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Forum topic by Nubsnstubs posted 07-17-2015 02:10 PM 1213 views 2 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1286 posts in 1727 days

07-17-2015 02:10 PM

Well, I’m going to post a picture just to see if this forum is still alive. Will there be any signs of life???

This piece’s structure is a skeleton of a Cylindropuntia Fulgida, a local Cholla cactus native to the Sonoran Desert and south into Sinaloa Mexico. It can get up to 12” tall, and have a base of 12”od. Normally they average 4-6” od, 5 – 7 feet tall. I only look for the ones that are dead standing because of the million and a half thorns they have. By the time I get to them, termites and carpenter ants have already evacuated and the thorns and bark come off easily.

The form is 4 1/2” od and 8 1/8” tall. It started out over 8” od, but in order to true it up, I had to keep removing the od. There is no center, so the bottom had to be plugged with other pieces of skeleton wood from the same piece. Despite the look of non symmetrical flowing lines, this piece is round and symmetrical. The large holes seen are from branches on the cactus. It’s a good example of the skeleton not having a center. Let me know what you think of my turning.

Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

14 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1765 days

#1 posted 07-17-2015 02:15 PM

Complaints Jerry?? Like. you are a dead cactus killer or something like that?
I never thought you could do anything with cactus. It looks beautiful. I have been looking for a stump about 12” diameter for a crazy project in my head. How long does it take for cactus to dry? I know you said you harvest the dead ones, but do they require additional drying time?


View Nubsnstubs's profile


1286 posts in 1727 days

#2 posted 07-17-2015 02:47 PM

Hi, Jinks, thanks for commenting. I guess it’s too hot for people to comment, or maybe they’re all on vacation and not able to post comments on the woodturning forum.

If I were to go into the desert and kill a cactus for the skeleton, I would be looking for real trouble because of 2 things. First, they are vengeful creatures. Everything in this desert is designed to defend itself. This particular cactus and relatives are in the Jumping Cholla family. They don’t actually jump, but it sure seems that way when you know you gave yourself about a foot clearance when walking but one. The must have tool needed when in the desert besides having “Desert Smarts” is a large comb like the metal dog combs.

The second thing to be concerned about is Arizona State law. You can’t take anything out of the desert unless it’s on private property with the owners permission. I live in an area of Sowest Tucson where there is a forest of this cactus, and the area is ripe with development. I just need to get there before the land clearing equipment.

To answer your question. Nope, once all the stuff in the center has been eaten by the termites and ants, the wood is dry. You would notice any cracks anyway as the way this skeleton grows. The picture doesn’t really show any detail, but every little dark spot you see on the surface are tiny holes. The only solid wood is near the branches, where the flash reflection is. The best description I can give of the structure of the skeleton is that it looks like paper mache’?.

Saguaros, the tall cacti that Arizona is noted for, has about 30-40 board feet of wood in a 20 footer. Mostly sticks, but it is wood.

Prickly pear, which you might have around you, has layers of a woody mesh that you can get in pen turning blanks.

Pm me with you regular email address. ...... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1765 days

#3 posted 07-17-2015 02:52 PM

Yes, we do have a bunch of Prickly pears growing around here. I am going to hunt for some as I’ve never worked with it before.


View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15349 posts in 2616 days

#4 posted 07-17-2015 02:56 PM

Beautiful work, Jerry.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Woodknack's profile


11624 posts in 2377 days

#5 posted 07-17-2015 03:42 PM

Wow! I’d never have thought cactus would be so beautiful!

-- Rick M,

View JollyGreen67's profile


1669 posts in 2760 days

#6 posted 07-17-2015 04:31 PM

Wow Jerry! Beautiful. I’ve never seen a cholla that big, all we get is dinky things here in New Mexico. I know one thing for sure – DO NOT BACK INTO A CHOLLA ! That is if you don’t want to be picking about a zillion thorns out of a posterior surface. ;o)

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected !

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5858 posts in 3192 days

#7 posted 07-17-2015 04:40 PM


I don’t know anything at all about cactus, but I do like your collection of arrowheads….We have a nice collection that we found on several hunts when we lived in Texas…Lots of pottery, too, where campfires were located…This was basically on the Texas / New Mexico border where our farm was…We found several Indian camp sites where the Commanche and Apache lived….We prolly have about 200-300 arrowheads….Nice work on the cactus, though….

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View oldnovice's profile


6849 posts in 3365 days

#8 posted 07-17-2015 05:35 PM

Beautiful to say the least!
Never thought a dead cactus could look as good as that.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View JoeinGa's profile


7736 posts in 2004 days

#9 posted 07-17-2015 05:46 PM

I also would never have thought cactus would look so nice !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2444 days

#10 posted 07-17-2015 06:15 PM

Love what you’ve done with it,two thumbs up.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View Nubsnstubs's profile


1286 posts in 1727 days

#11 posted 07-17-2015 11:23 PM

Thanks for the comments. If I would have known about this response, I would have posted earlier. Basically I was just seeing if the forum had died. I’m glad it hasn’t.
I have a bunch more Cholla turnings I’ve done, but only 2 are finished. Check it out on the Shrub Oak root shelf it’s on.

This one is 4 1/2” od and 3 7/8” tall with 1/4” wall thickness. It was done the same time as the other one, so that’s why the same color. The bottom is actually the top of the cactus where the 4 branches started, so I had some solid wood to chuck onto.

I have a lot of rough outs. Problem is, there is no center to this skeleton, and it gets a little hard to turn if I can’t grip it at either end. hehehe

Jimbo, I was in Texas once with the wife looking for flint. We had just met this couple that was also looking for rock. This was about 7 am, in Kerrville, Texas. I told them to follow me, and I’d take them to a rock source about 20 mile away.
When we arrived at the location, about 8 am, we got out of our vehicles and went in different directions. My wife stayed with the other women. Rock hunting isn’t too attractive to women, so they would just walk and talk. About 15 minutes later, I rounded a cedar tree, and here’s my wife, pant’s down about mid thigh, and the other women had a pair of tweezers plucking prickly pear thorns from Deb’s butt. She’d reached down to get a rock and got stuck. It had to be pretty embarrassing for both Deb and the other lady. It took about 6-7 years before Deb said she didn’t have any more stickers in her… If it would have been me backing into a cactus, I’d just scratch my butte and keep on going. hehehe …........ Jerry (in Tucson)

The other turning on the Cholla shelf is a piece of mesquite root burl. Instead of calling it a natural edge, I’m calling it a Natural Top as I left most of it there. It’s real close to 7” od, and 6” tall with 7/16” wall thickness.

Rick D, those points you see are points I’ve made. That is my passion, and it won’t put me in jail. I do pick them up when I see them lying in the desert, but picking one up in the wrong place could land you in jail. I have a pretty nice collection of authentic stuff I’ve collected throughout the US.

Thanks for looking and the kind words. .... Jerry (in Tucson)

-- Jerry (in Tucson)

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3660 days

#12 posted 07-18-2015 02:27 AM

Basically I was just seeing if the forum had died.

Some places it is just too hot to be out in the shop … the rest of us are busy “Makin’ Shavins”.

Beautiful work!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Woodknack's profile


11624 posts in 2377 days

#13 posted 07-18-2015 05:59 AM

I do have air conditioning in my shop but haven’t been spending much time there, lots of other projects for the summer.

-- Rick M,

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2132 days

#14 posted 07-18-2015 11:20 AM

Never knew could turn cactus!

Way to go really outstanding Jerry!

-- Bill

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