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I hate to trouble you folks but I need help. I've been turning bowls for a short while and everyone loves them except for me.

It seems that no matter how careful I am with my cuts I always am left with a small patch that refuses to not tear out. By tear-out I don't mean the usual and I'm not sure if it is even the right term.

Basically, the wood that is just short of end grain will not sand smooth. It might not be noticed by most but it irritates the hell out of me. Even when I try to sand it by hand I can't remove the imperfection. With a relatively soft wood like Cherry it is not such a problem but with something like Birch, Hornbeam or Elm it refuses to co-operate. I always keep my tools sharp...very sharp...but it doesn't seem to make a difference. I've even tried using a sanding pad on an electric drill. Not a garden variety cordless but A powerful Dewalt. Is the blank not dry enough? too dry? And yes I have tried sheer scraping with the sharpest tool and a perfect burr. God I would love if someone could give me any pointers


I refuse to believe that these tough stringy woods can't be turned smooth.
 

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2 things come to mind to try. OK maybe 3 things or maybe 4. First, don't push the tool too fast. Speed up the lathe if necessary, slow down the tool feed. Let the tool do the cutting. If you force the tool through the wood it will tear out even with a sharp tool.
Second. Try cutting in the opposite direction. We often cut figured woods when we turn. Sometimes the lip to bottom direction may not be the best. Try cutting in the opposite direction. Usually this will clean up the bad area but might cause tearout in another area. I look and see which is the easiest to repair afterwords and go with that.
third. Try a tool with a sharper angle. My bowl gouge tip is ground to about 55 degrees. I have another one ground to 40 (and one at 80 but that's another story) I also have a detail gouge that is ground at 35. If I have tearout I can often go to the 40 degree bowl gouge or the 35 degree spindle gouge and clean it up. Of course this won't work if you can't rub the bevel. In that case I may try one of the Hunter tools but rub the bevel. It has an even sharper cutting angle but the bevel is about 83 degrees so you can often rub the bevel with this tool where you couldn't with another.
Last but not least. Shear scraping. Use around nose scraper on the inside but tilt it at about 45 degrees. Cut with the lower half. Drag it up the bowl with the handle leading the edge and higher than the edge. This will often clean up areas the other tools won't do. Sometimes it's not as good but it's worth trying.
OK I lied. There are 5. Turn the lathe off and use a round cabinet scraper to clean up these areas. You can clean them up faster and better than course sandpaper and it won't give you ridges in the summer winter wood which varies in hardness.
Hope that helps.
 

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Maybe try to get it down close to your desired depth the use paste wax on end grain tear out areas, this will help lubricate and let you cut instead of pulling or tearing the wood. technique use by Ray Key. good luck.
 

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Never tried the paste wax Jeff, but I have had some luck with using lacquer to harden up the fibers for a better cut. This is in addition to everything that John said, all good tips.
HD,
If you end up with some tearout or imperfections, you have to go with a rough enough grit initially to get rid of them. I have never dropped below 80, but starting at 150 sometimes won't do it. Go rough enough to get rid of your tearout, and then start working your way up. Once you get rid of the imperfections, it goes pretty fast.
Mike Hawkins;)
 

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It depends on what type of wood you are using as well. There are some types of wood that I can't scrape without tearing, although it took me a long time to realize it. For example, I can't scrape chinese elm. When I work with it, I have to focus on using the gouge(s) with very accurate and proper cuts. Take your time and get to know the wood you are working with, and remember that every cut you make can be seen as practice for the end product. You should be able to take many, many cuts on a bowl before you are finished...use them as practice to get the best surface possible by taking your time and turning off the lathe often to examine your work. You can even try scraping the wood long before the bowl is close to completion just to find out what techniques are going to work for you on that particular pice of wood.
 

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I found out just recently that if I use my versi tool, from penn state ind. , and light shear cuts, to finish up , I can eleminate most tearout. However, I'm using only KD lumber and I'm just a rookie. Its a long learning curve when your trying to teach yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks!

Thanks for all of the great advice. I will keep it all in mind. Paste wax or another wood stiffener does seem to do the trick but I am a little hesitant to use it. I want to be sure that the finished piece is completely food safe so I'm trying to avoid chemicals when possible. That said, I turned a few pieces of Elm and used poly with wonderful results. Also I must say that I am being sort of a perfectionist. When I say "Tear out" I really mean just some slightly rough fiber that won't smoothe to a high polish with a simple oil finish. My guess is that it isn't possible without a buffing wheel (I don't have one) and the right compounds. Also I think that I need to invest in a really high quality gouge and sharpening stone..Yikes, they are pricey!

Once again, thanks for all the input!
 

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I don't consider it being a perfectionist. A bowl without tearout simply looks better, takes a better finish and makes you proud.
I often use thinned lacquer to stiffen the fibers if wax doesn't work. Both are food safe once the solvents have evaporated so no problems there. The same is true with thin CA.
 

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One other option may be to use your finishing oil and use wet/dry sandpaper at about 120. Let the slurry fill the tear-out the way a woodworker uses pore filler to fill open grain wood. Let dry and then continue sanding with finer grits.
Mike
 
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