On the Lathe: Wet and/or Dry Wood

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Forum topic by MsDebbieP posted 09-28-2011 03:55 PM 9387 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18618 posts in 4395 days

09-28-2011 03:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe turning tips tricks

What are your tips/strategies/experience regarding using wet and/or dry wood on the lathe?

(also add links to helpful blogs etc that are related to the topic)

Gateway to all Tips & Tricks Topics

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

6 replies so far

View Bill White's profile (online now)

Bill White

5148 posts in 4195 days

#1 posted 09-28-2011 04:31 PM

How “wet” are we asking about?
The fresh wood will turn more easily with better shearing characteristics. You’ll have to let the workpiece dry and finish dimensional changes. Some folks bag up the piece in the shavings from the turn. Gotta watch out for mold.
Dry wood will be more difficult to turn ‘cause it’d dry. DUH! However ypu won’t get as much dimensional change.
Depends on the wood and the moisture content.
One could go for days about the differences.


View hairy's profile


2783 posts in 3766 days

#2 posted 09-28-2011 05:39 PM

I prefer using dry wood as much as possible. I like air dried better than kiln dried. I know that wood is wood, but it remains pretty much what came off the lathe.

-- My reality check bounced...

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3947 days

#3 posted 09-28-2011 06:22 PM

They both have there good and bad points.I am a big fan of turning green wood because it is much easier to turn and more fun. Like Bill said you can do a rough turning then set it aside to dry and come back later to finish or you can just turn it thin and let it warp which is what I like to do. I also have found that if you put rough turned forms into a paper bag without the shavings it dries much faster and there is less chance of mold growing.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2749 days

#4 posted 09-30-2011 09:12 PM

I agree with Roper on the bag thing. A few pros I talked to years ago all turned green wood, but only down to the preliminary shape, then either bagged it or put it in a place where it was allowed to dry slowly, sometimes months. Never bought into the shaving thing, too much moisture is held in. It also depends on the wood, where it was cut on the tree, what time of year, the way it was cut, on how much moisture/shrinkage/cracking you will get in the lathe process. The trick is to get as much off as you dare when it is green to cut down on work time and wear on the tools. The only things I ever finished wet were bowls and vessels that I purposely wanted to move on me so they looked strange and out of round in the end. Of course, if you are doing one of those western hat projects, that is another horse altogether.
I used to do a fair amount of lathe work before I got into guitars. I look longingly at my lathe from time to time. Right not it’s covered with battery chargers for my drills, and some sanders. I’m making myself sad, gonna stop now…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View JamesVavra's profile


304 posts in 3550 days

#5 posted 09-30-2011 10:01 PM

I turn both wet and dry.

Wet Wood
It’s far easier to turn – although you do tend to get a bit more fuzzies if your tools are not sharp. There are some woods that I will only turn wet – Maclura pomifera (Osage orange/hedge/Bois d’ arc) is a good example: it’s just too hard when it’s dried. Wet wood will move/distort quite a bit, and often it will crack. Cracking is more prevalent in certain types of wood (e.g. fruit woods like pear) or when turning stock from smaller logs that contain a good amount of variety of pith to bark. Cracking can be minimized by turning to a consistent wall thickness. Sanding can be difficult with wet wood – it tends to clog up your paper more. The open meshed abrasives work better on wet wood (like Abranet).

Also, wet wood will frequently spray droplets of water at you while it turns. Waxing the lathe bedways will keep those droplets from causing rust. I sometimes wish for windshield wipers on my face shield when turning wet wood.

I particularly like to turn live-edged pieces while wet. The bark stays on better, and the inevitable warping tends to fit better with the live edged pieces.

I like to turn wet pieces to final thickness and then use the microwave to dry them. Depending on size, I’ll cycle through anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes in the microwave, followed with 5 – 30 minutes to dry. I’ll repeat this process 10-15 times, weighing the piece with a digital postal scale each time, until the piece stops changing weight.

Dry Wood

Dry wood is harder to cut, and rougher on your tool edges. It frequently has existing cracks that either need to be filled, or mean that a piece is unusable because they don’t fit the design, or they cause the blank to fly apart.

It sands and finishes much better than wet wood, and a piece can be completed in one session on the lathe.
Almost every piece of spindle work I’ve done (not a whole lot – pens, tool handles, the obligatory baseball bat, etc.) has been with dry wood.

Dyeing seems to work better for me on dry wood – it seems less splotchy.

Dry wood tends to not move or warp as much – it can always move a little, but it’s generally not noticeable to the eye.


View Grumpy's profile


24808 posts in 4085 days

#6 posted 10-01-2011 12:15 AM

I will turn either wet or dry but definitely prefer seasoned wood.
It’s usually well seasoned by the time I get around to some of it anyway.LOL

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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