Numenor

Grain orientation for bowl turning

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I am just getting into bowl turning and was wondering what orientation you typically have the grain running. I.e. is it parallel or perpendicular to the base of the bowl?  From what I gather in my own reading is that you can really orient it any way with different grain patterns showing for each.  Thanks in advance for any insights. 

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Calling it a "bowl" suggests a form that is wider than it is tall.  The grain would therefore be best oriented parallel to the base. Near as I can tell, things taller than they are wide are generally referred to as "vessels" (i.e. vases, pencil holders, goblets, etc.) and are turned with the grain running perpendicular up from the base.

If you're just getting started, best if you plan to turn a few broad, shallow bowls using a faceplate and a chuck.  Then get into taller, deeper, more enclosed shapes.

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When I first started bowl turning, there was a lot of trial by error. For instance, I used a spindle gouge for bowl roughing. After a few successes, the gouge broke at the base (between the handle and the flute of the tool where it narrows significantly). I complained to the manufacturer (Robert Sorby), and received a lesson in wood grain and the forces at play while turning. At this point you should be well familiar with the construction of wood. Most explain it as a handful of drinking straws that are stronger when stood on end as opposed to lying on their side. If a bowl or vessel is turned with the grain (chucked or face plated at the open straw end) the spindle gouge is fine. When oriented cross grain, the tool is exposed to more forces than with the grain. It was explained to me that the grain orientation changes four time during one revolution, therefore putting more stress on the tool. I will commend Robert Sorrby, they replace the gouge that was broken by my ignorance of the proper selection of tools. I am now experimenting with a crotch of cherry. Think of it as a 'Y' or a fork in the road. In these configurations the grain changes more times than four depending on how many branches were growing in which direction. I agree that sharp tools are a must. Look at some of the techniques on the interweb. As in dealing with canines, don't show any fear when turning wood, the wood can sense fear and you will develop cramps from holding the tools with a 'death grip'. Ask me how I know. Good eye protection is a must! After rereading my post, I see that I left out that a bowl gouge is the proper tool for cross grain turning, there is no narrowing of the shaft before it transitions into the handle. Good luck!

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My Wolverine jig is arriving this week so hopefully sharp tools will be a moot point.  I was free hand sharpening prior to that with mixed results.  I've done mostly pens, bottle stoppers, salt shakers etc on my mini lathe up until I took a break from woodworking the last two years (two preemies, two moves and one new business in less than 30 months... it's been crazy).  I'm looking to get back in the saddle and invest in a good midi or maybe large lathe since bowl turning is always what I always eventually wanted to do.  

Related topic but in terms of acquiring blanks, is it kosher to cut pieces of thick rough, kiln dried stock and turn that?  There's no good local source of blanks but we have a great hardwood dealer who regularly has 12/4 and 16/4 stock which couldbe good in terms of dimension, but will the fact that its been thoroughly dried be a detriment to turning?  I've used dried lumber for the spindle turning but not  for bowls so I don't know if I'll be holding my breath waiting for a pieces to bop me in the forehead.

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15 minutes ago, Numenor said:

My Wolverine jig is arriving this week so hopefully sharp tools will be a moot point.  I was free hand sharpening prior to that with mixed results.  I've done mostly pens, bottle stoppers, salt shakers etc on my mini lathe up until I took a break from woodworking the last two years (two preemies, two moves and one new business in less than 30 months... it's been crazy).  I'm looking to get back in the saddle and invest in a good midi or maybe large lathe since bowl turning is always what I always eventually wanted to do.  

Related topic but in terms of acquiring blanks, is it kosher to cut pieces of thick rough, kiln dried stock and turn that?  There's no good local source of blanks but we have a great hardwood dealer who regularly has 12/4 and 16/4 stock which couldbe good in terms of dimension, but will the fact that its been thoroughly dried be a detriment to turning?  I've used dried lumber for the spindle turning but not  for bowls so I don't know if I'll be holding my breath waiting for a pieces to bop me in the forehead.

I turn 8/4 and up kiln dried stock without any problems, the only problem most people face is thick dried stock can get expensive, luckily i can get 12/4 cherry for like $3bf.  If you have hardwoods that grow in your area, check craigslist in the free section, people are always giving away fresh cut "firewood".  Of course you have to rough turn it and let it sit for a good while but it's free at least. 

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Thats a great price!  I'm working on getting some pieces from local tree services but its slow going.  I have a nice Stihl chain saw but I think I'll need to invest in a nice rip chain!

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I mostly agree with @Bombarde16 on the bowl vs vessel distinction and associated grain direction rules... though of course those rules can be broken!

Most people prefer turning green wood for bowls.  The wood is softer and cuts easier. You can also generally find bigger pieces and find more free wood!

The disadvantage is drying... at some point, you need to dry the piece.  So you either turn it partially (leaving thick walls) and then let it dry or you turn to your final thickness recognizing that the piece will oval-out as it dries.

(ok, and the other disadvantage is that you start finding tons of free wood and you end up with way too much of it around your shop!)

I only turn kiln dried wood when I'm making laminated pieces or segmented pieces.

Here's an example of a laminated piece:

3 Woodturning - maple and walnut bowl 2.jpg

 

Here's a segmented piece:

3 woodturning - segmented bowl.jpg

 

 

 

 

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