Newbie questions about bowls

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Forum topic by JADobson posted 11-12-2013 01:59 AM 1259 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1206 posts in 2256 days

11-12-2013 01:59 AM

So I just finished turning my first bowl and I have a few questions. First off, here is my bowl, it is made of walnut, hopefully you can see some of the things I’m asking about.
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Alright, so first thing that I noticed was that I got a lot of tear out on the end grain. both on the outside and the inside of the bowl. Even sanding with 80 sandpaper I didn’t get it all nice and smooth. Is this normal? Do you just have to sand the heck out of it to get it smooth? Or are my tools too dull? Or is there something else going on?
Next question. I have a 1/2” bowl gouge and a 1” round scraper from lee valley (,330,49233&ap=1 “G” and “J”) and both seemed to work fairly well for hollowing out the bowl. Obviously they are two different tools but what is the difference as the both seemed to do essentially the same thing.
Thanks for any help.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

6 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


5524 posts in 3808 days

#1 posted 11-12-2013 02:30 AM

I would say your tools need to be sharpened … dull tools pretty much guarantee tear-out.

Bowl gouges and scrapers are two distinctly different animals. A scraper essentially tears the the fibers while a sharp gouge should slice them. There is nothing wrong with using scrapers … many turners use them and get very satisfactory results. Burt with a good sharp gouge is it possible to get finish cuts that require little or no sanding.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Woodknack's profile


12369 posts in 2525 days

#2 posted 11-12-2013 04:42 AM

Something I learned recently about scrapers is they should be sharpened leaving a burr, similar to a card scraper, and then will give you nice little shavings. I use gouges for roughing, shaping curves and hollowing; and use scrapers for finishing/smoothing or anywhere difficult to reach without getting a catch.

I am not to the point where I can turn end grain without needing to sand it and judging by turning videos, few if anyone else can either. The softer the wood, the more tearout I get but I’ve learned that dry sanding doesn’t cut it. The only way I get the end grain really smooth is by wet sanding with mineral oil. Not sure if it swells the fibers, fills the grain with dust or what it does but it works for me.

-- Rick M,

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5524 posts in 3808 days

#3 posted 11-12-2013 03:09 PM

For more on sharpening a scraper … check this out:

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3858 days

#4 posted 11-12-2013 11:47 PM

Well there are probably a couple things going on that are causing your tear out. As Gerry has said you have to have sharp tools to cut through end grain. Also you want to make sure you are cutting in the proper direction and have good grain support for the cut. Outside of the bowl cuts from the foot to the rim. Inside rim to bottom. When I get my shape close I go the the grinder and get the best edge I can for my final cut. And when I just can’t get the cut I want I go for the Negeative Rake Scraper and it usually does the trick.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View justinwdemoss's profile


148 posts in 3040 days

#5 posted 11-13-2013 01:39 AM

Try a shear scrape cut with your bowl gouge on the outside first. Roll the tool closed so that you are scraping with the far edge of the tool and the wing closer to you is almost touching the bowl. (it will look like you are holding the tool totally the wrong way verses your normal cut.) Hold the tool handle down so that the tool is almost vertical. Watch the top edge of the bowl as you cut, not the point of contact. Move the tool smoothly. I was taught to act like you are putting the tool handle in your pants pocket. (don’t really put it there.) Scrape from the bottom to the rim. If you do it right, you will get really fine angle hair shavings. If all you get is dust, you won’t get a great cut. Make sure you are sharp and know that a scraping cut will dull your gouge fast, so resharpening may be needed sooner.

You might also try using a diluted finish as a stiffener. I often use Deft sanding sealer for this. Spray or brush it on. Go do something like sharpening or cleanup and then return to turning once the piece is dry.

Also consider that speed is your friend for smooth cuts. Crank it up!

Remember, if you can see the edge on your tool, you don’t have an edge!

-- Justin in Loveland, OH

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

209 posts in 1877 days

#6 posted 11-15-2013 01:56 AM

+1 on Justin’s response on using a diluted finish, or even water, to raise the grain and give you a better surface to sand satisfactorily. I have used both methods in conjunction with a right angle sander to power sand while turning the piece at a fairly low speed in reverse. It has made a huge difference in my ability to smooth out end grain tear-out.

Good luck, and have fun with this great hobby.


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

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