Sitka Spruce Burl

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Project by Stonekettle posted 11-17-2015 08:39 PM 755 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Sitka spruce burl

Probably one of the toughest pieces I’ve ever turned, simply because I kept expecting it to disintegrate.

The burl I cut this from was large, about 4 feet across, and dry-rotted throughout the center. It was taken from a tree that had been killed by invasive spruce bark beetles (a continuing problem here in Alaska). I have no idea how long the tree had been dead before the wood was harvested, likely years. The burl sat outside in the elements for at least a decade and then dried in my shop for another two years before I cut it up into blanks. Then it dried for another year. What solid wood remained was very soft, like balsa, and was laced through with lines of spalt and veins of dry rot.

Turning it required low speed and a VERY sharp 5/8” Irish grind bowl gouge – which I sharpened on a low speed aluminum wheel, then stropped on a leather/glass wheel, and finally dressed with a 10,000g diamond hand hone. The cutting tool had to be that sharp, literally sharper than a scalpel, or the soft fibers of the wood would just tear and crush instead of slicing cleanly through the dry rotted areas – which had the consistency of old dry sponge. To hollow out the inside, I had to wrap the bowl in painters tape to keep it from flying apart. After it was turned, I carefully sanded away most of the soft dry rot to exposure the spalt stained figure underneath. Then the whole thing was soaked in stabilized oil, which when dried hardened the wood. Then the whole piece was sanded at low speed on the lathe to 600g. Oiled again and waxed. And finally mounted on a polished walnut base. It’s about 15” in diameter.

-- Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

6 comments so far

View branch's profile


1107 posts in 2574 days

#1 posted 11-17-2015 10:12 PM

hi class bit off turning with all those soft pieces and holes
love the finish bowl


View pottz's profile


768 posts in 405 days

#2 posted 11-17-2015 10:40 PM

sounds like a total pain in the you know what but wow well worth the trouble just beautiful.

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

View BrentKistner's profile


34 posts in 1355 days

#3 posted 11-18-2015 04:03 AM

Very nice work.

-- "Out of the darkness back into the darkness- affairs of the cat."

View bushmaster's profile


1252 posts in 1703 days

#4 posted 11-18-2015 04:26 AM

love the smell of yellow cedar. long as you don’t get too much dust. nice bowl in the end.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View peteg's profile


3806 posts in 2243 days

#5 posted 11-18-2015 08:17 PM

You’re a game man Jim taking on a piece of timber like this, great result

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View XquietflyX's profile


287 posts in 381 days

#6 posted 11-18-2015 08:59 PM

amazing work there!!!!

-- You can tell a lot about your wife by her hands, for example if they are around your throat she's prolly pissed off at you...

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