Best tools for woodturning

Woodturning is a process of forming intricate designs from a simple yet raw piece of wood. Achieving artistic, unique, and beautiful wood shapes requires some sets of tools other than a lathe machine, which is the primary essential of this technique. Usually, there are significant numbers of woodturning tools, and most of these tools are made of carbide or high-speed steel, which are available in a range of sizes.

There are many kinds of tools available in the market, so you need to choose wisely if you’re just starting out your first project. Because it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with these tools before deep-diving into your first project, here we would like to reveal that if you’re a beginner, then working with carbon steel tools is much easier than high-speed steel. But tools made of high-speed steel have a longer life-span, and you don’t need to constantly sharpen them.

Further, woodturning tools are categorized into three main categories, such as chisels, scrapers, and gouges. Both chisels and gouges are cutting tools and are specifically designed to slice through wood without tearing it. Moreover, the scrapers are known as crude tools since they tear out shavings. If you’re just starting out woodturning, then keep reading this article because we will answer some commonly asked questions by a craftsman – Let’s get started:

Best woodturning chisels for beginners

No matter what home improvement, repair, or decoration project you are working on, you will need a variety of woodturning tools for your work that will make the job go smoothly.

So, with a variety of tools around, choosing the best woodturning chisel is the first thing you need to start your career, hobby, or passion towards this technique. If you’re looking to purchase the best chisel, then keep reading this section.

a.    PSI 08 Pcs Woodworking Chisel Set

This affordable yet fantastic chisel set comes with eight blades, which is made of HSS (High-Speed Steel), making it more durable and long-lasting than carbon steel. The set comprises two types of scrapers, a roughing gouge, two sizes of wood chisels, a bowl gouge, a spindle gouge, and a parting tool. As it comes with all the basic tools, which one needs to perform their woodturning project smoothly, this set is ideal for beginners because it is assembled in a great wooden box.

b.   08 Pcs HSS Professional Woodturning Set

We have 08 Pcs Professional Woodturning set next in the line, which is manufactured by Windsor Designed Company. This fantastic kit offers exceptional value because of high-speed steel shafts and exquisitely designed spindles. Moreover, it’s equipped with brass ferrules, preventing the instruments from splitting when you’re working under pressure, making it durable and resilient. This set comprises three spindle gouges, two parting tools, two skew chisels, and a round-nosed scraper that comes in a beautiful wooden box.

c.    Great Neck 800 08 Pcs Woodturning Set

This meticulously designed 08 Pcs woodturning set manufactured by Great Neck Saw holds the third position in our countdown. All these instruments are made of high carbon steel material that is tempered for durability. Moreover, the tools are accurately ground with proper bevels and properly pre-sharpened for immediate usage. This fantastic set comprises three spindle gouges, two skew chisels, two scrapers, and one parting tool. Carbon steel blades are not as durable as high-speed steel blades, but for beginners, this toolset is just perfect.

d.   Werks Woodturning Tool Set

Due to its exceptional price, this chisel set holds the #4 position in our countdown. The set comes with one spindle gouge, bowl gouge, roughing gouge, parting tool, skew chisel, and round-nose scraper. Moreover, the instruments are made of high-speed steel material, making them incredibly durable and long-lasting. It’s truly a quality set for perfect value for money.

Woodturning tools for beginners

After the wood lathe itself, the most important tools used in woodturning are the chisels.

These come in many shapes and sizes – with cutting heads designed for a variety of specific purposes. The common chisel types are:

· Roughing Gouges

Many turning jobs begin with a square block in the lathe. It is the job of the roughing gouge to quickly shape it into a cylinder – in preparation for finer detailing. Typically made from high-speed steel, the cutting head is wide fluted and sharpened at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.

· Skew Chisels

These tools are used on spindle work only, not faceplate work. The cutting head edge is ‘skewed’ at approximately 70 degrees from the handle’s longitude, which gives this chisel its name. The cutting angle is usually also about 70 degrees and is honed to a razor-edge sharpness. This tool is handy for smoothing flat spindles, cutting beads, and generally adding details to the workpiece.

· Spindle (or Detailing) Gouges

These strong, shallow-fluted gouges are used for detailing on spindles such as beads and coves (scallops or rounded grooves.) The typical cutting edge angle for this tool is between 30 and 40 degrees.

· Bowl Gouges

These chisels come in a greater range of sizes, shapes, and cutting angles than most of the others. Every bowl turner has a favorite. 40 to 55 degrees is fairly typical for the cutting edge angle. This is a deep-fluted gouge, normally with a longer and thicker handle and tool shaft than a typical spindle gouge. As the name suggests, it is used for turning bowls and other vessels – both inside and outside.

· Parting Tools

When the lathe shaping operations are complete, the work is separated, or ‘parted off,’ with the parting tool. This leaves a nice squared-off end. The parting tool is also commonly used for creating flat-bottomed grooves in a workpiece.

· Scrapers

Ground almost flat (usually around 85 degrees) scrapers actually do cut rather than scrape when used correctly. A scraper is a finishing tool, smoothing off the work of other tools. They come in a wide variety of shapes and are often customized by turners for specific jobs. Scrapers are particularly useful in achieving a fine finish inside bowls.

· Hollowing Tools

These come in a great variety of shapes and sizes and usually have extra-long handles to make it easier for cutting into such things as deep bowls and vases

Roughing gouge

If you’re a professional woodturner, then you must have known the importance of the roughing gouge but if you don’t know much about this tool, then keep reading. 

· Definition of Roughing Gouge

This fantastic woodturning tool (Roughing gouge) is used to turn raw wood down to round. Further, this tool is also known as SRG (Spindle Roughing Gouge). Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily leave the ideal finish but swiftly removes the stock.

· Shape of Roughing Gouge

It’s ingeniously designed that gives you the freedom to take off the wood of a spindle. Moreover, it could be your first tool that you will be using on your woodturning project.

Its unique flute yet U-shape design gives a wider cutting surface for removing stock. All you need to do is rotate the gouge to shape the wood so that you can cut the raw wood with a different angle.

The roughing gouge should only be used when a woodworker needs to turn the edges off spindles (A spindle is when the wood grain runs along the length of the wood being turned.) If you use any other tool to cater to this kind of wood piece, then you’ll end up with a corner breakout.

· How to Use a Roughing Gouge

Using this tool needs proper attention because a spindle roughing gouge for faceplate work can lead to dangerous catches, which may lead to serious injuries. If you’re just starting out then, we recommend you move the roughing gouge from the center of the work to the outside edges. Once you’re used to it, then you can come in from outside to inside, as you have full control over it.

· Size of Roughing Gouge

Moreover, it’s supplied unhandled, handled, and with various width flutes, but the most commonly used specification is ¾” width. Further, you can find this tool in either carbon steel or high-speed steelhead, depending on your expertise and comfortability. 

Woodturning tools explained

It’s commonly noticed that many people seem to use their woodturning tool set inconsistently. They simply turn their lathe machine on, get a raw piece of wood, and grab whatever the instrument is nearest at hand to start cutting. Sometimes it works, but in most cases, you need a proper set of tools that are specifically designed for woodturning to get the desired result.

So, if you’re a beginner in woodturning techniques, then you must be thinking about the right tools – Isn’t it? Usually, people take this technique for granted and still don’t care about the tools. For example, when a woodworker wants to make a rough cut, then most craftsmen perform this activity using a bowl gouge, which is totally wrong. In fact, I have seen many over and over again, but most probably they’re experts and can easily perform their job with any tools, but that may not be the case for everyone, especially for beginners. In such scenarios, many don’t even notice that their instruments chipped from all the hard and bent.

So, if you’re the one who’d like to get into an explanation of woodturning tools, then keep reading this section because we will explain the uses and shapes of woodturning tools.

The first tool is very simple yet popular, and we call it a roughing gouge. It’s a big yet C-Shaped profile tool equipped with a round nose that is used to perform a wood rounding process. Moreover, it’s attached to a spiral shaped spindle, making it comfortable for craftsmen to grip.

The next in the line is the skew chisel – This fantastic yet small tool comes with a flat edge designed at a certain angle, which lets you trim, smooth, and make V-Cuts on wooden blocks. However, this is one of the most important yet primary woodturning tools with a lot of uses, but that doesn’t mean you can use this tool to perform your whole woodturning project.

After the skew chisel, the next in the line is the parting chisel. Its unique pointed nose is ingeniously designed with a diamond shape, which helps you make a perfect cutting off at the end of wooden blocks. Moreover, this fantastic tool is also meant for detailed designing and delicate trimming. If you’re a woodturner or just starting out your journey, then this is a must-have tool in your toolbox.

The list of woodturning tools goes on, but the last tool we want to highlight in this section is the round nose chisel. This fantastic tool is somewhat similar to a roughing gouge that comes with a similar contour or shape, but it’s much smaller as compared to the roughing gouge. Moreover, it’s more suited to precise carving. So, this is the short yet simple explanation of woodturning tools, which you must have in your toolbox to make your job much easier and flawless.

Bowl gouge

Without learning the basics of the bowl gouge, you won’t be able to master the woodturning process. It’s one of the best yet most recognized tools among craftsmen. So, if you’re not aware and just starting out the woodturning process, then keep reading this section.

  • Definition of Bowl Gouge

A Bowl Gouge is a handheld tool used to cut and shape raw pieces of wood fixed on a lathe. It consists of a handle coupled to a tough metal shaft with a center groove on a metal shaft along the top-portion, which is known as a flute. Further, the leading edge of the bowl gouge is ground with a beveled yet angular shape, which makes a piercing cutting edge that cuts wood as it rotates.

This fantastic tool can help you make an entire bowl without needing any other tool.

  • Steel Used in Bowl Gouge

Moreover, the steel used in manufacturing the shaft of the bowl gouge can be made from different metals. But the most commonly used metal is high-speed steel or HSS. This sturdy metal is made from a combination of tungsten, molybdenum, and chromium, which can withstand extreme conditions without losing its hardness.

  • Size of Bowl Gouge

When it comes to sizes, the bowl gauge is commonly sized by the width of the flute, but some manufacturers also mentioned the diameter of the shaft. Usually, the commonly used bowl gouge measures 3/8″ flute and ½” shaft diameter. So, always confirm the size of the flute and shaft before ordering the bowl gouge to avoid any consequences. 

  • The shape of Bowl Gouge

Now, let’s discuss the shape of bowl gouge shapes! Usually, the shape of the flute is formed by the shape of the refining tool used to mill out the flute area. Some older designs of bowl gouge are made with V-Shape or a deep U-Shape flute design but not recommended by professionals because they can catch easily and don’t provide smooth cut. Hence, the most popular shape is parabolic or shorter size U-Shape flute, allowing you to make a smooth cut and is also known as ‘super-flute.’

  • How to Use a Bowl Gouge

It’s ingeniously designed that removes the layer away from turning a wood bowl blank. Each passing round allows you to remove another layer, one after another.

If you’re a beginner, then don’t have the flute open, pointed upward, or visible because, in this position, it can grab a wood quickly. Once you become professional or more comfortable with making cutting passes, bevel riding, or else then you can start rotating it to an open position. However, the open flute position is ideal for more delicate finishing cuts that only remove thin layers at a time.

Where to buy woodturning tools

If you’re seeking where to buy woodturning tools? Then you’re on the right track because it’s far easier than finding a retailer around you with all the latest stocks. Moreover, numerous craftsmen are searching for used or secondhand woodturning, which might be a good option too, considering the current economic condition. So, there are numerous websites available online selling woodturning tools, allowing you to shop right from the comfort of your home.

Before purchasing a woodturning tool – First, you need to make some research and list down some popular brands and what features you need in your toolset. Most websites, such as amazon.com, ebay.com, Sears, Menards, The Home Depot, and others, organize tools in a straightforward way, allowing you to easily find what you’re looking for.

Moreover, you can also visit some retailers around you to get a firsthand look at such tools because many tools will be on display and out of the box, so woodworkers can check their quality. Don’t forget to check clearance season, in which many online or offline stores offer discounted prices on items that are going to be discontinued soon. 

In addition, if you want to buy used tools, then you may check different auction websites, such as eBay, to get an idea of used tools prices. For some, it’s quite tricky because you will need to really look at the age, condition, brand, and price of the tools described by the seller, making it time-consuming. So, all you need to do is make a list of price ranges for the tools with some basic notes that help you in making a wise selection.

There isn’t any guide-book for purchasing the right woodturning tools; all you need to use some common sense along with proper research. Moreover, it’s advisable to check well-reputed websites (mentioned-above), giving you the freedom to make hassle-free purchases along with free returns, if needed.

Carbide woodturning tools

The introduction of Carbide Woodturning tools has greatly simplified the process of woodturning. Gone are the days when the long learning curve where special tool presentation and precise angle making techniques must be masters. Many woodturners recommend carbide tip blades for beginners because these are quicker to learn, and you don’t need to learn sharpening techniques, allowing more people to come and learn this intricate wood shaping process.

  • Advantages

The main advantage of carbide wood tools is that it’s ready to use! Moreover, its razor-sharp edge made of carbide stays sharp for a long time and doesn’t need to sharpen again and again as compared to traditional bowl gouge, making it perfect for beginners.

Further, bowl black material can be removed quickly with a carbide turning tool, and catches are less frequent as compared to high-speed steel tools. With carbide woodturning tools, shaping a bowl black goes incredibly quick and effortless. Moreover, if one side of a carbide woodturning tool cutting tip wears out, depending on the tool shape, the tip can be rotated to a new fresh sharp area.

Those who love carbide woodturning tools consider this is the best thing to happen since sliced bread. Because it requires no sharpening or steep learning curve, making it easy to use and last for a longer run. Moreover, the craftsmen don’t mind sanding the wooden surface a bit more when it’s transformed by using carbide tools.

  • Disadvantages

The major disadvantage of carbide woodturning tools (scrapers) is their 90-Degree angle. This steep impactful angle scrapers and tears out wood fibers brutally, even with a sharp edge. This is the most common problem faced by craftsmen when turning wood bowls.

Moreover, the round shape carbide woodturning tool works fine for the bowl interior, but it’s not recommended to use on the exterior. To work on the bowl exterior, you need to use a square-shaped carbide woodturning tool. Due to this reason, you need more than one tool to craft a single object, making it an expensive option, especially for beginners.

Depending on the wood type, the torn out surface quality can range from acceptable to completely unacceptable. Further, sometimes you need to spend more time spending wooden blocks when it’s crafted with carbide tip tools. So, if you’re willing to use these tools, then after wearing out its blade, you can only sharpen via diamond stone, making it an expensive option in terms of replacement.

Conclusion (200 words)

Woodturning is an advanced woodworking technique, where the worker worked on a moving wooden piece with a stationary toolset. Learning the basics of woodturning is not difficult at all, but that lies completely under the profession of woodworking, so you need to understand the basics of woodworking before getting into woodturning, and for that, you need a proper set of tools.

The wood lathe machine is the primary machine that helps you turn wood and used to create wide-ranging wooden objects, such as bowls, table legs, bed posts, battens, and much more. It spins a wooden object, so the woodworker can perform various tasks, such as shaping, cutting, gouging, sanding, and chiseling, with a collection of tools to create beautiful objects. Moreover, the process of woodturning gives you the freedom to craft several intricate artworks that can be done with some basic toolset along with mini yet beginner’s wood lathe machines. 

For more woodturning projects, be creative. Think about what could be cool to make. Brainstorm a few ideas and develop from there. Maybe you can make something unique for someone else special, or you could turn your artwork into a profit by selling your skills.