Gouge Error

I set up a little workshop here initially for practical reasons, house renovation. But I’ve always enjoyed playing with wood, especially carving. When I saw a lathe in a local shop at a very low price, I jumped at the chance. Ok, a cheap Chinese thing, but good enough for occasional use. That would have been about 15 years ago I guess.

I got a set of gouges, Record Power – cheap, but proper Sheffield steel things. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m guessing I got them on a visit to the UK, there was a shop called Craft Supplies just down the hill from my mother.

At some point later I also picked up a chunky roughing out gouge and an unusual skew, it has a curved cross-section.

Since then I’ve made a handful of things, but never really mastered the technique. One reason for that would have been an early misunderstanding concerning these two:

From what I’d read, I’d taken the upper, wider one to be a bowl gouge and the other a spindle gouge. Used them as named, with probably a lot more failure than was appropriate. Other views:

Last night I got a good random YouTube recommendation, Understanding Woodturning Catches. The suspicion gradually grew that I’d identified the purpose of these two exactly wrong.

When sharpening them I’d just followed the shape as they’d come from the factory. But today, a load of reading/viewing around later, I’ve sharpened them again, bearing my mistake in mind. Record themselves have a few videos online covering sharpening – for both bowl & spindle gouges they say the same, just go round at 45°. When I did this, right away their shapes started changing. The bowl gouge not much, but the spindle gouge took on a different profile:

The spindle one looks a lot more like the pointy-fingernail style I’d seen in the catches video. I’ve yet to try them in their swapped roles, but suspect this’ll save quite a bit of grief in future.

What is pleasing about woodturning though is that even if you do make a mistake, have a big catch or whatever, it’s often possible to recover, and you can get pretty good results from bad technique (eventually).

I’ve given away most of the things I’ve made, but on the shelf I still had this:

Call it a chalice. Was from a very rough lump of old chestnut. I like all the flaws, and the colour chestnut takes on over time just with oil and/or wax finish is delicious.

I’ve also got this bowl, which I’ve a funny feeling I made long before I got the lathe, using a crummy jig on a hand drill.

I really like the result of carving-on-turning, the mix of symmetry & not. That I think was from a block of apple wood I got from Craft Supplies, carved in the cellar of the house in Buxton 20+ years ago. Still the best thing I’ve made.

Going back to the lathe, it does get quite a bit of use for another purpose – disc sander.


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