Review By Dean Bielanowski  Timbecon Website -

Crown Ellsworth Signature Bowl Gouge


By Dean Bielanowski

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If you have ever dabbled in woodturning, and particularly, in bowl turning, you will know the value of a good, solid gouge. When I first started turning, I used a set of cheap carbon steel turning tools bought from the local hardware store, and couldn't imagine buying a single turning tool that cost more than twice what the 6-piece set of tools I began with retailed for! Why do they cost so much I wondered at the time?

Of course, years later, I see the value in a quality tool made from quality materials. Such tools make turning much simpler, and much better, with much less frustration to boot. I still have my original set of turning tools, and use them occasionally, but I now have a much bigger arsenal of turning tools that are much more suited to the turning tasks at hand.

The latest "weapon" in the turning tool collection is the Ellsworth Signature Bowl Gouge...

Ellsworth Signature Bowl Gouge
Named after and co-designed by internationally recognized woodturner, David Ellsworth, the Ellsworth bowl gouge is manufactured by Crown Hand Tools in Sheffield, UK.

The gouge is made from M2 high speed steel which is hardened to between 67 and 68 RC for extended tool toughness and life. The steel is much harder than regular carbon steel and will result in longer edge life requiring fewer sharpenings than standard carbon steel gouges.

The gouge has a 5/8" diameter with an 8" long flute for extended tool life. The gouge itself feels very solid in the hand, and while not as weighty as a large scraper, it is solid enough to keep vibrations down to a minimum and to minimize chatter, particularly during deeper or extended cuts where the tool rest cannot be moved right up close to the cutting area.

A dominating feature of this gouge which adds to its stability and ease of use is the LONG! 17" stained beech wood handle. The tapered handle profile provides a comfortable grip, while still allowing good control during heavy roughing-type cuts as well as or for fine shearing cuts. You will definitely appreciate the longer handle on this tool.

The Ellsworth gouge is able to perform a wide variety of cutting actions because of its hollow, fingernail-shaped grind. Use the edge near the bottom of the flute and at a "squarer" angle to the workpiece to make heavier roughing type cuts. Tip the gouge on edge and use the lateral edges of the fingernail grind to increase the cutting angle for finer shearing type cuts. The edge angles in between allow a wide variation of cut types depending on how you hold and angle the gouge tip. It is actually possible to turn an entire bowl from start to end using this tool, assuming the blank is somewhat rounded on the edge to begin with. For square blanks, a dedicated roughing gouge would be a better start before switching to the Ellsworth gouge once the blank is rounded.

The tools edge holds up quite well, and I was able to turn about 3 small hardwood bowls before I felt it needed a touch up. Of course, it will need a little honing and checking right out of the packet before you get going, and then the occasional edge sharpening or honing as you go will keep it in tip-top condition. Because of the unique shape, you will need some kind of fingernail grinding jig or device to maintain the correct profile if you use the bench grinder. Freehand sharpening could be tricky on the bench grinder. Nonetheless, I have been able to maintain a good edge on the tool using a conical-shaped diamond sharpener to keep the inside flat and some small diamond sharpeners for the bevel. It takes a little work to sharpen this type of gouge shape, but the results are worth it. You could also use any number of fine stone sharpening items on the market designed for turning tools.

The Ellsworth gouge will set you back a few dollars. It currently retails for around AUD$160 in Australia, but is also available widely around the world. It is not a cheap turning tool by any means, but if you are a dedicated bowl turner looking to invest in quality turning tools, it is definitely one to have, and with regular honing, should last a very long time.

In use I found the Ellsworth very comfortable to use. Because of its size and weight, if offers good vibration dampening properties and will give excellent results with your tool rest positioned appropriately. As mentioned above, the long handle is ideal for a tool of this size and caliber, allowing fine control, which can be essential when working with dense or cranky-grained timbers. It is an especially useful tool for turning burls, as the type of cut and heaviness of cut can be changed virtually on the fly by using a different part of the fingernail grind.

The Ellsworth gouge can be used successfully by both beginners and advanced turners alike. The fingernail grind may take a bowl or two to get used to initially, but you will soon discover how versatile the tool shape is.

Again, if you have the money to invest in a good turning tool like this, do so. If not, stick to your regular roughing gouge and smaller bowl gouge, and start saving those pennies!

Available to Order Online through these companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In Australia

Ellsworth Signature Gouge

In the USA

Ellsworth Gouge Photos
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Ellsworth Bowl Gouge with
17" long handle!

Special fingertip-type grind for versatility.

A nice deep flute...

Stained beech handle and brass ferrule complete the "look"

The gouge is well-machined

Making a shearing cut on the
outside of a bowl.

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