6 Must Have Basic Woodturning Tools and Their Uses

Woodturning as a creative hobby is quite satisfying and rewarding. With the use of suitable woodturning tools and equipments one can churn a number of decorative and functions items from wood. The possibilities can be numerous, right from bowls, vases, boxes, platters, to various types of hollow forms, utensils, etc. If you are a woodturning enthusiast and want to know about the basic woodturning tools that you must have to pursue this creative craft, then this article will prove to be very helpful to you.

complete set of woodturning tools
High quality set of woodturning tools.

Before we start with our list of basic woodturning tools, here is one advice that we would like to give you to all aspiring woodturners. You should always buy good quality equipments and tools for this craft. Read the specifications carefully before making a purchase. Tools and machines of good quality lasts for decades and provides one with uninterrupted service which cannot be matched by tools made of inferior material.

The first thing you will need for woodturning is a good quality lathe. There are a number of factors that you need to consider when buying a lathe. Firstly, choose one that has components and bedway made of cast iron. This will reduce the vibrations when working and will ensure accuracy and stability. A powerful motor, variable electronic speed, proper alignment of the two centers, a hollow tailstock and an integrated spindle lock and indexing system are some of the features that should be considered.

Once you have bought a high quality lathe for woodturning, it is time to concentrate on the woodturning tools. When it comes to the basic tools that you need to get started there are these six tools that every woodturner should have: 3/4″ spindle roughing gouge, 3/4″ skew chisel, 3/8″ spindle gouge, 3/8″ bowl gouge, 1/2″ round nose scraper and 1/8″ parting tool.

Choose high speed steel (HSS) woodturning tools, as they have as much as six times the edge life than normal carbon steel tools. Tools of inferior quality lose their edge quickly and can cause injury to the woodturner. We would also advise beginners to not buy second hand tools as they are likely to have blunt edges and will need to be re-ground to their original profile. That can be a difficult task to execute without proper sharpening tools.

The basic woodturning tools mentioned above are a better value when purchased in a set. You can add more tools to your tool kit as you undertake more complex turning projects.

Let’s discuss in brief the basic woodturning tools along with their uses:

Spindle Roughing Gouge: This tool is used for transforming spindle blanks from square to round. This tool is straight and deep-fluted, and features a square tip and a broad cutting surface. When working with this tool approach the work piece with the flute side facing up and the cutting side elevated from the handle. The bevel on the tip should contact the work piece before the cutting edge. Once the gauge rubs the work piece, raise the handle so that the cutting begins. Typically, the center of the work piece is worked on first before moving towards the ends. You can adjust the depth of the cut by lowering or raising the handle.

Skew Chisel: This is a flat bladed tool characterized by bevels on both side of its angular tip. It is used to give a fine finish on the spindle work. Typical uses include cleaning the end of grains of spindle, making shallow curves, v cuts, pummels and beads.  The cutting edge should meet the stock to be worked on at an angle of 45 degrees, quite above the centerline. Typically, you should always cut at one end of the stock and move towards the other end.

overview of chisel shapes
overview of chisel shapes

Spindle Gauge:  This tool is characterized by a round blade and a shallow flute. The tip of the blade has a rounded profile and a beveled edge. This woodturning tool is also known to many as the shallow flute gauge. Typically used for shaping and detailing work on the stock. One can create coves, beads and other profiles with it. This is also a bevel-rubbing tool and is presented to the stock slightly above the centerline. This tool should always cut downhill, that is first the highest point, then the lowest one and work out towards each end.

Bowl Gauge: This woodturning tool has a deep fluted blade and the tip is typically rounded or sharply pointed. Just like other gouges, the bevel of the tool should touch the stock first followed by the cutting edge. The tool is then rotated in the direction of the cut and pushed to shape the wood. They are also known as deep flute gouges and are used for initial shaping of bowls, faceplate work, etc. They are also used to create massive profiles and also for delicate finishing work.

Parting Tool: The blade of this tool is typically straight and narrow, and is characterized by steep chisel point and faceted faces. It is generally used to remove the waste material from the finished product and also to add details like fillets and beads. It is also useful to cut spigots that can be fitted into a chunk.

Roundnose scraper: The blade of this woodturning tool is typically flat with a rounded, beveled tip. It is used to give a finishing touch on bowls and other spindle work, and for creating smooth flowing curves.

So, now you know the basic six woodturning tools that should get you started in wood turning. There are numerous types of other fancy turning tools available, but in the beginning don’t bother about them too much. You can create most of the things with just the basic tools discussed above. If you need to try newer tools, read about that particular tool’s uses first before giving in the temptation to buy it. This way you can ensure that you buy only those turning tools that you will need. Lastly, another piece of advice – always ensure that you hold the tool handle firmly and plant the tool blade on the rest before the cutting edge make contact with the wood. Failing to adhere to this rule can made the spinning work piece throw the tip down and the handle upwards causing undesirable accidents.

Scroll to Top