Failure turning plywood

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Blog entry by GenuineGeek posted 01-21-2013 10:05 PM 21480 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Last Saturday I posed a goblet that I had made from construction grade 1/2inch plywood that was glued up and then turned. It came out better than expected.
Today I was trying to turn another complimentary piece from the same products and process.
Here are the pics of what happened. I am not sure if my tool caught the wood and caused the break or if the break caused the piece to move and and then catch.
In any case, the plywood came apart (not at a glue line) and flew and bounced around the garage.
Thankfully I am ambidextrous and almost always find a way to stand at lease mostly off to one side or the other while turning and I was untouched.

Lessons learned:
1. I am never going to turn a piece made from used 10 year old construction grade plywood. You never know how that piece has been used and if it has been stressed in places and is ready to come apart. I will continue to use plywood but only brand new cabinet grade.
2. I need to get better at using that skew tool.

Here are some pics of the process.

-- Don't try to figure it out... just turn it.

10 comments so far

View lew's profile


12060 posts in 3754 days

#1 posted 01-21-2013 10:11 PM

I don’t think I would have used the skew for this type of turning.

The skew works great it the grain runs parallel to the lathe axis but will catch like crazy on any other grain orientation.

In my opinion, a gouge and scraper would be the way to go. Just my 2ยข

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View GenuineGeek's profile


157 posts in 1980 days

#2 posted 01-21-2013 10:15 PM

I agree. This was only my second turning since high school (mid 40’s now) and I need to relearn an awful lot.

-- Don't try to figure it out... just turn it.

View dean2336's profile


238 posts in 2908 days

#3 posted 01-21-2013 10:43 PM

you might want to try glueing your blank up on a skew so your plys are not vertical—say five to ten degrees so your plys are on a slant not vertical—-i had the same trouble on my OSB turnings

-- dean2336,nebr.

View GenuineGeek's profile


157 posts in 1980 days

#4 posted 01-22-2013 03:18 AM

Dean, I was intentionally testing that layout. Last week I created one where they were horizontal instead of vertical. I may try some on an angle as that should look good.
I will NEVER use old plywood that I don’t know if it has been stressed or flexed at lot. Only new cabinet grade from now on.

-- Don't try to figure it out... just turn it.

View tomd's profile


2155 posts in 3769 days

#5 posted 01-22-2013 04:53 AM

I agree with lew, I would not go at ply with a skew.

-- Tom D

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3333 days

#6 posted 01-22-2013 01:55 PM

The plywood quality was my first though when you said it went to pieces. Maybe Baltic Birch would be a better choice. Better luck next time.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20487 posts in 3104 days

#7 posted 05-03-2013 01:27 AM

GG, I think you would have better success if you turn the plywood with the grain running parallel to the bed of the lathe. I turn a lot of plywood and find that you get a much better pattern when you turn a shape into the side of it ( take a look at my last bowl) and I find it is much stronger in that direction. At one time I used a few pieces of plywood for spigots or tenons to hold the piece in the chuck using it in the direction you did there. The darn thing separated just like what you had happen. I don’t turn any of it that way any more…................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1868 days

#8 posted 05-03-2013 01:51 AM

Sharing these types of experiences can be more valuable than basking in our successes. You came away unscathed, and perhaps will prevent another from being harmed.

Entertaining read too!

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View GenuineGeek's profile


157 posts in 1980 days

#9 posted 05-03-2013 01:52 AM

Exactly Buckethead, that was my main goal. That, and it keeps me humble to admit my failures openly.

-- Don't try to figure it out... just turn it.

View 78woodspinner's profile


2 posts in 795 days

#10 posted 03-24-2016 05:03 PM

I only use carbide tools on plywood!

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