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Roughing Gouge on Faceplate


I’ve read that one should never use a roughing gouge on faceplate turning. While I can understand that turning the inside of a bowl might result in ugly catches, what is wrong with turning convex surfaces on faceplate turnings with a roughing gouge?—Tony Imorllica


Ron Pouliot replies: Turning any faceplate items with a roughing gouge will result in a bent roughing gouge. This is because the roughing gouge has essentially a flat tine in the handle and this tine doesn’t have any strength. Faceplate turnings use bowl gouges which are made with round solid steel which makes them much stronger when turning end grain which is what you encounter in faceplate turning. One other point to make here is that the size of gouges for faceplate turning are different from spindle turning. In spindle turning, the size is measured by the dimension of the steel rod used to create the gouge whereas bowl gouge size is determined by the distance between the flutes of the gouge. And finally, bowl gouges are longer than spindle gouges to give you more leverage when encountering end grain.

Jon Siegel replies: I can answer your question in four words: It is too big.

Ken Keoughan replies: I’ll answer a question with a question. Why not use a monkey wrench to pound nails? Because the hammer was designed to pound nails. The monkey wrench wasn’t. That’s why the hammer works better in the nail pounding department.

Similarly the roughing gouge is designed to cut at a 45° angle in the direction of the wood fibers. It’s great for that. Slices them right up.

The bowl gouge, regardless of grind, is designed for work on the inside and outside of bowls. It cuts and shapes the outside cleanly and easily, even though it’s traveling with the grain and across the grain twice with each revolution of the bowl blank. With its 65° +/- bevel angle, it turns the cutting from rim to center on the inside cleanly and smoothly. It was designed for bowl turning.

Yes, you can probably fashion the outside of a bowl with a “spindle roughing gouge”—a term recently adopted by the American Association of Woodturners. But if you give a bowl gouge a chance and practice with it a little, I think you’ll agree it is better for bowls.

Tags: Tools, Woodturning