nikbrown

Working with green wood?

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Ok so I'm a flat woodworker and 95% kiln dried stuff.... I have a lathe and enjoy turning the occasional project.

 

I cut down neighbors large crabapple tree the other day and have a lot of larger logs from it. Should it go into the firewood pile or should I turn some live edge stuff from it?

 

If I save it for turing... How do I go about prepping these logs? I have no idea about storing them... drying them... etc... Do I turn a bowl green and then dry it? Do I chop it up into turning blanks and paint the ends and dry it? I have no idea about this green wood stuff... any guidance? 

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For bowls, there are two main strategies if you have green wood.

 

The first method is to turn the bowl in two steps. Bill Grumbine’s video shows how to do this. Turn the blank when it’s green down to about 3/4” to 1” thickness, depending on how wide the diameter is, with wider bowls having a thicker wall. Make sure there’s a tenon on the bottom of the bowl. Put the bowl into a paper bag, fold it over, and let it sit a few months or so until its dry. The bowl will go from round to oval during that time, which is why you want the bowl to be relatively thick. Once you go back to the bowl, you’ll turn it a second time, and if things went well, the thickness of the walls of the now oval bowl will allow you to get a thinner round bowl out of it. Finish off the bowl, and you’re done.

 

The second method is to go for it all while the bowl is green. David Ellsworth is a big proponent of this method. Turn whatever bowl you want, with whatever thickness of wall you want at the end. Since the wood is green, it is guaranteed to move as it dries out, even as you’re going through the final steps. David Ellsworth says to just accept that as a part of working with wood. If it goes out of round, or if a part of the wall of the bowl cracks, that’s part of the charm of this sort of turning. Or as a friend of mine says, “If the bowl is imperfect, then it’s art, and I can charge $100 more for it.”  ^_^

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I just made some crap Apple turnings.... They were small but the wood cuts and sands wonderfully. Don't burn it use it green wood is so much fun to turn you can get one steady ribbon if your tools are sharp and you have a steady hand.

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Getting green wood close to final size before drying is necessary whether one wants to turn it or use it in flat boards. If it's left in large pieces (like logs, however long) it will check (crack) as it dries. As parts of the wood shrink at different rates, the stress exceeds the wood's ability to hold together. Having smaller pieces doesn't absolutely guarantee that it will not check, but it minimizes the amount of wood shrinking at different rates. Some people who turn green wood also coat it with a sealant after rough turning to slow down the drying time.

 

Some woods do better than others. Myrtlewood (California Bay) is a popular wood for trinkets, plates, and bowls on the west coast, especially in Oregon. It is often highly figured and has a pleasing grain pattern and color. But one cannot expect to make large pieces with it. I am aware of one who made a beautiful coffee table of Myrtlewood. It was beautiful for about 6 months until with a loud snap it came apart into multiple pieces.

 

Larger pieces of wood can sometimes  be dried with minimal checking, but it's a slow process. It's one of the reasons why in America's colonial days a man would cut wood rough and set it aside to dry so it could be used by his grandchildren.

 

I have not yet turned green wood myself, but attended a demonstration of it. The turner said that green wood is easier on the tools and makes less dust, even though it is heavier. Even if you do not turn your crabapple into a lot of wonderful pieces of art, the experience of turning it will be rewarding.

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Drying is not the only thing that causes wood to change shape. The internal stresses in the wood caused by where in the tree it was and how wind and gravity pulled on it during growth can create some surprises.

 

I normally purchase random width boards planed three sides for my cabinetry. (No planer in shop) I find it prudent to cut my final pieces close to but larger than finished size before final cuts. I have ripped a perfectly straight 4 inch wide board into two 2 inch boards that could well serve as the runners on a rocking chair.

 

The point is: unless you want natural distortion as part of the art, get it close first, let it stabilize, then finish it up.

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