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Thread: Turning Oak Bowls

  1. #1

    Turning Oak Bowls

    I am just getting into turning and have a couple dried blanks that I've started working on. The maple and cherry woods turned out very nice, smooth right from the bowl gouge. However, a couple oak (red I believe) bowls that I've tried have a much rougher grain and some grain tends to "rip out" during the finishing leaving small pits ... not near as nice and smooth of finish as the other woods I've tried.

    Is this normal with turning oak? Is there anything I can do to avoid / help improve things?

    Thanks guys.

  2. #2

    That's the nature of oak IMHO. I've turned a few things ...boxes from oak. The coarser grain and the hardness makes them a real challenge and also requires more frequent sharpening of my tools.'s something to turn.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Goodland, Kansas
    As Ken said, sharp tools are a must. I might take 2 or 3 passes then sharpen. I will sharpen for the last pass then sand.
    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.

  4. #4
    This is pretty common with Red Oak as the wood cells are hollow tubes and by nature fuzz up or tear out. (this is why they use White Oak for Barrels, in stead of Red Oak as Red oak Leaks) One solution besides light cuts and sharp tools would be to get it close and then add a stablizer such as sanding sealer or other hardening agent to hold the cells erect whilst you slice the final dimension.

    Hardness of the wood will, as was stated, easily dull your tools but more rigid cell structure is a key componant to smooth finish on hard or soft wood. Try keeping a keen edge and the stablizing and see if you don't have a great deal of success.
    Last edited by Bill Simpson; 06-01-2008 at 03:49 PM.

  5. #5
    Thanks for the informative answers guys. This is exactly what I was looking for. I actually anticipate turning a lot more maple than oak, but it's good to know this stuff if I ever get my hands on some.

  6. #6
    I turned a bunch of oak and found out that the key to success is number one, as was already stated, is you must use very sharp tools. Something I don't see mentioned here and I think it is just as important as sharp tools ,is running your lathe at the fastest safe speed that you can run on that particular turning.The pores are big on oak and slower speeds just rip at the wood but faster seems to shear them smoother. Several times while just practicing on oak I would slow my lathe down and cut, then speed it up and cut the same way and the quality of the cut is much improved over the slow speed cutting.I think I got to the point that I now enjoy turning oak, it wasn't always like that for me. Try it. Now I am not advocating turning at unsafe speeds, just fast as you can safely. I think oak is easy to turn but you need to know a few tricks to get it right. Mitch

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    I don't like turning oak. You have discovered why.

  8. #8
    Thanks Mitchell ... your comment about using a higher speed could definitely be one of my issues. I have been using the slowest speed on my lathe so far since I'm just beginning, but I'll try a higher one with the oak.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Central Illinois
    one final thing. Check the grain. If it runs out, make sure that you turn WITH THE GRAIN!
    Most of the tear out is caused by going into the grain instead of with the grain.

    Bruce Shiverdecker - Retired Starving Artist ( No longer a Part timer at Woodcraft, Peoria, Il.)

    "The great thing about turning is that all you have to do is remove what's not needed and you have something beautiful. Nature does the hard part!"

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