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Catches When Cutting the Inside of Bowls


When using Easy Wood or similar lathe tools on the inside of bowls, horrible and severe catches can occur when the tool handle is rotated from flat to any angle. Why does this happen when the actual cutting surface will be at the identical angle of cut?—Annamarie Pennucci


Donna Banfield replies: There is nothing similar in comparing the Easy Wood tools to other lathe tools in the way they cut or the way they are used. Easy Wood tools are carbide cutters. They are designed to remove wood easily and rapidly. They are scrapers. Scrapers are designed to be used flat on the tool rest. If you rotate the handle of the Easy Wood tool so that the scraper is at an angle, you will probably get a catch because the bar that holds the Easy Wood scraper is square stock and you have presented the cutter edge to the wood with no bevel support. It is not intended to be used in any manner other than flat on the tool rest.

The Hunter Tools, also a carbide cutter, can be used as either a scraper or a cutting tool. That’s because the bar that holds the Hunter carbide cutter is round stock, and the Hunter Carbide Cutter is also round. The location of the cutter when held in the Hunter Handle allows you to present the tool with a bevel support from the handle. This allows you to get smooth cuts. It can be rotated to position the cutter at an angle, changing it from a scraper to a cutter. At an angle, the cutting edge is coming across the surface of the wood at a 45° angle making sheer cuts. Hunter Tools in bowl turning are best used as finishing tools taking light cuts.

Other lathe tools (a gouge for example) can be used as bevel supported tools and perform well when the bevels are making contact with the surface of the wood. The bevel supports the cutting edge, giving you a cleanly cut surface and no catch. When catches happen, it is usually because the cutting edge no longer has the bevel to support it.

Think about what would happen if you stuck the long straight edge of your pocket knife flat (or horizontally) lengthwise into the spinning edge of the wood. You would get the monster of all catches. That’s an exaggerated example of what happens with a gouge when it comes off the bevel.

A gouge can also be used as a scraper when laying the cutting edge on its side, or horizontally on the tool rest. This will remove wood, but will not give you a clean, smooth surface on most woods.

A better method is to hold the tool so that the handle is vertical, and the cutting edge making contact with the wood is the back, or trailing edge. The flute of the gouge is closed, facing the bowl, and the pressure is applied on the tool shaft and against the tool rest, not the cutting edge.

When you are doing this cut correctly, the shavings coming off the tool are fine thin floating wisps, sometimes referred to as ‘Angel Hair.’ This cut only works on the exterior of bowl, but is very effective in dealing with punky woods or challenging tear out across the end grain.

Tags: Bowl, Woodturning