Understanding a Starter Set of Lathe Chisels

Duration: 10:16

Are you ready to buy your first set of lathe chisels? Do you need a gouge, scraper, or parting tool? Or all of the above? Here’s some great buying advice that will help you choose your chisels. In addition to learning what chisels you need, you’ll see how the chisels are used.

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17 Responses to “Understanding a Starter Set of Lathe Chisels”
  1. Randy Welters
    Randy Welters

    Thanks George, I just bot a lathe so after a few decades since my last turn I enjoyed your bit of a refresher As always, your videos get us back in the shop.

  2. Dan DeBruler
    Dan DeBruler

    Thanks for a great refresher.
    I’m a Premium Member of WWGOA, but I still appreciate all the free info you provide woodworkers to keep them safe and productive.

  3. Justin Shields
    Justin Shields

    Thanks for the video, I’m right in that boat of needing to buy some lathe chisels. I guess the only thing I’m still confused about is the difference between the roughing gouge and the large spindle gouge. You said that you can use the spindle gouge, but I might have missed the advantage of using the roughing gouge instead. Thanks again for the info 🙂

    • George Vondriska
      George Vondriska

      The roughing gouge will take a spindle from square to round faster than a large spindle gouge, and leave a little better result behind.


  4. Thomas

    Hi, I am new to wood carving. Could you please tell me what is the name of the equipment you used for spinning the wood? Cheers

    • WWGOA Team
      WWGOA Team

      The tool that you are referring to is called a wood lathe. Woodturning is generally considered a woodworking discipline that is related to, but different from carving. With traditional carving, the wood is held stationary while using carving tools to shape the wood. With woodturning, the wood is spinning and the chisel is held stationary.

  5. stormrider54

    It is my understanding that whenever you purchase a set of lathe chisels they are not ready to be used as you must sharpen them and hone them first. I also understand that when you sharpen them you grind the chisel to your desired angle, 60deg, 45 deg, or whatever. What do you consider to be a good angle for beginners? I figured that I would start off with pen building then moving on to bowls etc. Do bowls etc. require a different set of chisels? Please elaborate, thanks.

    • WWGOA Team
      WWGOA Team

      Great question. Yes, it is common that new lathe chisels are not ground to a very effective angle, and you might choose to modify to suit your preferences. If you need to make significant changes to the shape, do this slowly with a coarse grit (60-80 grit), and dip the chisel frequently into water to prevent it from being scorched. I suggest starting out with a 45 degree angle, and after you have some experience you might choose to modify from there. For bowl turning it is nice to have gouge with a more heavily tapered angle (60-70 degrees) so that you can more easily make the transition from the side to the bottom of the bowl, which is a common place for the gouge to catch. For that application you can also experiment with swept back wings (Irish grind).
      Yes, there are gouges that are specifically designed for bowls and others for spindles. Bowl gouges typically have heavier shanks and deeper flutes, which helps you take a heavier cut on green wood. Typically (but not always) the manufacturer will provide labels for each tool in a set that indicate whether it is a spindle gouge or a bowl gouge. The set that George showed here was specifically for spindle work, but other sets include both bowl and spindle tools. Here is one example that I pulled at random (I have no experience with this set):

      If you look at the two gouges on the left, one is listed as a 1/2″ bowl gouge, and the one to its immediate right is a 3/8″ spindle gouge. Notice the thicker and longer shank on the bowl gouge? That is because the bowl gouge will be under greater stress and needs to be beefier, and the additional length is necessary for reaching inside of a bowl. It would be a bad idea to use a spindle gouge on bowls as it could bend or snap the tool.


    Hi George. Speed! New to turning. What speed should we start out at? Especially related to this vid? Also, How can I add this to my youtube list? This is a great way to practice starting out with the tools. Tyvm. Great vid.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey Michael,

      Our expert, Paul has some tips for you!

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your question. Page 11 of this manual provides a good reference for lathe speed. The best advice is to not exceed the limits that are defined here, but also, do not work outside of your comfort zone. Slower is safer.
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