Drying green turnings in saw dust.

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by WilsonCreations posted 08-31-2011 06:21 AM 1106 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 2499 days

08-31-2011 06:21 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe turning sawdust question maple

I just got my first lathe and started with small things from dried Oak and Cedar. Today I tried a straight piece of maple limb I have, it came down in the spring and so it’s still rather wet. I think I heard you should rough out the shape then let it dry before finishing it. If I remember the article right, collected saw dust is a ‘quick’ way to dry it without it cracking and checking too much. Does that sound right? Is there a rule of thumb as to how long to leave it in the dust? Do you turners keep a sack of saw dust on hand for this? Let me know what you think, Thanks.

-- Wilson

4 replies so far

View exoticwoodman's profile


4 posts in 2429 days

#1 posted 08-31-2011 07:19 AM

Hi Wilson,

My extensive experience (meaning I have ruined a lot of wood drying it) says that it aint that simple. But, you might get away with that method if the humidity does not drop below 55% and the temp stays below 75 and there is no sun where you are drying it. Some basements or crawl spaces work well. It your piece is limb wood, you’ve got an extra problem. It is very unstable do to the differential in density caused by the tree trying to hold up the branch. This causes warping and cracking. With branch wood, I have found it is best to just turn it wet, but make sure the walls of your piece are very thin, like 1/4 or so, or it will still crack. Finish with oil or shellawax right away and keep in cool place. That will usually work. If you can’t turn it thin, expect some cracking.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2926 days

#2 posted 08-31-2011 05:27 PM

The trick is to dry it at the right speed; too fast and it cracks, too slow and it rots. There are many ideas on how to control drying time, sawdust is a good one; it keeps the ambient air from wicking the moisture away at full speed anyway. Some people use paper bags, boxes, whatever it takes to slow down the process. There are products with a glycol in them to soak the wood in that will help keep it from warping or cracking, but that’s another story. I’ve also read where some people can turn them thin, then blast the surfaces with compressed air to quickly draw the moisture out… I haven’t tried that one, but I’ve heard it works just fine. Lots of variables, and one option will work where another may not. Bets idea? Have fun learning!

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Barbara Gill's profile

Barbara Gill

153 posts in 2628 days

#3 posted 08-31-2011 10:58 PM

I don’t know what the average humidity is in Iowa. Here in VA it is often high. My shop does not have air-conditioning and only the turning room is heated in the winter. Most of my bowls are dried in paper bags after coating the end grain and rim with Anchorseal. They are stored on shelves in the main portion of the shop. I rarely ever have a bowl crack. I think the ups and downs of temperature and humidity work to keep the wood from drying too quickly.
I have so many roughed out bowls that some will stay on the shelves for years. Usually after a year they are ready to go.

-- Barbara

View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 2499 days

#4 posted 09-01-2011 04:07 PM

Thanks for the information.

Exoticwoodman, I’ll use limbs most for practicing for awhile.

Nomad62, Clearly I didn’t remember all of the article I read….. I thought the sawdust would wick the moisture away quickly, but I can see how it keeps the air away.

Barbara, Iowa humidity is often high too (I was surprised since it isn’t near the water) and the winter temps are a bit colder than in New England and I don’t have heat in my shop either. Of the choices I hear here I like the paper bag option but I know I will have trouble being patient for a year or more for a rough shape to dry. Looks like my learning curve includes more the woodworking technics.

-- Wilson

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics