Whatever type of woodturner you are, be it a novice to a seasoned professional, if you turn wood, you’re going to need some tools and therein lies the dilemma; there are many different types, sizes and styles. This guide aims to give the turner new to the craft some information which will enable him or her to make informed decisions about the best turning tools to buy.

Lathe Tool Materials

All Axminster turning tools are made from HSS (High Speed Steel) which means that they are more forgiving of harsher sharpening routines; an advantage when using a dry grinder which is a preferred method used by some turners. Recent innovations in metallurgy have also resulted in the introduction of cryogenic HSS producing a blade which will retain its edge for a significantly longer time period.


Tools for Turning Between Centres

There are four principal groups of tools used for this type of work and they’re available in various sizes:
Roughing gouge - converts square stock to round and for initial shaping, where large amounts of timber have to be removed.
Spindle gouge - ground to a ‘fingernail’ profile for producing tighter concave curves and details.
Skew chisel - these tools are used for fine finishing cuts, bead work, planing cuts and trimming end grain.
Parting tool - used for parting work from the waste and other tasks such as cutting a deep groove.
As experience and finance permits, one or two scrapers could also be added to the ‘between centre’ tools.

Tools for Turning Bowls

There are two main type of tools used for bowl work which are again available in different sizes to suit the work and lathe:
Bowl gouge - depending on the manufacturer, these gouges have a deep ‘U’ or ‘V’ cross-section and are used for both shaping the outside and inside.
Scrapers - a variety of different profiled scrapers are very useful for refining the final shape of the bowl.
There is one other scraper that’s well worth recommending for bowl work and that’s a Dovetail Scraper which is used to accurately form the dovetail recess on the base prior to mounting it in the appropriate lathe jaws on the chuck. Alternatively, a skew chisel can also be used to make the dovetail recess.

Specialist Turning Tools

There are also a number of tools designed for different purposes or tasks, one of the most popular being various types of ‘hollowing’ tools, used to create hollow forms, goblets and boxes. Other tools can be used to create surface decoration such as spirals, textures, threads and even a fiendishly difficult set to produce Chinese balls within balls!


Although there are many different types and styles of turning tool, a basic set isn’t too difficult to accumulate, but much will depend on the size and type of work produced as well as the budget.