A question for the bowl turners.

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Forum topic by eastside posted 09-08-2010 02:47 AM 3482 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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97 posts in 3260 days

09-08-2010 02:47 AM

I’m starting to learn to turn bowls and I have noticed that Oak does not seem to be a wood of choice. From the books and videos I read and seen, Oak is never mentioned and one video suggests not to use it. Can anyone tell me why? Around here Oak and Pine is easier than anything else to find when a tree goes down. So I have some Oak and Pine from the storm and I turned them both and I gutta tell ya Pine is much easier to learn on I just don’t know what will happen to it when it dries. So why not Oak or Pine?

-- Mike, Westport MA.

11 replies so far

View steve3604's profile


27 posts in 3739 days

#1 posted 09-08-2010 03:06 AM

I think its due to the large thick grain, it generally chunks out on me, and I do mean big chunks.
Steve in Ind.

View lew's profile


12060 posts in 3754 days

#2 posted 09-08-2010 03:06 AM

Pine is soft and tears out easily. Oak, although hard, has a porous grain and that can be difficult to sand smooth. Also, red oak would leak if the bowl was for liquids.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4168 days

#3 posted 09-08-2010 03:19 AM

I have made several oak bowls and although it doesn’t finish quite as well as some other hardwoods it has very attractive and pronounced grain. One fairly small and simple oak bowl went for over $100 at auction. One other nice thing: the oak is free.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 3770 days

#4 posted 09-08-2010 11:27 AM

There is a difference between red and white oak. While red oak doesn’t turn well, you can get good results using white oak. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View PeterM's profile


21 posts in 2902 days

#5 posted 09-08-2010 12:22 PM

I love to turn pieces out of oak.
You have to take a bit more time to work with it but it is worth it.

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3057 days

#6 posted 09-08-2010 01:23 PM

I would think that the main reason is that Oak is a wood with a coarse, open grain. It can tear out easily. You would have to be sure your tools are very sharp. Also, as mentioned above, if used for liquids, it could even leak due to the grain structure. At the very least, it would be difficult to get the wood sealed to a state that it would not absorb liquids which would then lead to potentially turning rancid or developing odd smells from the liquids placed in it. I would not recommend using oak for a bowl used to contain anything liquid. However, if you are making something purely for decoration or at least is not going to be exposed to moisture, then I see no reason not to use oak.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View woodcrafter47's profile


352 posts in 3104 days

#7 posted 09-08-2010 03:01 PM

I turn oak a lot, but only seasoned and dry,Oak when wet has a stain and pine has pitch. Both are a messy
and hard to clean up. But I find it easy to turn when dry and have sharp tools.

-- In His service ,Richard

View eastside's profile


97 posts in 3260 days

#8 posted 09-09-2010 01:40 AM

Thanks guys for all the info. I did notice the Oak staining were it was attached to the chuck. I have some very large pieces of Oak left over and I think I will let that season for a while and learn on the Pine. The first bowl I turned since high school was that green Oak and it was scary. It also flew off the lathe 3 times. The second bowl was the pine it was a joy to practice on but yes the end grain does tear but I just figured it was my in-experience. Right now my bowls are cave man bowl’s at best just practicing hollowing and shaping.

-- Mike, Westport MA.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

#9 posted 09-09-2010 04:21 AM

As an FYI – A oak bowl was just posted as a project.

It’s probably the best oak bowl I have ever seen.

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

View Threeseamonsters's profile


66 posts in 3756 days

#10 posted 09-15-2010 10:35 PM

Unseasoned Oak is a wonderful turning wood. Maybe not the best beginner wood, but certainly appropriate if you have some on hand.

One of my favorite turners turns a lot of Oak.

He ebonizes many of his pieces… which is taking the black staining you’ve noticed and using it to color the entire vessel. You can do this with a solution of iron in vinegar. just soak a steel wool pad in distilled vinegar for a couple of days and then you can apply this solution to any wood that has high levels of tannins (which Oak does).

-- jn

View davyj's profile


36 posts in 2849 days

#11 posted 09-17-2010 03:32 PM

so see the majority including me say, NO reason not to use OAK, any of the oaks ! as to food use? I would not! it is said that the oaks have the most toxins/tannin of all native woods. Walnut not being a good one for food use either. least toxins in native woods ? Sycamore. one just is not gonna get a super smooth finish on Oak other wise turn till your sick of it! SO MUCH TO MAKE ROUND, SO LITTLE TIME !!

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

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