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A friend is getting a guitar for his birthday made of cocobolo and adirondack spruce. To commemorate the event, I'm planning to make him a cigar pen with adirondack spruce for the top end and cocobolo for the lower end. I tried turning a spruce test blank tonight, because I suspected the spruce might be subject to a lot of tearout. Boy, was I right - everything I tried caused tearout at varying levels. I'm thinking the only solution is to get close and sand to the final shape. Are there any tips you veteran turners can offer?
 

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A friend is getting a guitar for his birthday made of cocobolo and adirondack spruce. To commemorate the event, I'm planning to make him a cigar pen with adirondack spruce for the top end and cocobolo for the lower end. I tried turning a spruce test blank tonight, because I suspected the spruce might be subject to a lot of tearout. Boy, was I right - everything I tried caused tearout at varying levels. I'm thinking the only solution is to get close and sand to the final shape. Are there any tips you veteran turners can offer?
You might get better results if it's "stabilized" ... a couple of forum members have offered this as a service in the past (I believe one is bangleguy) but I have no idea if it's even possible to stabilize this wood.

Hope it works out for you :yes:
 

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You might think about stabilization anyway. Seems like spruce would dent easily. I had that problem with unstabilized box elder.
 

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Your tools must not be sharp enough. I have turned a lot of the softer woods like spruce, pine, willow, cedar, etc. No problems. If your tool isn't cutting well enough try a tool with sharper angle. For example my bowl gouge is sharpened at about 50 degrees. I have another one I sharpen at 40 for tearout problems. If those don't work I try my spindle gouge (If I can rub the bevel) it is 35 degrees. If that doesn't work I go to the Hunter tools which have a bevel somewhere around 30 degrees. For trouble pens I have one skew sharpened at 25 degrees.
 

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The spruces and other conifers have a fairly abrupt transition in each growth ring from the early wood to the late wood. Most obvious, perhaps, is Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Mechanically, the early wood is very soft and by contrast, the late wood is very hard.
Do not overlook the ring count per inch of thickness. For the past decade+, I've been carving mostly western red cedar with some pine and spruce. Anything with a ring count of less than 15/inch is unusable. To the point that I can walk away from it and look for something else with more uniformity. 50+ is well within the range of lighter hardwoods, such as birch.
As a note added in proof, go into a music store that carries fairly high end acoustic guitars with spruce tops. Note the regularity of the growth rings. Bring a ruler and do a ring count.
 

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For turning Growth rings come into affect in two ways. One is if you push on the bevel rather than gliding on the bevel. By that I mean you do need to use the bevel to control the cut but you want as little pressure on it as you can. Sharp tools and relaxed hands help with this. If you put too much pressure on woods that have a hard winter wood and soft summer wood the tool wants to bounce. Light pressure prevents this.
The other problem is sanding. The hard winter wood doesn't sand as easily so the surface gets lumpy expecially if you start at 80 to 120 grit. Another good reason for sharp tools, so you can start your sanding with higher grits.
 

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I assume spruce is very much like Cyprus "very soft" I made 48 cigar pens out of Cyprus for a customer which were from boat planking made in 1938. The pens were given to his customers. The only way I could turn them was to use a very sharp skew chisel, even that was a chore. I finished them in CA and you need to be careful that your finger nail while applying the CA did not damage the wood. If I used a spindle gouge it would tear out the grain even after sharpening, but the skew worked the best. I also turned some redwood which was from a boat house and I had to use the same technique.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ironically, the adirondack spruce I have is from guitar bracing stock. Very tight grain, probably 16-20 per inch. Dead on quartersawn. My first attempt was with an EZ tool. I thought the carbide might not be sharp enough. It chattered like nuts. I then tried a skew and a Sorby spindlemaster. Riding the bevel on the spindlemaster produced a better result, but still a lot of tearout. Sounds like maybe I need to get close with the spindlemaster and then finish off with a sanding stick. The good news is that it sands very quickly.
 

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The spindle master I used had fairly sharp angle to the edge. It should do a good job if you increase the speed and slow down your feed rate. let the tool do the work.
The EZ woodtool is a scraper and simply won't leave the finish a good sharp gouge will. Skew is ever better but only if it's used as a cutting tool and not a scraper.
 

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QS: thanks for the info. I wouild not have predicted a poor result from that ring count.

Somewhere, I read the axiom for drilling metal was "hard means go slow, soft means go faster."
Do you turners think it might apply to woods as well? Of course all other things being equal, tool sharpness, etc.
 
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