As The Lathe Turns #62: Turn A Turner

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Blog entry by William posted 11-22-2013 12:47 AM 1973 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 61: Fixer Part 62 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 63: Pens For Sale »

Turn a turner.
I just couldn’t help that corny play with words. I turned a spinning top.

I searched high and low for a suitable photo of what appears in my mind when I think of a spinning top. Somewhere buried deep in my memory is a metal spinning top very similar to the one above. It was painted up like an alien space ship.

So that may explain why I chose the shape I did for my first turned spinning top.
This was one of the kits that Ms. Clause sent me. I chose a piece of a rosewood block that I had cut off to make a bowl a while back. That left me with just enough to drill a hole in to make a little stand for it to set on.
The instructions give several good ideas for shapes of a top. I’d like to order some more of these kits and try a few of them. For the first one though, I had to go back to what my memory told me a top should look like. I wasn’t sure how it would work though.

I guess it does pretty good. With a good pull, it spins about two minutes before toppling over. This was plenty enough time to get a good photo of it in action.
I enjoyed this project and definitely hope to get the chance to do some more of them in the future.

This is the bowl photo you seen a couple of days ago. It is the one I had all the problems with. Well after posting that blog, I got a couple of emails from some good friends who know more about turning than I do. It was apparent to them from that blog post that something was very wrong. Somewhere, somehow, my technique was off to a point that they were a little concerned about me and wanted to offer suggestions.
So I asked questions to try and figure out what was going on here. I seemed to be doing alright, besides a few high speed projectiles that seem to occur in my shop for unknown reasons. Next, I looked over a couple of books I have on techniques.
I couldn’t figure it out. However, there was one area that always bugs me, my tools. I have read countless opinions and seen even more countless out of control arguments about the correct sharpening angle for this tool or that one. For my spindle tools, I am perfectly satisfied. For bowls though, I was going good, but still wasn’t satisfied that it was right.
So back to square one. What is the correct angle for a bowl gouge?
Sixty degrees?
Fifty degrees?
Forty degrees?
Thirty eight and three sixty eighths degree with a side of bacon?
Seriously, if you get online and try to find an agreement on this question, you’ll find it, until you look at a different source.
So what is right?

The only thing I knew for sure was that it was time to try something new. I done a search online for the instruction sheet for several different commercially available sharpening jigs. After looking at these, it seemed that it seemed to be a general consensus with these jigs that a bowl gouge should be ground at about a forty degree angle.
Above, on the left, is one of my gouges before regrinding them. As I said, it was getting the job done well, but something just wasn’t right.
The one on the right is the new grind angle. I wouldn’t say it is exact, but is very close to forty degrees. The question is, or was, would this change in grind angles make a difference for the better? Or worse?

Well there was but one way to find out.
This is a hunk of wood off the same block as the bowl you seen in the earlier photo. After all, I wanted to compare apples to apples here, not apples to apple sauce.

I think it made a huge difference. It seems that less of an angle causes less tear out, and a much more controlled cut.
Also, in this photo, on the left is shavings from before the regrind. It actually looks more like course saw dust than shavings. On the right is the shavings from the test bowl with the new grind angle.

This is cypress. I noticed the other day that I am seeing sypress a lot lately called Lousiana Sinker Cypress. I’m not sure what that means. This I know came from Mississippi though and it floats. So I guess this is Mississippi Floater Cypress.

It turned out like cutting butter with a hot knife. I actually wanted to go a tad thinner. The bowl as you see it is just under a quarter inch thick. I started to see hairline cracks when I stopped the lathe to check the progress though, and decided I had better not push my luck.
So what angle do you grind a bowl gouge? I have no idea. I’m going to stick with this grind for a while and see how it works out for me. It looks very promising. If it turns out to be a problem though, I think I will change it on the word of the, I believe, best advice I have heard so far. A man on another blog told me once about sharpening tools, “If what works for other people don’t work for you, change it until it does work for you.”
With that said,
Till next time friends, happy turning!


20 comments so far

View StumpyNubs's profile


7604 posts in 2829 days

#1 posted 11-22-2013 01:15 AM

I vote for “Thirty eight and three sixty eighths degree with a side of bacon” on the bowl gouge, because chubby fellas like bacon.

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2704 days

#2 posted 11-22-2013 01:21 AM

I believe that “sinker” refers to the fact that the wood was recovered from a river or lake.

While I was researching lathe tool sharpening, I came to the conclusion that “whatever works for you” is the correct grind.

Glad you have “honed” in on a better grind.

Carry on….

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View mcgyver's profile


56 posts in 1900 days

#3 posted 11-22-2013 02:01 AM

sinker sypress is lumber cut from logs that sank in a river lake or other body of water. it is usually the heart wood only and can be hundreds of years old most of it is logs that sank while they were in transit to the mill. they where usualy floated there as lashed together rafts. as paul harvey would say now you know the rest of the storey.

-- Mcgyver

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2568 days

#4 posted 11-22-2013 02:17 AM

Ditto on the bacon, that sounds about right…

-- I never finish anyth

View JL7's profile


8667 posts in 2994 days

#5 posted 11-22-2013 02:23 AM

William, you need to watch “Ax Men” can probably catch them on the net…..The swamp man Shelby Stanga recovers the sinker Cypress from the bayou… stuff man….

-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#6 posted 11-22-2013 02:34 AM

Thank you all.
Especially thanks for the lesson on what sinker cypress is.
I honestly had no idea since all the cypress trees I’ve ever seen myself have been along bodies of water. Several of my favorite fishing holes are so good because of the cypress knees that the fish like to bed around.


View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 11-22-2013 03:20 AM

This is the angle that I like best for turning bowls. In fact I use it for almost everything. You can vary it a bit either way but do not make it much longer as it will “chatter” more and dull quicker. A less pronounced bevel will give you strength and be less likely to catch on the end grain on the bottom of the bowls.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#8 posted 11-22-2013 03:27 AM

Thank you Erwin. I am going to save that photo to compare it to my own gouges if I change the angle again.


View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8091 posts in 2357 days

#9 posted 11-22-2013 03:55 AM

Looking good William!

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#10 posted 11-22-2013 05:43 AM

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2643 days

#11 posted 11-22-2013 07:29 AM

William its over the top

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3363 days

#12 posted 11-22-2013 08:53 AM

Looks great. I love the cypress too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#13 posted 11-22-2013 12:09 PM

Thank you eddie and Mike.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2833 days

#14 posted 11-22-2013 12:44 PM

Some fine curls comin off those turnings William

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#15 posted 11-22-2013 01:05 PM

Thanks roger.
Let’s just hope I have a better handle on this and can cut down on the flying projectiles.


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