female student learning to turn wood

Introduction to woodturning Tools | How to Use Them

There are many different kinds of woodturning tools and for the new turner it can be confusing so we have put together a quick reference guide to turning tools, an explanation of what they do,  if you’re unclear about what woodturning actually IS, check this article on Wikipedia.

Two Main Categories of Woodturning | Spindle & Faceplate

Turning on a lathe falls into two main categories – Spindle turning and Faceplate turning

  • Spindle turning is when the grain of the wood is horizontal or parallel to the bed of the lathe and the piece is held or “pinched” between two point known as the head and the tailstock. When you are spindle turning you work on the side of the wood. Think of a rolling pin, a pen, a mallet, these are all versions of spindle turning.
  • Faceplate turning is when the grain of the wood is vertical or perpendicular to the bed of the lathe and the wood is held only at one end allowing your work on the other end. You do this when you are making bowls or platters.

The woodturning tools you use for spindle and faceplate turning are different.

The Woodturning Tools Used for Spindle Turning

The Spindle Rouging Gouge

This is a hardworking tool and you will see this reflected in the weight and heft of the tool. You use for turning a square or off-center piece into a cylinder. It can quickly remove a lot of wood or “stock” but it doesn’t leave the smoothest of finishes. It doesn’t do detail work very well.

To use it you will place the bevel on the wood using the banjo which is the metal support bar that you rest to the tool on, it is also known as the tool rest.

The spindle roughing gouge comes in different sizes from

The Spindle Gouge

woodturning tools, spindle gouge, turning classes, lathe, mead goblet, tampa, florida

Once you have the rough shaping done you can switch to the Spindle gouge which has more finesse than the roughing gouge.

You use it to refine the shape of a spindle piece. It can cut coves and beads.

You can tell a spindle gouges by the shallow flute and like the roughing gouge it comes a several sizes. Most spindle gouges have a ‘fingernail’ grind, meaning the edges are ground back for versatility and clearance.

Skew Gouge

Skews can be tricky to use but they leave a lovely smooth flat surface. Working with a skew that has a rounded top and bottom edge, rather than flat, adds maneuverability.

When using the skew to make planning or smoothing cuts, it is important to use the middle part of the blade and avoid the corners. If you hit the moving wood with the corner you are likely to get a “catch”.

Parting Tool

When turning between centers, a parting tool separates, or parts, your work from scrap or unwanted materials. Generally, the parting tool is introduced to the wood in a plunge cut.

The Woodturning Tools Used for Face Plate Turning

Bowl Gouges

There are two kinds of bowl gouges – U shaped and V shaped. The U shaped gouges are used to make cuts deep inside of a bowl while the V shaped bowl gouges can be used for roughing and finishing both the inside and outside of a bowl. Both of them generally have deep flutes.


Scrapers are used to remove the marks left by your bowl gouge.

A woodturning scraper “scrapes” using a burr, so it should be kept very sharp to work well. The tool meets the wood just below the centerline of the blank and you hold it at a downward angle – the tool is lower than the handle.

Like the bowl gouges there are two main types – round nose scrapers and square nose scrapers. Round nose scrapers remove marks on the inside of a bowl, and square nose scraper remove marks on the outside of a bowl.

Larger sized scrapers tend to be a little easier to use.

It’s very important that you get GOOD QUALITY woodturning tools but it is also important to learn how to use them!

When you come to a turning class at the Florida School of Woodwork, we show you how to use woodturning tools safely and effectively. Check out our Turning classes and Sign up. OR keep reading more about wood turning here


Best Gifts for Woodworkers | Beginning Woodworker Gift Ideas

There are many more courses available here and at woodworking schools around the country.

If  you are buying for someone else and you don’t know which one is right for your woodturner – get them a GIFT CARD and let them decide!

Visit us at https://schoolofwoodwork.com to shop classes and more.

Leave a Reply