Bowl Gouge

Guidelines shown below are for use with the Tormek SVD-186 Gouge Jig or SVD-185 Gouge Jig.

Guidelines below can be taken with two approaches :

  1. Sharpening for a workflow which uses a single bowl gouge - consider the shape used by an artist whose work you admire (e.g., the "Ellsworth grind" if you wish to pursue work like David Ellsworth).

  2. Sharpening for a workflow which uses multiple bowl gouges - consider
  3. Rake Relief Comments
    40° 50° 10° Primary bowl gouge - the 40°/40° is good.
    55° 10° 10° Used for the inside bottom of the bowl

A relief ground into the bottom part of the gouge helps reduce bruising the wood as the turner comes around the inside curve of the bowl. The Tormek handbook, Water Cooled Sharpening of Edge Tools, refers to this as "Rounding Off the Heel".

General Guidelines
Rake Relief Tormek
JS P Hole
40° 50° 5° - 10° 2 75 mm A

40/40 Grind

The "40/40" grind is advocated by Stuart Batty (Allan's son), and is used by his protégé Ashley Harwood. They both advocate hand grinding on a platform set for 40° (a number of companies make such platforms).

My experience is that this shape is very useful for the really hard woods used in ornamental turning. Examples include African Blackwood and Desert Ironwood (both with Janka hardness measures > 13,000 N).

As shown in the diagram to the left, the wings are not swept back as far as the diagram below on the right, but the α remains the same. Also, the wings (on the rake) are recommended to be flat, not convex. This is because the wings are not a key element of the style Stuart uses for his work (unlike that advocated by David Ellsworth). I have found it difficult to produce truly flat wings; mine are more convex. This has not decreased the usage of the tool's grind shape for me.

Stuart Batty has a number of great videos on Vimeo showing his SB Tools, including some on sharpening.

40° 60° - 75° 5° - 10° 2 75 mm A

The profile shown to the right with long swept back wings can be achieved by adding more side-to-side swing of the tool when sharpening it (i.e., grinding the wings further back for a higher rake angle -- more information about this is in the comments below).

The Tormek handbook, Water Cooled Sharpening of Edge Tools, advises that this grind shape is not recommended for starter-level turners as it can be somewhat aggressive, but many others feel that 40° is the optimal grind angle (except for bowl bottom gouges, where 60° is recommended).

45° 5° - 15° 5° - 10° 2 65 mm A

The Tormek handbook, Water Cooled Sharpening of Edge Tools, recommends that this grind shape is for turners of all skill levels.

Others feel that 40° is a far better grind angle (except for bowl bottom gouges), especially if pursuing a multiple bowl gouge workflow.

45° 45° - 60° 5° - 10° 2 65 mm A

The "Irish" profile with swept back wings was pioneered by Liam O’Neil, and can be achieved by adding more side-to-side swing of the tool when sharpening it (i.e., grinding the wings back further).

Allan Batty recommended this angle, though Stuart Batty noted that his father's recommendation for this angle was based on his production work being made easier (vs. using a second bowl gouge for bowl bottom work).

Stuart's stories of working for his father are worth the price of admission to his classes (oh, and the instruction is good too).

50° 5° - 15° 5° - 10° n/a n/a n/a

This is a good grind for bottoms of shallow bowls.

55° 5° - 15° 5° - 10° 4 65 mm A

The larger edge angle is beneficial when turning deeper within bowls.

60° 5° - 15° 5° - 10° 6 75 mm A

This is a good cutting angle for bottoms of the bowl, especially a deep bowl.

60° 60° - 75° 5° - 10° 6 75 mm A

The “Ellsworth” shape, made famous by David Ellsworth (one of the founders of the American Association of Woodturners - Member #1) has wings which have a very pronounced convex shape.

David turns a lot of wet wood for the objects he makes, and I have found that this shape works well for such turning. I have also found that this shape is not as usable for really hard woods (i.e., Desert Ironwood or African Blackwood).

These wings are a key element of the style David uses for his work (unlike that advocated by Stuart Batty).

Notes & Comments
  • Marty Kiminsky noted that 40-65° is generally recommended for this tool. He further noted a personal preference for 40° and 60°. See also, "Woodturning" magazine, issue # 352.

  • Rake angle notes:
    • Be sure to make the edge convex or flat, but definitely not concave.

    • The wings can be extended for a greater rake angle by the way you grind. The rake angle is increased when you:
      • spend more time grinding on the wings, and when you
      • increase the amount of swing you use when grinding.

  • There are two really good articles in American Woodturner, a magazine published by the American Association of Woodturners.

  • When the tool gets too short to be held by the jig, you can grind off the top as shown in the upper tool below. This flat area allows for the jig to hold the tool without the tool slipping or rotating.

  • And when it gets even too short for that, consider making it into :
  • is a pretty good reference site for sharpening bowl gouges, especially as it regards the bevel angle you might select. (But it does have a LOT of advertisements on the site -- bit on the annoying side.)

  • Some information presented is from the Tormek handbook, Water Cooled Sharpening of Edge Tools, © Tormek AB.

Tormek Sharpening Classes: Part 5 - Woodturning Tools

Want to learn how you get your woodturning tools razor-sharp? In this week's sharpening class we take a closer look at the tools for the woodturner; Gouges, skews, parting tools, scrapers, cutters and more. Sebastien and Wolfgang will show you the methods for sharpening all these turning tools and how you achieve repeatable edges every time. Stay tuned and hit us with your questions during the stream!

How to sharpen bowl and spindle gouges – Tormek SVD-186 Gouge Jig – with Nick Agar

In this episode Nick Agar shows how you create a fingernail grind on your woodturning gouge and to replicate this grind every time. Nick goes through the procedure step by step using Tormek’s TTS-100 Turning Tool Setter, the SVD-186 Gouge Jig, the SB-250 Blackstone Silicon and the LA-120 Profiled Leather Honing Wheel.

Allan Holtham - Tormek SVD-186 Gouge Jig
David Peters - Tormek SVD-186 Gouge Jig Review
and Comparison to the SVD-185
Sharpen gouges with the Tormek Gouge Jig SVD-185
Jeff Farris - Sharpening with the Tormek SVD-185 Gouge Jig
Sharpen short edge tools with the Tormek Short Tool Jig SVS-32

Fundamental #3; Video 1 - Sharp Tools

Fundamental #3; Video 2 - Importance of Sharpening, Part 1
Fundamental #3; Video 3 - Importance of Sharpening, Part 2
Grinding a gouge into a beading tool

Bob Patros Beading Tool from AAW on Vimeo.

Make a Point Tool for Woodturning

I particularly like the triangular jig he makes to help ensure a good grind.

The late Bill Jones has a really good description of how to use this tool in his 1997 book, Further Notes from the Turning Shop.

Tormek Turning Tool Setter TTS-100
Tormek AngleMaster WM-200

Tormek is a copyrighted logo of Tormek AB. Its presentation on this site is used to help the user quickly understand when specific Tormek tools, jigs, or setting are being used. For specific information regarding Tormek AB, or its products, please refer to the

About this site
Remember : The goal of sharpening is to produce sharp tools, and these tools can injure you if mishandled. Safety measures should be followed to protect yourself and those in your shop. Be sure to read and follow all instructions from the manufacturer, and and utilize proper safety equipment. Never consume alcohol or anything that could impair your judgement before sharpening tools, or using sharp tools. Comments can be sent via eMail to me at