3 Ways to Avoid Bowl-Turning Tearout
How can I avoid end-grain tearout while turning a bowl on the lathe?
James Gould, Manchester, None
Most bowls are turned from a long-grain section of the tree, so you work mostly end-grain wood. It is more difficult to cut than side grain and you need a very sharp tool to leave behind a smooth surface.
You can start with a fingernailgrind gouge, because it removes wood faster. However, it tends to act as a wedge and tear the wood fibers, so use a short-ground gouge for your final cuts, because it leaves a smoother surface. On denser, figured, and spalted woods, I use a gouge with a shorter grind right from the start.
Also, make cuts with the grain. This means cutting from the smallest diameter to the largest on the exterior and the largest to the smallest on the interior. If tearout is still a problem, apply your intended finish to the difficult areas and, while it is still wet, make finishing cuts with a freshly sharpened tool.