Bowl Gouges - Sorby ($100) or Shop Fox ($37)

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Forum topic by Keith Kelly posted 12-30-2015 01:58 AM 1485 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Keith Kelly

263 posts in 1689 days

12-30-2015 01:58 AM

I’m a woodturning newbie for the most part, but have learned a lot about turning through the internet and you guys. Now that I have turned my own carbide tools and a bunch of practice plates, bowls, shop jigs, etc, I’ve also been learning how to sharpen my HSS tools and how to effectively use them. I’ve come to the point where I appreciate and use both, but the need for a bowl gouge (I don’t have one yet) is an urgent matter.

I’m about to go for the $100 Sorby 1/2” gouge that already has the fingernail profile. Or, should I instead go for one of the cheapo ones in the $30 range (Shop Fox, Hurricane)? (or the 3-pack of Hurricane ones, but are 3 really necessary?)

Usage: I’ve been collecting a lot of green wood from my trailer (sounds redneck, huh?) (flatbed trailer of firewood, for the record) and the city drop-off site. Now I have a stack of Walnut, Oak, and Apple that I plan on working up into some bowl blanks.

One benefit of the cheapo gouges, is that as I learn to sharpen them, there’s less risk of ruining something nice. Now I’m leaning towards a cheapo one, and upgrading to the Sorby once I prove myself for sharpening.


-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri,

12 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2602 days

#1 posted 12-30-2015 02:14 AM


He uses the best metal and they work well, he’s very helpful when you speak with him
and he’s a pleasure to do business with. :)

View Julian's profile


1348 posts in 2716 days

#2 posted 12-30-2015 02:18 AM

I have been using cheap Harbor Freight turning tools for a couple of years. They are high speed steel and one benefit is that I learned to sharpen free hand on them without fear of ruining an expensive tool. I also use homemade carbide cutting tools. I have one good bowl gouge (purchased because it was 50% off). To me, it performs the same as the cheap HF tools.

-- Julian

View David Taylor's profile

David Taylor

326 posts in 1113 days

#3 posted 12-30-2015 02:53 AM

I second waho6o9


Best you can buy.

-- Learn Relentlessly

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

263 posts in 1689 days

#4 posted 12-30-2015 03:03 AM

ok, those are less expensive than I had imagined.

For only getting one, which size? 1/2”? V or U?

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri,

View OSU55's profile


1700 posts in 2015 days

#5 posted 12-30-2015 03:15 AM

I haven’t experienced a need for expensive bowl gouges. I have 2 sets of Benjamin’s Best, sharpened at different angles, and they have met my needs just fine (have a look at my projects). I use all 3 sizes, depending on the cut. Don’t buy a tool because of the grind. You have to be able to make the grind you want, whether it is freehand or by jig.

BTW, I’m not too far from you. I live in Lebanon. Let me know if you want to come over and try my bowl gouges.

View waho6o9's profile


8207 posts in 2602 days

#6 posted 12-30-2015 03:21 AM

Personally I love my U Thompson bowl gouge. My Benjamins Best are okay but the Thompsons’

win hands down..

View jeff's profile


1081 posts in 3490 days

#7 posted 12-30-2015 05:48 AM

I recommend calling Doug Thompson,I did and he was helpful and a pleasure to deal with on the phone.I have some BB tools and I like them.I have learned to sharpen with them and I’m not so worried when I take my Thompson tools to the grinder now.I find myself reaching for the Thompson’s a lot more often.I think BB tools or others in this price point represent a good choice for beginners.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View MrUnix's profile


6766 posts in 2224 days

#8 posted 12-30-2015 06:02 AM

I’ve got some cheap HF things that work well, and have used some really pricey stuff that didn’t seem to work any better. But my favorites are, and have always been, the ones I made myself. You can grind them however you like/need, they are cheap and can be made out of all sorts of different stuff you probably already have around the shop. And handles obviously are not a problem to turn yourself :)


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View LeeMills's profile


550 posts in 1327 days

#9 posted 12-30-2015 01:54 PM

I have one of Dougs ( a spindle gouge) and it is very nice quality. As I replace I will probably go with more.
My others are Sorby, Hamlet, and Hurricane. I really can tell no difference in the three as far as edge holding. Since most of my spindle type items are small compared to bowl I really can’t compare Dougs to the others.

The Sorby (and any UK made bowl gouge) and the Hurricanes are sized by the UK method; being about 1/8” larger than the US specs. So a 1/2” UK equals a 5/8” US. This is important if you mix brands as you may wind up with two the same size.

The first half of this short video by John Lucas saved me a lot of tool steel.

-- We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein

View jfoobar's profile


44 posts in 1356 days

#10 posted 12-30-2015 07:23 PM

Another recommendation for Thompson. His 1/2” V is what I have in my hand 95% of the time that I am at the lathe. I put mine in a 16” Trent Bosch handle, which are my favorite handles.

Personally, I consider Benjamin’s Best gouges to be made from crap metal, to not put too fine a point on it. They do not hold an edge worth a darn. For the brief period they are sharp, they work (although they are also way too light IMHO).

I used a Sorby gouge for some time before I got my first Thompson and still pick it up from time to time. It is comparable, but not quite as good.

View Keith Kelly's profile

Keith Kelly

263 posts in 1689 days

#11 posted 12-30-2015 08:02 PM

Thanks for your advice. Early this morning I ordered a set of Benjamin’s Best from PSI. 3 bowl gouges for $53. Hopefully my standards are lower than jfoobar’s :)

-- Keith - Bolivar, Missouri,

View jeff's profile


1081 posts in 3490 days

#12 posted 12-31-2015 04:03 PM

I think you will like the BB’s bowl gouges.I have one of their roughing gouges and a few of their spindle gouges and continue to use them,just not as much now.It didn’t break the bank when I ordered them.You will definitely head to the grinder more often with these but you will get practice in sharpening.I think after gaining more turning experience you should treat yourself to some nice tools like Thompsons ect.There is a considerable difference in quality.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

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