When I first got my Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind System, adjusting the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig was confusing. After doing some research, I learned how to make the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig work for a variety of bowl gouge sharpening grinds.
So how do you adjust the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig?
Three variables need to be set to make a specifically angled grind of the bowl gouge using the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig: the amount of bowl gouge extending forward, the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig leg extension angle, and the V-arm distance from the grinding wheel.
With much experimenting and research, I have discovered the best ways to get various different bowl gouge sharpening angles each and every time consistently. Let me share with you what I’ve learned.
What is the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig
First, let’s clear up some basic information and address the details of this system.
The Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is part of the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Sharpening System which is designed to assist wood bowl turners with the process of consistently sharpening bowl gouge bevel angles quickly and accurately.
Back in the day, no such jig system existed, and woodturners would go to the grinder and sharpen tools by hand. While this is possible, and many turners still sharpen by hand, it is difficult and challenging to maintain a consistent bevel angle.
Oneway makes a whole array of woodturning tools including lathes. They produce the Wolverine Vari-Grind System to help wood turners easily make the same sharpening angle at the grinder time after time without frustration.
Why Use the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig
Why do we even want to mess with using the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig? After all, the shaft of the bowl gouge is round. Why can’t we just roll the gouge tip by hand on the grinder?
That’s a great question, which I first thought would be true as well. Unfortunately, I quickly learned while the shaft of the bowl gouge is round, the interior flute is a compound shape made of a curve with two flat sides.
We really need to create a U-shaped motion while we sharpen the gouge at the grinder. This is why the assistance of the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is so valuable.
The Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig allows an easy solution to control the grind around the curved nose and side wings of the bowl gouge.
Wolverine Vari-Grind System Set Up
It is crucial that the Wolverine Vari-Grind System is set up correctly at first. I have an article explicitly dealing with the set-up of the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind System, please read this article if you haven’t already, it’s essential.
The Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is an accessory of the overall Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Sharpening System. The rest of the system consists of two attachment rails, an adjustable grinding platform, and the V-arm which holds the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig.
If any portion of the system is not set up correctly, there will be deviations. The final resulting bowl gouge sharpening grinds can vary dramatically if the system is misconfigured.
What Part Does What
As I mentioned above, there are three variables we need to deal with when sharpening at the grinder using the Oneway Vari-Grind System: Tip extension, Angle, and Distance.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these variables and see how each contributes to the final equation.
The Bowl Gouge Tip Extension
The distance the bowl gouge extends from the face of the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is consistently two inches. This is great because it never changes and we don’t have to think much about it. Set it and forget it.
We do need to be aware that if we are extensively grinding the bowl gouge tip, usually when first establishing an angle, we may need to reset the extension length to two inches because tool material removal may shorten the tip.
Use a simple measuring jig to quickly determine the two-inch depth of the bowl gouge extension.
Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig Leg Angle
Under the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is a protruding leg. The angle of this leg is a critical variable in the bowl gouge bevel angle sharpening process.
While I’ve uncovered conflicting descriptions of how this angle contributes to the grind, its main factor seems to control how far swept the bowl gouge side wings are created.
We will be using the adjustable wing nut on the leg extension to move between various marks. The marks are indicated when the top edge of the leg aligns with the flat edge of a particular mark.
When adjusting the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig leg angle, the lower the numbered mark, the less sweep will be applied to the bowl gouge side wings.
A gouge sharpened at the number one mark will produce a narrow, tight bevel edge along the cutting tip. While a gouge sharpened at the number four mark will have long pulled back bevel wings.
V-Arm Distance From Sharpening Wheel
Again, I have found conflicting opinions about what the V-arm distance from the grinding wheel achieves. It has been my experience that the V-arm distance from the grinding wheel controls the front bevel angle of the bowl gouge sharpening.
By moving the V-arm closer or farther away, we can set the front desired angle on the bevel of the bowl gouge.
Sharpening an Existing Bowl Gouge Angle
When sharpening a bowl gouge with an already established bevel angle, start by placing the bowl gouge in the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig and snug the hand screw.
Place the extending bowl gouge tip in the measuring jig to the predetermined two-inch depth and tighten the hand screw.
Adjusting the leg extension angle on the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig may take a little guessing at first. If the gouge has swept back wings, try setting the angle somewhere around the third mark and tighten the leg extension thumb screw. For shorter wings, try a lower numbered mark.
With the grinder still off, place the end of the leg extension in the pocket at the end of the V-arm. Slide the V-arm until the surface of the bowl gouge sharpening bevel is flush with the grinding wheel.
Take your time and look closely from the side and make sure the bevel is flush to the wheel. Using a backlight here is very helpful to find any gaps. This magnetic mounted LED task light mounts perfectly to the center of the grinder housing.
Once the bevel is flush with the grinding wheel tighten the side lever of the V-arm.
Turn on the grinder and gently rotate the bowl gouge in the center of the sharpening wheel. If even contact is made around the front and side wings of the gouge, the job of adjusting the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is complete.
Making Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig Tweaks
If an area or areas of the bowl gouge sharpening are not being ground and sharpened, tweaks need to be made to the V-arm distance or the leg extension angle.
Take your time and make a note of the best final result. Depending on how the original angle was created, an exact match may be impossible.
If the angle doesn’t match perfectly, merely grind a bit longer until all of the bevel is smooth and newly sharpened along the whole top cutting edge from the wing, across the nose, and up the other side.
There’s no need to grind the whole bevel down initially. This will only waste metal and reduce the life of the bowl gouge.
Only a clean bevel at the cutting edge is needed. Because this system is so consistent, using these same noted settings with each sharpening will eventually create a fully ground and smooth bevel, if it doesn’t appear at first.
Creating a New Bowl Gouge Sharpening Angle
A protractor is a critical measuring tool needed for this process and for checking the bevel angle of all bowl gouges. Here is a link to the protractor I use.
Place the base of the half circle of the protractor in the flute of the bowl gouge and rotate the arm to determine the current bevel angle.
Then dial in the desired bevel angle and tighten the thumb screw. Look at the gap in the bowl gouge sharpening bevel angle. Bowl gouge material will need to be removed to make this new angle.
Dial in the amount of side bevel wing desired with the first mark being the least and third or fourth marks being far swept side wings.
Position the leg extension of the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig in the pocket of the V-arm and slide the gouge bevel up to the grinder wheel, with the grinder off.
Visualize the material that needs to be removed to get to the desired final bevel angle. Position the bowl gouge so that material is first contacting the grinding wheel.
Grind until the desired angle is achieved. Note that you may need to stop occasionally and readjust the extension distance of the V-arm as more material is removed.
Specific Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig Angle Settings
If you’ve read other articles of mine you know I’m a proponent of “do what works for you.” I reject any notion that only one bevel angle is the “correct” bevel angle that must be used.
Please read my article about which bowl gouge angle is best, and you will get the whole picture. It is incredibly important to understand why and how each bowl gouge bevel angle will affect your wood bowl turning.
With all that being said, I will share with you how I sharpen my bowl gouges and why. Again, this is how I do it, you have no obligation to sharpen your bowl gouges the same way.
Do what works best for you. Look at this as a guide and a way to understand how the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig works.
1. 55° Traditional or “Roughing” Bowl Gouge
Don’t let the name, roughing bowl gouge, fool you. This is a traditional bowl gouge and not a standard “roughing gouge.” I use this bowl gouge configuration to “rough out” or remove large amounts of material, hence the name.
I prefer swept back angles that serve various purposes from removing lots of material quickly to creating scraping and shear-scraping finishing cuts.
This particular configuration is a great all-purpose bowl gouge bevel angle. Actually, a large and medium version of bowl gouges with this grind is all that is needed to turn an entire bowl.
To get the 55° swept back grind, I set the extension leg of the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig to the third position, and I slide the V-arm up to the grinding wheel until my existing 55° bowl gouge face bevel is flush with the grinding wheel.
2. 45° Finishing Bowl Gouge
The finishing bowl gouge is what you might think, the final tool to make the last cuts of the bowl. I reserve this tool for only the last couple passes which keeps its cutting edge and bevel fresh and ready.
To achieve the 45° finishing bowl gouge angle, I set the extension leg to the second mark and lock down the thumb screw. Slide the V-arm up to make the 45° front bevel flush with the wheel and begin sharpening the bevel edge.
3. 65° Micro Bevel Bowl Gouge
Micro-bevel bowl gouge, or sometimes called “bottom-feeder” is ideally suited for deep bowls or rims that curve over the top.
More traditional angles like 45° and 55° require a wider opening for the tool handle to maintain bevel support. Tilted in rims or deep bowls don’t allow traditional bevel grinds access.
The superpower of the micro-bevel bowl gouge is the ability to work in tight spaces. If you’d like to learn more, check out this article specifically about the Micro Bevel Bowl Gouge.
For the micro bevel bowl gouge, the leg extension is set to the first position, and the V-arm again slides forward until the face bevel is flush with the grinding wheel.
The bevel width of the micro-bevel gouge is somewhat narrow, and that’s okay. I remove multiple passes of the heel to help this tool access tight steeper angled areas.
Bowl Gouge Heel Removal
With each bowl gouge angle described above, I will usually remove some of the heel to make the tool more flexible and easier to turn tighter curves.
If the heel is left intact it can, at times, get in the way and make undesirable burnish marks on the wood that would otherwise turn perfectly smooth.
To remove or reduce the heel area, merely slide the V-arm forward until just the heel is in contact with the grinding wheel. There’s no need for precise measurements here.
Rock the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig left and right until a smooth curve replaces the harder angle of the heel.
Controlling the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig
While using the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig, I stand to the side of the grinding wheel and hold the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig with both hands.
In this position, I’m out of the way of the bowl gouge handle as it turns freely in the air. I never use the handle of the tool while sharpening. All control and attention needs to be focused at the bowl gouge tip.
It’s important to make sure the gouge is always as close to the center of the sharpening wheel as possible. If the gouge tip or jig slip off the edge of the wheel, the gouge can be pulled down violently and potentially cause damage.
Use fluid motions to grind away material evenly as you rotate the tool from left wing across the nose and over to the other wing.
Continue making light sharpening passes until the top cutting edge of the bevel is clean and smooth all the way around the bowl gouge tip.
Easy Does It
Make easy passes and don’t force the tool into the grinding wheel. Let the wheel do the work.
If many passes are needed to get the tool shape desired, stop frequently and quench the tooltip in a container of water, so it does not overheat.
Discolored metal on the tooltip is not only ugly, but it’s also an indication that the integrity of the metal has been compromised.
Take your time, don’t press, and keep the tip cool.
Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig Pitfalls
The Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig will not do all the work for us. We still need to apply a smooth even grind to the bowl gouge while using the jig.
If too much time is spent on the wings, an enlarged nose might appear. If too much time is spent on the nose, high walled wings may result.
Even sharpening is the key.
Occasionally a fluid motion will be interrupted, and the gouge tip might stay in one area a bit too long causing a flat spot.
If this is true, more time will be required removing material from the other areas to even out the overall cutting edge.
Make Life Simpler
Once you have established the Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig settings for your particular bowl gouge(s) record the information.
I actually note the bevel angle and Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig setting on the ferrule of the bowl gouge. This way I don’t have to guess if my settings are correct when I go to the grinder to sharpen the next time.
To learn more about the process I use to sharpen my bowl gouges, read this article next.
Remember, once the bevel angle is established, the whole process of sharpening the bowl gouge should only take a few seconds, and a couple passes back and forth.
The ultimate goal, once a bevel angle is acquired, is to reestablish a sharp cutting edge, not grind metal away.
The Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig is an investment that will quickly pay off in saved bowl gouge metal and reduced frustration by maintaining consistent sharpening experiences.
Let me know if you use the Oneway Wolverine Vari-Grind Jig in your gouge sharpening workflow. If you do, what would you add to this conversation? Please leave me a comment below.
If you’re looking to learn more about Bowl Gouge Basics, see this article next.
Thanks and Happy Turning!
PS – How would you like to help me out and make this site even more useful? Leave a comment below and let me know what you would like to know more about when it comes to wood bowl turning.
Check out these other informative articles:
• VARI-GRIND JIG SETUP ONEWAY WOLVERINE SHARPENING SYSTEM
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING TECHNIQUES STEP BY STEP
• BOWL GOUGE SHARPENING ANGLES – SURPRISE ANSWER
• HOW TO SHAPE A NEW BOWL GOUGE PROFILE
Hi Ken. I use the Raptor set up tools with the Wolverine system. There is no 55 degree angle. I’ve been using 60 degrees. Will this work well as an equivalent to 55 degree swept back bowl gouge? Will it work well for the shear scrape cut on the outside of the bowl? I could try the 50 degree set up tool instead. I like the Raptor system since it’s easy to setup and consistent. Thanks!
Thank you for writing and sharing!
If you’re using the tool and it works for you, then yes, it’s fine. 60° is very similar to the 55° and you shouldn’t notice too much difference. You’ll be able to receive the bottom of bowl a bit better with he 60°.
All the best to you and Happy Turning!
I have a small (8″) lathe and new to turning – what a blast! Due to the small bowls at first, I am having issues getting to “ride the bevel” at the bottom of the bowl. would a 1/2″ gouge with the 60 deg. micro work better? Your articles and videos have been and continue to be the best.
Thank you for the new hobby.
Thank you for writing and sharing! Great question.
A micro bevel can be tricky at times. Instead, I’d recommend using your regular bowl gouge but grind the heel back so you can turn those tighter radii. Check out this video > https://youtu.be/t6LOqcngeOM
All the best to you and Happy Turning!
Thanks Kent, before getting your download I tried another sharpening technique that I seen on YouTube. the settings were 65o and the 5th notch. Unfortunately I wound up grinding away a lot of the gouge and no matter how I tried I couldn’t keep the nose from looking like an ice pick, which I knew wouldn’t work. After viewing your suggestions I took your suggestions and produced a swept back gouge that made me happy and works beautifully. Thank you very much. My next project will be the Micro bevel as soon as I can buy the 5/8″ gouge.
Fantastic! So glad you were about to get a good working profile that you like.
All the best to you and Happy Turning!
Have you experimented with the vary grind leg angle 5,6, or 7 with regards to the wings.
I have not, but I guess you could use that range possibly for detail spindle gouges, as long as the bevel is up near the top of the wheel. I would never use those settings with a tool that is sharpening near the center (90°) point of the wheel. There would be little or no support against a catch and the tool could easily be slammed downward.
I have more of a question than a comment. I do enjoy your teaching ability, you have taught me a lot.
In this article you are changing the angle of the nose or cutting surface of your gouge by adjusting the setting of the extension leg. For a 55Deg nose you set the leg at #3 , then for a 45 Deg nose you set the leg at #2 which makes sense to me the leg is closer to the shank of the tool decreasing the angle. But then to get a 65 deg nose you move the leg to #1 position which is closer to the shank than #3 55 Deg or #2 45 Deg position but making an increased angle on the nose? I must be missing something.
Please explain this to a novice.
Thank you a gain for teaching the world how to turn a bowl and keep your tools sharp.
Great question. The nose bevel angle is controlled by the in and out position of the V-arm. The Vari-grind jig leg angle controls the amount of wings on the bowl gouge. I usually use a #3 or #4 position for my swept-back bowl gouge which makes the wings long and swept back. The micro-bevel, on the other hand, is sharpened on the #1 leg position and has a bevel that wraps around the edge of the flute and does not have swept-back wings. Hopefully that helps a bit.
Hello, Kent! It’s hard to overstate my appreciation for you and your excellent resources!
Do your setting recommendations for the Vari-grind also apply to the Vari-grind 2? Also, does your sharpening e-course include the Vari-grind 2?
Thank you very much!
Yes, the settings are the same. But do not switch jigs on a gouge, as the profile might change a touch.
great review, i have an unrelated question about your lathe. You have the sweet 16 and i am looking to get either the American beauty or the sweet 16. My concern is the ability to use a bowl stead rest for large bowl. Are you able to use a bowl steady rest on the sweet 16 with rail removed for large bowl?
That’s a good question. I do not use a steady rest nor would I for bowl turning. Perhaps a steady rest would be appropriate for a longer hollow form turning, but not bowls. If this is something you want to use, I think the American Beauty might be your answer because of the taller swing.
Many thanks, Kent. I have recently set up the Vari-Grind and have been experimenting on how best to shape some old gouges I received in conjunction with a second hand lathe I bought. I am very pleased to have come across your above article before spending more time “experimenting”. This is because, I strongly believe, your instructions will provide me with a much shorter learning route to better shape and sharpen my gouges. Like Randy, I’ll appreciate additional videos to assist understanding/comprehension.
Thank you for the comment.
I’m glad to hear you embrace experimenting. I feel it’s so important to explore various options and ideas.
And yes, I will have videos coming soon to enhance content throughout my site. Stay tuned!
Great article. One of the firsts I can find that properly adresses the angles of the vari grind jig. I have to questions.
What is the difference, when it comes to sharpening, between the iris and ellsworth grinds. Vari grind angles?
And how do you sharpen a spindle gouge and what angles works for what applications for the spindle gouge. I rarely see an article on spindle gouge sharpening.
I am a beginner turner trying to find my own feet. Thank you
Thanks for the comment and great questions.
The Irish and Ellsworth grinds are very similar. The Ellsworth grind is a bit longer-winged and the wings have a slight convex curve to them.
Sharpening a spindle gouge is an elusive topic. You are right! Perhaps, I need to do an article on that subject. I think it is elusive because there are a few ways to go about sharpening a spindle gouge.
I use a detail (or longer, more pointed) spindle gouge to undercut my dovetail angles on my tenons. To get that steep angle grind, I sharpen the gouge by hand, making a long “U” shaped move freehand on the sharpening wheel.
There are turners that use the Oneway sharpening system to grind the main bevel on a spindle gouge.
It seems there are many different custom shapes possible when sharpening a spindle gouge. But the main principle that the bevel needs to be clean and smooth right up to the top cutting edge applies to every different style.
Let me know if that helps.
I have been turning for over 50 years. The first half of that time was ‘on demand’, or rather ‘as needed’, with my fathers carbon steel tools and the last half for my personal enjoyment and some monetary gain. I have systematically upgraded my systems and processes using the best technology and techniques available. I, of course, had to wade through a quagmire of information…mostly opinions…and a lot of technology that I had to assimilate. I have attended countless classes with professionals and have finally, over time, begun to realize that I had developed my own ‘style’. I have only recently discovered your…I suppose it is called a blog these days…and find it totally validating. Your explanations simplify a lot of technical information so that the average person can understand. Bravo to you…!! The only caveat to this accolade, that I have found thus far, is that under “Take it Easy” (above) you advocate cooling your grind in water. In other articles you caution against that practice with HSS…which I agree with. Thanks for making woodturning understandable in such a congenial manner.
Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words. I especially appreciate your insight based on your turning experience and background.
I also found it difficult to wade through that “quagmire” (perfect term) when I began learning to turn. That is why I put the time into this site to make everything as clear as possible for as many as possible.
Cooling tools at the sharpening station is one of those “quagmire” areas where you can find lots of people with lots of opinions. I want to write an article about the subject, but finding definitive information is difficult. Even tool manufacturers, that I have contacted have varying ideas. What I’ve found so far seems to say that it’s ok to cool the tool metal if it has not discolored, or overheated. However, if the tool discolors, the colored area should be ground off. So, going slow and easy, letting the tool periodically cool naturally is really the best way that I’ve found so far.
Thanks again for the kind words and please share this site with others.
It would be nice to know for sure which bevel angle is optimum for what part of the bowl. For instance a 40 degree angle might be optimum for the push cut from the bowl edge down the inside of the bowl since it would position the tool handle roughly parallel to the lathe bed assuming a 5 to 10 degree bowl side taper. Would a 40 degree bevel facilitate use of the tailstock without interference with the the tool handle when push cutting the bowl side compared to a greater degree tool bevel? The 55 degree might be optimum for the curve between the inner side and the inside bottom of the bowl and the 65 degree bevel might be best for the inside bottom of the bowl.
Does it matter what bevel is used on your shearing bowl gouge? I understand how a longer slightly convex sweep might be optimum for shearing cuts outside the bowl. What is the optimum tool/method for a smooth cut inside the bowl? Would that be a negative rake scrapper tilted for a shear cut? Can the bowl gouge be used for shearing inside the bowl by using a high angle closed tool pull of some sort?
When rough turning green wood is it typical to leave a spigot big enough to be captured by your chuck after shrinkage in the center inside bowl? If not, what’s the best way to drive the bowl after drying so that the bottom spigot or recess can be rounded true again? A round jam chuck would touch on only two sides of the dried bowl due to shrinkage.
Thanks a lot for all your instructions; they are most helpful.
Thanks for leaving a comment.
Wow, ok let me see if I can tackle all these questions.
First off, the bevel angle is a personal preference, but some physics do start taking over at times. Read this article – Bowl Gouge Sharpening Angle for starters.
I usually turn with a 55° bevel gouge for 99% of my bowl turnings. I will use a Micro Bevel bowl gouge for deep bowls or inset inward tilted rims.
You really want a sweptback winged bowl gouge to execute shear scraping passes. Read this article about Shear Scraping. There is an infographic which illustrates which gouges work best for shear scraping.
Inside a bowl, I typically make push cuts from the rim to the bottom with my 55° bowl gouge. Occasionally I need to fine-tune an inside curve with a Round Nose Scraper, see this article. Shearing with a bowl gouge can be done very carefully near the rim, but too far inside the bowl and you’re likely going to get a nasty catch.
Green wood twice-turning does require you to make the tenon oversized initially. When the first rough turned piece dries, then you can turn a true tenon to the correct size and continue finishing the bowl. I use a plywood plate with padding to brace the twice turned bowl during the second turning. I have a detailed article on twice turning coming out soon. Stay tuned.
Thanks again and Happy Turning,
Great tutorial – KUDOs!
Question, when reshaping a bowl gouge does the top angle (from above the top sides of the flute to the tip) get ground separately to form the slope or does this happen naturally as a function of sharpening the wings? I’ve seen a couple of videos where people have ground the top slope first (creating a thick U when viewed from above) and then used the vari-grind to sharpen the wings until the wings thin to form a cutting edge. My concern is that I have not seen a guide include this as a step, so I wonder if sharpening the wings simply results in this happening naturally.
Thanks for the comment and compliment!
Yes, you are spot on. The best way to grind the top back first is to match the angle you desire of another gouge you have on hand. Making that top grind first reduces the amount of grinding needed for the sides. If you decide not to grind the top, the sides will naturally form but they will take a bit longer.
I’m planning on making an article about shaping a new bowl gouge and I’ll be covering this very topic. Stay tuned.
I’ve never seen a better explanation of how to ue the Vari-grind. Clear and concise. HOWEVER, a few videos, showing the motions to ue when “rolling/sharpening” would be extremely helpful.
Thank you, Randy! I agree about the need for a video and I will be producing such a video. As they say, stay tuned.
Probably the best explanation I’ve seen yet. Thanks