Safe Starting with a Gouge
The Line of Support
Every between-centers lathe project you do begins with using a gouge. Done incorrectly, it can be dangerous. Here's how to do it right and safely.
To get a piece of stock from square to round on a lathe, woodturners turn to gouges. Using one properly makes it a quick and easy task. Remember the following advice, and you'll be able to do it, too.
Cut with the line of support
When a turning gouge's steel circular shaft touches the tool rest, only a small section actually contacts it. This is the supported area. Trying to cut with any part of the gouge to the left or right of this area can result in grabbing of the work and damage to the wood, or worse.
You'll see this effect if you rest a gouge on your workbench. Hold the handle as you normally would, then press down on the left or right side of the gouge -- the areas not contacting the bench. The tool twists. Now push on the part of the gouge in contact with the table. Nothing happens because that part of the tool is supported by the table. Cutting on the lathe with a gouge works the same way. Use the supported area and all you have to do is guide the tool.
With the gouge on the tool rest, imagine a line from the handle to the cutting edge passing through the point of contact between the tool and the tool rest. That's your support line, as shown in the drawing below. And where it reaches the cutting edge is where the tool should contact the wood. If you roll the tool left or right, the line moves and the point of contact with the wood moves with it.