10 Woodturning Tools Every Beginner Needs

In addition to skill and a lathe, good woodturning is the result of high-quality cutting tools. Whether you're starting with spindle or faceplate turning, these are the essentials you need.

By Will Briskin | Published Sep 16, 2022 8:32 AM

wood turning tools

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Woodturning on a lathe is one of the most rewarding woodworking skills. Using a wood lathe requires significant patience, precision, and, ultimately, practice. However, with the right approach and an understanding that you might encounter some challenges along the way, all you need is a good set of woodturning tools to get started. However, with so many options to choose from and a seemingly endless amount of technical jargon to learn, finding the best woodworking tools for your needs can feel like a greater challenge than the project you want to complete.

Not to worry—the research on essential woodturning tools has already been done for you. Here, you’ll find a collection of the best woodturning tools for a novice. And if you want to take your skills to the next level, it’s recommended that you also check out our guide to the best online woodworking courses.

Basic Spindle Turning Tools

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There are two types of woodturning: spindle and faceplate. The lathe tools used for spindle turning largely differ from those used for faceplate turning. Spindle turning refers to projects where the wood is positioned between the centers on both ends. Spindle turning projects include things such as chair and table legs, wooden spoons, and pens.

1. Roughing Gouge 

wood turning tools

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A roughing gouge is a tool used for both spindle and faceplate turning. A roughing gouge, as the name suggests, is often the first tool woodturners use on any project. Roughing gouges need to be durable and easy to maintain as they are more likely to come into contact with debris and they can remove more wood per pass than most turning tools. Choosing high-quality gouges, like this pair of Yellowhammer roughing gouges, is essential to keeping a workshop running well and within a reasonable budget (which will be of primary concern if you want to make money with your lathe).

Get the Yellowhammer Turning Tools Roughing Gouge Set on Amazon for $89.99

2. Spindle Gouge

wood turning tools

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A spindle gouge is designed for intricate, precise turning work and is more difficult than its faceplate turning counterpart: the bowl gouge. Spindle gouges like those in this Hurricane Turning Tools set have a sharp angle, which makes them harder to control, especially when the wood lathe is spinning at high speeds. This increased bevel angle makes sharpening spindle gouges a bit of a challenge, too, so be sure to brush up on how to sharpen your woodturning chisels.

Get the Hurricane Turning Tools Spindle Gouge Set on Amazon for $104.39

3. Skew Chisel

wood turning tools

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Skew chisels are hard to master, but they’re essential pieces in any spindle turning toolbox. They are great for making transitions between shapes in the same piece, as well as for smoothing out wood surfaces and making intricate v-grooves to elevate a project’s aesthetic appeal. If you want to sell your projects on marketplaces such as Etsy, fully grasping the skew chisel can help your products standout from the crowd.

The handles of these Narex skew chisels are made of hornbeam, but if it’s your first time using a skew chisel, it’s usually best to choose pine. Pine is soft and more forgiving, making it an ideal species for learning how to use this tool on the lathe.

Get the Narex Right & Left ½-Inch Skew Chisels on Amazon for $47.99

4. Parting Tool 

wood turning tools

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Parting tools make deep channels into the depth of a spindle project. Parting tools are often used to delineate transitions between shapes as well, which makes them ideal for chair, table, and bedpost legs that require a good amount of detail.

Keep your eyes peeled for parting tools with a diamond head shape, which reduces the likelihood of skips and jumps on rough corners. Parting tools are often used in conjunction with turning calipers, which allow you to measure the diameter of the part you are making.

Get the Imotechom Diamond Parting Tool on Amazon for $29.99 

5. Scraping or Finishing Tool 

wood turning tools

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Scrapers and finishing tools are critical aspects of achieving a furniture-quality finish. Their main job is to remove dents, dings, and other imperfections towards the end of the project. Not all finishing tools are the same, though. Some, such as this Easy Wood Tools finisher, come with carbide tips and are much more versatile than traditional scrapers. Whichever route you choose, coming to grips with using a scraper is a must for anyone looking to progress beyond the beginner stages of woodturning.

Get the Easy Wood Tools Full-Size Easy Finisher on Amazon for $129.99

Basic Faceplate Turning Tools

wood turning tools

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Unlike spindle turning, faceplate turning involves affixing a wood blank to one end of the lathe (as opposed to both) via a chuck or similar device. Although there is some overlap between spindle and faceplate wood lathe tools, the below purpose-built faceplate turning tools should be part of any basic lathe tool set.

1. Lathe Chuck and Faceplate

wood turning tools

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Thankfully, faceplate and spindle turning can be done on the same woodworking lathe. However, you’ll need to purchase an additional chuck or faceplate, which is what you will use to affix your project to the lathe itself. Chucks are especially useful for bowl turning, but are used across all types of faceplate projects.

However, lathe chucks like this 3 ¾-inch WEN option aren’t universally compatible, so you’re going to have to research the thread diameter and pitch for your specific model if it didn’t include a chuck.

Get the WEN Self-Centering Keyed Scroll Chuck at The Home Depot for $97.13

2. Bowl Gouge 

wood turning tools

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Bowl gouges, as you might guess, are used for shaping both the inside and outside of bowls. Bowls are almost always made with the faceplate turning method, since making a bowl on a spindle lathe is unnecessarily complicated. Bowl gouges have a deep flute and have a V- or U-shaped profile, as can be seen in these Yellowhammer bowl gouges. U-shaped bowl gouges are best for making smooth, deep cuts on the inside of the bowl, while v-shaped bowl gouges are more versatile and can be used for roughing, shaping, smoothing, and finishing.

Get the Yellowhammer Turning Tools Bowl Gouge Set on Amazon for $99.99

3. Round Nose Scraper 

wood turning tools

Although the name sounds specific, round nose scrapers are quite versatile and can be used on both faceplate and spindle turning projects. However, round nose scrapers are especially good at smoothing out and finishing the tight inside corners of bowls, vases, and other vessel-shaped projects.

Keep in mind that scrapers diverge from gouges in that larger scrapers are easier to control than smaller ones because the consistent application of surface area reduces the likelihood of slippage.

Get the Yellowhammer Turning Tools Round End Side Scraper Set on Amazon for $49.99 

4. Bedan

wood turning tools

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Bedans aren’t commonly included in woodturning tool kits, but they’re quite good at hollowing out boxes and also make for great parting tools. The fact that the bedan can be used as a thick parting tool makes it useful for spindle projects, as well. Bedans like this Robert Sorby option have a trapezoidal shape, so the top surface is narrowed more than the bottom. This unique shape leaves a nice relief when making a straight cut.

Get the Robert Sorby ⅜-inch Bedan on Amazon for $54.94 

5. Hollower 

wood turning tools

Photo: amazon.com

Hollowers are key to making all sorts of vessel-shaped projects on a faceplate lathe. They are used to bore symmetrical or specifically shaped holes into a project. Hollowing tools like Asieg’s come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some of the more advanced options designed for hollowing out spaces that are larger than the opening. Vases that swell at their midpoint and drastically narrow at the opening are a hallmark of an accomplished turner.

Get the Asieg Swan Neck Hollower on Amazon for $43.99

The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on September 16, 2022.