Turning Green Wood - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 Old 11-18-2008, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
HLW
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Angry Turning Green Wood

I've just recently started turning green wood for natural edge bowls. Can anyone advise how I can keep them from cracking during the drying time?I've set them on the self in my unheated basement. Some have cracked the first week and some not. The two woods I've used are maple and cherry. Thanks.HLW.
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post #2 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 09:38 AM
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Part of the trick to turning green wood is making all of the parts the same thickness. You can make the bottom slightly thinner because when you add the foot on the bowl it adds thickness. If you leave the heart or knots in the bowl you will probably have checking there. The thinner you make the bowl the less likely it is check. I usually shoot for 3/8" or less unless the bowl is over 10". Even then on a natural edge bowl I still go for 3/8" If the wood had lots of squirly grain or knots shoot for 1/4" or less.
Then you might put it in a paper bag for the first few days to slow down the drying even more. sometimes a really wet bowl will start checking as you turn the inside. I spray the outside with water to equalize the drying when I am taking too long to turn the piece.
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post #3 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 10:43 AM
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Turning green wood

Which wood is giving you the most trouble? I turned a bunch of cherry about three ys ago when I 1st started,they were about 8" in dia and about 1/4 to 3/8" thick and they all ended up in the fire pit (about 30 of em)due to warping,they were sealed an all.So now when I turn cherry I leave the wall on an 8" bowl about 3/4" then once they dry,about 6 mo's I return them and will end up with a 3/8 thick bowl or less. I turn maple about the same,but will get more splitting out of it than the cherry,but very little warping.
Ken
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post #4 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 12:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to both of you for the reply. It seems the cherry is the worst for checking and I've had both to start the checking while turning. I'm beginning to wonder if it's worth the time and effort to turn green wood? Regardless of what safeguards I do to prevent this,should I expect a certain percentage of my turnings to do this? Thanks. HLW.
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post #5 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 04:24 PM
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Green wood requires a learning curve that's for sure. Cherry is only slightly worse than some woods. The trick to green wood is turning it before it's started to check. Cherry will check on the ends from the time you cut it, load it in the truck and bring it home. If you don't cut past this point your bowl already has a crack that you may not see and nothing you do will stop it.
Cut 1" or less slices off the end of the log and try to break them. If they snap in two easily then you have a check. Keep doing this until you hit solid wood. then cut your bowl blank out of this. If you can't turn it immediatelly wrap it in plastic.
You probably aren't as quick at turning a bowl as I am so while you are turning keep the wood wet. Spray it if you have to. It's the uneven drying that causes checks so if the outside of the bowl is trying to dry while your still turning the inside you can get checks. I simply mist it with a spay bottle. If you stop to go to the bathroom or eat dinner, cover it with plastic to keep it wet.
If it's a really important piece of wood after you have turned it coat all the end grain areas with paste wax.Then put the bowl in a bag for a few days.
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post #6 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 05:03 PM
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Turning green wood

Very good points.I have had green wood split on me while on the lathe.I turned two pieces of holly a while back,roughed turn one inside and out,just roughed the outside dia on the other ,then said time to have lunch,BIG mistake,an hr later the piece left on the lathe had split down to the face plate,the other one was fine.As for whether its worth turning green wood.I wood much rather turn green wood than dry,as it is easier on the tools and me.It's just that with some woods(you will learn them)are less forgiving than others.As soon as you rough them out be sure and seal the end grain ASAP,then store them as John said.
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post #7 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again guys for the reply. Let me say that since I started getting the checking problems, I've started splitting the logs in half and I soak the halves in a bucket of water before turning them. Having tried this experiment on one bowl, it seems to be working. What do you guys think, is this a good idea or not? And John, just how fast do you turn your bowls? I'm impressed!
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post #8 of 14 Old 11-19-2008, 07:28 PM
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turning green wood

I may have missed it,but yes you should cut the pith out as that can cause major splitting when your turning bowls.Depending on the dia of the blank you should cut on both sides of the pith.You may be cutting a slab from about 1"on small logs about 8" to 2" thick on larger ones,about 10" and up.You sorta have to judge that little circle(Pith).Once you cut the blanks,you should seal the endgrain with an end sealer to help stop splitting.I use anchor seal,but you can us latex paint or even wax.Anchor seal is a wax emulsion.I have been using it for about three yrs now and love it.I am lucky to have a place where I can store green logs and I don't cut the blanks out untill I am ready to turn the piece,then when I cut the piece off the log to turn,I reseal the end of the log.I feel you have less waste this way.As for soaking the wood,that wouldn't hurt,but if the wood is green you wouldn't need to,just do as John says and wet the wood with a spray bottle as you turn.Anymore questions,myself or someone here will be glad to help,if we can.
Ken
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post #9 of 14 Old 11-20-2008, 07:46 AM
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I'm not sure how much soaking them in a bucket of water before you turn would help. some turners have stored wood in water to keep them fresh. The problem with putting a piece of wood in the water is that the wood has probably already been out in the yard for a while and lost a lot of water. It won't pick up much in a short soak.
As you turn you remove a lot more wood that the water may not have reached and quite often hit wood that is wetter than the outside. Drying wood without checking is all about equalizing the loss of water on all surfaces. Wood looses water faster through the endgrain than side grain. You have to slow this loss down by coating the endgrain areas.
I turn the outside of bowls first. Then reverse them and turn the inside. While turning the inside the outside starts to dry. This causes the outside to shrink while the inside is trying to stay the same size because it's still wet. This can't happen without something giving so the wood cracks. Wipe down the outside with water of spray it with water and you equalize this process.
I haven't really timed myself on a bowl but I can turn a finished natural edge bowl that barely needs sanding in less than an hour. Actually a lot less depending on size and thickness. I usually do my bowl turning demo's in 1 1/2 hours and that includes a lot of demo's on how the tools cut and a sharpening demo.
I know the pro's can rough out as many as 30 bowls in a day. I'm not even close to that. It's all about learning how to use the tools for maximum efficiency and cutting the blanks closer to final size.
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post #10 of 14 Old 11-20-2008, 10:54 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks John for the last post. I'll try the "spraying technique" on the outside of the bowl, that you use. I too have been turning the outside first. Do you usually do your sanding after the bowl dries for six months?Do you hand sand,power sand or both while the bowl turns on the lathe. Thanks.
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post #11 of 14 Old 11-20-2008, 03:35 PM
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I will turn a natural edge or thin bowl to about 3/8". When it's all done except for reverse turning to do the foot, I heat the surfaces quickly with a hair dryer. then I sand it. You can sand green but it clogs up the sandpaper unless you use something like the mesh drywall sandpaper. I kind of flash dry the outside with the dryer and then sand. If your lucky the bowl hasn't warped too much and you can sand it on the lathe with the lathe running at slow speed.
If I'm not in a hurry I do the complete bowl and put it up to dry. It will warp just like any green turned vessel so I let it dry and warp and then put it back on the lathe with the vacuum chuck and sand. I don't turn the lathe on. I lock the spindle with a wooden wedge that I have made and sand the bowl this way. I often have to add a seperate closed cell foam sheet over the vacuum chuck to create added space because the bowl has warped out of round and won't always seal on the face of the chuck.
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post #12 of 14 Old 11-20-2008, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Well John! It sounds that you are way out of my league when it comes to turning. I've got a Jet 1220 with just a regular chuck and I haven't invested in a vacuum chuck. However, I do enjoy what I can do with the equipment I have. I will certainly work with your ideas and advice and see if I can get the same results in my "green wood" turnings.
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post #13 of 14 Old 11-20-2008, 10:27 PM
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I would strongly suggest picking up a copy of Bill Grumbine's bowl turning video. Bill does it right and is very good at explaining why he does everything. He covers everything from the chainsaw to finishing.
Also if if you can find a club in your area you will get much more info than we can hand out. You will meet people with a lot of different tools, lathes and techniques so you get a wide variety of problem solving. You can go to the AAW site to find a club near you.
http://www.woodturner.org/community/chapters/
You will also get a ton o information from the AAW magazine American Woodturner. You get it free if join the AAW which is the American Association of Woodturners. I don't think you can find a better group of people.
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post #14 of 14 Old 11-23-2008, 01:06 PM
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Turning green wood succesfully

HLW,

Here is what I do to turn green wood without frustration and very good results (good enough for people to pay more than 100$ for my pieces):

1. I turn only end grain (see this essay that I wrote why this is a good idea: So you want to turn green wood #1: Introduction to green woodturning - by Alin Dobra | LumberJocks.com :: woodworking community)

2. I turn using a faceplate exclusively (see followup essay:
http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/alindobra/blog/3475)
No expensive chunks, no fuss, no overly preparing the wood (just chainsaw it)

3. I turn all the pieces between 1/16 and 1/8. 1/16 is appropriate only for small diameter pieces (some of my goblets are like that). 1/8 is preferable for larger pieces (up to 15" platters). If the wood is turned to 1/8 (3/16 at most) it will bend when it dries not crack.
Take a look, for example, at this project:
Marbled bowl - by Alin Dobra | LumberJocks.com :: woodworking community

How can I turn something so thin? Practice. Just to convince yourself that there is no magic involved, take a look at the following videos I made to see how I turn a thin goblet out of cherry.
The making of a goblet - by Alin Dobra | LumberJocks.com :: woodworking community

4. I send off the lathe using the newwave disks. This is by far the hardest part for me (but then I am extremely picky).

I hope this helps,
Alin
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