Gouge Versatility

Early one April morning when we were twelve, my buddy, Scott, and I met on the bank of the Little Shenango River, excited to use our shiny new spinners on the first day of trout season. Our reels were full of fresh line, and we did our best to extend every foot of it with each unrewarded cast. Soon, an old-timer, equipped with the generally the same tools as us, waded to a spot just downstream. He gave us a smile, a kindly nod, and a lesson in versatility. With maybe a dozen pinpoint casts to a spot not ten feet away he plucked three trout out of the stream.

The moral, obviously, is that there is more than one way to use a gouge.

Since last Saturday’s second session of the online bowl carving class that Elia Bizzarri and I have embarked upon, I’ve been working on some stages of my now-dry sample bowls in preparation for next Saturday’s finale. Thanks to so many good questions from participants, I think we’re all learning a lot, and it has been great fun.

I used the #8 30mm bent gouge to cut the final surface of the hollow of the cherry bowl in the lead photo. By using the full capacity of this wide and deep gouge, one can hog away lots of wood quickly to form the hollow itself. But it can also be used differently, more delicately, to leave a subtly textured surface.

We tend to think of a steep sweep like a #8 as leaving a pronounced texture, which makes sense if the entire edge is used in the cut. Above on the left is the edge of a #8 30mm wide, and on the right is a #5 16mm wide. The gouge on the right is the natural choice to leave a more subtly textured surface.

But, because the sweep is, in the standard system of gouge numbering, relative to the width of the tool, the actual curvature of the #8 30mm and the #5 16mm are pretty close in comparison.

By using a little restraint like I witnessed streamside, we can get a #5 performance from a #8 when the situation is right.

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8 Responses to Gouge Versatility

  1. Great analogy. The comments regarding the gouges will help as I finish my bowl in preparation for the 3rd class.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the story, and the lesson. I find that when I choose a wider gouge for this type of work, even on a carving in the round, the corners are “out of the way” and less likely to catch the wood. That was a lesson I had to learn myself. :^(

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tad Kepley says:

    Hey Dave, Have you ever carved spoons or anything from the roots of a cherry tree or apple tree? Tad

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. George Blackman says:

    I loved the comparison of the shape of gouges. I have been frustrated with the 1-10 numbers. 1/4” #6 does not match 1” #6. So I scribed circles on a piece of clear plastic – 10mm increments. Matched the diameter curve of each gouge and relabeled the handles. Now an 80mm gouge is the same for any width. When I want a flatter sweep the number shortens the guesswork. I love Addis, but I also make my own tools from roller bearings. Please let me know if this strikes a chord with you. George Blackman orsmith2@gmail.com

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. The best steel is a German


  6. nick says:

    Lovely reflection on use of tools here, I am in the process of buying a large swan neck chisel for cutting across the surface of small bowls and I was worrying that it may be too large to do the same work that a smaller chisel would. You have answered my fear here! The sweep of the large tool I am getting is the same as a smaller version at almost the same price.
    A mine of information, Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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