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Thread: New to the site with a few questions

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Vernon, WI

    New to the site with a few questions

    Hey guys, thought I'd start out by at least introducing myself. Name's Wes and I just signed up here not too long ago. I've been reading a lot of your posts and I'd like to say that I find what you guys all do here is very informative and much appreciated! Since I was a kid I've been working with wood in some way or another, whether it be building bike ramps or tree forts, and I'm now a 3rd year apprentice in carpentry. Working with wood in any way or shape has always sparked my interest, especially with turning. I recently received a lathe for my birthday. I've already turned one bowl on it although it was a bit of a journey. Back in high school a few years ago I played around on the lathe for a bit, but it was making things like baseball bats. Turning these bowls seems like a whole new world once you get to the inside. I have picked up a book to learn some techniques on bowl turning but I probably should have bought it and read through it before I started but I think I handle it fairly. A question I have for you guys is about drying the wood and finishing it...

    During the fall, my brother in law and I cut down a very large Elm tree in our back yard. Needless to say I have lots of elm to turn into bowls. I would really like to get a nice set of bowls and plates going for use. Me, being completely oblivious to properly drying wood, started one bowl and it seemed to be a little difficult to cut because of how wet it was, so I took it inside at the end of the day and placed it in front of the register over night. Huge mistake! So, after watching some youtube videos and getting my gouges properly sharpened, I started another bowl and finished it last night. It turned out alright and I sanded it down to about 800 grit. My question would be how do I properly let this bowl dry out so it does not crack? I also picked up some Salad Bowl Finish to apply to the bowl once it dries. What would be an appropriate amount of time before I can apply that? I'm pretty new to this whole thing as far as turning "green" wood compared to dried wood. Any help you guys could offer would be greatly appreciated and I thank you in advance.

    Also, I went to a local woodcraft store to pick up a few goodies for my new toy and decided to grab a blank piece about 5"x6" of Bloodwood. From what I've read about it, it is apparently a pretty dense wood. Does anyone have any experience with it? I thought it looked pretty neat with it's deep red color. I am hoping to start something on it tomorrow and I'm curious if it's going to be a difficult wood to turn.

    Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks again guys!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Welcome to the Family Wes!

    Hey, another turner

    For green wood, what is the usual method is to turn the bowl to an unfinished size, this is called "Roughing it out" then you have to wait for the bowl blank to dry out, and there are many ways to do that. Once dry, you put the bowl back on the lathe, and finish turn it, then sand, and oil etc.

    If I may recommend a very good DVD for you to learn from, called >> Turned Bowls Made Easy << by our very own Bill Grumbine, it is a very good DVD to get you started. The other thing I'd recommend is to join up a local turning club, you will learn a LOT more from watching an experienced turner turn in one hour, than you will reading books for one year, IMHO

    Now to the whole processing of bowl blanks, here is a short version of what I do........

    >> Processing Bowl Blanks the Dungeon Way <<

    Once you have your bowl blanks processed and then roughed out, you will want to dry them, well go read >> This Article by David Smith << it is very informative.

    If you choose to do the DNA soak for your roughed bowls, then you need to wrap them, here is how I do it..........

    >> Wrapping Bowls the Dungeon Way <<

    ....... so will say that my way is a bit over the top (imagine that ) but I've yet to have a blank crack, so I'll keep doing what I do.

    Again, welcome to the Family!

    PS got any pics of your workshop etc, we like pics!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Hey Westley, welcome to the Abyss. I'll toss out a few answers to your questions, and I'm sure others will offer different approaches to get to the same end result...

    Turning green wood is usually much easier than turning dry wood. (I suspect the trouble you had on that first elm bowl was due to your tools not being sharp.) Trouble is, as you discovered, green wood warps and sometimes cracks as it drys. For that reason, most folks - me included - turn green wood bowls to an approximate shape, then let the bowl dry slowly, then put it back on the lathe and re-turn it to the final thickness and form before applying a finish to it. There are some tricks and tips to help make this process work out...some science and some "seat of the pants" guesswork.

    First is the issue of wall thickness. If you leave the walls too thick on a green bowl, it is more likely to crack than if it had thinner walls. If you make them too thin, though, it can warp so much that when you re-turn the bowl, there's not enough wood left to get it back into round shape. (Some folks intentionally turn to finished thickness while the wood is still green, then let it warp however it wants to. It can also be a cool effect, depending on the type of wood.) The general rule of thumb is to make the wall thickness about 10% of the bowl's diameter. For a 10" bowl, the rough-turned walls would be about 1" thick. Different woods react differently as they dry, so this is just a general guideline. Experience will help you refine it.

    Next is drying the rough-turned bowl. There are about as many methods for drying a bowl as there are woodturners, but the two primary ways are to just let is air dry, or to speed up the process by first soaking the rough-turned bowl in denatured alcohol (DNA) for a day or so. An air-dried bowl can take up to 6 months per inch of thickness to dry. A similar DNA-soaked bowl will typically be dry in 3 to 4 weeks. (I use the DNA method, because I'm impatient.) In both cases, most turners take some sort of action to keep the bowl from drying too quickly. (The elm bowl and the furnace register showed you what can happen if wood dries too quickly.) In order to "regulate" the drying somewhat, a lot of folks wrap the bowl in paper (newspaper or brown paper bag material). Others put the bowl in a cardboard box surrounded by wood shavings from the lathe. There's a LOT of stuff you can read about drying bowls with DNA. This thread has some good links to articles and web pages about it.

    For the bowl you turned and finish sanded, I'd suggest putting it in a relatively cool, dry place, wrapped in newspaper or a couple paper grocery bags. That'll help keep it from drying too quickly. How long it'll take to dry depends partly on how thick it is, and I'm not real familiar with elm, so I'm not sure how long it'll ultimately take. If you're in a real hurry to dry it, you could go buy a gallon or two of DNA at the hardware store (in the section with paint thinners and other solvents) and a 5-gallon bucket with a lid that seals. Even if you soak the bowl a few days after turning it, I'm pretty sure the DNA will speed things up.

    It's great that you scored a bunch of elm to play with. That'll allow you to experiment with different thicknesses and drying methods, and see which combination works best for you. Also, I'm sure others will chime in with their preferred methods for doing this stuff.

    Lastly, I highly recommend Bill Grumbine's Turned Bowls Made Easy video to anyone learning to turn bowls. He covers a lot of things to get you started in the right direction.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Dang it Stu, you type faster than me.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Des Moines, IA
    Welcome, Wes. Looking forward to seeing some pics of the bowls.

  6. #6
    Welcome Wes
    Try flat wood working, it is better, sell the lathe at a garage sale.

    The coffee pot is on

    WoodWorking, Crappie Fishing, Colts, Life is good!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    Hi Westley,

    Welcome to Family WoodTurning . . . I mean Woodworking. Glad to have you. As you've already noticed, some of us who have danced close to the edge, but not begun the slide down the slippery slope of roundwork feel free to tease those of you that have. It is probably an effort to disguise a latent envy. ;-)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    DSM, IA
    Westley, Welcome to the Family.

    Congrats on the new lathe and the elm score. The best thing about it is that you have plenty of it to learn on. Have you looked into a local turning group? That can be a great source of knowlege from first hand experience as well. Good luck and please post some pics of your work.
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
    My Website

  9. #9
    Welcome to FWW! Don't let the flatlanders ride you too hard. "A well-rounded" woodworker does flat and round projects!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway
    "I'm pretty new to this whole thing as far as turning "green" wood compared to dried wood. Any help you guys could offer would be greatly appreciated and I thank you in advance."


    It can all get pretty complicated for a production turner, or if you want matched sets, or if you want perfection. It can get a little daunting, and take a long time. The same is true in every field. A while back, there was this poet, name of Virgil. Wrote three lines a day. Three lines! Spent twenty years on one poem, and didn't even get it finished. It's a nice poem, but still...

    As another, later, poet said: "But there is another method!" Thank goodness. It ain't high, valiant art, and it doesn't lead to perfection. But it does work. For the sake of argument, I'll call it the artisan method.

    So you've got your fresh, green blank, however you get it. You screw it on to the face plate, and get it round. Turn a tenon or groove into the bottom... you need a way to hold it in the chuck. While it's still on the faceplate, sand it as much as you're going to. You won't get another chance! Then put some finish on it. Shellac works: anything that dries fast, that will keep the outside of the wood from losing moisture. Something that will soak right in and let you keep going.

    Now, chuck it up and go after the inside with your bowl gouge. Leave 3/4" all around. Now start paring that away, about an 1/8" of an inch at a time, till you get below half an inch all around. Now keep going, as long as you dare. You'll know when to stop. Sand immediately. Waiting even a few minutes means a nightmare of hand sanding, cuz that wood's moving, drying as you watch. Before you blink, it won't be round anymore. Get it smooth, get some finish on it fast!

    As soon as that first coat of finish goes on, you'll be amazed at what you find! To quote Virgil: "Then might you see the wild things of the wood..." (Eclogues, Book VI, line 35). After a couple more coats of finish, you will have a beautiful, unique, and absolutely unrepeatable object.

    Two problems with this method: it will not be perfect. It won't be round. The edge will get wavy, both in width and height. So will the walls. Problem two: Once you start, you can't stop. It all must be done in one session. You can't walk away, you can't "finish it up in the morning." But you can turn out some fairly nice things this way...

    Real turners don't do things this way. They rough out bowls, dry them one way or another, and produce things of great beauty and elegance. My things are far from elegant... but some people do like them... And I've never spent more than 15 minutes on a sonnet. I don't think Keats did either: I mean, have you ever read 'the grasshopper and the cricket'?


    Last edited by Bill Lantry; 03-10-2008 at 05:16 PM.

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