Turning green wood NOT BOWLS! - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 09-24-2015, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Turning green wood NOT BOWLS!

Ahoy there! I was wondering if any of you could give me a bit of insight about turning green wood. I've read some stuff here and in books about turning green wood for bowls. That stuff all sounds very interesting and fine, but I am wondering about turning green wood for something that isn't a bowl. Let's say for instance that I wanted to turn some green wood for a really small project like a bottle stopper or a pen. Would it be possible to turn green wood for such a project? I guess when I say possible what I mean is, would it be possible to turn green wood for such a project and still avoid cracks. I don't mind warping as much, but cracks would be irritating.

The reason I ask is because I recently got my hands on a green maple burl (sugar maple we think). I read some stuff on how to cut up the burl and seal it for long term storage. But I have a few bits from the burl that i have left over for one reason or another. The pieces are sealed, but definitely quite damp. I would like to turn some of these pieces into pens, Christmas ornaments or whatever if I could. But I've never tried it, and I can't find any material that talks about turning green wood except for turning bowls.

Any insight would be greatly appeciated. Thanks!
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-24-2015, 10:46 PM
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I have made a great number of stoppers from green wood of various kinds. When finishing I seal the stopper real good and have had very few cracks after finishing.
However none were from green burls. A burl could have internal pressure that straight grained wood doesn't' have. BUT ya paid your money so go ahead do some turning.
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post #3 of 7 Old 09-25-2015, 12:49 AM
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As Big Jim said, go for it -- learning by doing is a great way to learn things ... what does and doesn't work. If you don't mind the expense of some failures along the way, then try it and see. There are some things that you will learn about green wood such as it is very easy to turn, but is also fragile and can easily tear or chip out. Of course, the term "green wood" can cover anything from sopping wet cut in early spring to almost dry, but still a bit of moisture.

Moving and cracking go hand-in-hand. When something restricts the wood from moving, the result is generally splitting. My personal recommendation is that for pen turning it is best to cut the wood into reasonable size sticks and let them dry before turning. It won't take too long although making pens by Christmas would be pushing things if the wood is really wet. Bottle stoppers and handles on the other hand are not a big problem. A little shrinking and warping can be tolerated in most cases although I would prefer to use dry wood.

As a final thought, I would add that the wood on pen tubes is so thin that it will most likely be dry by the time that you finish turning them. Because green wood is more fragile than dry wood, it would be best to use a skew where you can make slicing cuts rather than something like a carbide scraper tool that tends to tear the grain. Sanding will be the most risky part of this because a lot of heat can be generated which can lead to cracking. I would recommend that you slow the lathe way down and use very light pressure with the sandpaper. If you feel the sandpaper getting hot, you will know that the wood itself is even hotter ... and it is time to get some fresh sandpaper and lighten up with the pressure.

While experienced turners often try (perhaps too much) to save new turners from having to learn which things do and don't work the hard way, I believe that a better approach to learning might be sharing knowledge while encouraging experimentation. By experiencing some of the basics on wood characteristics I believe helps develop one's intuition about the behavior of wood which is knowledge that will serve you well in the future.

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post #4 of 7 Old 09-25-2015, 12:50 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I may just cut a couple of pieces out and turn them. I actually got the burl for free since I cut it down myself. It weighs just over 300 lbs. so I have plenty to go around, haha.
post #5 of 7 Old 09-25-2015, 12:56 AM
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I would say that you most certainly can turn green wood. In my experience with green wood, I have often used the twice turned approach as the movement of the vessels I have done required it to prevent splitting. Never tried anything small, but, there is always the microwave for a minute or so that would help with drying. One thing to be aware of is the amount of movement that occurs as the piece dries. You may want to consider some sort of stabilization if if you are not gluing it to a pen barrel. Food for thought...

Oh, FYI: be prepared for a shower on anything larger than a pen.

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post #6 of 7 Old 09-25-2015, 01:47 AM
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Well there is always a possibility something turned green will crack. You have to slow down the drying. Best bet would be to microwave dry the blank before turning. Take it slow. I put the blank in for 30 seconds on high. If it doesn't feel too warm or hot I try a minute. Let it cool between each cycle. Might take quite a few cycles for something as thick as a 2 1/2" box blank. Pen blanks should dry pretty fast. Weigh the blank after each few cycles. When it stops losing weight it's dry. It's actually too dry. I let them sit for a day or so if possible to stabilize with the environment.
I have turned Christmas ornaments green. You have to hollow the ball to keep it from cracking. It will warp so I let it dry for a day or so. then I flatten both top and bottom with a sanding disc so that when I glue the finials on they will sit flat. I turn the finials green. If turned thin enough they don't usually crack but will sometimes warp quite a bit.
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-27-2015, 09:36 AM
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Most will not agree with this,but this is what I use on wet pieces of wood,after turning.I put in a pan,enough to cover my wood,let stand for about a day,sometimes longer,pull out and let dry for about two days,then finish.Mack
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