I believe you will agree with me when I say:
You can’t talk about the best woodturning tool without mentioning the good old bowl gouge.
Along with wood lathes, these nifty tools are the most essential of all bowl turning tools, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and grinds.
Whether you turn bowls for a living or you’re just a bowl turning hobbyist, there’s always a bowl gouge specifically tailored to your needs.
But the most important question is:
Which is the best bowl gouge for the money?
How do you find the best bowl gouge that does a neat bowl turning job without putting a dent in your wallet?
In this post, we are going to show you exactly how and leave you our top choices of the best yet affordable bowl gouges. Here we go...
Top Bowl Gouges
2. Hurricane’s M2 Cryogenic
Set of (1/2", 3/8" & 5/8")
3. Robert Sorby 1/2
4. 3/4" Robert Sorby
5. Carter and Son Tool's 5/8
Tips on bowl gouge sharpening
Table Of Contents
5 BEST BOWL GOUGE - REVIEWS
1. Hurricane Turning - The Best Value For The Money (Set)
Our thought: The affordable bowl turning Superstar...
The Hurricane woodturning three-piece bowl gouge set has some affordable, sturdy, and durable bowl gouges.
Naturally, it’s our top pick for the best bowl gouge for the money.
Let’s introduce the best affordable bowl gouge: the Hurricane woodturning three-piece bowl gouge set.
This decent bowl gouge set has three separate bowl gouges: the 1/4" Bowl Gouge, the 3/8" Bowl Gouge, and the 1/2" Bowl Gouge. So, why do we think this particular bowl gouge deserves the top slot?
- Great value for the money
- Sturdy steel that takes a good edge
- Long handles
- A good starter set
Many professional turners swear by this bowl turning set from Hurricane but here’s why we loved this particular set:
Sharpen many times:
The bowl gouges pack sufficient flute.
What does this mean?
This allows you to sharpen the flute to your preferences now and again without worrying about the flute wearing out.
This set will last long:
What makes this possible?
The gouge shank material is M2 High-Speed Steel. This makes it sturdy and can last eight times longer than the average carbon steel.
As a novice turner, you’re probably looking for an affordable bowl gouge turner that’s easy to use.
This Hurricane three-piece set may be just the right fit for you.
Hurricane backs up an affordable bowl gouge with relative ease of use. The solid ash handles can be as long as 16 inches to make turning easy and comfortable even for a total beginner.
The steel holds a good edge:
Remember the material that makes up these bowl gouges?
The M2 High-Speed Steel not only enhances durability but also allows the gouges to take a good edge.
What does this mean to you as a turner?
No matter how complex your bowl turning is, you can get smooth, even cuts and fine finishes with relative ease.
Excellent customer service:
Dealing with the Woodturning store is a great experience.
You can call and get through to the store owner if you need any clarification on tool usage.
Now that we’ve looked at what makes this particular set rock, does it have any skeletons?
The gouges aren’t turning-ready straight out of the package:
Most beginner turners may think that the bowl gouges are ready for the job right out of the box.
The truth is, you may have to attach your typical grind or sharpen the grind to your preferred edge.
They aren’t the most attractive bowl gouges ever made:
If superior aesthetics is something your go-to bowl gouge must have, then I’m sorry to disappoint you.
This set may not have an attractive finish on the handles. But still, you can use a sander and scrub the handles to shine.
further read On woodturning
2. Hurricane’s M2 Cryogenic -The high end bowl gouge set
Our thought: The Cryo Master of bowl gouges -
Compared to the other bowl gouges in this list, this Hurricane M2 Cryo set is a tear-resistant sturdy bowl gouge set that gets the job done.
Remember when I said that the most cost-effective way to buy turning tools is to get a set?
It turns out these high-quality M2 Cryogenic bowl gouging tools also come in a set.
This set is a three-piece bowl gouge set that contains: 3/8" (1/4" Flute), 1/2" (3/8" Flute), and 5/8" (1/2" Flute) bowl gouges.
Unlike our top pick above that are made of High-Speed Steel, these bowl gouges are made of M2 HSS Cryogenic.
These bowl gouges hold a better edge than the HSS gouges, are more durable, and may outlive the M2 HSS bowl gouges.
Here’s why this particular bowl gouge set is also great for the money:
Holds an edge longer and better:
Frankly, of all bowl gouges in this list, this set stands out in terms of holding an edge.
The bowl gouges keep an edge twice as long as other gouges. What this means for you, whether you’re a turning professional or an amateur, is that you’ll be getting finer turnings and nicer finishes.
Comfortable and confident bowl turning:
I think you will agree with me when I say:
The longer the bowl gouge handle, the better the bowl turning experience.
This set gives you precisely that: relatively longer handles and gouge shanks for comfort and confidence.
Sharp edges with relative sharpening ease:
Each bowl gouge in the set comes equipped with sharp edges that hold better for hitch-free turning.
What’s more, sharpening the edge is easier, allowing you to turn your bowls with ease.
Improved resistance against wear:
Are you wondering what this cryogenic stuff means?
It’s a technology that subjects metals to freezing temperatures to improve resistance. This particular bowl gouge set is made from cryogenically treated M2 HSS metal.
This means that it has three times more resistance against tear as compared to normal M2 HSS metal bowl gouges.
Flaw: Achieving a 40/40 grind is harder
While the M2 Cryo metal is some pretty sturdy material, it has its downsides. Achieving the favorite 40/40 grind will take some time and considerable effort.
3. Robert Sorby Deep Flute - Best ½” Bowl Gouge
Our thought: The pricey bowl turning partner…
If all you want is a bowl gouge that can be with you for a long while regardless of the price, this is the right fit for you.
Another great bowl gouge for beginners on a budget is the ½” Robert Sorby Deep Flute Bowl Gouge.
The bowl gouge: Robert Sorby turning tools are industry-standard, and most of them are used as reference points. From profiling cuts to finishing cuts, this tool does it all.
Worth its salt: While this gouge may be pricey for a tool that comes singly, its versatility and edge holding capabilities justify the tag.
You will agree with me that in bowl turning circles, getting a Robert Sorby gouge is considered an upgrade.
And rightly so.
Long and nice handle:
By now, it’s crystal clear that the longer the gouge handle, the easier the bowl turning. The Robert Sorby Deep Flute Bowl Gouge had a total length of 26 inches: 17 inches hard white ash handle and 9 inches high-speed steel shank.
The long handle makes handling easier and offers the user a great deal of turning leverage.
Hardened and Tempered:
This bowl gouge is made from high-speed steel that is hardened and tempered to make the edge six times more durable than carbon steel.
Drawbacks: Let’s be honest here. Robert Sorby is a gold-standard for bowl turning tools. The only drawback is that the gouge is on the pricey end.
The pricey bowl turning partner…
If all you want is a bowl gouge that can be with you for a long while regardless of the price, this is the right fit for you.
4. 3/4" Robert Sorby - Best ¾ -inch Bowl Gouges
By now, you’re probably aware that some of the best bowl gouges that are sold singly fall slightly on the expensive side.
A bowl turning beast: This ¾ “ bowl gouge from Robert Sorby is a real bowl turning beast. Just like the 1⁄2-inch Deep Flute Gouge, this gouge is sturdy, hardened, and tempered to enhance durability.
This bowl gouge is a little thicker, providing the much-needed stability to turn the bottom of bowls.
As a typical Robert Sorby product, it is pricey.
5. 3/8 Robert Sorby - Best ⅜ inch Bowl Gouges
Our thought: A decent bowl gouge...
All in all, the Robert Sorby Deep Flute Gouge ⅜” is a nifty bowl gouge that gives value for the money.
This bowl gouge is just similar to the previous two in terms of material and sturdiness. The only difference is the size.
Ease of use:
This bowl gouge has a long handle whose relevance in making bowl turning easy and comfortable cannot be overemphasized.
Outperforms and outlasts other gouges
This is a benefit we’ve come to associate with Roberty Sorby woodturning tools.
How do they do the durability trick?
By using a superior grade of high-speed steel that is hardened and tempered, making the gouges six times more durable than carbon steel.
The only drawbacks we can associate with this bowl gouge is the higher price tag and not being friendly to novice bowl turners
How to choose and Be Cost- Effective
How To Be Cost-effective With Woodturning Tools:
Let’s be honest:
Bowl turning can be expensive to start. The workshop, the lathe, all those various turning tools won’t magically appear. And as pricey as they can be, you will need significant investment to get your bowl turning up and running.
Here’s the kicker:
You don’t have to start huge. You can get started minimally.
Instead of buying all the bowl turning tools individually, go for high quality longer-lasting bowl turning set that have the essential ones:
Such as: Hurricane’s M2 Cryogenic (Paid link)
Another great cost-effective option to get you started is to buy the woodturning tools in a set as opposed to buying them singly. This Simple Woodturning Tools (paid link) is a great cost-effective set of woodturning tools to get you started.
Check out: The Woodturning Tools You Must Have
How to Choose a Bowl Gouge?
Let’s face it.
Bowl woodturning is way easier and more efficient when a turner uses different sizes of bowl gouges with different grinds.
But you’re probably wondering:
How do I choose the perfect bowl gouge?
If you’re a complete bowl turning beginner, you probably have no idea the sizes of bowls you want. And if you’re an established turner, you may be thinking that you’ve been using the wrong bowl gouges the entire time.
And you’d be right.
For starters, choosing the right bowl gouge has to take into account the bowl gouge flute shape.
“U” vs. “V” Groove:
Different bowl gouges have different flute groove shapes. Depending on the tool milling out the flute area, bowl gouges can either be U-shaped, V-shaped, or parabolic.
On the surface, this may look like an insignificant detail.
But one thing’s for sure:
The wrong flute shape can mess you big time.
So, how do the different flute shapes compare? The truth is, the traditional “U” and “V” shaped flutes are slowly exiting the scene as they attach easily to the wood. As a bowl turner, this means that you miss out on a smoother cut and more elegant finishing.
When choosing the best flute shape for exceptional bowl turning, our recommendation is to go for the parabolic flute. This flute, also known as the super flute, is a U-shaped flute tweaked with some residual metal at the gouge base allowing for smooth and even turning.
With the parabolic flute, it gets better.
It fits organically with the swept-back grinder--a handy bowl turning tool that many professional turners swear by.
While the “U” and “V” flutes may be considered less desirable, they are not entirely useless.
The “V” shaped flute goes well with the versatile fingernail grind profile. The “U” shaped flute, on the other hand, is a perfect fit for the traditional grind profile.
Bowl Gouge Vs. Spindle Gouge:
Sooner or later, you’ll be required to know the difference between a bowl gouge and a spindle gouge.
So, let’s get to it.
The difference is in the names and the flutes.
Let me explain.
A bowl gouge is used to turn wood bowls while a spindle gouge makes spindle turnings. A bowl gouge has a curved flute with wings, but a spindle gouge is open with no wings.
Both tools are quite similar in appearance that a beginner may not tell them apart. They, however, have different purposes in woodturning. One clear difference between the two gouges is the design of the wings and the shape of the flute.
A bowl gouge has a curved flute that creates beveled wings that allow for a large surface area for cutting. What’s more, the bowl gouge expels large chunks of wood material quickly.
A spindle gauge, on the other hand, has a flute that is wide and open with less material at the gouge tip. This makes it a handy tool in detailing and making spindle turnings.
Which Bowl Gouge Size You Should Select As A Complete Beginner?
Can I be candid with you?
As a bowl turning novice, you’ll be confronted with this dilemma:
Which is the right bowl gouge size should I start with?
I call it a dilemma because it can be confusing given the number of options available to beginners.
Luckily, you can do it the good old way. You know, starting with smaller bowls and small bowl gouges, then slowly work your way up.
We recommend a 1/2" bowl gouge for turning small bowls with a diameter of 12" or less.
A 5/8" bowl gouge is perfect for bowls whose diameter range from 12" to 14".
For bowl with diameters from 14", a 3/4" gouge will be the right fit.
But remember this:
Every beginner’s bowl turning experience is different. What works for you may not work for someone else.
Our nugget here is to test with different gouges, find those that offer you comfort and efficiency, and optimize with those.
To Sum It All Up:
After side-by-side comparisons, we can confidently conclude that the best cost-effective way to start bowl turning under a tight budget is to buy the tools in a set.
In that vein, the best bowl gouge set that offers value for your money is the Hurricane Turning Three Piece Set.
When compared to other bowl gouges in this review, the set is by far the most affordable way to go.
It gets better:
Cheap doesn’t mean it compromises on performance. The bowl gouge’s sturdy built, durability, and ease of use is what every bowl turner dreams of.