My Gouges and How I Sharpen Them

When fellow woodturners visit my shop, they often want to know about my cutting tools and ask me about what type of grinds, profiles, angles and bevels I use.... and I answer 'I don't really know'.

Turning tools are just that.. tools. With practice a person can learn to use just about any tool to turn a bowl. In skilled hands, a decent bowl could probably be produced using a well sharpened flat head screw driver.

I experimented with all sorts of various grinds and angles and sizes of gouges. After a while I found what worked for me and then I stuck with those gouges and with time became proficient in using them.

By using a jig I can reproduce each grind exactly the same every time I sharpen the tool. This is the most important aspect of sharpening.... you don't want to have to relearn the tool after every sharpening.

I have eight different sizes/profiles of gouges that I use every day. I could make a bowl from start to finish using only one gouge... So why eight different gouges?

-each gouge is the best choice for a particular cut

-with the work being shared by many, each gouge stays sharp longer

-working with the different gouges keeps my brain more active

Here is my grinder. Notice it is placed backwards and so the wheels turn the opposite way to normal. This makes the sparks fly upwards which means safety glasses are mandatory... but it creates a wonderful burr on the cutting edge.. much like you strive for when sharpening a scraper. I could have rewired the grinder to turn the opposite way, but in having the on/off switch on the back, it is a reminder of the grinder's safety issues.

The grinder is fitted with two of Oneway's Wolverine Guide system, each at a different setting.

What follows is an explanation of the sharpening of my cutting tools. There may be different/better profiles, but the bottom line is that these work for me.  The most important thing is that I can constantly replicate each gouge using the jigs.

The Vari-Grind jig by Oneway being used with their Wolverine guide.

To consistently and quickly set the position of the gouge in the jig, I made a hole in the edge of my bench that is  1 3/4" deep. (I glued a coin in the back end of the hole to prevent the hole from growing longer over time)

the cutting tools I use...

Here is the Vari-Grind jig set at the fourth notch to make a narrower and steeper shoulder

Changing the Vari-Grind to the different notches alters the 'shoulder' of the gouge

I set the Vari-Grind jig set at the fourth notch to make a my fingernail grind.

A wider shoulder gives greater control and is very forgiving. Aggressive cuts can be made without fear of a catch.

Here is the Vari-Grind jig set at the second notch to make a wider less steep shoulder

The distance the Wolverine guide is set from the wheel sets the angle of the bevel. The further away, the lower the angle produced on the tool. The closer.. the higher the angle. The far guide produces a higher angle profile

I believe the angle of the bevel is strictly personal. When making a cut, the gouge's bevel rubs the wood... so the angle of the bevel dictates how you must stand when making the cut.

When making heavy cuts, I like to stand with the gouge braced to my body and present the gouge at about 35 degrees from the lathe, particularly when roughing out. To achieve this, I like my gouge angle to be relatively low around 30-35 degrees and a large shoulder.

To accomplish this the guide is set a little further out from the grinder (sets a lower angle) and the Vari-Grind set at #2 notch (sets more of a shoulder)

When making lighter finishing cuts, the gouge doesn't have to be braced with the body the same way. I like to stand closer to the lathe to see the cut better... A higher gouge angle around 45-50 degrees and less of a shoulder.

To accomplish this the guide a bit closer to the grinder(sets a higher angle) and the Vari-Grind set at #4 notch (sets less of a shoulder)

This is my setup for my 'celtic' or 'fingernail' gouges as showen below.

These two gouges are ground using exactly the same Wolverine guide position and the #4 notch in the Vari-Grind.

The left gouge in each photo was ground to form my typical fingernail grind. The right gouge is ground using the exact same setup, but has the tip ground much shorter, thus creating a beautiful 'wing'.. perfect for silky smooth finishing cuts. I use this setup for all my finishing gouges.

I use 3/4"(19mm), 5/8"(16mm), 1/2"(13mm), and 3/8"(10mm) Hamlet 2060 deep fluted bowl gouges (unfortunately Hamlet 2060 steel is no longer available). I have several 'reserve' of each gouge... so I usually get away with only having to sharpen once or twice a day. By using the jigs I can sharpen 15 gouges in less than 5 minutes... with consistent perfection!

All my gouges are sharpened using either the #2 or #4 notch on the Vari-Grind which is then positioned on either one or the other of the permanently locked Wolverine guides attached to my grinder.

This way I only have to make one jig adjustment when sharpening all my different gouges

(i.e.from #2 to #4 notch on the Vari-Grind)