The Evolution of the Ball Gouge by Kevin Inkster

The Evolution of the Ball Gouge by Kevin Inkster

Dear Arbortechies,


By the time you’re reading this you are probably very much aware of our new product the Ball Gouge. While it now seems surprisingly simple and effective, this tool is the product of countless prototypes and experiments often leading to dead ends.

I would like to share with you some of the thoughts that went into its design.

I usually start my tool projects with a vision and try to work towards that. The idea I had in mind was that of a ball shaped cutter that could effectively cut in any direction whilst leaving a smooth cut. Such a tool (as with all our shaping tools) must be able to willingly cut in any direction but not grab or catch.


drill bit

Countersink drill example













While I was pondering on how to achieve such control, I noticed an old style tool that was used to produce a counter sink at the top of a hole. Essentially a cone shaped mandrel with a hole drilled at an angle, that when pressed into a pre-drilled hole, will cut the countersink but only to the point that the circular shape prevents it cutting any further. I reasoned that the same principal might work with ball shaped cutter and so began a bunch of experiments.

In collaboration with our Product Designer Matt Cormack, we started with several prototypes with a shape similar to this:



One of the first prototypes


There were several problems with this design however not the least the fact that as soon as it formed a shallow spherical hollow, it would no longer cut. Also, it was difficult to sharpen and the large hole allowed a finger to be inserted making it not meet our safety standards. I liked the fact though that the holes scribed a perfect sphere with no kickback or grabbing. We progressed through about thirty designs including holes, slot and spirals, all of which had their inherent problems until we finally realized that the inverse i.e. a disc set at an angle would also scribe a perfect sphere.


A few of the many initial prototypes


By adding the sphere (with cut away for swarf) the exposure of the cutting blade can be limited and tuned while the trailing edge of the cutter prevents the leading edge from grabbing. We like to call this feature “Anti-Grabity” and it is unique to the Ball Gouge.



Anti Grab diagram












The final design solved all our problems with control and the circular cutter being set on an angle produced beautiful shavings. One unexpected feature was that the rubbing of the trailing edge actually polishes and sharpens the edge, which can be rotated to be the cutting edge. i.e. self-sharpening.


So that’s a much abbreviated explanation of the design process without going into the nitty gritty of testing etc. I hope you found this aspect interesting.


The final tool is in your hands now and I am truly looking forward to receiving your feedback and seeing what you create with it. Many of our staff are eager to get their hands on the new Ball Gouge for our in-house staff woodworking competition but they will have to wait until the limited edition is sent out. We will be posting videos of projects on our YouTube Channel and I welcome any photos or videos from yourselves.



Once again, thank you for your support and I look forward to your feedback.


Best regards,



Kevin Inkster

Arbortech CEO & Founder


  1. Barry Baudains Author June 15, 2017 (8:50 pm)

    Mine arrived today, really looking forward to having a play with this new tool soon

    Reply to Barry Baudains
  2. Larry Hamm Author June 24, 2017 (4:02 am)

    I have every Carving tool Arbortech makes for carving,can’t wait to get the Ball Gouge.Have some Bowl projects waiting.

    Reply to Larry Hamm
  3. Jeremy Bach Author June 28, 2017 (12:21 am)

    Where is it available? I need this in my life.

    Reply to Jeremy Bach
  4. Brad Purcell Author June 28, 2017 (11:27 am)

    Would you consider making an arbor to connect to my die grinder with an 8mm collet?
    This would be the perfect tool to work along side the mini carver

    Reply to Brad Purcell
  5. Jakub Danik Author July 6, 2017 (5:45 am)

    I would like to know,when this is going to be available in UK?Thanks.

    Reply to Jakub Danik
    • Alicia Ellen Author July 6, 2017 (9:35 am)

      Hi Jakub! If you are subscribed to our woodworking newsletter you will be one of the first to know when, where etc 🙂

      Reply to Alicia Ellen
  6. Steve Innes Concept Designer Author August 15, 2017 (6:18 am)

    I have bought one of the first and I must say trying to gouge a simple depression in jarrah was terrible, I have it on a variable speed Metabo grinder tried all the settings on speed and tried all techniques, it bounced around and grabbed in fact ripped a chunk from the side wall depression, or it burned. I have many of the Arbortech cutters and I thought this looks good, But if your doing something other than softwood like pine I can’t recommend it. Sorry tpo be negative but it felt like a blunt ball.

    Reply to Steve Innes Concept Designer
    • Patricia Author August 22, 2017 (1:53 pm)

      Hi Steve, thanks for your feedback. We have just released a new video on how to handle hard woods with the Ball Gouge and also reduce bouncing. It is normal to experience some bouncing on hard woods because of the anti-grab technology, however, this can be greatly minimised by working on small circular movements as you can see in this video. Working along the grain will also reduce tearing significantly:

      Reply to Patricia
      • Patricia Saito Author August 22, 2017 (3:58 pm)

        Hi Steve, just a follow up, Kevin has just tested your Ball Gouge on a piece of Jarrah and it is working well. I believe he will contact you soon.

        Reply to Patricia Saito
  7. Rhonda Morris Author September 12, 2017 (5:43 am)

    Are these still available?? I cannot find one for sale anywhere, even on your site.

    Reply to Rhonda Morris
    • Alicia Ellen Author September 12, 2017 (11:02 am)

      Hello Rhonda, thanks for reaching out to us! Yes and no, it depends what country you are in. Please contact us at [email protected] so we can help you further 🙂

      Reply to Alicia Ellen
  8. Edilberto guerrero Author January 10, 2018 (11:12 pm)

    Hola soy Edilberto Guerrero de peru, compre un turbo plane es una herramienta muy buena y versatil he logrado avanzar en el trabajo estoy muy satisfecho, ahora estoy por comprar el mini turmo y la bolita trabajo con maderas duras y todo va bien .

    Reply to Edilberto guerrero
    • Alicia Ellen Author January 23, 2018 (11:09 am)

      Hello Edilberto! We are happy to hear that the TURBO Plane is working well for you! We love to see what our customers are making so please send us photo’s of your work to [email protected] and we might share them on social media! 🙂

      Reply to Alicia Ellen

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