What is the difference between a bowl gouge vs spindle gouge?
The bowl gouge flute is curved with wings and designed for turning wood bowls. A spindle gouge has a more open flat flute and is best used for details and spindle turnings.
I remember when I first started turning there were so many terms and tools to understand. When first looking at a bowl gouge vs spindle gouge they look very similar.
While they do look very similar, they have some very different qualities. Using a bowl gouge and a spindle gouge for their intended purposes is not only efficient but also safe.
In this article, I will share with you the advantages and disadvantages of the bowl gouge vs spindle gouge.
Bowl Gouge Defined
A bowl gouge has a round metal exterior shaft with a curved interior flute. The curved flute might be U-shaped, V-shaped, or parabolic in shape.
That interior flute design allows the bowl gouge to have exterior ground beveled wings that create a larger cutting surface all the way around the tip of the bowl gouge.
The size and shape of these side cutting wings are based on the particular use of the bowl gouge and the woodturner’s preference.
Bowl gouges can be used to remove large amounts of material quickly or finesse the last smooth cuts of a bowl interior.
The bowl gouge is a very diverse tool and can be used exclusively if needed to create an entire wood bowl.
Learn more about bowl gouge basics by reading this article next.
Different Types of Bowl Gouges
A single bowl gouge can be modified for many different uses. It’s common to have, for example, two or three of the same 5/8” bowl gouges each with a different bevel angle and each service a different use.
If you are interested in understanding the different bowl gouge bevel angles and their uses, be sure to read my article Bowl Gouge Sharpening Angles – Surprise Answer.
The micro bevel bowl gouge is an excellent example of a specific use bowl gouge. Micro-bevel bowl gouges, also known as “bottom-feeders” are detailed thoroughly in this article.
Spindle Gouge Defined
The spindle gouge, like the bowl gouge, has a round metal shaft. However, the flute of the spindle gouge is a wide-open, shallow U-shape which divides the metal shaft in half.
Because less material surrounds the tip of the spindle gouge, this tool is less fortified at the tip compared to the bowl gouge.
Relatively flat, the tip of the spindle gouge can be sharpened to a fine, thin tip and is ideal for making precise detail cuts on spindle and bowl exteriors.
Unlike the bowl gouge, the spindle does not have side wings that can cut. The sides of the spindle gouge can be turned to a 90° angle to scrape, but this is not a true cutting technique.
Different Types of Spindle Gouges
Similar to the bowl gouge, the spindle gouge can be sharpened to a variety of different bevel angles.
The angle of the spindle gouge dictates how much control and detail can be created with the spindle cutting tip.
It is common to have multiple spindle gouges each with different style beveled tips.
I use a more standard ground spindle gouge and a steeply ground detail spindle gouge. The detail spindle gouge allows access to tight spaces, like the inside angle of a properly created bowl tenon.
Bowl Gouge Vs Spindle Gouge Disadvantages
Bowl Gouge Disadvantages
The bowl gouge is a bit bulky at the cutting tip when it comes to tight spaces. Unlike the spindle gouge, the bowl gouge cannot get into sharp cove valleys easily.
If any tight detail work is needed, the bowl gouge is not the ideal tool for this task.
Because the bowl gouge is used so frequently, it accumulates miles of cutting distance quickly. With all this action, the bowl gouge needs to be sharpened often.
Spindle Gouge Disadvantages
Due to the reduction of metal at the tip of the spindle gouge, turning bowl interiors with a spindle gouge is not only not advised, but dangerous.
Because of the more delicate cutting tip of the spindle gouge, the gouge should not be over-extended beyond the support of the tool rest.
If the spindle gouge is extended over the tool rest at any significant distance and a catch were to occur, the spindle gouge tip can be snapped off.
The delicate, precise nature of the spindle gouge does not make it the ideal tool to remove material away quickly from a turning.
Do not use a spindle gouge to make large removing cuts, or turn the interior of a wood bowl. This is the spindle gouge’s real weakness, and it can be dangerous.
Bowl Gouge Vs Spindle Gouge Advantages
Bowl Gouge Advantages
The bowl gouge is a workhorse and can be modified to rough out material quickly, shape intricate curves and finish the surface of a wood bowl.
Because of the mass of metal material at the cutting tip and the overall substantial nature of the bowl gouge, it can be extended, within reason, far beyond the tool rest edge.
This extra reaching attribute is critical when turning down deep into a bowl. It’s not always possible to configure the tool rest at the ideal position against a particular turning surface.
Side cutting wings on the bowl gouge act like multi-tools. Rolling the tool over, it is easy to use the side wings to scrape and shear-scrape. Learn more about shear scraping cuts in this article.
The various bowl gouge cutting techniques are a valuable bonus to using a swept-back bevel angle on a bowl gouge.
If you’d like to discover the details about these techniques, read my article Bowl Gouge Technique – 4 Turning Cuts To Master.
A bowl gouge can also be used to remove material quickly from a spindle turning.
Spindle Gouge Advantages
Working in tight spaces and making sharp points are the task that makes the spindle gouge shine.
Delicate spindle work such as intricate textures and patterns can be easily created on bowl exteriors using the spindle gouge.
Areas where the bowl gouge can’t quite reach are easily addressed with a detail spindle gouge, on the bowl exterior only.
To create an ideal tenon, I will remove material and shape the cylinder of the tenon with a bowl gouge, then switch to my detail spindle gouge.
The detail spindle gouge can easily cut an inward dovetail angle to match my four-jaw chuck jaw angle.
At the base of the tenon dovetail angle, I roll the detail spindle gouge on its side to create a crisp corner and flat tenon shoulder area.
Another advantage of the spindle gouge is that it doesn’t need to be sharpened as frequently as the bowl gouge.
Bowl Gouge Vs Spindle Gouge Harmony
If you are new to the wood bowl turning scene, you might be trying to decide which one to get. Well, I think the answer is both.
People ask me, “what are the basic tools I need to turn a bowl?” And usually, the person means, how little can I spend and be able to turn a bowl? It’s a fair question.
My first reaction is I want to steer people to two bowl gouges. I recommend a 5/8” standard and a 1/2” finishing bowl gouge.
However, I really feel to have a well-rounded, yet minimal wood bowl turning toolset, you need to add a spindle gouge. And I recommend adding a 1/2” spindle gouge with a detail grind.
The spindle gouge directly picks up where the bowl gouge can’t go. The spindle gouge is ideal for shaping tenons, making a center tick on the tenon, and adding detailed textures to a bowl exterior.
We’re focused here on turning wood bowls, but the bowl gouge also pairs well in the spindle turning world.
Because of the bowl gouge’s ease of removing material quickly, it is common to use a bowl gouge to remove the bulk of a spindle turning before completing the detail work with a spindle gouge.
It really shouldn’t be one or the other. Two bowl gouges and a spindle gouge are the ideal, complete, yet minimal wood bowl turning toolkit.
Bowl Gouge Vs Spindle Gouge Conclusion
I hope this article clears up your questions about the differences of a bowl gouge vs spindle gouge.
Each tool has advantages and disadvantages. Using the strengths of each tool, great things can be accomplished at the lathe.
Please leave a comment below and let me know if this article helped answer your questions about the mystery between the bowl gouge vs spindle gouge.
You may like to see these other articles too:
• HOW TO SHAPE A NEW BOWL GOUGE PROFILE
• 40-40 BOWL GOUGE GRIND (SHAPE, SHARPEN, USE)
• BOWL GOUGE BASICS – GUIDE (PARTS, USE, SIZES, GRINDS)
Thank you and Happy Turning!