Wood turning

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Forum topic by highflyer posted 12-16-2009 03:46 PM 1874 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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35 posts in 3115 days

12-16-2009 03:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey all you wood turners out in Lumberjock land. Which woods do you all find the easiest and well the hardest to turn and why? Just curious. I had been practicing alot with southern yellow pine which to me seems pretty easy to turn. Then yesterday I took some mesquite and roughed it out and everything was going well till i tried using my skue and well lets just say i did get the hang of using mesquite but maybe there is something i’m not seeing. All comments and wisdom greatly appreciated.

8 replies so far

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4216 days

#1 posted 12-18-2009 10:18 PM

Sharp tools, sharp tools, sharp tools and did I mention sharp tools. No matter what you turn, and no matter if it’s green or dried out sharp tools are going to make the difference in successful turning, and did I mention sharp tools. LOL. I can’t overstate that enough. If you use dull tools it’s gonna be murder on your machine and you. Also using the right tool for the job is of utmost importance. You don’t use your skew chisel to round your blank you use your bowl gouge. Usually the biggest you have, if it’s a good size blank. A smaller gouge if it’s a smaller blank. I don’t know what you were doing with your skew, maybe it wasn’t sharp enough or the wrong tool for the job you were doing. I would need more info to give you more info. Just trying to help.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View LesB's profile


1688 posts in 3412 days

#2 posted 12-21-2009 02:38 AM

You went from one extreme to the other. I find mesquite quite hard on the tools cutting edge. Lots of sharpening when you turn it. I think it has a lot of silica in the fibers that wear on the cutting edge. Some wood produces highly allergic reactions; usually exptioc hard woods, but walnut gets to me. Take care with “spalted” or partially decayed woods, use a protective face mask filter. The fungus can get into your lungs and grow.
Most fruit woods, from apple, plum, cherry, apricot, to pear, all turn well. Myrtle wood (california bay laurel) is another one that dulls your tools quickly. Usually very soft wood or wood with large growth rings don’t turn well or the results are not attractive. But with imagination everything that will hold together on the lathe is turnable.

There are just so many woods that turn well it the list would go on and on. Most of us look for color, grain and variety in the wood we turn. Fire wood piles make a great source of wood.

-- Les B, Oregon

View highflyer's profile


35 posts in 3115 days

#3 posted 12-24-2009 06:35 PM

I appreciate all comments and feed back. Thank you guys.

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3458 days

#4 posted 12-24-2009 07:10 PM

Like LesB said, you went from one extreme to the other.

Walnut is a fun wood to turn. So is maple. Cherry is a little harder, especially when dried. Cocobolo is very hard, rosewood semi-hard, etc. Acrylics are crazy. :)

If you want easy, then turn green wood. The drier it gets, the harder it is to turn.

And to quote Mike, “Sharp tools, sharp tools, sharp tools and did I mention sharp tools. No matter what you turn, and no matter if it’s green or dried out sharp tools are going to make the difference in successful turning, and did I mention sharp tools.”

I truly believe that BEFORE you learn how to turn all the different woods, how to make bowls, pens, spindles, etc., you ABSOLUTELY need to learn how to sharpen your tools.

You need to decide on a sharpening system, then get very good at doing it. A sharp tool will be your best friend, a dull one will beat you up.

Many people use the Wolverine system by Oneway. I have it and I love it. Also, a dual speed or a slow speed grinder goes with that. Get the varijig. Another investment would be the Tormek add-on for bench grinders with the SVS-50 multi-jig.

Hope this helps. Good luck, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! :)

Merry Christmas

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3239 days

#5 posted 12-24-2009 07:33 PM

I think they covered the most important item in detail above (your tools are no help to you if they are dull). I use diamond sharpening…and am planning a detail blog when time allows.

As for woods. Pretty much all woods can be turned….there are also plastics, gemstone and metals that will work also (do alot of practice and research before attempting). The things you must consider on the various woods that you will use is the tightness of the grain, the allignment of the grain….and the moisture content. Most turners find that turning greener woods is easier…and I agree…having a minimum of 12% moisture keeps the grain from cracking and allows the tool to cut a cleaner sillouette. The next item is grain allignment. You should try to allign the grain so that you are working with it…not against it….this allows for a smoother flow…and less nicks (these tend to catch your tools and can be dangerous (turners have actually broken hands and fingers due to catching a tool and the resulting stresses). When I say working with the grain…I mean that the cuts follow the grain and do not cut accross ( a perfect example is end grains…they are very hard to cut and can cause alot of problems). When I mention tightness of the grain…I am talking about hardness also…usually the tighter grain woods are harder as there is more density. This is readily apparent in the difference between pine and mesquite as you mention – Pine is a very open grain wood and mesquite has tight grains… will also find this very much when turning burls where the grains are all over the place…these woods are unstable and can be very challenging to turn…this is also problems in the allignment that I discussed above.

That is long winded enough….I apologize for my long winded posts….sometimes there is a lot of material to cover in a post….and trying to cover it all in one swoop (consumate know it all syndrone) one of my quirks.

Let me add a Happy Holidays and a most wonderful new year to you all….

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3168 days

#6 posted 12-24-2009 09:02 PM

Sharp tools make the difference, that said…. Green wood is always easier to turn but warps, and clogs sandpaper. Red oak is very chippy, white oak is okay, but tends to split along the rays, ash is very nice but has some tearout, paduak turns very nicely but is pricey. Elm is a workout due to its interlocking grain, box elder is a great wood, and so is its cousin maple. Pear is awesome probably the best it also seems difficult to acquire. Apple, plum, cherry and peach are nice, peach is very succeptable to tearout with its wide growth rings. Ebony makes very nice spidles but is pricey, right along the same thought and tendancies are rosewood, osage orange, I just got a load of Honey Locust, I turned a green bowl, and was a lot of fun, it cut very cleanly, I have yet to turn a dry peice, probably 6 months before I can do that. Also Black Walnut is verynice all the way around. I also have some butternut that I have not tried yet.
Hope I have been helpful, happy turning (as if that needed to be said)
Merry Christmas.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3527 days

#7 posted 12-24-2009 09:14 PM

Sharp Tools and I mean really sharp tools. Did you get that…...........LOL

I have to agree. I got the WS3000 last year for Christmas and I now have the sharpest tools ever. I would recommend it to anyone.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3773 days

#8 posted 12-25-2009 12:16 AM

Honey locust turns very easy – the other extreme is osage orange, the longer it lays around the harder it becomes. Sharp tools make a big difference regardless of what you turn. I love to turn holly as it cuts like soft butter and is a great wood to use dyes with.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

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