Gouge size and log rolling


Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
26 Oct 2019
Reaction score
Lexington, KY
Thought I'd get my moneys worth out of this one and ask two questions in one thread.

I'm about to start turning bowls and need to purchase another carving tool or two. Right now I've got one of the typical inexpensive 3 piece carbide sets off Amazon (pictured below w/o inserts) and from the videos I've been watching I'm gonna need a regular HSS bowl gouge and parting tool, and I'm wondering what size of each of these I'll need. I believe the size parting tool I've seen is described as 3/16"? so I suppose that's the size I'll order. And so far as the gouge goes I've seen them (in videos) in a number of different sizes. The turner I watch the most uses a 5/8" gouge but I'm wondering if that's gonna be too large to start off with. Since I'm just starting out my main concern is not doing anything quickly so if the only advantage of the larger 5/8" gouge is speed then I could probably do without it. Also, I've seen examples of dovetails being made in tenons with much smaller gouges, which is something I prob need to consider. Is there a middle size gouge that would do well for general bowl turning and tenon dove tails? What size parting tool and gouge would be best? Trying to save $ so if 1 gouge will do instead of 2 different sizes then that would make my day.


I'm sourcing locally felled trees and have come across a really big log I can't get through with my 14" chain saw without being able to rotate is to get the bottom of the cut. My best idea is to get a log moving/rotating tool I've only seen in videos. Not sure what it's called but it's about a 5-6' long pole with a large hook attached about 1.5' from the end. Hook the log then turn it with leverage. What are these things called and what's the cheapest place to get one?

The log rolling tool is called a Peavey or a Cant Hook. Peavey has a point on the end and the Cant Hook doesn't as it was designed to turn cants off the saw for the next cut. Last time I saw any for sale they were $100Can to $150Can. Nail a 2x4 to the end of the log with few good sized nails and roll the log with it. Be careful though or it could get away from you and smack you hard.

Most sources seem to advise that a 3/8 bowl gouge is a good multi-purpose bowl gouge size, and it's what I use. I would say 5/8 is a big tool, and will need a powerful motor and good technique to manage.

I prefer a 1/8 parting tool, or even a 1/16, otherwise you can waste a lot of material in the width of the parting cut.

For dovetails, I use a skew chisel or scraper to shape the dovetail. For this, the cheapest 2nd-hand skew/scraper would suffice.
For a single bowl gouge, I would use a 3/8 gouge with a fingernail/swept-back grind profile, which will allow better access to small details like dovetails.

However, I prefer to mount bowl blanks on a recessed mortise. A mortise is hidden under the finished bowl, so doesn't need parting off (saving the need for a parting tool), but does need a scraper to shape.
3/8 will be fine, even 1/4 would be OK for small work.

My lathe will take 12", but I am normally turning 7 - 9" with a 3/8 gouge and have never felt I need bigger.

I can't quite remember how they are measured, but it's not as you might expect. A 3/4 inch scraper is just that - 3/4 inch edge to edge. On bowl gouges the size is (I think) the width of the groove, so the overall diamater of the shaft is much bigger and heavier than you would expect. On top of that I think some manufacturers (perhaps other countries) use a slightly different sizing convention.

Hopefully someone else will be along to confirm, correct or clarify my hazy understanding of sizes of gouges.
Bradley, can I suggest that you start with something small and probably spindle turning? That's to get some experience in how to turn and how to use the different tools.

Most of us have, I suspect, far more gouges and tool than we ever really use and you only need a few to do most jobs.

I would also suggest that you get a good book on turning? Here's the one that I have and it's available on you side of the Pond

There's a boat load of info in there and well worth a few beer tokens
Thanks for all the good info. The more I thought about those logs I realized even if I had the right leverage I probably wouldn't have been able to move them. At least I know what the right tools are called now. Hopefully I'll be able to work my way up and invest in some decent hydraulic lift equipment so I can access this size wood in the future.

As for the bowl gouge size, I've gotten lots of suggestions for the 1/2" gouge size w/ swept wings and I think 1 suggestion for the 3/8" size. I agree that 3/8" would probably work fine but I'd like to invest in a tool that's geared to larger projects in the future if at all possible. Are there any disadvantages to the 1/2" v 3/8"
Watch out for bowl gouge size confusion between the US and Europe. In the US a gouge is measure by the round bar shank size, in the UK it's the distance between flutes, but even this sometimes changes between manufacturers. So a 3/8 flute measured gouge (UK) is the same as a 1/2 shank measured gouge (US).

I was thinking of dropping a note to Boris and asking him to sort this out in the trade negotiations but we'd probably end up using the US notation which is clearly wrong ;)
Could you dig underneath and make a sufficient gap so your chain doesn’t hit the earth. If necessary hit a small piece of fencing plank under the log as a sacrificial piece of wood you cut into when finishing the cut
or wind a rope around the log 3or4 times (for friction) (dig underneath if necessary for access) attach one end to a nearby tree and the other end to a ratchet strap and attach to another tree, tighten the strap it may? turn
Yes sir RichardG! Taking advice from the US on how to measure ANYTHING is a bad way to go for sure. I'll make sure to pay close attention to the measurements when shopping so that I don't get a surprise.

And thanks Grahgammon for the log rolling advice. I hadn't thought about digging under. That would be an option for logs in the future. these are tucked into the corner of 2 fences so I'm not able to get my truck in there to winch them around.

Another shout out to Jonzjob for the woodturning book suggestion. Found it for $6 (regular $18!) including shipping on a used book site!

Another question though. Any advice on a sharpening system? I'll be getting a set of spindle gouges as well so I'll need to be able to sharpen those too. I've got a cheap 6" bench grinder but I don't think that'll do as I've seen people use specialized 8" grinding wheels on the youtubes. Open to your suggestions.
Last edited:
Thanks for that link Phil. That equipment looks spectacular. Hopefully I'll be able to invest in one of those very well built sharpening systems someday. I've been familiarizing myself with the higher end systems here in the US like the Oneway Wolverine system, etc and ended up going with one called Pro Grind. It came up on Amazon when I was doing a search for Wolverine, and at half the price it seems like a good compromise. The only major complaint was that the cam lock wasn't exactly rock solid, but could be corrected by grinding off the finish from the friction surfaces. Lots of ratings gave it 4.5 stars so at less than $150 US I'm happy.