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Thread: Beginner's Turning Blank Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    WNY, Buffalo Area

    Beginner's Turning Blank Question

    I've watched both Norm and David Marks turn bowls on TV. They both cut their bowl blanks the same way.

    Why are the bowl blanks cut perpendicular to the rings of the tree? I would have thought that to do a bowl you would just cut the end off of a log and mount it on the lathe and go to work.

    My uneducated guess is that it has to do with either strength or expansion/contraction. But, Really I have no idea.
    We create with our hands in wood what our mind sees in thought.
    Disclosure: Formerly was a part-time sales person & instructor at WoodCraft in Buffalo, NY.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Hey Sean!

    I've seen bowls done that way too, they call them "End Grain Bowls".

    Depends on the wood, usually you want to cut the pith out of the blank, the pith being the very center of the log, this is where all the cracks start from.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Further to Stu's details, the orientation of the blank will field different patterns in the finished bowl. Sorry, I don't have any examples at hand but maybe someone else could post some?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Yep, choosing an orientation is personal preference but end-grain is always a factor. The orientation can make a big difference not only on the appearance of the bowl but also how it warps (if any) as it dries.

    And, like Stu points out, you always have to deal with "Revenge of the Pith".

    This little blank was perfectly square and could have been oriented in any direction. I chose this due to the vertical striping effect created by the grain pattern. Just personal choice, but I thought it was much more interesting than having the rings circle the piece horizontally.

    Last edited by Neal Addy; 01-10-2008 at 04:39 PM.
    I may be lost but I'm making good time!
    Three Seasons Woodturnings

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    DSM, IA
    Sean, IMHO trial and error will teach you how wood cracks, warps and bends and what kind/shape of blanks you prefer. As long as your being safe, try what you think might work and see if it does. I wouldn't doubt you learn something no one here knows...well maybe something I don't know Good luck.

    PS, in my trial and errors there is usually more error than success, but it does teach me quite a bit.
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
    My Website

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think it is easier to turn a piece when the grain is running perpendicular to the lathe's axis. It is harder to get a clean cut on end grain, particularly with the regular turning tools. This can be overcome by using end grain tools though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Hamilton, NY
    here is a black walnut version of what youre asking about. Many problems with this type of bowl is due to the pith, as others have said. The pith causes cracking, and if you dont make the walls thin enough they WILL crack (if its wet wood). A good remedy to splits right at the pith is putting CA glue in it. They do look good but as said before getting a smooth cut if difficult.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Harvey, Michigan
    Sean, I have always thought that the orientation of the blank had more to do with strength than anything else. Turn a bowl endgrain and it takes nothing to have it crack on you! Also, it is very hard to get a really smooth finish on endgrain unless you use very sharp tools and light cuts. When done right, such as Neal's hollow form or this small endgrain cherry bowl, I feel they really stand out as the grain is different from what everyone is used to.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Turn a couple of endgrains and see how you like it! No matter how they turn out - it a great learning experience!

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