September 6, 2021

Hollowing Woodturning Tools

So you built a beautiful handmade tool, and you’re proud of it. But you notice some side effects. Your tool doesn’t seem to be as strong as the one you saw the manufacturer of, and it takes a lot of effort to get wood to go through it. You might try searching for information on hollowing woodturning tools and the problem you’re having. Still, you’ll likely find pages and pages of information and not one thing that applies to your situation.

What is hollowing

Hollowing is the process of removing inside material from a wood item such as a bowl. Use a woodworking mallet and chisel for an easy experience. Make circular hollows in a short period with a drill and a woodworking bit. Woodworking routers are quick and precise, although the tool can be unaffordable. As soon as you are satisfied with the process, apply a finish. 

Step by step Process

  1. Scrap unwanted material from the inside using a drill bit. 
  2. Clean off your lathe.
  3. Mount your tool in the tailstock to hold the drill bits. 
  4. Change to a smaller diameter but to drill a hole further into a blank.
  5. Use tape to stop the hole to the depth at the bottom of the hollowed area.
  6. Start using the hollowing tool to scrap out small sections at a time, heading to the bottom. 
  7. Pay attention to the wall thickness.
  8. Do not cut through the sides.
  9. Hold the tool firmly on the tool rest to keep it steady.
  10. Be patient, and do not be too aggressive with the cuts. 
  11. Work on the final details on the outside, clean, and apply a finish of your choice.

Using a chisel

  1. Start by sharpening chisels before use. Drag its end back and forth across a sharpening stone.
  2. Secure the wood piece by clamping it for precision.
  3. Set the chisel at an angle to the piece of wood.
  4. Hit the chisel using a mallet to hollow out the wood. Keep the angle of your chisel low to the wood for better control. Chisel the same direction the grain of the wood goes to reduce cracking and breaks. 
  5. Remove pieces of wood using a chopping cut. Avoid using it in the center of a solid piece which leads to cracking.
  6. Outline the hollow with grooves for precision. The circular saw helps you reach the depth of the hollowed area.

How to do this in woodworking

Drill out the middle using a drill chuck in the tailstock. Start with a sphere-shaped between centers and mount it securely on the chuck. When drilling the center, remove more material so that the task becomes easy to handle. 

There are multiple ways of hollowing out the inside. The cutting end has to ride on your tool rest as the outrigger end sits between two stabilizing bars. That is how stabilizing bars get rid of vertical twisting. Scrap out the inside till you achieve your desired thickness. 

Shape the inside surface, and the thickness can be as thin as 1/16 inches. You are allowed to showcase your creative skills as you explore different texturing and carving techniques. 

Spindle Gouges

A spindle gouge has an open flat flute for details and spindle turnings. It has a round metal shaft, and the flute is wide-open. There is a shallow U-shape that separates the metal shaft in half. There is less material around the tip since it is less fortified at the tip. 

Sharpen the gouge, and the thin tip makes precise detail cuts on spindle and bowl exteriors. The spindle does not have side wings that cut material. The sides are turned to a 90-degree angle to scrape, although that is not a cutting technique. 

The spindle gouge sharpens to multiple bevel angles. The angle tells how much control and detail comes with the spindle due cutting tip. You can have multiple spindles gouges with different style beveled tips. 

The detailed spindle gouge works on tight spaces and makes sharp points. It works on intricate textures and patterns on bowl exteriors. It easily cuts an inward dovetail angle. There is no need to sharpen the spindle gouge frequently. 

Turning bowl interiors using the spindle gouge is dangerous due to the reduction of metal at the tip. The cutting tip is delicate, and you should not exceed the support of the tool rest. If you extend over the tool rest, the spindle gouge tip snaps off. The tip is not quick to remove material from a turning. 

Bowl Gouges (Spoon Gouges)

A bowl gouge flute is curved with wings and turns wood bowls. It comes with a round metal exterior shaft that has a curved interior flute. Do not be surprised when you see different designs on the flute. It comes in U-shape, V-shape, or parabolic. 

The flute design makes the bowl gouge have an exterior ground with beveled wings. The wings create a large cutting surface around the tip of the bowl gouge. The size and shape of the bowl gouge depend on the use of the bowl gouge and your preference. 

The bowl gouge removes large amounts of material. It is fast and smooth in making cuts. A gouge is a diverse tool that you can use to make the whole wood bowl. There are different types of bowl gouges. A single bowl gouge has different uses, although it has a different bevel angle and different use.

 A micro bevel bowl gouge is a specific gouge for detailed cuts. Although it comes with many advantages, it comes with its setbacks. It is a bit heavy at the cutting tip when working on tight spaces, and it cannot get into sharp cove valleys with ease. 

It is not ideal for tight, detailed work. The miles of cutting distance increases quickly due to its frequency of use. Sharpen the gouge often for effective cutting. You are allowed to modify the gouge into roughing out material quickly, shape intricate curves and finish the surface of a wooden bowl. 

The gouge comes with multiple cutting techniques. You can extend it due to the mass material at the cutting tip. The side cutting wings are multi-tools that scrape and shear-scrape. It removes material quickly from a spindle turning. 

Detail Gouges (Scrapers)

Detail gouges have a shallow flute that leaves more metal under the flute. There is less vibration, and smooth cuts are produced. Detail gouges cut beads and shape weed pots. They are sized by the diameter of the steel used. What separates the two is that the spindle gouge is thicker than the detail gouge under the flute. 

It excels in cutting coves and rolling beads. It is for long-grain turning. When the stock is mounted, the grain runs parallel to the lathe’s bed. It cuts details in all types of turning. Although the flutes’ radius and thickness vary, the flute remains shallow. 

The gouges range from ¼ inch to 1 inch width, and the tool has a round tang and a vessel. It has a flat tang and wide flute. It removes the corners from blanks in long-grain turning and creates cylinders. Please do not use it for turning face-grain bowls since the tang is weak. 

The elliptical cutting edge cuts with the sides of the tool. The tool needs reshaping since the edge is unlikely to be straight. 

Roughing Gouges

A roughing gouge is a woodturning tool that turns your rough wood down to round. It is long and heavy, and you handle the torque created by removing material when turning air. The gouge comes with multiple cutting techniques. It is an ideal starting tool on a project. 

The starting point involves hitting wood a day air as the gouge works on the edges of your wood. There is a knock created when the tool and the wood meet. When the tool cuts, it moves as you prepare to rough your blanks, anchor, bevel, and cut. 

Raise the handle of the tool and do not lift off the roughing tool of the tool rest. Put the tool on the rest, allow the bevel to rub on the wood, and cut the wood by sliding the tip down. Take off the dust as you start cutting and angle yours too in the direction you want to move. 

Bring the handle up. The roughing gouge is not ideal for turning bowls. You are allowed to take your tool across your work, from left to right, and vice versa. Do not overgrip your tools by using tense hands. 

Give yourself time to relax your hands. Move the gouge from the center of your work to the outside edges till you have mastered the tool. More practice helps you understand angles that work better for you. 

See our Posts on Essential Woodworking Tools & How to Make Your Own Wood Carving Tools.

David D. Hughes
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