Appropriate tool width

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Amihai

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Oct 8, 2021
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45
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Israel
Hello,
I'm looking to buy a roughing gouge and a skew. I turn solely pens.

What size do you think will suite pen turning best? The 1/2" (12.7mm) or the larger 3/4" (19mm)? Thanks.
 
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monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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Saratoga Springs, NY
I would go larger for the roughing gouge. Roughing gouges are generally used to reduce a blank to a round spindle, and the larger the tool, the more uniform the diameter of the spindle will be.

However, I view a skew as a tool that is used for precise work. While I have a 1" skew, I don't use it nearly as often as my 1/4", 3/8" and 3/4" skews. The smaller two are actually shop-made, one from an old flat-blade screwdriver, and the other from an old spade bit.
 

mark james

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Sep 6, 2012
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Medina, Ohio
I am largely self-taught with tool technique, so I will never recommend my humble skills.

For what it's worth, I regularly use a 3/4" Sorby roughing gouge for pens, usually as a scraper - start to finish. I also am a horribly SLOW turner... I like the time spent turning, when it is done the fun is done. So I take my time. YES - I am not a production turner, or need to replenish my inventory for the next weekends show.

I regrind occasionally, but hone often - 4-5x per pen. For certain woods, it just doesn't feel right, so I go to some smaller HSS and carbides. Not sure why, probably 'user-error'. I suspect I like the heft of a larger tool - less chatter, less movement. It works for me.
 

duncsuss

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Jun 29, 2012
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Wilmington, MA
My preference is for larger rather than smaller tools.

I'm not turning doll's house furniture - my aim is for a smooth uniform pen barrel not super-fine details. A 1" skew is much easier for me to control than the tiny thing that came in the Woodcraft pen turning tools set, and works well for detailed finials too. I think my normal Spindle Roughing Gouge is 1.25" - as Louie pointed out, a smaller diameter is more likely to leave ridges in the workpiece.
 

jrista

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Joined
Aug 12, 2021
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1,138
Location
Colorado
I use a 1
I am largely self-taught with tool technique, so I will never recommend my humble skills.

For what it's worth, I regularly use a 3/4" Sorby roughing gouge for pens, usually as a scraper - start to finish. I also am a horribly SLOW turner... I like the time spent turning, when it is done the fun is done. So I take my time. YES - I am not a production turner, or need to replenish my inventory for the next weekends show.

I regrind occasionally, but hone often - 4-5x per pen. For certain woods, it just doesn't feel right, so I go to some smaller HSS and carbides. Not sure why, probably 'user-error'. I suspect I like the heft of a larger tool - less chatter, less movement. It works for me.
I'm very similar in my turning...I use a roughing gouge, either a 7/8" or 1-1/4" Carter & Son. I use the roughing gouge start to finish on wood (for resins I use other tools). I used to use it in a scraping mode, but more recently I've found that if I can get the upslope of the U on the gouge to cut, its more like a sheer cut, and it seems to just cut better than the scraping mode.

Earlier on when I'm rounding a square blank, I'll usually use the roughing gouge at a high angle, cutting at the center of the tool. With the high angle, it cuts rather than scrapes, and makes very very short work of getting a square blank round. I like to take my time getting the blank shaped and with as smooth a finish as possible (before sanding and finishing), but I don't like to spend a lot of time rounding. ;) The gouge is great for both when its wood.
 

Woodchipper

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Mar 15, 2017
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3,797
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Cleveland, TN
I use a larger roughing gouge as this is what I learned on at a Woodcraft class. Haven't tried a skew but just viewed a demo on turning aluminite with RG, scraper, square carbide tool and skew. I'll see if I can find his name. I thought it was a good video. Here is the link if anyone is interested.
 
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