My Best Magnolia Bowls

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Project by Bill Slayton posted 03-24-2013 09:15 AM 3610 views 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Wood came from two very big Southern Magnolias at my church. I’m a little partial to Magnolia because its the Mississippi state tree and flower and I think I lived most of my childhood in the top of my neighbor’s Magnolia in Jackson, MS. The pastor said he was going to cut them down. I protested but he did it anyway so I asked for the trunks

Been wanting a wood lathe for years but didn’t have one when they cut the trees. Didn’t even have a chainsaw so the logs lay on the ground in the sun all last Summer, which may explain the beautiful spalting. But, finally I found an old Craftsman wood lathe at a pawn shop and made a bowl that impressed my Dad, so he bought me a chainsaw, finally enabling me to go get those logs.

Some of the church members wanted the Magnolia for firewood so I hurried and got as much as I could and even found another wood turner who came and picked up about 6 of the 2’ logs. Had about 1500 lbs I’m my garage at one time!

Anyway… what a perfect first tree for a new woodturner. I’ve had some cracking problems because the logs sat in the sun all last summer, but was able to get these few bowls out of it.

16 comments so far

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1099 posts in 4011 days

#1 posted 03-24-2013 11:35 AM

Love the story. Love the bowls. Love the south! win-win-win.

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View ldl's profile


1135 posts in 2569 days

#2 posted 03-24-2013 11:36 AM

Great looking grain. The dark rim just sets the bowls off.

-- Dewayne in Bainbridge, Ga. - - No one can make you mad. Only you decide when you get mad - -

View BobWemm's profile


2557 posts in 2130 days

#3 posted 03-24-2013 11:57 AM

Thank you for showing such beautiful pieces of wood. The spalting is absolutely fabulous.
Well done.

-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3070 days

#4 posted 03-24-2013 12:53 PM

They are very beautiful. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2828 days

#5 posted 03-24-2013 01:26 PM

Lovely bowls. You’re doing great work.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View wooded's profile


366 posts in 2476 days

#6 posted 03-24-2013 02:02 PM

Like the work like that wood!..................;-J

-- Joe in Pueblo West, Colo.

View a1Jim's profile


117340 posts in 3781 days

#7 posted 03-24-2013 03:05 PM


-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Ken90712's profile


17594 posts in 3392 days

#8 posted 03-24-2013 03:24 PM

Amazing work and great story! Just love spalted maple.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2490 days

#9 posted 03-24-2013 03:36 PM

My god these are beautiful. Where do you get your blanks from?

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4269 days

#10 posted 03-24-2013 03:56 PM

Beautiful wood and bowls. Hard to believe that you learned to turn so quickly – but you have done well.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Bill Slayton's profile

Bill Slayton

6 posts in 2132 days

#11 posted 03-24-2013 05:47 PM

Thanks everyone for the great comments! Not sure I deserve them. Really don’t know what I’m doing. My church provided the Magnolia. God provided the spalting and grain and led me to the first wood lathe I’ve ever seen at a pawn shop. The dark rim was a technique I discovered by accident. I’m embarrassed to say that the accident resulted in a burnt finger. Up close, the dark rim actually is a beautiful dark brown that looks like the koa rosette on my $3000 Taylor guitar!

I’m one of those guys who always needs some kind of creative outlet. I played Bass guitar at church for several years but not for the last year. Turning wood has been a wonderful experience to help me release some of that pent up creative energy. Each piece is like a treasure hunt.

Anyway, thanks again! I have almost run out of the Magnolia. I’m trying a couple of Sweetgum pieces I picked up off a storm-downed tree when I went to visit my Dad in Mississippi in February. I also recently got a large piece of Tulip Poplar and have roughed out about eight bowl blanks. Other than that, I’ve only turned Magnolia. So far… I think I want to return to Magnolia exclusively. The Sweetgum is nice but causes a very mild rash on my arms. The Tulip Poplar smells terrible and, while it has about the same amount of spalting as the Magnolia, it just doesn’t come close to having the same beauty. But I’m new to this, so those thoughts are just some inexperienced “first thoughts”.

If anyone knows of a downed Magnolia anywhere around Atlanta, then let me know. Thanks!

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2490 days

#12 posted 03-24-2013 05:49 PM

Try some box elder maple if you want to settle on one piece of wood to turn. Works and drys like a dream.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2392 days

#13 posted 03-25-2013 05:30 AM

Beautiful pieces !

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Deltawood's profile


40 posts in 3401 days

#14 posted 03-25-2013 03:55 PM

The dark rim was a technique I discovered by accident. I’m embarrassed to say that the accident resulted in a burnt finger._”

What was the technique, I am ignorant and curious. I am a novice at turning bowls and would love to learn how you did it, great accent to the wood. Thanks.

-- - If it ain't broke, don't lend it!

View Bill Slayton's profile

Bill Slayton

6 posts in 2132 days

#15 posted 03-26-2013 12:29 AM

Here’s the process for the dark rim:

1) Get some #0000 steel wool.
2) Turn lathe up to the speed used to turn the piece.
3) Roll up the steel wool until it’s as thick as possible.
4) Press firmly to the sharpest corner or thinnest rim (too hard could be very dangerous if a thin rim suddenly gave way. Be careful!).
5) Another warning: Steel wool is so fine it will catch on anything. Even with a slightly protruding splinter it will suddenly grab and wrap around the piece in the blink of any eye. Don’t have the steel wool wrapped around a finger!
6) Now, daydream until you smell smoke or your finger gets burned. JUST KIDDING! But that’s kinda how I discovered how to burn the rim. It doesn’t take long for it to begin burning.
7) I use clear spray-on gloss Varathane Polyeurathene (which is difficult to keep from running). I hate using colored stains because the wood color just stands on it’s own.

Again… I am very inexperienced, especially with wood drying and finishing. My focus thus far has been on “releasing” what’s inside and I’ve ruined some nice pieces due to my poor drying and finishing skills.

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