The Versatile Irish Grind

Irish Grind Overview: You can look high and low, but you'll never find a bigger fan of the versatile Irish ground edge, than this redheaded (ok, there's a little grey up there now) Texan. These grinds are known by many names around the world including Swept Back, Drawn Back, Laid Back, Texas Irish and Ellsworth to name a few. Whatever you call them, they are a favorite among many bowl turners and they are becoming increasingly popular grinds on spindle gouges.

A 40 degree Texas Irish profile with 1.25" side wings on a 1/2" bowl gouge

Top down view showing the small fingernail edge on the front of the tool

When I first opened my studio many years ago, I was using bowl gouges with traditional flat grinds. While these worked well in some situations, they were sorely lacking in others. Like so many things in woodturning, there is more than one way to do something and it's always good to experiment occasionally with new grinds and new protocols.

As a production turner, this grind is a true workhorse in my studio. It can hog off large amounts of wood on a green bowl blank amazingly fast, or it can produce delicate wisps of shavings as delicate as goose down. With its drawn back wings, it gives excellent visibility in the cut and it can get into tight quarters where a flat ground bowl gouge could never venture. Swept back grinds can also be used for shear scraping, further extending the versatility of this amazing grind.

A 35 degree Irish ground 3/8" spindle gouge with 1.5" long side wings

A 40 degree Irish ground 3/8" spindle gouge with 3/4" long side wings

I use several variations of Irish profiles on bowl gouges and spindle gouges in my studio. It has become one of my favorite grinds because of its extreme versatility and adaptability. If you've never tried this type of grind on one of your bowl or spindle gouges, take one and put an Irish grind on it. Use it side by side with your usual grind and see which one you prefer. If you're like me and all of my students, you will quickly find that the swept back grind can be a very useful and effective grind to have on some of your gouges.

Irish ground micro spindle gouge

The specific style of these grinds used by woodturners today varies considerably from turner to tuner. However, though the years, I have settled upon a version I call the "Texas Irish Grind." It features a straight wing, drawn back on the sides in various lengths, with a small fingernail shape on the front of the tool. The side wing bevels are ground with an angle that allows the gouge to shear scrape effectively.

There are many other styles of swept back grinds in use. Some feature a slight radius on the wing shape, with larger diameter fingernail shapes on the front end, and various wing lengths on the sides and various angles on the side wings. Whichever style of this grind you prefer, an Irish profile can be a very productive and useful grind to have on a few of your gouges. Give one a try and see for yourself!

Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.

Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.