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Thread: Turning red cedar

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas

    Turning red cedar

    After reading Vaughn's sad post about a fatality from a bowl blank exploding and hitting the turner, I got to thinking about turning red cedar.
    According to the post the bowl blank was "cedar". It did not specify what kind.
    Where I live there is an abundance of red cedar. For turning, I have a real love/hate relationship with it. But, I have stopped using it altogether because of the 'hate' part. Oddly, for a while I made some money selling red cedar to turners in parts of the country that don't have it.
    For those who have never tried turning red is a very soft, easy to turn wood. That is the 'love' part. But, at the same time, a very brittle wood. Catches can, and usually do, cause breaks/explosions and a destroyed project. If turning the project, like a vase, is successful, it is a very pretty wood.
    Red cedar has many tiny knots, any of which can cause a catch and subsequent break/explosion. That is the 'hate' part.
    I'll opine that you are more likely to have a failure turning larger items than success. That can be dangerous.
    Wondering how many of y'all turn red cedar and what your experiences are with it.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Remlik, Virginia
    I have only turned a few pieces from Red Cedar. We have piles and piles of it in the fields waiting to be burned next year. We must have lost 40 trees and an untold amount of tree parts when a tornado went through the farm.
    I turned a bowl the other day for a neighbor who helped with the clean up. I agree with your evaluation of the wood. Another thing I do not like about fit is that I can't use my normal oil finish on it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Coastal plain of North Carolina
    I have never had any particular problems with it and have turned platters up to 18" without a problem. I have not turned any large bowls and have no intention of doing so. Just not interested in the work associated with large bowls.

    I find it easy to oversand this wood which causes waves in the surface and heat checks. Sanding is best done with something between your fingers and the sandpaper that distributes the sanding pressure evenly over the wood. I use layers of 3M pad and avoid using any pressure except enough for the grit to cut. Keep it moving. I found that you can start sanding with a much finer grit as long as you slow down and don't heat up the wood. Hand sanding may be necessary around knots and other defects.

    Thinned poly is my finish of choice.
    Last edited by Mike Stafford; 05-20-2011 at 11:37 PM.
    I may be getting a little older physically but mentally I'm still tarp as a shack.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    I have a couple of red cedar trees stashed in my wood pile... haven't tried to turn any lately, but the few pieces I did turn were very pretty. I also had quite a bit of very old dry cedar that I turned for a while... it was more dust than wood turnings.
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Goodland, Kansas
    I have turned quite a bit of red cedar including several bowls and have not had a problem. The only problem I have had is like Mike said it is easy to get the wood wavy while sanding if you aren't careful and get heavy handed. Light sanding is in order because cedar does not like the heat from sanding.
    Bernie W.

    Retirement: Thats when you return from work one day
    and say, Hi, Honey, Im home forever.

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Reno, Nv
    I was working on a piece of ash today that had a minor check about half way through. As it worked down, the check widened and ended up about 3/4 of the way through. I had my shield on and chucked the blank anyway...just not worth the risk anymore.
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears Combat boots

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