Explained 5 Different Wood Lathe Tools

Wood turning is the process of transforming wood into various symmetrical shapes using manual tools and a wood lathe. This process is somewhat analogous to a sculptor using chisels to carve marble; however, unlike hand carving, wood turning requires skilled CNC machine operators to precisely cut the wood using a variety of turning tools.

In this article, we will explore five different types of wood lathe tools, as well as some best practices to follow during woodworking processes.

1. Spindle Gouge

This is one of the most versatile tools used on a wood lathe. It features a long, slender blade with a shallow flute, allowing it to cut cleanly and precisely. Spindle gouges are primarily used for shaping spindles, such as chair legs, table legs, or other cylindrical objects. They are also suitable for creating coves, beads, and other decorative details on turned pieces.An example of a Spindle gouges is shown in Figure 1:

2. Bowl Gouge

Bowl gouges have a deeper flute and a thicker, stronger blade compared to spindle gouges. They are specifically designed for hollowing out bowls and other concave forms.

Bowl gouges come in two main shapes: U-shaped and V-shaped. U-shaped bowl gouges are suitable for smoothly cutting the interior surface of bowls, while V-shaped bowl gouges are used for roughing, refining, and detailing the exterior surface of bowls, as well as adding surface textures. It is recommended to choose bowl gouges with sizes of 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch. These sizes are moderate, suitable for handling both smaller and slightly larger bowls, and are easier to control.

3. Skew Chisel

The skew chisel has a flat, beveled edge that is ground at an angle to the blade’s axis. It is commonly used for making straight, clean cuts across the wood grain, as well as for creating smooth finishes on spindle work. Skew chisels are versatile tools suitable for shaping, planing, and refining details on turned projects. When using a skew chisel, it’s advisable to maintain a 45° angle between the tool and the workpiece to avoid catches or potential accidents caused by the sharp corners of the tool digging into the wood. An example of a sketch chip is shown in Figure 2:

4. Parting Tool

Parting tools, also known as parting chisels or parting tools, have a flat, narrow blade with a straight cutting edge. They are primarily used for cutting workpieces off the lathe or for creating grooves and decorative details such as beads and fillets. Parting tools come in various widths to accommodate different cutting tasks, from separating a turned piece from the lathe to creating fine detailing on the surface of a project.

5. Scraper

Scrapers feature a flat, rectangular blade with a burr edge that is used for scraping wood fibers away from the surface. Unlike cutting tools like gouges and chisels, scrapers shear wood fibers rather than cutting them, resulting in a smooth surface finish. Scrapers are commonly used for refining shapes, smoothing surfaces, and removing tool marks on turned projects. They are available in various shapes and sizes, including round nose scrapers, square nose scrapers, and curved scrapers, each suited to different turning tasks and wood types.

What wood turning tools should a beginner use?

For beginners in woodturning, it’s important to start with a few essential tools that will cover a range of basic tasks while allowing room for skill development and exploration.

  1. Familiarize with Spindle Roughing Gouges and Spindle Gouges:
  • For example, choose a high-speed steel roughing gouge like the Robert Sorby 3/4-inch Roughing Gouge. This type of tool is suitable for beginners to remove larger amounts of wood during initial turning.
  • For spindle gouges, consider a slightly smaller size, such as the Crown Tools 1/2-inch Spindle Gouge. This size is suitable for finer cuts and detail work.
  1. Choose Tools with Slightly Longer Handles:
  • For instance, opt for woodturning tools with ergonomically designed handles, such as the Hamlet Craft Tools 12-inch Turning Tool. These tools provide adequate length for gripping while maintaining good balance.
  1. Practice Using Other Tools:
  • Try using spindle detail gouges, such as the Crown Tools 1/4-inch Spindle Detail Gouge, for finer carving and shaping tasks.
  • Practice with parting tools, like the Henry Taylor 3/8-inch Parting Tool, to create various grooves and edges on the workpiece.
  • Experiment with bowl gouges, such as the Robert Sorby 3/8-inch Bowl Gouge, for turning bowls and creating smooth curves and shapes.
  • Use scrapers, like the Crown Tools Scraper, for surface finishing and smoothing after turning. These tools are effective for removing tool marks and achieving a smooth surface texture.


The above is an introduction to five types of wood lathe tools. For more information, please contact Boyi Company.

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