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. Michael Audette Author August 18, 2017 (12:37 am)

    Where can I order one? I have just about all of your carving devices.

    Michael Audette
    Thomaston CT
    [email protected]

    Reply to Michael Audette
    • Alicia Ellen Author August 29, 2017 (3:35 pm)

      Hello Michael! We are hoping to launch in Europe in September and USA around October 🙂

      Reply to Alicia Ellen
  2. Leslie R Lumber Author August 18, 2017 (5:26 am)

    Believe it or not, my name is Les Lumber! Wood seems to be in my DNA. In Florida there is a “to die for woodworking shop” in our development. I happily woodturn there. Back in Canada I look for safe tools to teach my grandson how to carve, turn, etc.. The ball gouge looks like a safe way for he and I to use the wide assortment of hard wood we have. Great use of bonding time on a wet or cold June to October day. Please advise when I can obtain. Les.

    Reply to Leslie R Lumber
    • Alicia Ellen Author August 29, 2017 (3:43 pm)

      Hi Les! Woodworking is in your heritage clearly! Once you become familiar with the operation and technique of the Ball Gouge it is strangely therapeutic yet fun to use. I like the way you think, it definitely is a safe yet fun tool to use, you and your grandson will be able to make some cool stuff which will be super rewarding for the both of you 🙂 Providing everything is on schedule we are hoping to make it available in the US around October. You can keep up to date on future developments of the Ball Gouge via our newsletter.

      Reply to Alicia Ellen
  3. Nick Pregent Author August 18, 2017 (6:30 am)

    I have been watching the progress of this tool for some time! I am in the USA and want one ASAP to play with. When do you think I can buy one and have it sent to me here in the states?

    Reply to Nick Pregent
    • Alicia Ellen Author August 29, 2017 (3:38 pm)

      Hi Nick! Yes it’s been a whirl wind getting Kevin’s idea to a commercially available product – it’s all very exciting really! We are hoping to launch it in the USA around October, if you are subscribed to our newsletter you will be the first to know when and where to get it 🙂

      Reply to Alicia Ellen

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