Bowl Gouge - catch monster?

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Forum topic by johngoes posted 12-19-2009 05:40 AM 8338 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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54 posts in 2861 days

12-19-2009 05:40 AM

Topic tags/keywords: turning bowl gouge bowls

After a week long work trip to Israel (what a joy and blessing after the 4 intense days of work to see Jerusalem & Bethlehem..) I finally got to fire up my Jet 1220 Christmas present to attempt to make a couple presents. So far I turned a honey dipper for my wife (see youtube jet video) which came out decent (soft maple scrap.) I turned an awl handle (walnut scrap) for my brother that looks great. Then I turned a bottle stopper with a mandrel (I have lots of walnut scrap) which also came out pretty good. I tried another, but the beginnings of my bowl gouge woes begins here. As I was trying to clean up the top of the stopper with the gouge I got a huge catch that blew the stopper off the mandrel. It was almost finished and had a nice design too. Then I turned a quick candle stick and once again it’s a visible disaster due to bowl gouge catches on the bottom.

Since it’s a bowl gouge, I decided to try a bowl with chunk of oak from a tree we downed two years ago. Knowing someday I would be turning I saved a nice piece and slathered latex paint on the ends to keep it from splitting. I sawed it in half on the band saw, dividing the pith right down the middle. Not ready to try natural edge yet, I screwed it on the chuck and turned a nice bowl. However I had so many catches with the bowl gouge that I almost gave up on it. I used a round nose scraper for most of the bowl because I could handle it. The only place I could use the gouge without catches was in hollowing out the bowl. Any place I attempted to use the gouge that involved the bottom or sides I caught that silly gouge. The bowl is probably 15% smaller than intended due to having to turn out catch errors.

In the end though I have a lovely 5” bowl (it wasn’t a large tree) that has one tiny scar on the outside and one on the bottom but otherwise looks pretty decent for a first go at it. I’ll post pictures on my project page tomorrow.

Anyway – anyone have tips on bowl gouge use? I ground it to a fingernail cut using a jig if that information is useful.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsmen can hide his mistakes!

15 replies so far

View lew's profile


11263 posts in 3174 days

#1 posted 12-19-2009 07:43 AM

I am by no means an expert. My experience has been that the bowl gouge is used primarily on the inside of the bowl. It is positioned so that the open “flute” is horizontal- facing the bowl center- and the cuts are made from the rim towards the bowl center. The cutting is done on the “bottom” edge/side of the flute. The cutting edge is on or slightly above the horizontal center line.

I have never had much luck using it on the outside of a bowl. The shape of the flute seems to be too narrow. I usually end up using a round nose scraper and a roughing gouge to do the outside and the bowl gouge and scraper on the inside.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Ger21's profile


1047 posts in 2550 days

#2 posted 12-19-2009 03:30 PM

Sounds lik you’re using it “open side” up. You need to rotate it about 70 degrees for proper use. Kinda like this.

-- Gerry,

View johngoes's profile


54 posts in 2861 days

#3 posted 12-19-2009 04:38 PM

Thanks for the responses. The picture Gerry has shows what I eventually learned to do for the inside of the bowl with a lot of success. As for the outside of the bowl, it was like Lew said – scrapers for the outside. I saw a youtube video where a dude worked on the outside of the bowl with the bowl gouge but when I tried to replicate his stance and gouge position I caught. I can be happy that I use it only for the inside – I just thought it was more versatile than that…

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsmen can hide his mistakes!

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 2817 days

#4 posted 12-20-2009 09:56 AM

I eventually got to where I can use my bowl gouges on the outside of the bowl as well as the inside. I think the key word here is “eventually”. Most people I know just took a while to get the hang of using a bowl gouge.

Learning how to present the cutting edge at different angles just takes some time – and a bunch of catches – that confirm the wrong ways to do it. I had some Raffan tapes, watched other techniques but in the end it was me and a bunch of time learning how to do it in my shop that paid off.

I can still get major cathes but they usually come when I am not paying attention or trying to do something I am already pretty sure won’t work…..

-- Tom Hintz,

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2753 days

#5 posted 12-20-2009 03:55 PM

John there are several factors that could cause catches. , Not keeping your gouge bevel riding on the workpiece while cutting, Not pointing the flute of your gouge in the direction of the cut, not cutting with the grain; On side grain pieces you want to cut from the outside rim towards the center when hollowing out. The opposite for end grain turnings. On the outside of side grain turnings you want to work from the smallest diameter to the largest. This is usually from the bottom to the top. The opposite also applies to the outside of an end grain piece where you will always want to work from the largest diameter to the smallest.

You should have your tool holder at a height that puts your gouge at about center-line. You should hold the handle down at about a 45 degree angle and with your arm clamped to your hip. Move the gouge by moving your body, not your arm!. It will go a lot smoother that way. You will have to take a somewhat wide stance in front of your lathe so you will be able to move your body by shifting your weight from whatever foot is supporting you at the start of the cut to the other foot as your cut progresses. Above all, scrapers are nice for their intended use, but it would be a shame to become too dependent on them, as they are the least efficient and pleasurable way to turn. I normally only use them to give a final smoothing to a surface and usually not even for that.

Having a good reference book on turning also really helps since it will have pictures to illustrate the tips I’ve given you here. I hope this helps and I also hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of your turning as I have. Have fun!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View cosmicturner's profile


403 posts in 2815 days

#6 posted 12-21-2009 07:30 AM

Don’t you love turning….if it was easy everyone would be doing it catches make it fun I try to learn from them there is something to be said for years of turning trial and error…I do think videos help and it is very hard to put into text how to wood turn my opinion the bowl gouge is really the only tool you need to make bowls. Ride that bevel

-- Cosmicturner

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17574 posts in 3095 days

#7 posted 12-21-2009 08:24 AM

Mike, do you know of a good turing reference book you would recommend?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View interpim's profile


1158 posts in 2878 days

#8 posted 12-21-2009 09:15 AM

bah humbug… catches are the bain of me. Blew a bowl out today that was probably 5 minutes from being done… I was just trying to clean up the edge a bit :(

-- San Diego, CA

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2753 days

#9 posted 12-21-2009 12:12 PM

Bob, there are so many of them out there. I bought one written by an English guy 14 years ago. I think most any of the books showing basic turning techniques and sharpening will be ok. You could ask for good current titles on some of the many woodturning sites on the net. Richard Raffan is a name I hear mentioned often and I know he is one of the best. You might find one from him on A great way to learn is to get the basic book as a reference and then videos for specialty work such as closed vessel turning, etc. I envy you just starting out because it is a lot of fun turning stuff and learning new skills and tricks as you go. Hope this helps.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View katherinerozer's profile


2 posts in 2498 days

#10 posted 12-21-2009 12:23 PM

Suggest few names of the refernce books..

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2753 days

#11 posted 12-21-2009 02:55 PM

Bob, Here is the link to Raffan’s book on Amazon. I’m sure you can’t go wrong with this one as it is for new turners. I looked inside it a bit and it looks like just what you need.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17574 posts in 3095 days

#12 posted 12-23-2009 07:21 AM

Thanks Mike!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View pkdman's profile


6 posts in 2356 days

#13 posted 05-12-2010 04:01 AM

The Ellsworth bowl gouge from the Woodcraft catalouge comes ground to a pretty satisfactory shape. Excellent tool.

View 4woodturning's profile


187 posts in 2400 days

#14 posted 05-12-2010 02:43 PM

Also go check out your local turning club you will learn form other turners faster. most turning clubs have demos at their meetings, mentors to help you and woodturning library full of dvds and books you may check out for around 38.00 a year its well worth it for all turners. as a charter member, former vise president and club mentor with Show-Me woodturners I seen a very fast improvement in the skills of our new turners.

-- Jeff, Missouri ,"Just because your not bleeding, dont mean your turning safely!"..............

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 2908 days

#15 posted 05-12-2010 05:33 PM

Was it sharp? Dull tools cause the most catches. You might also want to change the bevel grind on the gouge, bring the wings back a bit.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

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