Professionals and Amateurs Together

Sharpening Turning Gouges


I’ve tried several approaches to sharpening a turning gouge – all with poor results. I’ve tried grinding free hand, polishing on a buffer, and honing on a flat surface. I’m looking for the equivalent of a consistent factory grind but with a razor sharp edge. What is the best way to do this? – Ed.


Al Breed replies: For my turning tools, I freehand them on the grinder and then use a 1000 grit waterstone held in my hand while the tool rests on the edge of the bench. I push the stone away from the handle along the edge with a rolling-sliding motion. A slight touch with a slipstone and a quick stropping does it from there. A shiny edge does not mean a sharp edge – so buffing a lot won’t make it extra sharp.

If you cut very high at the point of least resistance your tools will stay sharp longer. Any scraping with a gouge will kill it quick.

Jon Siegel replies: The November 27th meeting of the Granite State Woodturners will be entirely dedicated (two hrs.) to a discussion of sharpening woodturning chisels. A panel of four experts (at least) will make presentations on tool point geometry and sharpening of gouges and other turning tools. The meeting will be at Peter Bloch’s shop in New London at 9:00 am. The meeting will be videotaped. If you are not already on the GSWT list and you want to get email notification of the meeting (and directions) contact me at

Tags: Sharpening, Tools, Woodturning