Highland Woodworking
Turning the Corner: The Amazing Small Fingernail Gouge
By Temple Blackwood

Over time, woodturners discover that many of their chisels, originally developed for one or two specific tasks, can be applied to other tasks that are less obvious but equally effective in creating efficiencies. My natural preference for favorite tool is the skew chisel, But if we're talking "best tool in the box" – my tool-for-the-day is the versatile and dexterous fingernail gouge, which in my shop comes in three different sizes: (bottom to top) Sorby's 12mm, 8mm, and 6mm.

Depending on the sizing specifics of the turned object, any and all of these differently sized small gouges work well for creating a number of smooth, clear spindle details.

For the purpose of this article and making a typical ceremonial gavel, the Sorby 8mm continental fingernail gouge is featured.

Although most turners think of the gouge as a tool for making coves, it can also make lovely, well-rounded beads – such as on this gavel handle.

With the bevel rubbing (always), roll the bead from large toward the smaller diameter by twisting the tool the same 90 degrees as with the 3/8" beading & parting tool. The shape of the fingernail bevel, hollow-ground, promotes a full twist in rolling the bead first on one side, then on the other.

Similarly, the same small gouge can twist the other way under full control (bevel rubbing) even in the middle of a rolled bead.

It leaves a clean, well-defined cove.

With the flute rolled hard to the side and using the long edge of the fingernail, the turner can also form a straight shoulder that transitions the cove to the bead detail.

Angling the tool for this takes a bit of practice in order to get a sharp angle from shoulder-to-bead.

By altering that angle slightly, the shoulder and decoration can be changed – all using the small gouge, and the long taper can be smoothed. The toss-up decision for the turner is to either make this cut with the gouge-in-hand or take the time to put the gouge down, find the skew, pick that up and apply it for the tapered smoothing cut, and then switch back to the gouge – a judgement and comfort call that does impact efficiency.

Working on the other end of the gavel handle, the small gouge can work the transition from handle to head (in this example the pin will later be threaded to allow screwing the handle into and out of the decorative cherry burl head.

With imagination and an eye to seeing the vast array of spindle detail possibilities all around us, the turner can create an unique profile that will proudly enhance this lovely gift of honor.

As a matter of integrity, every step of this gavel handle was turned with the 8mm fingernail small gouge, a skill-builder as well as an efficiency step.

Properly sharpened, bevel rubbing, this handy little tool earns its keep standing up to even the ever-popular skew and the always-ready 3/8" beading & parting tool.

If I am expected to choose between the two items in the photo, I will take the gouge, which in turn can make the entire gavel, handle and head, and then make more of them.

Located in Castine, Maine, Highlands Woodturning gallery and shop offers woodturning classes and shop time, a gallery of woodturned art, custom woodturning for repairs, renovations, and architectural installations. You can email Temple at temple@highlandswoodturning.com. Take a look at Temple's Website at http://www.highlandswoodturning.com/

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