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Thread: "found" wood question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Topeka KS
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    "found" wood question

    i would like to get into turning and im trying to gather as much info as possible. one thing im not sure of is whether you can turn wood that has been laying around for a long time in log form? for instance like an old tree that fell a few years ago or something similar? i know newly cut trees are considered green and need to be dried but would a tree thats been cut down for a long time have any usable wood and if so would it still need to be dried? i guess im trying to find a source of cheap/free wood that wouldnt require a year of sitting around waiting to be dry enough to do anything with.

    also i hear about people looking through firewood piles, is the wood they are looking at freshly cut or stuff thats been sitting for a while?
    Als ik kan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Mountain Home, Arkansas
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    Actually, many (most?) turners prefer green wood.
    As to your main question. It depends on the type of tree and it's degree of decay. Obviously soft, rotten wood is unusable. My response is that if it is still solid, it is turnable. In fact, wood that is entering the early stages of rot has variegated lines running throughout. Often these have come color from black to blue and green or even red. This is called 'spalt' and can add beauty and variety to your turned piece. Scavengers go for what pleases them. Unlikely there is one pat answer. Often just being free qualifies the wood as desirable. Personally, I like fruit woods and less common woods from my area. For example, we have a lot of oak, hickory, red cedar and pine. I am not very interested in those. But, show me a dogwood, persimmon, Bradford pear, Osage Orange, etc. I'll have the chainsaw running before the owner finishes saying "Would you like........."

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Frank hit on the key points. I'll add that if the old wood has deep cracks running through it, you're probably best off leaving that piece in the firewood pile.

    All of the "firewood" I've turned was green when I turned it. Recently a neighbor gave ma a piece of sycamore that had been drying for a few years. Once I started cutting it up, I discovered that is was cracked throughout, so I gave it back to him for his firewood pile (along with a bunch of my other bowl blank trimmings).

    As Frank mentioned, most of us would prefer to turn green wood to rough size, let the rough-turned piece dry, then re-turn it to the final dimensions. A solid bowl blank might take years to dry naturally, but a rough-turned bowl from that same blank will dry in somewhere between one and six months, depending on the drying method.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Goodland, Kansas
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    Hello Mike. I just saw you are from the other end of the state. Anyway the advice you got from Frank and Vaughn are spot on. I would really rather turn green wood especially bowls, Hollow Forms and vases. If I am turning small stuff like lidded boxes, christmas ornaments, mini birdhouses, pens or peppermills you really want dry wood. They are not so bad to turn dry with the small size and you use a forstner bit to drill to openings of some.
    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.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    i understand most folks like to turn green wood, but what about after the wood has been dried? its not considered green anymore after that right? to me that would be the best part of turning, getting everything finished shaped and ready for the finish

    i want to get a lathe soon and start turning but i dont want to have to wait 6 months to finish my first bowl!

    is buying kiln dried blanks the only option?
    Als ik kan

  6. #6
    Mike,

    Green wood is easier to turn. It turns quicker and doesnt' dull your tools as quickly as dry wood. Wood that has been drying but isn't quite dry and has cracks.....well....you spin it up and the cracks can cause the blank to become a bomb and explode while you are turning it. Usually when this starts to happen, it will suddenly start to vibrate or the sound the spinning blank makes will change. Any of the aforementioned conditions...stop the lathe and check the blank. In some cases you can successfully fill the crack with either epoxy or superglue and after the adhesive dries, finish turning it. If you elect to not glue it and it's really cracked....put in the firewood pile. You only have to have one come apart once while you are turning it to make you realize why you repair it or pitch it.

    Usually green wood is turned to a rough state....allowed to finish drying....then returned to the lathe for finish turning. Then it can be sanded and a finish can be applied.

    In some cases wet wood can be turned to a thin thickness and finished immediately. In those cases the project will usually warp and that is taken for granted and considered as part of the effect. Some folks turn natural edged (NEs) bowls this way quite successfully!

    Dry wood....say kiln or air dried can be turned quite well and immediately finished. But......it's much harder.....will dull the tools quite rapidly requiring more sharpening more often.....often several times if not many sharpenings will be requried to finish the project. But it can immediately be sanded and finished.
    Ken
    ------



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fitzgerald View Post
    Mike,

    Usually green wood is turned to a rough state....allowed to finish drying....then returned to the lathe for finish turning. Then it can be sanded and a finish can be applied.


    Dry wood....say kiln or air dried can be turned quite well and immediately finished. But......it's much harder.....will dull the tools quite rapidly requiring more sharpening more often.....often several times if not many sharpenings will be requried to finish the project. But it can immediately be sanded and finished.
    wouldnt the green wood you rough turned then put away to dry have the same hardness and effect on the tools as a kiln dried blank? obviously there wont be as much material to remove since thats what the rough turn got rid of but it seems like its the same except you wouldnt have to wait months to finish your project. or am i still missing something else here?
    Als ik kan

  8. #8
    You are absolutely right.....But you don't have to sharpen tools 3-4-5 times to get to the same place.....But you do have to wait......
    Ken
    ------



  9. #9
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    Yep, Ken nailed it. Finish turning the dried rough-out is not easy, but you're removing a lot less material, especially on a big piece. Plus, you'll have a hard time finding kiln dried wood in larger sizes. Three, maybe four inches thick at the max. Green wood, on the other hand, can be had in much larger sizes. After you've chucked up a big ol' piece of green wood and shot curlies all over yourself and your shop, it's hard to go back to turning dried wood.

    Firewood that's been air-drying for a couple years might surprise you how moist it still is once you get deep into the log. (Assuming it's a pretty big diameter log). A rough rule of thumb that I've seen is that it takes about one year per inch of thickness to air-dry wood. At that rate, a 12-inch log could take 6 years to completely dry. And unfortunately, it'll likely have dangerous cracks running through the wood by the time it gets there.

    As far as the waiting is concerned, if you soak the green rough-turned piece in denatured alcohol (DNA), you can have it dry in three or four weeks. It's usually worth the wait. Plus, you can be rough-turning other pieces in the meantime. Eventually, you'll have a selection of dried rough-outs waiting to be finish turned, as well as a stock of green blanks waiting to be started, so anytime you want, you can go into the shop and either finish a piece, or turn green wood and make a great mess. Just off the top of my head, I've got a dozen or so pieces waiting to be finished, and several dozen sealed green blanks waiting to be turned. The hardest part is deciding what I want to turn each night.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Westphalia, Michigan
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    955
    Mike, you have recieved good advice so far, but I would like to repeat something Ken said. Wood can come apart at high velocities when being turned, not unlike a bomb. I'm not trying to scare you, just want to say don't turn anything very big without a face shield. I've had a few bowls lose a chunk and glance off the face shield, it happens so quick you don't have time for even a thought. I read about one turner who woke up in a pool of blood and had to get his face reconstructed. This is an extreme example and you bet he wears a face shield religiously now.

    If you can get it, cherry is a good wood to start turning on. It turns relativly easy when green and looks nice when finished. I have a friend who owns 45 acres of woods. I advised and helped him get a good price when he had his woods logged. When I started turning I mentioned to him that I was thinking of turning cherry. He enthusiasticly took me for a tour of his woods and selected a large veneer cherry and said "take this one". I declined and found a tree that was dying and cut that one down. They have some of the turnings I hacked out of that tree. Good luck and go make some curly chips!

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