Roughing It With the Ci1 Easy Rougher

The Origin of the Tool In Question

The Easy Wood Tool Company of Owensboro, Kentucky makes some seemingly fantastic claims for their signature product, the Ci1 Easy Rougher.  The following comes directly from their website at:

The Manufacturer’s Claims

The Ci1 Easy Rougher is a carbide cutter woodturning tool that addresses fatigue, safety, and efficiency like no other type of tool on the market. It is designed to effortlessly hog away massive amounts of material for any woodturning process without the need for sharpening. The tool design provides support directly beneath the cutting edge transferring the cutting pressure downward allowing the lathe to “take the pounding” that you would normally suffer through when using a conventional bowl gouge for roughing. No more ‘white knuckling’ a bowl gouge.

* Cuts left, right and straight in without changing approach angle

* Truly deeper cuts – up to 1″ off the diameter in one pass.

* Requires very little physical strength or exertion

* Your feet and hips stay in nearly the same position for the blank roughing process.

* Very minimal handle bouncing on irregular shaped blanks

* Reduced kick-back or sucking into work piece

* Chip Deflector keeps most projectiles away from the face and neck

* No intimidating cutting angles to learn and remember

* No bevels to ride

* No fear of a dangerous catch

Why I Wish It Were All True

If only it could all be true!  I like making bowls, really I do, but I really hate the roughing process using my roughing gouge because even with the lathe turned WAY down to 840 RPM, I still get the living hell beat out of my arms and hands.  Plus, I then have to swing around to cut the line for the tenon with parting tool and then use a gouge to cut away the surrounding material.  It seems to take an eternity just to get to the point at which I can start the actual shaping of the bowl aside from all the rough cutting work required to get to round and to set up the shapes needed to mount the blank.  I suspect that my laments are not uncommon among bowl makers.

Finally, I decided to take the plunge and try out the Ci1 Easy Rougher for myself.  The tool looks intimidating due to its heft and its length but still it just doesn’t seem possible that it can do everything that it claims to be able to do.  There was but one way to find out.

Test #1 with Rough Rounded Claro Walnut

I first tried the tool on a piece of claro walnut that had been roughly cut to round on the band saw.  As promised, it cut beautifully, quickly creating massive piles of shavings, and in an amazingly short amount of time had reduced the blank to true round with a surprisingly smooth exterior finish that required little sanding with the exception of the end grain crosscut areas, which is a function of the wood grain not of the tool’s abilities.

Test #2 with SQUARE Canarywood

But the real challenge was yet to come.  Rumor had it that this tool could and would reduce a SQUARE blank to round all on its own, eliminating the need for a band saw for bowl blank shaping altogether.  For this experiment I tried a piece of canarywood, 2 inches thick by 6 inches square.  I was extremely skeptical and expected to have my foolish hands and arms torn off, but nope, the tool handled the task with aplomb, creating an amazingly smooth finish on the “roughed” areas that could easily be sanded with a grit as high as 120 to 150 from the beginning, even in the crosscut end grain areas given that canarywood has a tighter grain that claro walnut.  The pictures will speak far louder, however, than my highest praise.

Tenon and Exterior Terrace Cutting

What I most especially loved with the ease with which the tool will cut tenons.  Holding and working the tools straight down the end of the piece using the diameter of the cutter as the guide for the depth of the tenon worked simply, beautifully, and effectively.  I was in bowl making heaven!

Once the tenon is made, I followed the suggestions of the manufacturer to make a series of terraced cuts on the outside aspect of the bowl and then switched to either a gouge or a scraper to smooth out the terraces to leave the exterior rough surface of the finished bowl.  All total, from start to finish of the exterior couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes.  It was an incredibly experience.

Interior Cuts

I then tried using the same terracing method on the interior of the bowl, after hollowing out to depth using a Forstner bit in a Jacobs chuck.  The method was equally successful on the interior as it had been on the exterior and I was quickly in the business of sanding the newly rough cut bowl.  However, calling it “rough” is really a misnomer since the amazingly sharp carbide bit, replaceable for a small amount when dull, leaves a very fine finish to the wood.

Notes and Cautions

The only cautions I can see have to do with the speed of the cut that be made.  Keep control of your tool and realize that you will be cutting FAST so don’t go too far.  Also, when they say an amazing amount of shavings, they really mean it.  These will come fast and furious, so the deflector might well be a good, and small, investment.  Eye protection for ANY work at the lathe is mandatory of course, but when roughing from square especially, you would be foolish to not have strong protection because significant chunks may well come flying off.  The bridge of my polycarbonate lenses was smacked with a piece about ½ inch thick by 4 inches long that would have been ugly had I not been wearing protection.  Also, catches can happen, although they might not meet the definition of dangerous per se.  Don’t get too aggressive with the cutting speed and catches should be at a minimum if not eliminated.

The Final Word

My overall assessment of this tool is outstanding and I greatly enjoyed my projects using it.  I think the manufacturer can rightfully lay claim to all that they have and probably more.  The tool isn’t cheap but if you turn bowls I think you will be well served by this investment.  The Ci1 will save you tons of time and effort and increase your level of pleasure in bowl turning by getting you to the fun part of the process much more quickly and easily than any gouge ever could!