Each bowl gouge angle and profile has a different use and function. You will need to shape your new bowl gouge to fit your needs.
When you get your first new bowl gouge, and if you’re new to turning, you might think, “so this is the bowl gouge profile grind I should be using.”
Not so fast.
Perhaps, if you purchased a high-end signature bowl gouge endorsed by a well-known turner, your gouge is pre-set with a specific sharpened angle and profile.
However, most new bowl gouges come with a basic standard grind that is okay at best. It’s up to you to change that bowl gouge to best suit your needs.
How do I shape a new bowl gouge?
You will need a sharpening station, and also, a sharpening jig (a grinding platform at a minimum) is very helpful to shape a new bowl gouge. You will need to grind your desired wing shape and bevel angle first, then create the shape of the gouge side wings.
We will cover all the steps needed to shape a new bowl gouge profile in this article.
Which Bowl Gouge Profile?
Oh, this is the most loaded woodturning question, if ever there was one. Ha!
Which bowl gouge profile is best?
The real answer is, whichever bevel angle gouge profile you prefer and works best for you.
As a wood bowl turner, you will need at least a couple differently ground bowl gouges to be used while you turn different types of bowls.
Yes, most of the bowl turning can be done with one bowl gouge, but additional gouges with different grinds help in numerous ways.
A standard ground 45° bowl gouge can be incredibly helpful when confronting delicate wood fibers that want to easily tear-out.
The micro-bevel bowl gouge is indispensable for turning areas hard to reach with a “regular” bowl gouge.
My Favorite Gouge Bevel Angle Profile
My favorite all-purpose bowl gouge is a swept-back winged gouge with an approximately 55° bevel angle. I use this style gouge to rough, refine, and finish almost every bowl I make.
For this article, I will be shaping a new bowl gouge profile to this 55° bevel angle and swept-back configuration.
You can follow these same steps, making adjustments for bevel angle and wing shapes, to shape or reshape any bowl gouge profile you’d like.
Hand Grinding or Jig System?
Hand-grinding a new gouge profile is possible, with much practice and experience.
I recommend using a sharpening jig system to not only make the process easier but also make it dependably repeatable.
In this example, I will be using the Oneway Wolverine Sharpening System to assist the process of reshaping a bowl gouge.
Other sharpening systems are available. I use the Oneway system because it’s simple, easy to use, and relatively affordable.
Safety At Grinder
Before we go any further, we need to be safe and cover some safety requirements while sharpening.
Eye protection in the form of safety glasses and a face shield is obvious and a must.
Many people overlook a very dangerous second hazard, dust. The metal dust from the grinder can be many times more hazardous than wood dust.
Wear your respirator at the sharpening station at all times.
I know this might seem like overkill, but you can thank me when you’re breathing easy many years from now.
Also, keep the tool centered on the sharpening wheel. If the gouge slides off to the edge of the grinder, it can get caught and be forced under the grinding wheel.
If the gouge catches and is pulled down, it can make a very violent sound and impact, not to mention the potential for damage and possible injury.
Cooling While Bowl Gouge Sharpening
The steel used to make bowl gouges is heat-treated and strengthen to withstand tremendous forces.
When we sharpen a bowl gouge, it is possible to overheat and weaken the cutting tip. Overheating can potentially make the gouge tip fragile.
To prevent overheating a bowl gouge while sharpening, stop frequently, and quench the tooltip in a container of water.
I keep a medium-sized container of water within arms reach of my sharpening station for quick tool cooling.
Work slowly and dip the tool frequently in water to prevent the metal from overheating.
If the bowl gouge metal turns color, it is overheating. Make more stops to quench the tooltip to prevent overheating.
I have contacted several gouge manufacturers, and they recommend removing any bowl gouge material that is discolored.
Continue sharpening as normal and grind away any discolored steel until the tool is free from potentially weakened material.
Grinding away all that material can be time-consuming and expensive, and it is also an excellent motivation to keep your tool cool while sharpening.
Establishing Bowl Gouge Bevel Angle
You will need to determine what bevel angle at which you will shape the bowl gouge.
I’ve written an article about the very lively topic of bowl gouge bevel angles, be sure to read this when you get a moment.
I will be making the profile angle of this particular bowl gouge example at 55° with long swept-back wings.
Bevel Angle Step One
Use the adjustable locking protractor to find the current nose bevel angle of the bowl gouge.
For the moment, we are not worried about the side wings, measure the bevel angle at the very front of the bowl gouge nose.
Bevel Angle Step Two
Adjust the flat platform of the sharpening system to approximately match the bevel angle you want for your gouge bevel angle.
On the more coarse grinding wheel at your sharpening station, preferably around 80 grit, grind just the front nose of the bowl gouge.
Bevel Angle Step Three
Use the protractor and re-measure the nose bevel angle of the gouge.
Keep grinding just the nose until it matches your desired bevel angle from the bowl gouge heel up to the flute.
I’ve taken this bowl gouge and ground just the nose to a 55° bevel angle.
When you first do this step, you’ll probably have similar thoughts as I did initially.
“Oh man, I really screwed up this gouge now!”
LOL, don’t worry, it looks ugly and wrong, but it will all start to take shape soon.
Creating Top Side Wing Profile
If you want a more traditional grind on your bowl gouge profile, you will make relatively smaller wings.
On the other hand, if you want swept-back wings, you will be taking away more material on the side wings of the gouge.
As you grind down the side wings, its good to have a guide to follow. Let’s make that guide now.
Using the thickness of the bowl gouge shaft as a measuring dimension, the side wings of this swept-back bowl gouge will be about two times longer than the thickness of the bowl gouge.
Place a pen or pencil along the side of the bowl gouge, and use your thumb to mark the width of the gouge.
Now, without moving your thumb from the pen, rotate the pen and measure off two sections from the tip of the gouge.
You can use a marker to roughly indicate the shape of the top wing angle profile, from the base of the flute at the nose to the upper end of the wing.
Flip the bowl gouge over, so the flute is flat on the grinding platform.
Using the platform as a guide and for support, keep the two edges of the flute flat to the platform while you lower the tool handle.
Now, with the gouge flipped over on the platform, remove material from the top of the gouge to match the marker drawn shape.
Stop when the side profile of the top of the gouge looks right.
When this step is complete, the bowl gouge still isn’t going to look too pretty, but it’s getting there.
We now have the outline of the cutting edge of the bowl gouge.
Looking down on the bowl gouge flute, the inside curved arc at the nose will be the final cutting edge, once we remove the excess wing material that stands in our way.
Setting Up Vari-Grind Jig
Place the bowl gouge in the Oneway Vari-Grind Jig and set the nose to a depth of two inches.
For my particular configuration, I use a jig setting at the fourth flat notch from the top.
In general, the steeper the angle on the Oneway Vari-Grind Jig, the longer the wings will be.
If you’d like a more traditional small-winged bowl gouge profile, try a setting on the first or second notch. This angle keeps the gouge at a more horizontal presentation to the sharpening wheel.
Start by adjusting the V-arm until the bowl gouge nose angle, mounted in the Vari-Grind Jig, is flush with the sharpening wheel surface.
Use a marker to mark the flat nose bevel angle and then rotate the sharpening wheel enough to scuff the marker on the gouge.
When an even amount of marker is removed, you are ready to proceed.
If marker color is only removed from the top of the gouge, near the flute, loosen and gently slide the V-Arm inward, just a touch and try again until the marker is evenly removed.
When the marker color is only removed from the bottom area of the gouge, near the heel, loosen and gently slide the V-Arm outward, just a touch and try again until the marker is evenly removed.
Shaping the Bowl Gouge Side Wings
With the gouge mounted to the Vari-Grind Jig and the V-arm adjusted to the right distance and locked, slowly grind away one side wing at a time until the top cutting edge merges with and matches the top flute line.
Be careful not to grind too much on the nose. The nose of the bowl gouge only needs to be lightly ground and merged into the side wings.
When the full bevel angle, which wraps around the front of the gouge, is ground to meet the top edge of the flute, the new bowl gouge profile shape is complete.
Final Sharpening New Gouge Profile
Most sharpening stations have two sharpening wheels on the grinder, one more coarse than the other.
Do the majority of the shaping, as described above, using the more coarse sharpening wheel.
Once the bevel shape is complete, move to the finer sharpening wheel and lightly sharpen the full bowl gouge bevel profile using the same jig set up.
Now your new bowl gouge profile is ready for the lathe.
Reshaping Bowl Gouge Profile
The more you turn, the more you discover the need for different bowl gouge bevel profiles.
You can take an existing bowl gouge and reshape and change that gouge to a different bevel angle and wing profile.
To reshape an existing gouge, follow the same steps as shaping a new bowl gouge.
The only difference when changing an existing bowl gouge profile, depending on the current profile, you may have to remove more material compared to starting with a new gouge.
New Bowl Gouge Profile Conclusion
Shaping a new bowl gouge from scratch can be a bit intimidating at first, but once you’ve done it, you may want to shape other gouges as well.
Take your time, and before you know it, you will probably be experimenting with all sorts of bowl gouge bevel angles and profiles.
If you’d like to learn more about setting up a sharpening station, check out this article.
Also, for all the details about using the sharpening station, see this article.
As always, leave a comment below if you have a question or if you’d like to share your experience.
You’ll probably want to see these articles next:
• WOLVERINE VARI-GRIND JIG – ILLUSTRATED GUIDE BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING
• VARI-GRIND JIG SETUP ONEWAY WOLVERINE SHARPENING SYSTEM
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING TECHNIQUES STEP BY STEP
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING ANGLES – SURPRISE ANSWER
Thanks and Happy Turning,