turning a very dry figured maple bowl...

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Forum topic by Kieth posted 05-18-2010 09:00 PM 3350 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kieth's profile


39 posts in 3129 days

05-18-2010 09:00 PM

Topic tags/keywords: turning bowls problems wet dry

What a weekend… the weekend before last I turned a a little 4×4x2 bowl out of some unknown wood. It was my first and it was VERY successful. surprised even me.

So I go out and I buy 25 6×6x3 exotic and domestic bowl blanks and one round 7” figured maple bowl blank.

every piece of this was 30%+ wet except for this maple that came up only 2% wet… I throw it on the lathe and after making sure my gouge is sharp, have at it. my god! this thing was incredibly hard to turn… I would get some chips and then a chunk! if I laid off the chisel rest on the bevel and raise into it slowly it would just spin and not cut anything. I was wondering if using my jet benchtop lathe at 800 rpm’s for this size and type wood was the problem. I was under the impression something this big shouldnt be going faster but could be wrong. I know turning pen to slow is bad and just wondered if speed was playing the biggest factor…

so anyway, I figured that was pretty miserable and put it away and grabbed a wet piece of box elder to try and salvage my day and mood. Heard a lot about how easy it was to turn wet wood, curls and water flying everywhere… you know, it WAS easier than the other but it just seemed TOO wet. yeah, had water flying a bit and some curls, but man that gouge would catch sometimes and rip a rubbery chunk out of it… plus had problems with the tenon I created shredding in the chuck.

any motivational comments and advice would be much appreciated. I really want to get into bowls and vessels (tired of the pens for now!) would be appreciated.

thanks for listening!

7 replies so far

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3451 days

#1 posted 05-18-2010 09:11 PM

I have turned dry hard maple before, and it can be a chore…

One thing I noted from your post is that you raised your gouge into the piece… Now, I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but every instructor/video/tutorial I have seen teaches you to follow the ABC rule.

Anchor, Bevel, Cut.

If your raising the cutting edge into the piece you aren’t riding the bevel, and you’ll get those catches and tear outs. I may be mis-reading your post though. As far as speed goes, I have gone up to around 1200 RPM with an 8” bowl before, I use the slower speeds to get the blank balanced, but once that is accomplished I will turn it up to a speed that I feel is safe. What is a safe speed? I can’t tell you, it’s just a feeling of comfort with the material spinning at certain speeds.

-- San Diego, CA

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4211 days

#2 posted 05-18-2010 09:13 PM

I’m a new turner myself, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt. I know you said you made sure your gouge was sharp, but the symptoms you describe sound like a sharpness problem.

I highly recommend the Ci2 Easy Rougher and Easy Finisher. I can do most anything with these two tools, and there’s no sharpening to worry about. My other lathe chisels stay on the rack most of the time.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Kieth's profile


39 posts in 3129 days

#3 posted 05-18-2010 09:30 PM

That was definitely my bad choice of wording. I believe I meant raising the handle thereby lowering and bringing the cutting edge to the wood.but ALWAYS anchored! I still only have maybe 20 hours of turning time so still learning how to use everything…

I have looked at those replacable head chisels and just seems like an expensive alternative. albeit an easier one from what I have heard though. How many bowls can you turn before you need to replace one of the heads. if its one to one or even 3 to one that dramatically increases the cost of my bowls by like double! I would be interested in hearing your reply for sure.

thanks so far.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4211 days

#4 posted 05-18-2010 09:53 PM

The rougher with the square head has four sides, so when one side gets dull, you rotate it 90 degrees. I’ve probably turned 8 or 10 bowls with mine, and have not even rotated the cutter yet. For my type of hobbyist use, it looks like replacing a $14 cutter might be a once-a-year affair.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View hairy's profile


2701 posts in 3525 days

#5 posted 05-19-2010 12:20 AM

This could be my inexperience talking, but I prefer dry wood over wet wood. My project will be stable when completed, and cleanup is easier. It does require sharp tools. Sandpaper and scrapers are the main tools in my arsenal.

I recently got a C1 easy finisher, and agree that it makes turning simple for the novice.

-- My reality check bounced...

View Docwks's profile


10 posts in 3712 days

#6 posted 05-19-2010 10:04 PM

I made my own and brought the cost down to an evening out at Olive Garden. I have made them as simple as going to Woodcraft and getting the bit, about $25, then off to ACE and getting 1/2” key stock about 12” to 18” long, about $8, drill and tap the hole for the bit and shove it in a wooden handle. Course now I’ve gotten fancy and make my own PVC hose covered handles. Just finished a 22” one for my 1/2” stock shaft. You should make sure the area where the bit sets is flat, but I have not found it necessary to recess the square or round bits. Looks pretty though. Also on really dry wood, I have a 5 gal bucket that I put a tea spoon of dish soap in and fill with water (dont’ make bubbles) and let the wood soak for a day or so. Makes it much easier to work and I haven’t had any problems with the wood or finish afterwards. I usually finish the piece the same day and put on a “finish” the next day or…

-- Bill

View RichardH's profile


295 posts in 2995 days

#7 posted 05-21-2010 05:23 AM

I’ve been turning for a couple of years, and I remember some frustrating experiences early on. Here’s the funny thing – now, I turn all kinds of wood – fresh cut water slinging wet to super dust dry and I seldom find the wood fighting me too much unless the wood was really punky (I even like some of the results I get from punky worm holed wood, but it can be a pain).

For what it’s worth, here are a few my personal learnings:
-Turn a lot.
- Turn lots of smaller stuff as it is more forgiving and less frustrating when it doesn’t work out.
- Pay attention to the cut and the grain of the wood – some of your comments make me think that you are grabbing irregular or end grain.
- Use good tools. There really is a big difference – try some from friends
- Work at sharpening and learning the look and feel of when things are bad.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different grinds and bevel angles on your tools, or try different sizes of tools for the job.
- Don’t travel 10 miles down the wrong road. Set it aside, turn something else that you can feel good about and come back to it later
- Don’t be afraid to wreck a piece. The greatest gift I had was access to lots of nice free wood (makes it easier for me to say this). It got me to experiment a lot without huge grief if a piece was blown apart in my garage.
- And finally, turn alot :-)

Cheers and good luck!

-- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it...It's the hard that makes it great."

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