Bowl Gouge performs. It is a fine quality tool when it comes to single piece gouge; perhaps the best 1/2” bowl gouge for making delicate and intricate cuts for exact accuracy.
If these two doesn’t make your cut, then I suggest Carter and Son Toolworks 5/8″ Bowl Gouge. It has easy grip with razor sharp blades that are heat treated and very easy to sharpen.
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