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Author Topic: Cutting blanks for bowls  (Read 1528 times)

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Offline kelLOGg

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Cutting blanks for bowls
« on: February 09, 2021, 12:25:20 PM »
I have a lot of ash branches (6 to 20 " dia) and I would like to have bowls turned from them. Advice on cutting them for turning blanks is needed. 

There are not many straight pieces to cut lumber so cookies and bowls are my best use for them. I may make a bowlful of cookies :D
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Offline Den-Den

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2021, 12:37:22 PM »
Splitting the sections lengthwise through the pith and sealing end grain with Anchor Seal or equivalent is a good thing to do.  Leave the sections as long as possible until ready to put them on the lathe (cut to length and turn the same day).  If you have to store them for more than a few days, expect to lose a few inches off each end.
You may think that you can or may think you can't; either way, you are right.

Offline GAB

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2021, 02:33:24 PM »
This is the way I have sawed bowl blanks.  I'm not saying it is the only way.
Load log and adjust it so the top is parallel to the bed, then take a thin slab*.
Rotate 180° and repeat.
Then center the pith on the bed and saw up to 1" above** the pith center then the same distance below the pith.
Remove the perfectly quarter sawn board.
Take tape measure and marking utensil, and starting at the large end mark the halves 2" longer then the mean diameter of the intended block, cut into blocks and wax all cut surfaces TWICE at least a few hours apart in the applications.

* Bowl turners like a flat spot when trimming on a band saw.
** depends on the size of the log.
GAB
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Offline Larry

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2021, 04:57:56 PM »
I did a zoom demonstration for my woodturning club a couple of months ago.  The subject was how to make a bowl from the raw material.  These are a few of the pictures I used in my demo.














































I show three ways to round the blank.  First is to cut the corners off with the chainsaw, second is to use a template and round the blank on the bandsaw, and third is to round it completely on the lathe (my normal method).

The tree was cut down a little over a year ago and is red maple.  When I want to to turn a bowl I wack off 6" to get rid of checks than cut my bowl blank.  The tree is just now beginning to spalt.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2021, 06:05:37 PM »
Very nice Larry 

Offline low_48

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2021, 06:57:40 PM »
I prefer to stay at least an inch off the pith. Even close to the pith will increase the rate of cracking dramatically. By staying an inch off each side, you get a 2" slab that will yield quarter sawn sections for tool handles and other projects. Larry's demo photos are nice, but I turn almost as many natural edge bowls as traditional. For that the orientation is opposite of shown. I turn very few end grain bowls, so the 6" limbs would be of little use to me. 

Offline Stephen1

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2021, 07:24:25 PM »
Thanks Larry and Gab.
Larry are you storing the blanks in sawdust?
Gab can you use anchorseal to seal theblnks?
I get asked all the time if I have turning blanks. I didn't know how to saw them. 
Is basswood good for turning and carving?
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Offline Larry

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2021, 07:54:26 PM »
Larry are you storing the blanks in sawdust?
Gab can you use anchorseal to seal theblnks?
I get asked all the time if I have turning blanks. I didn't know how to saw them.
Is basswood good for turning and carving?
I just put the blanks on the sawdust pile to work on them with the chainsaw.  If I want to store the blanks I either use Anchorseal or dip in a hot roaster pan filled with melted paraffin.

I have sawed bowl blanks for a production bowl turner.  Take out the pith just like low_48 described.  My bowl turner would take the slabs home and cross cut into bowl blanks.

Basswood is excellent for some turnings and really good for carving.  I used to sell basswood to a pattern shop that made patterns for a foundry.  Really picky on grain and wanted it right on 6% MC.  I don't like turning it because its so soft and ugly.

One of the few things I've made from basswood.  The black is burnt basswood and the top is cherry.


Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline GAB

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2021, 08:02:46 PM »
Thanks Larry and Gab.
Larry are you storing the blanks in sawdust?
Gab can you use anchorseal to seal theblnks?
I get asked all the time if I have turning blanks. I didn't know how to saw them.
Is basswood good for turning and carving?
Anchorseal is what I use.
GAB
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Offline Stephen1

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2021, 08:21:12 AM »
I just received a message asking if I can KD turning blanks with out cracking?
I thought turners let them dry after turning?
What am I missing?
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Offline GAB

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2021, 08:58:10 AM »
I just received a message asking if I can KD turning blanks with out cracking?
I thought turners let them dry after turning?
What am I missing?
From what I have been told turners rough cut blanks, then let them dry in either paper or plastic bags for a while, then turn them further and let them dry more.  The number of times a blank will be worked on before it is finished I think has a lot to do with the turner, species of wood, and many other factors.
Pre drying the blanks before turning I suspect will yield very few that are useable.
Please note that I have never turned a bowl and have no intention of starting.
GAB
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Offline btulloh

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2021, 09:18:57 AM »
I was into bowl turning for a while.  The best way with a big chunk was to rough it out green, leaving quite a bit of material.  Then let it dry and finish it when the mc reached equilibrium.  This eliminated a lot of drying issues.  The key was to leave enough material but not too much.  A green roughed-out bowl will be round at first but dry to an oval, because of grain orientation.  You have to leave enough material in the roughing process to make it round in the final turning of course.  On an average sized bowl you might turn it to and inch to an inch and half thick.  Thicker on a bigger bowl.

The roughing process goes better with green blanks.  You can really hog out material in a hurry when it's green.  If you were turning nested bowls, you'd start with a dry (or dryer blank) because there's less opportunity to leave the necessary material.  

Drying a big chunk for bowl turning can be challenging and any checks can be problematic (or even deadly).  If you get a catch on an unseen check or weak spot you can create a pretty good spray of wood shrapnel.  Of course turning bowls from a weakened blank or one with voids, inclusions, etc. can produce some very striking finished product but it requires a lot more care with the gouge.  Sometimes a bowl gets dosed with CA glue to stabilize and strengthen it.

Anyway, the bottom line is drying bowl blanks can be problematic and really has to be done to suit the guy who's going to be using it and what he wants to do with it.

Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2021, 09:26:20 AM »
I turn my bowls different than anyone else. I like them turned with the round and hollow out the end grain. That way I can turn them fairly green and not get an oval as badly as with end over end as they dry. I have certainly turned a few the other way, but seems a lot more precarious an operation. Each to their own devices. :D
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Offline kelLOGg

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2021, 09:41:12 AM »
Thanks for the valuable info., particularly to Larry for all the pics and details. See the pics of the pile of ash limbs which I plan to cut out blanks. Lots of knots and curves to avoid. Do you still think bowl blanks are possible?







 


 


 

 
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Offline btulloh

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2021, 10:57:53 AM »
Are you going to use them yourself or sell them?  Limb wood is very unstable because of the tension wood on top and compression wood on the bottom.  It could still work for bowls, but it's going to have extra challenges.

From my experience, turners and bowl turners will try to use anything, sometimes the uglier the better.  Generally they don't want to pay for anything except exotics.  Of course there are always exceptions, but usually they want to harvest something ugly from the burn pile and proceed from there.  Since there can be a lot of foul balls during the drying process, the approach is usually to stockpile gnarly stuff and sort out the good from the bad as the process dictates.  A bowl blank that doesn't end up working out makes excellent stove wood, by the way.

With the limb wood, that would hold true as well.  Cut some blanks and see what happens.  Just don't count on getting rich selling them.

Offline kelLOGg

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2021, 02:26:15 PM »
I will not be turning any blanks. I’ll explain. The tree grew in an urban setting at my church and began dropping 1 ft dia branches late last year on the sidewalk and street. It had to come down for safety reasons. It was a huge landmark tree and many were upset at its loss. To commemorate the tree we want to make (or have made) items that can be used in the church and bowls, cookies, tables and the like came to mind. The trunk is 4 ft dia and at the crotch 7 ft up it was 6 ft wide. The branches were gnarly (some found it eerie) and not much straightness to them. I have the branches at my sawmill and the trunk is at another property until we decide what we want from it. I have contacted Scott Smith for his ability to saw it when needed.  I appreciate all the responses reassuring me that bowls are a possibility and even though success with some of them is iffy there is a lot to choose from. Many of us are sending out feelers in the community to see what resources are available for bowl turning.


 

 

 
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Offline btulloh

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2021, 02:37:36 PM »
Well that's a good and desirable plan considering the source of the tree and its importance.  Sounds like plenty of opportunity for items of all sorts - bowls, benches, tables, etc.  I see an interesting crotch or swell or burl on that main log.  Sounds like with some local contacts it should all work out well.  If I was turning bowls in your neck of the woods I would be glad to help harvest some blanks and turn some bowls or whatever (collection plates?)f for the church.  That would be a good reason to make big piles of shavings.  No doubt you'll have some people around that would feel the same way.  Keep us informed!

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2021, 03:56:20 AM »
Sometimes those burls will have interesting grain, depends on the species. Sometimes they don't yield much distinctness at all. Some cherry burls are full of more gum than wood, for instance. ;D Some yellow birch will have eyes in it, some ...eeh, not anything special there. I remember one fella was cutting firewood in his yard and he noticed one yellow birch log yielded birdseye. No confusing it with maple, yellow birch bark still on it, but....one of them uh oh moments. And yeah, just because it was cut for firewood doesn't mean it wasn't straight enough for a saw log. Some guys cut it all for firewood, my uncle always did, even the smooth straight beech that grew in with the dying ones. You couldn't tell'm nuth'n. :D :D ;D
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Offline Ed_K

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2021, 08:03:27 AM »
 If you decide not to cut lumber out of the butt, cut 5' off the bottom and make a kings chair. It looks big enough to cut two chairs opposite of each other and set it back on the lawn. The tree guys around here cut trees down for the elec co and cut them 3' to 5'-7'. Their cutting a red oak next to me now and if it's not rotten inside I'm going to get the butt and make kings chair out of it.
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Offline woodworker9

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2021, 09:29:56 AM »
When I chainsaw my bowl blanks, I always noodle the log at least an inch away from the pith on either side.  Some species are worse at cracking from the pith than others.  I also cut my blanks longer than the finished blank will be, and anchorseal immediately.  This helps prevent checking, but is not perfect.

When I'm ready to turn, I cut all my blanks round on a circle cutting jig I built out of plywood, that gets mounted to my bandsaw table.  Simple, yet effective, drilling a hole in the center to accept a pin that the blank spins on, making a round blank.  Saves a LOT of time at the lathe, and a lot of time grinding a gouge, too.
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Offline aigheadish

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2021, 03:03:50 PM »
Man, the bottom of that tree looks to have some potential, lots of neat colors and stuff happening in there...

@Larry - what is the crazy bit you show in your picture? That looks way more effective at holding wood than my standard bit that I hammer into place and it never feels good.
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Offline Larry

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #21 on: February 11, 2021, 03:16:29 PM »
Oneway makes a spur drive that fits into their chucks called the "Big Bite".  Unfortunately the Big Bite won't fit my Vicmarc chucks.  I made my own spur drive out of tool steel which is quite similar to the Oneway spur. 

I turn lots of big, way out of balance pieces and the spur drive works great for that kind of stuff.  Don't have to pound it in, never spins, easy to shift the work on the drive, and when I get the tendon cut, the chuck is already on the lathe.  That saves a little time.

Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline aigheadish

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2021, 07:03:16 AM »
Thank you @Larry ! I'll have to check it out, once I either get some heat to the shop or spring comes... I have pretty terrible results from the standard bit, to the point that I try to use it as little as possible but it'd be great to have something that works, like that.
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Offline kantuckid

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2021, 09:35:23 AM »
I turned enough bowls to wear out my hands. I sold them, gave them away and have a house full too. 
 I never used PEG but did rough turn many from green wood into ~1" thick crudely turned bowl blanks then smeared with a heavy coat of paste wax then into a plastic bag for a long rest. You'll lose some along the way via checking or they blow up on the lathe. I prefer to hand carve a bowl over turning.  
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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2021, 07:52:28 AM »
I had a customer drop off 12 partly turned bowls that he sealed the end grains with anchor seal. 
I put them in the kiln on Friday. He is hoping they turn out nice, we will see how they do. 
I'll add some pics when they come out on friday.
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Offline kelLOGg

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2021, 07:04:59 AM »
During my quest for local turners I contacted a customer for sources and he recommended a group called Chapel Hill Wood Turners. They are a group of 50 who turn wood so I contacted them and when they asked "how many bowls?"  I pulled out a number and said "100" with fingers crossed. Long story short - two of them came to my place and met with me and key church members last Wednesday to see the logs and worked out a plan. Not final yet but very promising. I'm sawing blanks now and they have picked up the first batch of 12. I'll follow this up on "Whatcha Sawing".
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Offline btulloh

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2021, 08:13:17 PM »
Looks like it’s working out well. Glad you found the right people. Thanks for the update. 
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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #27 on: March 24, 2021, 09:52:00 AM »
I did a zoom demonstration for my woodturning club a couple of months ago.  The subject was how to make a bowl from the raw material.  These are a few of the pictures I used in my demo.

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I show three ways to round the blank.  First is to cut the corners off with the chainsaw, second is to use a template and round the blank on the bandsaw, and third is to round it completely on the lathe (my normal method).

The tree was cut down a little over a year ago and is red maple.  When I want to to turn a bowl I wack off 6" to get rid of checks than cut my bowl blank.  The tree is just now beginning to spalt.
All I want say, Thank you for sharing this.
It's a helpful one.

Offline kelLOGg

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #28 on: March 31, 2021, 12:28:41 PM »
The bowl blank project is proceeding perfectly!. I have cut 100+ blanks ranging from bowl sizes of 3" to 20" diameters which is the number of bowls we initially agreed upon with the turner club. They have picked up 2 pickup loads and I have delivered 1. They are really on top of this and keep us informed on the progress. The ball is definitely in the church's court concerning funding more bowls - I could cut maybe 50 more with the limbs I have. Holding such short limbs/logs on the mill is the time consuming part of this project.



 

Another aspect of this ash tree that I am thinking about taking on is putting legs or wheels on this 14 foot "dragon" for kids at church to play on. It's a bear to handle, not because of weight, but because it rotates when you lift it due to its asymmetry. Ideas, anyone?





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Offline aigheadish

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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #29 on: March 31, 2021, 01:22:32 PM »
It sounds like both a neat project and a lawsuit waiting to happen! I struggle to see how kids could be left to play on it without fear of it breaking apart. 
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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #30 on: April 02, 2021, 09:58:22 PM »
I can see multiple sets of legs for it. Make it good and sturdy and might add to the creature look.

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  • More is better but enough is best
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Re: Cutting blanks for bowls
« Reply #31 on: April 11, 2021, 07:27:38 AM »
Legs would make it more creature-like but it will need to be moved periodically so it will probably get wheels on the "legs". I'll have to get a license plate to tow it to a garage for wheel alignment. ;D
Cook's MP-32, 16HP, 20' (modified w/ power feed, up/down, loader/turner)
DH kiln, CatClaw, setter, tandem trailer, log arches, tractor, thumb tacks


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