7 Basic Turning Tools You Need: Woodturning Tools & Their Uses Explained


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With just 7 tools you can accomplish a wide range of projects. Woodturning tools can essentially be split into two catagories - spindle and faceplate. You'll find yourself reaching for the same tools time and time again, depending on the "catagory" of project you're doing (spindle or faceplate).

We've split our tool suggestions into these two categories - spindle turning tools and faceplate turning tools. The 7 tools we suggest will accomplish a wide range of projects in each of these categories.

wood lathe turning tools

Tools 1-4: your spindle turning tools

These tools will cover a wide range of spindle projects, from pens to mallets, and will last you well into your woodturning career.


Experience comfort and control at your lathe. Aluminum is the perfect weight for a balanced, even feel. And our patented handle shape fits your hand.

Three sizes of aluminum adapters provide complete interchangability and easy removal for sharpening.

1. Spindle Roughing Gouge : the workhorse

A hefty tool, optimal for turning a square or off-center piece round. The wide, "U" shape flute quickly removes stock, although it won't leave the best finish. (Note: using a spindle roughing gouge for faceplate work can lead to dangerous catches.)

  • Turn a piece round
  • Does not necessarily leave the best finish, but quickly removes stock

Which size? We suggest 7/8", it is a versatile size for conquering medium-large roughing work.

2. Spindle Gouge : the shaper

Used to shape a peice and create coves, beads and other details, spindle gouges are dentifiable by their shallow flute and are available in a wide range of sizes. Most spindle gouges have a 'fingernail' grind, meaning the edges are ground back for versatility and clearance.  

  • Shape spindle work and create details
  • Shallow flute

Which size? We suggest 1/2", it is an excellent size for both shaping and detailed work.

3. Skew Chisel : the finisher

Although famous for their sharp learning curve, skews are incredibly versatile. They're optimal for planing wood - they leave a uniquely smooth, flat surface. Working with a skew that has a rounded top and bottom edge, rather than flat, adds maneuverability. Skew tip: the cutting edge of your skew should meet the wood at about a 45º angle, above the centerline, and should work from one end of the piece to the other.

  • Difficult to master, but incredibly versatile
  • Optimal for planing cuts, leaves a smooth surface

Which size? We suggest 1/2", it is a versatile size for conquering a range of work.


4. Parting Tool : the final cut

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.

  • Separates work from unwanted material

Which size? We suggest 1/8", it is a versatile size for accomplishing the widest range of projects.

wood lathe turning tools

Tools 5-7: your faceplate turning tools

These tools will get you started on many faceplate turning projects, including the ever-popular bowl.


5-6. Bowl Gouge : the workhorse

Bowl gouges have deep flutes and are capable of shaping both the inside and outside of a bowl. There are two standard bowl gouge flute shapes: "u" and "v". "U" shaped bowl gouges are desiged for reaching deep into the bottom of a bowl, and are also referred to as "bottom feeders." A traditional "V" shaped bowl gouges is versitle and can be used for roughing and finishing the inside and outside of your bowl. Every turner has a prefered bowl gouge grind. We prefer a "v" shaped bowl gouge, with a fingernail grind, ground at 50 degrees, as pictured on the left.

  • Deep flute
  • Shapes the inside and outside of a bowl
  • A 'bottom feeder' bowl gouge is designed for finishing the inside of a bowl

Which size? We suggest 1/2" and 5/8". This will allow you to turn all sizes of projects, from small (1/2") to medium and large (5/8").


40 years of manufacturing expertise is the foundation of every Carter & Son tool.  

Fueled by meticulous designs (such as a round tang for enhanced stability and strength), attention to key details (like our hand-polished flute), and pursuit of innovation (100% interchangeability), your Carter & Son tools' performance will exceed your expectations with every trip to the lathe.  

7. Scraper : the finisher

Scrapers are used to remove cutter marks left by your bowl gouge. For this reason, new bowl turners often find scrapers very useful. Rather than cutting, a woodturning scraper "scrapes" using a burr. This burr must be kept very sharp to be effective. The tool meets the wood just below the centerline of the blank. When using a scraper, it is held at a downward angle - the tool is lower than the handle. Generally, holding the tool at about a 30º angle from the tool rest is effective. A round nose scraper (also referred to as a bowl scraper) removes marks on the inside of a bowl, while a square nose scraper is used on the outside of a bowl. When choosing a bowl scraper, a larger size provides extra sturdiness.

  • Designed to remove cutter marks
  • They scrape, using a burr, rather than cutting

Which size? We've found that 1" is the most versatile.

Ready to turn: faceplate & spindle turning tutorial

Faceplate turning is accomplished by securing your work on a drive center, generally using a faceplate and screws, or a chuck. As seen in the photo above, your work is only secured on one side. A popular project invovling faceplate turning is the bowl.

Spindle turning is done between the drive center (in the headstock) and live center (in the tailstock). This means your project is secured on both the right and left side. Common spindle projects include chair legs or pens.

wood lathe turning tools