The Beginners Guide To Chisels

Before you start woodturning, it is probably best to get familiarised with the types of tools available when turning. One of the things I have noticed over the nine nearly ten years of turning is sometimes we don’t know what tools to use. Now I get it is trial & error, but the one thing I learned early on is that if a beginner got a catch on a piece, a lot higher for the person to get put off woodturning than if a person who has been turning for longer. So choosing the correct turning tool for the project is crucial, but there are a few things that we need to consider first; what type of project are we going to turn on the lathe & what material its made out of, whether its wood resin or both (hybrid blank). Although your probably not going to be turning resin straight away as a beginner, it’s better to know what chisels to use when turning different materials. Therefore, I will now talk about the types of chisels I have used since being a beginner in woodturning.

  • Gouges:

Now gouges weren’t my first choice when I first started carbide-tipped chisels. However, over the years, since I have become more experienced in the art of woodturning, I tend to dip between both carbide & gouges. However, for me, this is purely based on what materials I am turning. Although, I prefer using gouges for turning wooden blanks of all different sizes because they give a smoother cut if the bowl gouge is sharpened properly & sharpened enough. Therefore, when it comes to turning with a gouge, you need to remember if your gouge is the right size & it suits the size blank that you’re going to be turning. Now one thing I can tell you is, please don’t assume that a 3/8 bowl gouge will shape a lump of wood that’s much bigger than the gouge & end up overheating, which, if not treated correctly, the tool may snap. 

  • Carbide-Tipped Chisels:

When it comes to carbide chisels, I think I am always going to choose them over gouges. However, when I first started turning nine or ten years ago, the first chisel I picked up was a carbide, so it’s what I feel comfortable with when I work. Therefore, I can tell you how versatile the tool is, especially when it comes to its use on different materials. However, like gouges, you need to know the tips that can go on the end of the tool. Therefore, if we are talking about the affordability of a carbide-tipped compared to a gouge, they are a little bit more expensive. However, in the long run, when replacing your chisels, you will only have to replace the carbide end, which; works out cheaper in the long run than buying a gouge.


So yes, I prefer carbide-tipped because they are more affordable in the long run. However, if you were going to use a gouge, there are ways that you can keep the costs down more than usual. For a start, you should probably invest or at least have access to a decent sharpening system the one; that I used & have done for the last few years is the tormek wet stone sharpening system. Another thing you want to consider is that it should take one pass to put an edge on a chisel a couple at max; this way, you can preserve most of the chisel, making it more affordable in the long run as you won’t need to replace it before its necessary. Therefore, the only way to get to that point is to practice sharpening your chisels & unfortunately, like many things, it takes time; & patience.