bowl turning 101? a little help please

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Forum topic by wooleywoodsmith posted 03-29-2010 04:25 PM 2335 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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152 posts in 2781 days

03-29-2010 04:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question lathe turning greene and greene

green wood? is that what I want?
ok so after spying all of the wonderfull turnings here at LJ and just starting out I have a question..

is it better or worse to turn green wood? Like the logs that I have rescued from the composte site? Or should I wait, cut them into blanks and store them on the shelf and if so how long do you let your blanks dry?

-- wooley

9 replies so far

View 4woodturning's profile


187 posts in 2402 days

#1 posted 04-02-2010 02:04 AM

don’t know if this will help you with your question, there is no right answer better or worse. pros to green wood turns nice, tools stay sharper longer, nice ribbons flying from your cuts. cons more warping and cracking may accrue.

if you cut into blanks for storage, seal them with Wax Emulsion Sealer (green sealer). you can date then wait a few months or weight them till they stop losing weight. or rough turn bowls 1” thick and seal them or placed in a paper bag, changing bags every few days at first, then after a couple of weeks just leave it one bag , wait for a few months till they are finished warping and return them to a finished bowl. there’s a good book out there called “turning green wood” Michael O’Donnell (Author) very good reading.

-- Jeff, Missouri ,"Just because your not bleeding, dont mean your turning safely!"..............

View wooleywoodsmith's profile


152 posts in 2781 days

#2 posted 04-02-2010 02:42 PM

Thank you Jeff, I was starting to think that I wasn’t going to get an answer. Michael

-- wooley

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 2619 days

#3 posted 04-02-2010 03:09 PM

What Jeff said, is very good info. I like turning dry wood too. Much less warping, and cracking. Yeah the tools dull faster, and the ribbons coming off the tool are less. Whenever I get a load of green wood, I turn some right away, some is finished to warp. Some is rough turned so I can finish turn after it dries. And some is cut down and sealed and stacked along the wall of my garage. When I started turning, it seemed I was scrambling for wood, now It is practically falling out of my garage, 2 more years and the stuff at the bottom of the pile will be ready.
Happy turning

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

View 4woodturning's profile


187 posts in 2402 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 01:52 AM

Your Welcome Micheal, glad i could help.

-- Jeff, Missouri ,"Just because your not bleeding, dont mean your turning safely!"..............

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 2910 days

#5 posted 04-09-2010 02:39 AM

Turning green wood can be very satisfying because it turns so easy. It is so much easier than dry wood and like Jeff said, your tools will stay sharper. BUT there are some down sides:
1. You will have to clean and wax your lathe a LOT, every night when you are done, because the water from the wood goes all over it and it will rust really quick if you don’t.
2. Your lathe will crud up with sap and other moisture from the wet wood.
3. you have to properly store the wood before turning and after turning. You need to keep a good ratio between the sides of the bowl and the bottom of the bowl because EVERY GREEN BOWL BLANK WILL WARP
4. To do any finish turning, unless you are going to go the microwave route, you will need dry wood.
5. Patience is the key to getting dry wood. There are many good ways to dry out a bowl blank. I prefer the alcohol/paper bag method, but others like the dishwashing liquid method, others just the paper bag method, others the vinyl bucket method, others the boiling method. :) You will finally settle on one you like the best.
6. You lose a LOT of bowl to cracking and warping. I think an average would be for every good bowl you get you lose 3. As you get better at storing the wood that ratio will come down, but at first it will seem that you are turning a lot of stuff and seeing a lot of rejects, broken bowls, cracked bowls and just plain ol’ ugly bowls. Not a lot of finished results. Be patient, it’s an art form that develops with experience.

DRY WOOD is harder to turn, less forgiving and harder on you and your tools, but to me it can be much more instantaneously gratifying because you can turn, sand, finish and you are done..

NO MATTER WHAT you turn, the BIGGEST favor you can do for yourself is VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY SHARP TOOLS!!!!!! I cannot stress this enough. One of the biggest frustrations new turners have is that their tools get dull and all of a sudden there are lots of catches, chunks flying, scrapes, gouges, and other insundry turning goblins, and they think it’s their skill when in fact it is just the dullness of the tools. Again, many types of sharpening systems out there. There have been a couple discussions on this board about tool sharpening (and a shameful plug here, I have a nice WS3000 for sale at a great price!).

Protection is also a must. A minimum of a face mask is needed. Chips/chunks can fly off of wet or dry blanks in a nano-second and do some real damage to exposed skin.

If you are going to sand on the lathe make sure you get some decent dust protection involved too.

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

View Hyperhutch's profile


63 posts in 2670 days

#6 posted 04-09-2010 02:44 AM

For my bowl turning, I pretty much only turn green wood. I turn it multiple times so that it’s extremely stable by the time it reaches its final form. As for storing logs, I have had some logs for over 2 years now, and they are still soaking wet. Don’t plan on logs drying much if they’re sealed with wax and stored in the shade. Blanking out is great for storage, simply because you can stack them efficiently, but they won’t really dry a lot unless you space them out. Of course, the size of the blank has a lot to do with that too.

Anywho, it’s something you will figure out with experience. Some people love to turn kiln dried wood. Some love green wood, and turn it to final form in one shot. Some turn green wood multiple times to let it dry. Have fun making a lot of shavings, and over time you’ll fall into something that works well for you.


Addition: LoL, I guess Padre was posting the same time I was. I would have to disagree with Padre on something. I have lost an extremely small number of rough bowls to cracking. In fact, I can only think of one bowl lost to cracking. Also, the loss of a rough bowl due to warping most often occurs if you take it out of a crazy-grained part of the tree, like a root ball. So I would say my success rate is more like 98%, not 25%.

-- I hope the volume of shavings one creates is directly related to the probablility of one's success, cuz if so I've got it made!!

View wooleywoodsmith's profile


152 posts in 2781 days

#7 posted 04-09-2010 02:44 PM

Thank you guys for the information. You’ve got me itching to get back to the lathe which I will be doing here very shortly. Sorry honey I’m playing in the shop today! lol

-- wooley

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2495 days

#8 posted 04-09-2010 02:59 PM

Others have covered this subject well. I will only add that I like to turn what I call “semi-green” wood. This is wood that has partially dried but is not completely dry. It is dry enough to sand and finish. Yet, it still warps a little after I’m done. A lot of people, including myself, like slightly warped bowls.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View wooleywoodsmith's profile


152 posts in 2781 days

#9 posted 04-11-2010 01:06 AM

thanks rich actually around here we like it alittle warped too.

-- wooley

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