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.
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