sbarton22

Practice wood

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What is a good selection of wood to practice turning? I assume something cheap and readily available like pine just isn't dense enough and will tear out.

I also don't really have any good option for green wood where I can go hacking away at a tree to get some wood.

I'm just looking for an inexpensive type of wood that I can chuck up and go to town.

Thanks in advance.

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Ok, so I don't have a good single choice.

I've purchased the sample packs from Woodcraft, and have gone through a few of those, and found a couple that I like and some I don't. Unfortunately, they don't label each blank in the pack, so unless you know your woods, this won't be as helpful.

I go to Woodcraft almost exclusively for purchasing my wood working equipment, tools, and parts. Mostly because I don't like to purchase things over the internet. I prefer that "hands on" purchasing experience. Getting my eyeballs on the product, and possibly my hands, too, does a lot to encourage me to purchase an item (or several.) The Rockler near me is difficult to find. Woodcraft is not nearby, but it is easy to get to. Beyond that, I don't have a database of places to go to. I've purchased wood from various sources, and acquired wood from various sources for less than purchased (curb alerts, fire wood stacks, storm damage, etc.)

But I still go back to Woodcraft when it comes to turning. There are quite a few people at my local Woodcraft that are into turning. I have spent a few hours with them, and have learned quite a bit. And I signed up for an email alert list, when they get special shipments of wood in at reduced pricing. They usually have a selection of woods already cut and prepped for turning, too, at a lower price than the main stock. And this is the point of my recommendation. They have had a selection that I have gone through, not paying a lot for these samples, and have learned more what I like and what I don't like. (for example, I don't like turning paduak. Too much dust, and it gets everywhere. I mean, everywhere. Sharp tools are a necessity, and I have had better luck with a scraping action.)

But the point of this long winded sales pitch (sorry, but that's what it turned out to be) is to get on good terms with your local retailer. Sign up for the alerts, and purchase the discount stock. Most of the time, it's already labeled. And you get to experience many good and bad things on your own that somebody else may not have known you were needing. (like if your pets are allergic to the dust, but nobody else in the family is. My father in law's dog is allergic to cocobolo.)

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Hi, you have already mentioned green wood, and yes if you can get it that is one of the best choices for practice with the different tools and types of cut. You dismissed pine as too soft and liable to tear out, but actually pine can be a very good practice wood. You will have to use sharp tools to get a good finish, but that will give you the practice at sharpening and help you judge when your tools are getting blunt. The sharper the tool the better the finish.

The only timbers I would dismiss from the practice range are the exceptionally hard woods that would be very difficult to turn, i.e. greenheart, ebony, blackwood and the like.

Whitebeam

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@ jhop.... I hear what you are saying. I have a suggestion for you. You say that you don't really like to buy online because you like the feel the tool and put your hands on something before you buy it. I'm the same a lot of the time. However, I have found you can do both. I started doing this when I was buying electronics. I would go to Best Buy, find out what I liked or disliked, and hopefully find a model that fit the bill. I would simply write down the features and model number and go home to jump on the net. I would usually save 10 - 45%, including shipping. Woodcraft can get expensive sometimes, but it is a good knowledge base and their sales are uber-competitive. I also get a discount there from my local guild.

@ Whitebeeam... Maybe I will try some pine. I watched a video from one of the magazines and they dismissed it straight away. All I really want to do is practice my technique and use it as a 3D sketch material. Surely, a little tear out won't hurt. You've changed my mind.

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I would go to Best Buy [...] find a model that fit the bill [...] and go home to jump on the net.

To each and his own and everything but if you want local stores with a good selection where you can examine things hands on, it's probably a wise thing to give them some money every now and then.

Stores and clerks cost more than websites and warehouses...

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a local small mill said that they would cut up some blanks for me if i ever needed any out of the crotches of a tree since he never uses them and he usualy just makes quality hard woods so i know that i would be geting some decent timber hard maple or walnut. call around and ask you tree triming survices if they take there stuff to any local mills. and the mill might make you some blanks for turning out of the crotches like i said they dont use the crotches for boards since it is too narled. have fun and let me know how its going im thinking of geting a lahte myself probably start out with a pen lathe since i like doing small stuff.

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To each and his own and everything but if you want local stores with a good selection where you can examine things hands on, it's probably a wise thing to give them some money every now and then.

Stores and clerks cost more than websites and warehouses...

Good point. I'm talking more about large retail stores versus a mom and pop shop. I'll spend money at a local retailer based solely on customer service. You don't get squat for help at a big box retailer (or on the internet for that matter). At the end of the day, you have to find the best product to fit your needs and your budget. Giving Best Buy some extra cash just because they are in my neighborhood doesn't make sense to me. Giving my local hardwood retailer a little extra because he shares his expertise does. It still doesn't mean I'm going to overpay for certain things. If I can get a tool for $50 cheaper, I will. I will also go back to my local guy and spend that $50 somewhere else in his shop.

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I had the same problem. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on nice hardwood that would most likely be wasted. So I hit up the firewood. I look for nice pieces without a bunch of knots and square them off on the table saw, and end up with blanks about 2 1/2" square and 18-24 inches long. I used some pine at first too, but I've really gotten the best practice with some oak and hickory off the woodpile. It's amazing how nice that wood looks when it's cut, turned, and sanded.

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I also say you should use pine. It is CHEAP, plentiful, and it forces you to use good techniques to get good results. Most people can get good results if they use the 60 grit chisel, but the point to practice it to get good results without using the paper chisels.

Geffre

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I found some poplar blanks at my local hardwood place for $1 a pop. Until I hit the ol's big box lumber yard to find some pine, I think this will do quite nicely.

Still looking for the "firewood" option that has been recommended.

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Let your fingers do the walking to all the area tree services. A lot of the itme they will give you some so they dont have to haulit tot he dump or the pulp mill. Otherwise just listen for the sound of the chainsaws and ask who ever you find what they are going to to witht he wood.

Keep um sharp and BE SAFE K

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Let your fingers do the walking to all the area tree services. A lot of the itme they will give you some so they dont have to haulit tot he dump or the pulp mill. Otherwise just listen for the sound of the chainsaws and ask who ever you find what they are going to to witht he wood.

Keep um sharp and BE SAFE K

Great idea. I didn't mention it but I get the vast majority of my firewood for free from tree guys. Most of my neighborhood is wooded, so whenever we see the tree trimmers working we ask for the wood. They're glad to be able to dump it for free instead of paying by weight to dump it at the landfill. I burn 6 or 8 cords every winter, and hardly ever pay for any of it. Just yesterday I split a piece of oak about 9 inches in diameter, and then cut out some blocks from each half so I can try my luck at turning some bowls.

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Great idea. I didn't mention it but I get the vast majority of my firewood for free from tree guys. Most of my neighborhood is wooded, so whenever we see the tree trimmers working we ask for the wood. They're glad to be able to dump it for free instead of paying by weight to dump it at the landfill. I burn 6 or 8 cords every winter, and hardly ever pay for any of it. Just yesterday I split a piece of oak about 9 inches in diameter, and then cut out some blocks from each half so I can try my luck at turning some bowls.

We have a bit of an issue with this option locally. There are actually laws in the books that firewood is not to be transported out of the county. Thanks mostly to the efforts of a little bug I'm viewing with more dislike than termites. The Emerald Ash Borer. These particular critters prefer Ash trees (clever naming of the bug, right?), but have been found in other species.

A few weeks ago, I went camping with my Scout Troop, and the campsite we were assigned to (as well as the one across the road from it) were just about decimated by this little terror. And, because the bug is still around, the camp is not allowed to do anything with this wood but destroy it on site. Fortunately, they have several needs for large campfires during the week, but there were still more trees lost than the camp could reasonably burn during almost two months of continuous use. It does not take long for this bug to wipe out a stand of Ash trees, either.

My point (I guess I'm rambling today) is that you need to be careful about the firewood. You never know what's living inside. As long as it doesn't violate any local laws, go ahead. Maybe set the wood up in a plastic lined area until you are certain there's nothing inside it, but go ahead and use it.

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I was asking the same question when I started turning. The prices for blanks at Woodcraft were pretty pricey, $20so I got a recommendation for a local wood dealer that deals in hardwoods. I picked up about 9'x1' of 16/4 Poplar and had them cut it into 3' chunks so I could fit it in the jeep, IIRC it cost about $50-75. I expected it to just be a practice wood, but the very first bowl turned out nicely, and I actually like the greenish tint that it acquired after I stained it. Check your hardwood dealers, see what they have in unfinished stock, you'll be pleased at the prices.

I've only turned one thing from pine and had a bunch of tear out, call it the world's worst dowel rod ever made. My two cents.

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We have a bit of an issue with this option locally. There are actually laws in the books that firewood is not to be transported out of the county. Thanks mostly to the efforts of a little bug I'm viewing with more dislike than termites. The Emerald Ash Borer. These particular critters prefer Ash trees (clever naming of the bug, right?), but have been found in other species.

A few weeks ago, I went camping with my Scout Troop, and the campsite we were assigned to (as well as the one across the road from it) were just about decimated by this little terror. And, because the bug is still around, the camp is not allowed to do anything with this wood but destroy it on site. Fortunately, they have several needs for large campfires during the week, but there were still more trees lost than the camp could reasonably burn during almost two months of continuous use. It does not take long for this bug to wipe out a stand of Ash trees, either.

My point (I guess I'm rambling today) is that you need to be careful about the firewood. You never know what's living inside. As long as it doesn't violate any local laws, go ahead. Maybe set the wood up in a plastic lined area until you are certain there's nothing inside it, but go ahead and use it.

You make a good point. Around here the pines get decimated by beetles, but I never use pine for firewood and haven't considered using unmilled pine for woodworking purposes. The firewood I get is mostly oak, a lot of red oak with some live oak and laurel oak. My neighbor gave me a huge pile of hickory a couple of years ago when a massive tree fell, and I've had some cherry and a couple other kinds, but the vast majority is oak.

I get the firewood to heat my house, so it's destined to be destroyed. It's prime for burning after seasoning outside for a year, what with the heat it's usually plenty dry in less time than that. The bugs get into it after that first year and turn it to sawdust so there is a window where it's good to burn. Because of the bugs that attack it, I'm careful to keep it stacked 75 or 100 feet from the house. Ever since I've lived in this house and been burning a lot of wood, I've come across some pieces on the pile that are just nice pieces of wood. I got the lathe a few months ago and was just looking at the stack and saw one piece of oak that looked like a turning blank. That's where I got the idea and it turned out well. Most of the wood I get will still be burned, but I'm starting to look it over for pieces that have potential for woodworking. (Sorry, I guess I tend to ramble sometimes too) I'd much rather practice on some free wood than learn by my mistakes on an expensive store-bought blank.

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I have a friend who lives on a river and a lot of wood washes up on his beach when we go down to harvest it for bon fires, and firewood there's always some interesting logs I've found spalted maple, alder, curly maple, fir, cedar,black locust, and might get a little fishing in also.

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Have you thought about going to a local woodcraft or rockler and checking on any turning clubs or organizations. We have quite a few around here, they are a great resource. Ive found alot of my favorite backyard mini mills just by getting involved. Around here 30" square maple blocks are easy to come by as long as you know where to look.

Don

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As the others say, local wood is usually available from various sources, especially if you just want it for practice. Remember also that the wood turners want usually is what others would pass over or burn, like crotches, root balls, and burls. When I first started, the first thing I did was look on craigslist. It didn't take long before I found an add that said, "Just cut down a maple. Wood is out front and free to haul away." I'm still trying to use it all up. builders want clear wood, we want interesting wood, so you should be able to find lots once you start looking. Any turning clubs in your area you can join? They are usually happy to share and to teach. I think half the fun of turning is to experiment with different woods just to see what they will look like, so don't be afraid of that pine or anything else you come across.

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