Marilyn knows how to present the dullest topic in an interesting and easy-to-read way. When she’s not teaching English Literature at a local school or writing for our site, Marylin loves to knit and bake for her two grandchildren.
Julie owns a shop specializing in sewing equipment and accessories. No wonder she knows everything when it comes to technical specifications of practically anything we review. In her free time, Julie loves quilting and scrapbooking.
Last updated: February 26, 2021
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Just as there are some excellent bowl gouges in the market, there are some bad ones as well, and you could end up with either one. Of course, the latter is not what you want, and there are steps you can take to effectively end up with the best bowl gouges available. However, that needs some work that starts with you learning what these tools are capable of and their features.
As for the features, they are inclusive of flute width, materials, durability, length, and sharpness. Any one of them could make your use of the bowl gouge a joy or something you dread. They could also give you a hint of how your wooden bowls would turn out. As such, getting the best bowl gouges for the job should be top on your priority list. If you don’t know any good options in the market, we have listed some below, as well as the reasons why they would make exceptional purchases. You should keep reading to see what they have to offer.
The Hurricane Turning Tools Three-Piece Bowl Gouge Set will suffice as our top bowl gouge pick of the day out of the ten options listed. Notably, this is a three-piece set with varying flute width sizes, and thus the versatility of the purchase is commendable.
Also, the sizes of the handles coincide with the flute width. You should know that you’ll have more leverage with a longer and heavier handle as you shape wood bowls. This allows you to remove larger chunks of material from the wood, and it can dramatically shorten the work period.
Furthermore, the shanks in all three bowl gouges are made from high-speed steel (HSS), which will handle friction and heat from the bowl gouging process with ease. Additionally, the durability of HSS is something to be admired.
As mentioned above, the gouges come in a standard grind giving you leeway to shape them. This would ensure you set your desired angle so that you can have an easier time working the gouge in the future.
Also notable is the ashwood handle. Of course, this has perks as well, including being shock-resistant and lightweight despite being a hardwood.
What we liked: We liked the bowl gouges’ construction, which includes a hardwood handle and a high-speed steel shaft. Also, there are three gouges of different sizes in the set, giving lots of value to buyers.
What could be better: The flutes in this set are quite short and will likely not last through many sharpening sessions.
You might also decide to pull out the money in your wallet to purchase the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge. As insinuated by the picture, this package comes with a single gouge, as do all other options listed apart from the editor’s choice. That said, it would still prove an excellent piece of equipment in your workshop.
Notably, the flute width is ½” in size, and the shaft comes made out of M42 HSS. Also, the high-speed steel has been hardened to 66/69 HRC and has been cryogenically treated, which means you can use this tool for a relatively long time after purchase.
When it arrives at your door, the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge will measure 26” of which some of it will be the shaft while the rest will be the copper handle incorporated. Additionally, since this is a long bowl gouge, you’ll find the balance to be impressive.
Another important note is the razor-sharp cutting edge that should make your turning work a cinch.
What we liked: Since this is a long bowl gouge, the balance in it is impressive. Also, cryogenically treated and hardened HSS steel will ensure this tool lasts you a long time.
What could be better: You’ll pay a heftier sum for the gouge than you would most other options.
In terms of exterior design, the Hurricane Turning Tools HTT-242KW Bowl Gouge and the Pinnacle Cryogenic Fingernail Grind Bowl Gouge may look similar. The flute width is the same for the two bowl gouges, as is the handle length.
Another thing the two gouges have in common is the cryogenic treatment of their M2 HSS shanks in production. These similarities may have something to do with the fact that they are both made in Sheffield, England.
Additionally, the black paint design complemented by the silver accents is certainly good to look at. Finally, while this offering comes as a single unit, the gouges are also available in a set.
What we liked: The bowl gouge has an aesthetically pleasing design. Made with a cryogenically treated durable shaft. Impressive flute length allowing for multiple sharpening sessions.
What could be better: We can’t think of any way to improve the Hurricane Turning Tools HTT-242KW Bowl Gouge.
The Pinnacle Cryogenic Fingernail Grind Bowl Gouge is the second bowl gouge listed with a cryogenically treated blade. Couple this with M2 HSS construction, and you should be looking at a long term purchase for your toolkit.
Remember that only you know the bevel angle and the type of grind that best works for you. As such, if you’ve determined this to be the Irish grind, you can’t go wrong purchasing the Pinnacle Cryogenic Fingernail Grind Bowl Gouge.
Also, this is a by-product of England, which might explain the choice to go with European ash wood in the making of the handle. Lastly, this handle is impressive in aesthetics and ergonomics.
What we liked: We liked the durable, temperature-resistant shaft and that it comes in an Irish grind design. Also, the entire length of the bowl gouge is consistent with the removal of larger amounts of material and a shorter work time. The bowl gouge is also pleasing to look at.
What could be better: Like the Robert Sorby 842XLH-1/2 Deep Flute Bowl Gouge and the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge, this tool requires more than $100 to buy. It is, therefore, pricey.
Another ½” bowl gouge makes it onto our list as the Robert Sorby 842XLH-1/2 Deep Flute Bowl Gouge. This pick takes us back to the wooden handle options listed. Also, the handle seems ergonomically designed to ensure a good grip.
Like the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge, this option’s full length is 26”. Of this, 17 inches are taken up by the handle, leaving you with a 9” shaft. This should last you a while, even if you sharpen the tool regularly.
Also, like other high-end bowl gouges, the shaft in this model is high-speed steel allowing you to use it on wood without worrying about high temperatures. Another impressive aspect is the brass ferrule, which is stylish and serves to protect the wooden handle.
Additionally, it wouldn’t do to forget the bowl gouge comes as a standard grind option and can thus easily be shaped to fit your needs.
What we liked: We liked that this is a standard grind bowl gouge. The overall length is just as impressive as in the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge. The brass ferrule adds style and more durability to the handle. Also, the durability of the shaft is something to write home about as well.
What could be better: Albeit more affordable than the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge, this pick is still relatively expensive.
Another gouge option worth considering is the Woodstock D3804 with its 1/2” flute. The manufacturer chose a 90-day warranty to set this bowl gouge apart from the competition in the market and succeeded.
It also seems the Woodstock is impressive in terms of size and construction. For the former, the 22-5/8” length is not as long as the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge, but it still works for most people. As for the latter, a high-speed steel shank is complemented by an ash wood handle.
If the above bowl gouge features strike your fancy, you can open up your wallet for the tool.
What we liked: We liked the length of the entire tool, inclusive of the handle and the shaft. We also liked the construction of both components. The 90-day warranty is an extra reason to complete the purchase.
What could be better: The flute length is relatively short.
Another bowl gouge pick with a 16” handle is available in the Stone Mountain SM7070 Fingernail Bowl Gouge. Since the components used to make this bowl gouge are high-speed steel, the tool should retain sharp edges for long periods.
Also, the flute width on this tool insinuates that this is a relatively small gouge. If that works for the jobs you have at hand, you can go ahead to open up your wallet. You’re also reminded to hone the tool to your specific needs before taking it out on a test run.
What we liked: A high-speed steel shank is impressive. The handle length may also make your work easier. The tool is affordable.
Next, we have the PFEIL “Swiss Made” Gouge No.8, which seems similar in shape to the spoon carving knife. The handle is also unique in shape and isn’t very long. That said, it is designed in such a way that you have something to hold on to.
The special alloy steel used to make the blade is also worthy of praise. As mentioned above, the tool comes hand-sharpened, and as such, even you won’t have a hard time making the best use of the blade. Nevertheless, the shaft and blade being as small as it is, I wouldn’t go overboard sharpening this tool if I were you.
In terms of affordability, you won’t need to go too deep into your pockets to pay for this pick. The handle is made of hardware material and may be one reason for the fair pricing.
Notably, the material may not be very durable in comparison to other handle types. Lastly, the whole gouge measures 6” in length, which is relatively short.
What we liked: We liked that the tool is hand sharpened and that you get a square tang-in handle to enhance grip. The bowl gouge is relatively affordable.
What could be better: The handle could be made of better material.
The BeaverCraft G7L/22 Wood Carving Gouge is another possible purchase you can look at. First, the flute width seems quite large, but once you look at the design of the gouge, you can see why. Also, this is the only bowl gouge to use high-carbon steel construction in the blade.
Notably, since high-speed steel is often considered more durable than the high carbon steel used in this pick, you might find some of you reconsidering the purchase. However, depending on what jobs you have in mind for the gouge, the investment may still be worth it.
The handle is not left from the list of pros for the BeaverCraft G7L/22 Wood Carving Gouge. This is because it’s made from oak with a ferrule added to keep it from splitting. The ergonomics of the handle also allow it to be easy to hold.
Both the handle and the blade measure 6.1” and 5.2” respectively, bringing the total length to 11.3.” Lastly, be careful in your use of the BeaverCraft G7L/22 Wood Carving Gouge from the day you get it as the blade is quite sharp.
What we liked: The tool comes with a sharp blade. The handle is durable and ergonomically designed.
What could be better: High carbon steel isn’t as durable or as suited to regular sharpening as high-speed steel.
It also makes sense for the PFEIL “Swiss Made” Gouge No.8 to be on our list. As you can probably guess, this pick and the PFEIL “Swiss Made” Gouge No.8 are from the same manufacturer. The names also imply the tools are of Swedish origin.
This tool’s alloy-chrome vanadium steel shank is hand-sharpened by the time it leaves the factory. As such, it’ll make light work of digging concave sections of your bowl. Another component to be impressed with is the hardwood handle, which is fashioned in an octagonal shape.
What we liked: We liked the hardwood handle and that the shank comes hand-sharpened.
What could be better: The ergonomics of the PFEIL “Swiss Made” Sweep Bent Gouge #5 are not very impressive.
Things to Consider
Even with as small a list as the one above, it may still prove tricky to choose one option. However, below is a list of markers you can use to see if the bowl gouge’s quality is up to standard with your needs. If you choose to use the section below as your buying guide, we have no doubt you’ll end up making a splendid selection.
What is a bowl gouge?
A bowl gouge is a handy tool for anyone wanting to turn wooden bowls. It works in conjunction with a lathe and consists of a metal shaft and a handle. The shaft in question also has a groove, which in woodturning circles is known as a flute. This component may vary in size from gouge to gouge. Another component is the tip, which often comes with an angled bevel. This makes up the cutting edge of the gouge.
Features to consider when choosing the best bowl gouge
At the start of this write-up, we mentioned that you need to know the bowl gouge’s capabilities before opening your wallet. That hasn’t changed, and as you probably know, the list of features determines what each gouge can and can’t do. As such, the features list below should be invaluable in helping you pick the best bowl gouge for your use needs.
Size (flute width)
Bowl gouge sizes are usually given in terms of the flute width by most manufacturers. As such, the standard variations you may encounter are 3/8″, 1/2″, and 5/8”, all of which are perfect for different job types.
Consequently, if you already have your first bowl turning job in mind, you cannot afford to skip checking the size of the gouge you buy.
Large gouges usually have a flute width of about, 5/8” which makes them ideal for making large bowls. Also, if you have a lot of waste material in your project to get rid of, this option can easily make light work of the task.
Medium bowl gouges like the Hurricane Turning Tools HTT-242KW Bowl Gouge come with a 1/2“ flute and often a 16mm shank to go with it. The medium option is perhaps the most well-rounded one and thus can take on various tasks. It is also the go-to pick if you’re only just starting in the field.
Smaller options are available with a 3/8” flute and are used for finishing cuts. Also, you can use a small bowl gouge to carve out small and medium-size bowls quite easily.
Another box you have to check when buying the perfect bowl gouge is the materials used in construction. Remember that the best bowl gouges are durable and can take the heat caused by friction during use.
Often, you’ll find that some variation of steel is used to make the shaft. However, while carbon steel is undoubtedly durable, it doesn’t hold out all that well when sharpened. As such, more and more manufacturers opt to use high-speed steel instead.
Additionally, the handle materials also need some attention. Like the shaft, they need to be durable as well. One example of a handle material you’ll find to be relatively common is ashwood as used in the Hurricane Turning Tools Three-Piece Bowl Gouge Set. The handles in the set are thus shock-resistant, which can be useful.
Some other options may also come with ferrules that need to be high-quality as well.
The shape will also be a dictating feature in how you use the bowl gouge. Typically you’ll have three options, i.e., the U-shaped, v-shaped, and the parabolic shaped gouge. These shapes refer to the shape of the flute.
The first two are common with older bowl gouge models and are being phased out by the parabolic option. Their major downside is that they catch onto wood easily, and therefore they may not be able to provide a smooth, even cut.
Conversely, thanks to the parabolic having an even metal base, they can provide you with cleaner results in your projects. Also, some people refer to the parabolic shaped gouge as the super flute.
Some grind types you may encounter in a community of bowl carvers include the following:
The traditional grind – 45°
Fingernail grind – 50°
Irish grind – 55°
40/40 grind – 40°
Ellsworth grind – 55°
Modified fingernail grind – 50°
Micro-bevel grind – 65°-70°
Notably, all these grind types indicate a different bevel angle. However, it’s often up to the buyer to decide what bevel angle they prefer or have an easier time using.
Your purchase will likely not come with a predetermined bevel angle. Instead, you may get a standard grind option like the one in the Hurricane Turning Tools Three-Piece Bowl Gouge Set. As such, it’ll be your job to shape the edge of the shaft into the type of grind you want from the above picks.
There’s no correct answer as to what angle a bowl gouge should be. This is because different bevel angles will work for different people. Nevertheless, there is a range that you can work with that is between 40° and 70°.
For starters, get a gouge sharpening jig system as it’ll make your work easier. Also, it may seem like an expensive affair at first, but it will be more efficient than trying to hand sharpen the gouge. Make sure you’re using fine grit on the machine, then once you start the system, apply the bevel edge to the sharpening wheel.
A point to remember is that you shouldn’t put too much pressure on the gouge as you sharpen it. The wheel will do most of the work for you if you continually make light passes with the gouge.
Once the bevel surface appears smooth and shiny around the tip, your sharpening work should be done, and you can take the tool to work.
The three-piece bowl gouge set impressed us since not many picks come in sets of three. Also, the size varieties and shank construction are impressive. In second place is the Big Horn 25302 Bowl Gouge. The manufacturer decided to stray from tradition and ended up with a copper handle. Additionally, you get lots of balance for your woodturning jobs after selecting this option.