Carbide tools vs HSS or other quality conventional gouges

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Forum topic by woodman44 posted 03-27-2015 06:30 PM 917 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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43 posts in 2109 days

03-27-2015 06:30 PM

I have researched this topic on this site and it seems the concensus of opinion is that Carbide tips are best for hogging out bowl blanks etc. and conventional gouges for finishing for a smooth finish.

I am a new turner and I currently have Thompson tools (1/2” & 3/8” deep V bowl gouges & 1 1/4” scraper). I am having trouble removing the tools ring marks where the bowl wall turns to the bottom with the tools I have. A friend of mine swears by the EWT tools he has (both the square tip and round tips) for finishing his bowls with NO ring marks.

So I guess I am confused by seeing these contradictory results. I don’t think that the maunufacturer of the carbide tips is critical as long as you buy USA made tips. Please weigh in if this is not the case.

Can anyone clear up my confusion?


-- Ken, Michigan

6 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile


1850 posts in 1554 days

#1 posted 03-27-2015 09:26 PM

Cannot answer the question whether carbide tip or conventional turning tools better or worse! The right tool for the task before you depends upon several things!

Your skill with the tool(s) you are using. Only way to find out what works for you is gaining experience. Other than sharp tools and knowing when to hog out wood and refine the cuts to light passes comes with experience. Bevel angles, shape of the flutes U, V, or parabolic all have their place. Lot of turners prefer a U shape bowl gouge for transitioning from sides of the bowl to the bottom. For other turners and does not matter shape of the gouge or whether using fingernail or side ground tools or bevel angle. You have to learn what works for you.

Have more than one gouge and use both fingernail & side grind with bevel angles ranging from 45, 55, 60 degree bevel angles and have both U & V shape flutes. Wood species, grain orientation, and design tells me which tool to use and when. For years only used simple ½” U shape gouge to completely turn a bowl.

In bowl turning can use push or pull cut or shear scraping with gouge or scraper learn how and when to use any or all that work for you.

Have no idea on carbide cutters suspect they all come from China today!

-- Bill

View waho6o9's profile


7118 posts in 1996 days

#2 posted 03-27-2015 10:12 PM

That’s exactly why I made this:

Grind your own and keep it sharp and it’ll remove the ring marks.

It just takes practice and you’ll get there. Ride that bevel and have fun.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

483 posts in 1100 days

#3 posted 03-27-2015 10:19 PM

The debate between HSS and Carbide turning tools comes down largely to personal preference I think. The turners I have talked to that have been doing it for awhile tend to like traditional tools but I do think that carbide tools are easier to learn on. All and all it’s a personal choice. I have been tempted to give carbide tools a try a few times but since I have a decent size collection of regular turning tools they would be a bit redundant for me. If I was starting over again collecting the tools carbide would be a lot more tempting.

View LeeMills's profile


268 posts in 720 days

#4 posted 03-27-2015 11:33 PM

I think you can use either but with a 1-1/4 scraper (3/8 thick?) I don’t see the need for carbide.

I am having trouble removing the tools ring marks where the bowl wall turns to the bottom with the tools I have.

It sound like you are burnishing the wood with the heel of the bevel trying to make a tight radius.

This tools shows the bevel length shortened in order to scoot around small radius.

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

View Wildwood's profile


1850 posts in 1554 days

#5 posted 03-28-2015 09:07 PM

Glenn Lucas tools look impressive. Looking at his line of bowl gouges that double bevel is different on each tool. Pay attention to the caveat about double bevel grind produces an exceptionally clean cut with little or no tear out! Says nothing about dealing with score lines transitioning from sides to bottom of the bowl. Point am trying to make is no one tool does everything 100% of the time!

You can put a double bevel on any bowl gouge regardless of who makes the tool. How big that second bevel is depends upon the tool & turner! You can also forego putting on a double bevel and just take a diamond card & touch up a tool edge as well!

Will having a second bevel on your bowl gouge work? Simple answer is a resounding yes and no! Depends upon your skill with the tool, bowl design, and wood species. So before buying a new tool put a second bevel on the tool you have and see how that works for you!

The 2007 summer issue of “Woodturning Design, ask Dale Nish column address both bowl gouge bevel angles and bowl design. I cannot link that article because no longer on line. The explanation and illustrations for when to use 30, 45, 55, and 60 to 65 degree bevel angles made perfect sense. Took me years to figure out same information on out on my own.

So if want to buy a tool with a second bevel, put a second bevel on a tool already have go for it. To keep you from wasting a lot of steel changing bevel angles also consider buying a second or third bowl gouge.

-- Bill

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

3538 posts in 1980 days

#6 posted 03-28-2015 09:49 PM


There are places for carbide like the E-Z tools out there of which I have 2 of them and wishing for more.

The biggest thing with starting with carbide is for a beginner and starting to learn how to sharpen the HSS tools they have. They also stay sharper longer but it has to be remembered that they are just a scrapper or like the Square EZ carbide for hogging off wood, however, like scrappers they are very prone to pull out the fibers in the wood and that leaves small holes in the turning.

Now on regular HSS or higher rated metal tools once you learn how to use them and sharpen them they are so Sweet to use like a 5/8 Bowl gouge or a nice 3/8 spindle gouge for detail work. When doing bowls there are some who are not very good at the cutting inside the bottom of the bowl so they (and I did for 4 years until Lyle Jamieson show me how) use round nose scrappers to clean up the bottom.

Now saying this there is a great turner here that has a youtube video on using scrappers inside of a bowl and he is very good at it and at using all the other tools too.

Here is his Youtube page so you can watch all of them. He goes by Robo Hippy or Reed Gray

Also Capt Eddie is a wonderful turner who just got out of the hospital

And last is who came to my house to teach me

I hope this helps you on your turning fun. PM me if you need anything else.

-- Please help me help other Vets click..> is always the right time, to do the right thing.

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