Wet vs. dry traditional vs. carbide

This was an exciting experiment for me, not only in terms of tools and materials, but also the way in which the article was produced. As some of you may already know from previous articles – one in particular entitled ‘Needs must’ in the February 2021 issue – as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve gone from having a practical business to one that’s now solely online.

During my time demonstrating and teaching at numerous venues and events throughout Europe, I’ve gained valuable experience using various lathes and tools. With this article, my aim was to compare commonly used turning tools – swept-back and traditional-ground bowl gouges and a parting tool – with carbide equivalents, including those from Crown Hand Tools’ Cryogenic range, Jimmy Clewes’ Mega Mate hollowing tool, and the Simon Hope Carbide Pro hollowing tool.

I used all of these tools on both kiln-dried sycamore and wind-blown ash. The results were certainly interesting – in some cases expected, while unexpected in others. In the woodturning sphere, this very topic has been the subject of debate for some time now. As with any hobby and its associated innovations, experimentation is required and decisions made as a result are often determined by personal choice, physical situations/ability, and of course budget.

Using the technology adopted for my online business, the following article is the first of its kind to be produced. In doing so, I used five Canon camcorders, an ATEM Mini Pro, which captures footage and produces stills, along with a LumaFusion editing suite to produce the video highlights and photos shown here. All in all, it’s a very novel and exciting way of bringing this format to print. I hope you enjoy and that it provides with some food for thought.

• Crown Cryo M42 gouges • Record Power M2 gouges • Ashley Iles HSS gouges mounted in Simon Hope handles

• Mega Mate by Jimmy Clewes • Simon Hope 6mm Carbide Pro hollowing tool • Nr5 Hunter Tool designed by Jimmy Clewes

• Crown Carbide flat cutter tools • Various Easy Wood Tools • Glenn Teagle carbides • Woodpeckers carbides • Others made up myself using cutters purchased from eBay

In my opinion, however, the best performers and by far the most superior carbide tools are those from Crown’s Cryogenic range

MATERIALS USED: Dry sycamore; wet ash LATHE: Powermatic 3520C CHUCK: Record Power SC4 professional geared scroll chuck


From left to right: TRADITIONAL TOOLS: 12mm swept-back bowl gouge; 10mm swept-back bowl gouge; 12mm traditional-ground bowl gouge; 3mm parting tool CARBIDE TOOLS: Mega Mate by Jimmy Clewes; 6mm Simon Hope Carbide Pro hollowing tool; Crown Carbide Pro with round cutter


1 The ceramic plate – used for salads, stews and pasta dishes – which I’d go on to reproduce in wood form


2 Dry sycamore was used for the first plate. When producing videos such as the one shown here, I’ve now started to spray dry wood with a grey primer to aid visibility, as it allows cuts and tool angles to show up more effectively


3 Here I’m truing up the sycamore blank using 1) a Record power M2 bowl gouge with swept-back grind and 2) a Crown M42 parting tool


4 Cutting back the 100mm recess using a 10mm traditional-ground Crown Pro PM bowl gouge. I found that cutting from the middle outwards was the best method for laying down fibres, and therefore producing the best cut


5 Removing a ring of wood, which will be saved for a future project – most likely a circular picture frame. It’ll be interesting to note the difference in movement between the dry and wet material


6 Using a Crown M42 parting tool to remove the sycamore ring. I then swapped to the Crown M42 swept-back gouge to produce an ogee shape, used in draw-cutting mode


7 The tool produced a good finish on both surfaces, but the wet ash was much easier to work; this was expected due to the material being drier and the fact it was kiln-dried does make a difference. Using this tool, the edge also remained sharper for longer, especially when used on wet material such as this


8 The project was completed over two days. To minimise movement, at the end of the first day, I wrapped both plates in pallet wrap – to keep the moisture both in and out. No matter how dry your workshop is, airborne moisture will always be present. Not only can this be lost, however, but also absorbed due to humidity


9 Starting with the dry sycamore, I trued up the surface using a Record Power M42 swept-back bowl gouge. These gouges are supplied with a traditional grind, but if you’d like to see how I produce a swept-back grind, videos showing this technique can be viewed on both mine and Record Power’s YouTube channels


10 Here, I’m using the Crown Cryo tool to true up part of the surface so that a comparison can be made on each piece in terms of finish achieved using the various tools


11 The same process was then repeated using both the Jimmy Clewes and Simon Hope tools


12 I separated the face of the plate into sections, with each one labelled according to the tool used, so that a comparison could be easily made. Both cut in a similar fashion, producing shavings; however, the Jimmy Clewes tool is ground at a set angle whereas the Simon Hope tool is best used at a 45° angle in raking mode


13 I carried out exactly the same process with the wet ash and the results were similar, except that the ash was much easier to cut compared to the dry sycamore. Also, the finish achieved using the carbide tools was far superior on wet wood compared to dry. In terms of finish, using traditional tools, the result was the same, as I’d achieved bevel contact and successfully laid down the fibres


14 I used a pair of figure-of-eight callipers to gauge the rim’s wall thickness. The most interesting turning, however, occurred when using various tools to remove the plate’s centre


15 Results were very similar on the wet ash...


16 ... but much different on wet sycamore


17 An interesting point to note was that all of the carbide tools raised the grain of the dry sycamore during the turning process


18 When used in pull-cutting mode, however, the Simon Hope carbide tool created the best finish in comparison to others used


19 The final cut was carried out using an Ashley Iles HSS traditional-ground bowl gouge with a short bevel, mounted in a Simon Hope handle. This one produced the best finish, requiring the least amount of sanding


20 I noticed a little torn grain on the rim, so therefore produced a shear cut using a long swept-back 10mm bowl gouge, which, incidentally, is my favourite tool. Both the Crown M42 and Record Power M2 produced lovely, fine gossamer shavings, with the flute almost closed and the back hand held down at around 60°


21 I sanded each of the plates using 120, 180 and 240 grit abrasives, with the CamVac extractor switched on, in addition to wearing an Elipse face mask and wrap-around goggles


22 One of my completed turned plates shown beside the original ceramic version. I set out to emulate this design in wood, using various timbers, as well as a selection of traditional and carbide turning tools


23 The two completed turned plates in dry sycamore and wet ash

Although this subject has already been widely discussed on platforms such as Meet the Woodturner – see www.patcarrollwoodturning.com and various Zoom forums, my belief is that there is, always has been, and always will be, a place for carbide tools. Such examples are ideal for those turners wanting to carry out some occasional turning, and can therefore avoid the process of learning how to use traditional tools. They’re also great for turners with a range of challenging conditions, such as poor grip, manual dexterity and arthritis. And for those turners not wanting to sharpen tools or buy a grinding system, thanks to their disposable carbide tips, these tools present a great option. Having said that, Crown’s carbide cutters can be easily resharpened using a diamond card.

As I’ve demonstrated here, I believe that carbide tools do have their place, although my personal preference would always be a traditional tool as it produces a far superior finish on a variety of materials. The same result, however, can be achieved with carbide tools, ensuring you begin with a coarse abrasive. Regardless of the tools chosen, however, as long as you use them in a safe manner and have fun doing so, this can only be beneficial in terms of one’s health and wellbeing. I hope you have fun making shavings!