Need lathe tool set suggestions

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Forum topic by yellowtruck75 posted 01-02-2013 09:04 PM 2334 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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469 posts in 3270 days

01-02-2013 09:04 PM

I have had my lathe for a few years now and have mostly turned small items like pens and bottle stops. Recently I started turning larger bowls (>11”) but my lathe tools are not the best. I need suggests for a nice set of tools to use while turning bowls. I am teaching myself how to turn bowls so i apologize for my ignorance on the subject. I want a decent set but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars.

My lathe is a Jet 12-20.

I have all the necessary chucks that I need.

10 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


2478 posts in 2337 days

#1 posted 01-02-2013 10:29 PM

Either ¼” bowl gouge actually 3/8”, or 3/8” actually ½”.

Heavy duty round nose scraper.

They also carry thinner scrapers but that heavy duty scraper will serve you better.

Buy any two Packard brand (Hamlet) tools and save 10%. If buy three Sorby also save 10%.
I recommend M2 HSS tools you can always buy exotic steel tools later.

Other vendors also offer 10% off when buy two or more tools do not forget to ask:

If buy these tools unhandled prices not bad. Bought a 5/8” bowl gouge for roughing out unhandled and it is okay prefer my old worn out Crown M2, 5/8” bowl gouge.

-- Bill

View bobasaurus's profile


3544 posts in 3387 days

#2 posted 01-02-2013 11:49 PM

I like robert sorby turning tools. I have a bowl gouge and scraper from them and both work great.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View dontlikenicknames's profile


3 posts in 2403 days

#3 posted 01-03-2013 12:02 AM

I have three lathes and drawer full of turning tools that include a set of Sorby. Sorby are nice but save your money. 99.9% of what I do is with a bowl gouge

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469 posts in 3270 days

#4 posted 01-03-2013 12:42 AM

What os the difference between a bowl gouge and a fingernail bowl gouge?

View wlhutch's profile


56 posts in 3723 days

#5 posted 01-03-2013 01:27 AM

Before you buy tools, I would suggest that you get a book or DVD on turning bowls. Richard Raffan, Mike Mahoney and Bill Brumbine teach basic bowl turning techniques along with tool selection and use. Your tools will be useless without a sharpening system to keep an edge or grind a particular bevel.

Once you know what you need, then tool selection will be easier. As stated above, Thompson lathe tools are a good place to start with obtaining quality steel.

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2644 days

#6 posted 01-03-2013 03:09 PM

I’d agree with dontlikenicknames. I end up using a cheaper bowl gouge that I bought with a set from Highlands a while back along with a round nose scraper for the majority of bowl turnings.

Having said that (and I also know that you said you don’t want to spend may $100’s), I recently picked up some Easy Wood Tools carbide tools (the full size rougher and the finisher) and am quite enamored with them. They’re significantly easier to use than the traditional turning tools (although if you’ve figured out a skew chisel, chances are you can figure out a bowl gouge). They haven’t replaced my old tools as I find I like using a mix of all of them, but they definitely shoulder a brunt of the load now.

Also +1 on Raffan’s bowl turning DVD. It’s an excellent watch and great for helping to learn some of the basics.

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469 posts in 3270 days

#7 posted 01-03-2013 05:15 PM

I just ordered two of Raffan’s DVDs. Look forward to watching them this weekend.

View RVroman's profile


163 posts in 2227 days

#8 posted 01-03-2013 05:40 PM

The difference between a bowl gouge and a fingernail bowl gouge is the grind on the tool. My personal preference is the fingernail, but that is a difficult grind without a jig.

Standard grind

Fingernail grind

I pretty much use two tools when doing bowls, a 3/8” bowl gouge with a fingernail grind, and a 3/8” spindle gouge. (they both happen to to be Sorby, but I also have other tools that are hamlet, pinnacle, and wood river. Any of those would be fine. Sorby’s are nice, but you do pay for the name)

There are opinions galore on the use of scrapers and such when doing a bowl, the best thing I can tell you there is to research it and make the decision that is best for you and your turning.

-- Robert --- making toothpicks one 3x3x12 blank at a time!

View Wildwood's profile


2478 posts in 2337 days

#9 posted 01-03-2013 08:07 PM

Fingernail is just the grind we put on whether bowl or spindle gouge. Normally tools come with a straight across and we grind to fingernail or side ground. You can buy tools already ground to fingernail or side grind style.

Side, Irish, or Ellsworth grind all the same thing. David Ellsworth and other vendors sell a jig so can achive a side grind. Wolverine gives instructions for obtaining both fingernail and side grind on your tools.

You can now buy a jig if want to put a double bevel on your bowl gouge. Called a Vecter Grind Fixture.
Scroll down:

-- Bill

View WoodChuck84's profile


56 posts in 3075 days

#10 posted 01-04-2013 02:28 AM

You need to sharpen them a bit more often than Sorbys, but I have been pleased with the Benjamin’s Best tools from Penn State. Great for beginning, and cheap enough that you don’t feel bad experimenting with different grinds. (btw, i think that the Ben. Best are identical to the Bodger tools sold by Highland.)

With regards to the grinds, I have found that I end up using a couple of different gouges with different grinds on them depending on the shape/angle of attack of the bowl

Ditto on getting a book/dvd. Turning bowls can be a bit dangerous and there are several important differences between turning a bowl and turning between centers.

I don’t know if you have some kind of sharpening jig, but there are several different plans for “homemade wolverine jigs” on this site.

-- Hello, my name is Jarrod and I am a woodaholic.

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