Turned a Hornbeam burl the other day. This is my first attempt at something like this.
Right now it’s turned thick and in a paper bag to dry. So assuming the bark survives that what would anyone recommend? I was thinking Danish Oil might soak in and garden enough to stabilize it a little. Or should I give up and go ahead and take the bark off?
Thank you for permission to post...
First, that looks like it could turn out to be a really stunning piece! Horn
beam is a wonderful wood in general, but can be reactionary in nature, especially in the more figure grain of burls, birds-eye, ripple, etc. as you probably already know or have found out.
SLOWING THE DRYING PROCESS:
As per our short offline discussion, I store my project that need to take time to dry underwater whenever possible. This is both a proven and acient method of arresting the process of drying in wood. Logs harvested out of swamps, rivers, lakes and even in the ocean in some rare conditions are some of the most valuable wood to be acquired and pleasure to work with. I will (and have) store logs, bolts and cants in the mill pond for months to years, until time for final milling. Water, over time, allows wood to relax and for the general cellular structure to loose interstitial stress that in has. The water, if given enough time, will permeate the entire piece of wood (or entire tree) there by generating an overall condition of homeostasis within the wood cellular matrix. Stress may, in certain species and grain patters be present, just as before, however they are vastly mitigated and much more manageable than when in a..."fresh off the stump"...condition.
Also per our offline short discussion, no...I don't ever use mineral oil on my wood. I don't care for petroleum based products in general and tend to only use natural and/or traditional materials/finishes. The blend (Heritage Finishes) I use on wood turning stock (if not under water...LOL...
) is a mix of pure food grade beeswax, tung, flax and some citrus oil (a penetrating oil as well as carrier agent) all augmented with pine rosin. This blend does a really good job (though more costly than most) of slowing and/or completely arresting the drying of your turning stock. I have used Anchorseal, but do not find in better in any way and the traditional blend above is superior in nature, though more expensive.
As you are learning, wood in general does not like to dry fast, or at uneven pass with the wood around it. When it does we see distortion and/or checking. In there own reality, neither distortion nor checking are a real issue. Well learned and/or traditional woodworkers actually use and rely on some of this distortion and checking to make there joinery, and use of the wood to benefit the project they have selected for it. In other projects, it has to either be expected and planned for or...mitigated to the greatest amount possible.
Inexperience (ignorance of traditional woodworking methods) are the primary reason most fail to keep bark on their projects when that is the desired goal and affect for a project. Getting bark off a piece of wood can be done more easily with the wood is "running sap" but only in some species...NOT ALL. Further, unless a tree is frozen solid, the bark is often the loosest in mid to late winter...and tightest to the trunk in summer-early Fall...but this, again, is regional and/or species specific; and often only a marginal consideration or issue either way. Soaking in wood water does tend to loosen bark in most species, yet it does it more evenly and very often in one entire and intact section. As I mentioned offline, actual validity in experience while working in the folks traditions of green wooding, as well as performing the task of actually harvesting and milling one's own lumber gives the greatest insight to this side of woodworking. As you can see there is a great deal of "urban legend" and misinformation out there too often repeated. There isn't a great deal in published works (in English) on the subject, and Folk style woodworking modalities are poorly (or completely) misunderstood in the contemporary wood shop, as are most aspects of traditional understanding of wood in general as it has served humans for the last several millenia.
I'm pleased you like the "folk aesthetic" that bark often lends to a turning project. Bark in general can very much accent a project whether its a turning project, Chair, Hutch, or simple bark inclusion within a large plank of a Harvest Table top. It can be challenging to mitigate sloughing in bark's cell structure where it interacts within the xylem, phloem, and cambium layers, yet in many species this can be achieved or reversed if one wishes for the "bark look" on a project.
It will be a challenge, and it would be a false claim to state that its not more of a challenge than taking it off. Many original pieces that we see with bark inclusions and/or retention within museum collections are accidents of the process and the species selected for the item in examination. Some species will hold there bark naturally because of the way the species grows. However, keeping it often is no more challenging than just gluing it back onto the project should it loosen.
In your project (Horn-beam...which can have nice tight bark!) I would just put a "tell-mark" on the bark so you can keep its orientation correct more easily and should it show indications of loosening, just glue back on.
Feel free to shoot me an email should you wish. Response time is slow as I'm on a timber frame project in Vermont and out of WiFi range accept for the weekends now.
Good luck with your project...