Cottonwood Turning Question ?

Dan Mosley

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Palm Springs, Ca
There is a guy cutting down a fallen Cottonwood tree and managed to pickup a truck load of it. However, I have never tried to turn cottonwood before. I tried to turn a pc when I got home today but it seems a bit of a pain to turn green - its comes off in long strands and has alot of punky kind of areas in some of it. However, I only tried a scap pc of it and did not the time to cut up some of the large trunks to try a better sample....
Anybody ever turn any of it ??????????????

Kind of looking for a quick answer because I can pick up another load if I want it possibly on Saturday - after that it will become firewood or taken away.....................
.
Thanks Dan
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Most of what I've heard about cottonwood has said it's better in the fireplace than on the lathe, and it's not any good in the fireplace. ;)

Seriously, I've seen a few nice finished pieced made of cottonwood, but most everyone I've known who turned it said it was a pain to turn, and not always worth the effort. Personally, if I was already pretty well stocked on other wood, I think I'd pass on the second load of cottonwood.
 

Barbara Gill

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Remlik, Virginia
If you can get some from a bifurcation it can have awesome figure. We used Cottonwood for cabinets in our bathroom. It has many of the same figure you can find in Maple.
The down side is that it can be difficult to get a smooth cut on and it soaks up finish like a sponge. You need to keep the gouge sharp and take smaller cuts than with most wood.
 

Dan Mosley

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Palm Springs, Ca
I called the guy (tree cutting buss) and im going to pass on any more of it (cottonwood).....ill just cut up what I have for next year and the fireplace - Saturday im going to try to pick up some ash, grapefruit, and pepperwood...........running low on turning stock.

There was a flood near the guys house and some trees were uprooted and they are cutting alot of them over the week. I am hoping for a better selection of the down stuff.

Thanks.............Vaughn I am hoping it will burn ok though................
 
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Growing up in Kansas we had a little saw mill and cut a lot of Cottonwood for pallets and roof sheeting.
I also used a lot of it for painted furniture (antiques made daily) It is kind of for turning it is kind of like trying to turn bubble gum.:D It takes very sharp tools to cut and it wares them down fast. It sands very well however. Even when kiln dried it still fuzzes when cut.

All that being said I have made some rustic boxes from wormy Cottonwood and just stained them and then a coat of wax and they looked great everyone want one. :dunno:
 

Kerry Burton

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Orem, Utah
I've only turned one thing from the "cotton-less cottonwood " that my neighbors cut down in '09. (See the pics in the [Whats-It Tray] thread.)

It's probably not quite the same as the stuff you picked up. :dunno:

If you haven't already cut a piece down the middle, you might try it just to see what you have. Still, I agree with the others about not picking up a second load. There are too many other woods out there to try!
 

Dan Mosley

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Palm Springs, Ca
Thanks............I started the long process of cutting it up for firewood today and contacting the guy to see if i can pick up some pepperwood, ash and some other wood from him - I think im going early am to pick up a truck load ($30.00 for a full load of wood). So at worst I guess I have some firewood for next year and ill spend another $30 tomm for a load of good hardwood.................................

Vaughn------------you were kidding about the wood and burning or were you serious ????
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Ditto what Jay said about burning cottonwood. It burns fine, just quickly without putting out much heat.

...Do ye know enneyone in Cal. that does stable? ;)

I know a guy who'd try if he could find a source for a lid gasket. :p He's working on it, though. (Money's been pretty tight too, so the pressure pot's been a bit lower priority than some other things.)
 
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Dan I have turned some cottonwood and don't mind it at all. Mike Mahoney turns a bunch of cottonwood for bowls and platters he sells. I had never given it a thought till he told me to try it. Most of what I have turned has been green and the returned. If the wood has been down for a while it will get soft and kind of punky. Curt Fuller turns a lot of cottonwood also. Mike also said to get it 6 months or less after falling or if someone has cut one down. We burned a lot of wood on the farm before we got the furnace and dad would chew us if we brought any cottonwood for the stove.
 
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Vaughn McMillan

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If I remember right Vaughn those were Craftsman Pressure pots so Sear's should be able to get them and shouldn't be all that much. :dunno:

Thanks, Jay. I was thinking Harbor Freight, and was not looking forward to trying to get parts from them. I'll see what Sears can find for me. :thumb:
 

Dan Mosley

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Palm Springs, Ca
Thanks to all for the comments on the cottonwood - I suppose I can cut it up into firewood pc's and mix it in with the rest of the wood.
I burned a couple sections tonight for the heck of it (the dry pc's I had). I'll just burn it up with the rest of the mix.
I will turn a few pc's of it for the heck of it and see what happens. I tried a few pc's of it and with sharp tools it still was a disappointment to mess with.

I'll post again tomm if I end up going to get some more. It is my intention anyway to get one more load as long as its close to being free
($30.00).

The downed trees from the flood made a mess and they are clearing it out fast so im hoping ill still get a shot at the Oak, Ash, and Pepperwood and whatever else they have cut up. I turned some Pepperwood today I had to try out what it would be like. It is really nice to turn, not much color variation in it (fairly whitish) but seems to be good turning wood.........................
 

Curt Fuller

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North Ogden, Utah
Sorry I'm late, but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents on cottonwood. When green it's miserable wood to turn, but when allowed to weather and dry out it can be really nice looking wood. I got quite a bit from standing dead tree awhile back. It had stood dead long enough to lose all the bark and turn gray. But in the crotches of the tree it had also absorbed the minerals, etc from the rain and had colored really nice. I wouldn't bother with the straight sections of the tree, but in the crotches or near the base where the weight of the tree can cause curling, I'd grab it up. Here are a couple examples of the color it gets from age...
 

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Dan Mosley

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Palm Springs, Ca
Curt - Barb...............wow that looks really great. I would have not thought you could get those nice pc's out of that kind of wood. The wood seems very light, soft and cuts really punky like with a ton of tear out no matter how sharp the tools are. Ill keep some and set it to the side and try it out after it has dried out well...........
 

Paul Downes

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Westphalia, Michigan
Those are some beautiful turned pieces.

I think the good Lord put most things on earth for a reason and it's up to us to discover their use. Most people call Box Elder junk wood or a weed tree. In truth it isn't much good for burning but it also has some pretty, figured, and stained wood grain.

Cottonwood is considered one of the best woods to deck a heavy equipment trailer. It dries light and very hard and fuzzes rather than splinters under use.

Other than that, I see it can also turn out some fine looking turnings.
 
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