I’ve been working with quite a bit of green wood recently, which means that I have to turn bowls twice: once to rough out the basic size and shape, and then after a period of controlled drying, once more to correct for the warping that inevitably occurs when wood dries. Here’s a bunch that I finished over the weekend:
Back row, left to right: Birch – 7 3/4″ x 2 3/4″, Silver Maple – 9″ x 2 1/2″
Middle row, left to right: Ornamental Pear – 8 3/8″ x 2 1/2″, Ornamental Pear – 8 3/4″ x 2 1/2″
Front: Birch – 7 1/8″ x 1 3/4″
I’ve been working with some silver maple that a friend gave me–they had to cut down a large tree in their daughter’s yard, and offered me some of the larger branches. It’s still quite wet since it was just cut, and so if I turn things to their final size, the pieces will warp as the wood dries.
So I’ve been turning the pieces to close to the final size and shape I want.
Moist, green wood like this turns nicely, and the ribbons of shavings that come flying off the end of a good sharp gouge makes this process a lot of fun. I finished four bowls this morning, and put them into paper grocery bags to help slow down the drying process. (If wood dries too fast, you’re more likely to get cracks.) It will probably take a couple of months until these are ready to finish.
I had a silver maple bowl roughed out, cut from the same chunk of wood as one I wrote about a few weeks ago. I was a little concerned, though, because this one had a large bark inclusion in the bottom.
Well, I put it back on the lathe this evening, and started smoothing up the outside. It hadn’t warped that badly as it dried, and the wood was cutting nicely. Part of the bark came through to the outside, leaving a void that, although a bit tricky to work around, was a nice element in the look of the bowl.
On to the inside. That was a bit rougher. The bark inclusion was causing a lot of clatter as the gouge cut easily through that and then hit the much harder wood. But I was making good progress, and nearly had it ready to sand, when BANG!
The tenon on the bottom (which is how I grip the bowl in the chuck) snapped off. There was enough of the bark going down into the tenon, which weakened it too much.
I guess this one is bound for the firepit.
This one was turned form an oak crotch, giving it an outline rather like a three-cornered hat. (You never know exactly what you’re going to get when you do one of these things.)
10 inches long, 9 1/4 inches wide, 2 7/8 inches high. Danish oil finish.
…and it’s a cooperative effort between tree, sun, soil, rain, wind, and sometimes fungi. I just uncover it.
Silver maple, heavily spalted, and with a large bark inclusion. 7 5/8″ diameter, 2″ high. Danish oil finish.
Late last summer, my wife’s aunt had to have all of the elm trees on her property cut down because they had become infected with Dutch Elm disease. For some reason, the tree service left one stump intact (they ground up the rest of them), so I decided to see what I could make of it.
I sliced it into a couple of thick slabs, and then roughed out a pair of large bowls, which I placed in paper bags to slowly dry. (Letting wet wood dry slowly helps avoid the cracking and checking that happens when it dries too quickly.)
Here’s the first of the pair, which coincidentally, is the 100th bowl that I have finished.
American elm is a lovely hard wood, with an interlocking grain that creates some interesting patterns that shift as you view it from different angles. (The technical term is chatoyance.) Here’s a look at what I’m talking about.
10 3/8″ diameter, 2 3/4″ high. Danish oil finish.
My wife and I spent some time visiting family in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area the week before Easter. While walking in my brother’s Grand Prairie neighborhood, I found some chunks of an unknown species of wood sitting on the curbside, waiting for the garbage pickup.
I’m not one to turn my nose up at free wood, so I grabbed a few chunks. After some research, I determined that it’s redbud (Cercis canadensis). It turns beautifully and takes a nice finish without much fuss.
The logs I took were kind of knobby, hinting at some possible burl-like figuring. Here’s a closer look at the figuring that I found.
7 3/4″ long, 5 1/2″ wide, 2 1/2″ high. Danish oil finish.
Last fall, while out cutting firewood, I found a chunk of green ash that had been charred when a grass fire burned through part of the woodlot. And I thought to myself, “Why not?”
Pretty ugly, isn’t it? Here it is now.
The tricky part now will be sanding it. Touching the charred part with sandpaper smears black dust all over the rest of the wood. I’ve soaked the char with some wipe-on polyurethane; hopefully that will stabilize the char so it doesn’t smear around quite so much. I’ll post a picture once I have the finish on it.
American Elms are lovely trees that have been hit hard in recent decades by Dutch Elm disease, a fungal infection that has killed millions of trees in the United States. Our family farm had dozens of them in the woodlot and surrounding the yard, and one by one, they also succumbed. This bowl is from one of the last to go.
The crotch figure in this one looks to me as if the grain has been melted and sagged.
6 5/8″ diameter, 1 3/8″ high. Danish oil finish.
Last summer, a severe wind storm hit the Pick City, ND region, where my brother-in-law’s family has a lake cabin, and a small chokecherry tree (prunus virginiana) on their property snapped off. My BIL and nephew yanked the root out with a pickup, and before they could throw it in the firepit, I said “I can make something from that.” And I did.
Almost everyone who’s seen it so far has said it looks like a bear paw.
I added some pyrography on the edge. 8″, Danish oil finish.