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Can you really turn complete logs?

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graduate_owner

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Hi everyone,
I have read several forum entries about people putting complete logs on the lathe and turning vases etc. from them. I have had a lathe for over 20 years but am only now (having retired) managing to put in some time at turning, so I'm nowhere near an expert (not even a competent turner yet) However I always thought that you couldn't just put a log on the lathe because the sapwood, heartwood etc would cause it to split badly. I have quite a large quantity of 'firewood' in the form of logs, from about 5" diameter up to about 15", and some as long as 5 foot. Some of this will indeed go on the woodburning stove, but I would like to turn some of the better stuff. I have seen youtube videos of people chain sawing logs in half vertically, then bandsawing disks from the halves before mounting on the lathe, and I thought this was what had to be done. However it would be very convenient just to mount then on the lathe and turn away.

So, complete logs or chainsawn sections? Anybody have any advice?

Many thanks

K
 

gregmcateer

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K,

I am certainly no expert - and one should come along soon, however my brief experience / knowledge;

Splitting down length, then turning cross-grain will give a more interesting grain on eg a bowl or platter. If you just turned a bowl 'with' the grain, (i'.e basically making a proper circle from the broadly circular log, it would be pretty dull to look at from above or below and I suspect wouldn't be too strong, especially if thin walled.

Turning the whole log, (or part thereof) on the spindle, ie with the grain, would, as far as I know, lend itself to eg vases, boxes, hollow forms, etc. You then have the benefit of the interesting grain along the long length of the piece.
As far as I understand, (rather than actual experience), if the vase / hollow form is thin walled, then splitting shouldn't be an issue, though if still green, or wet, then movement / distortion and / or cracking will probably occur.

So, to answer your question - BOTH! - for different reasons.

Hope that helps. (If not, just wait for a proper woodturner to pop along).

Greg
 

woodyturner

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You can turn all manner of things from logs I do quite often like Vases, bowls, candle sticks, baby's rattles and ornamental items the list is endless but like all things it is something that takes time and practice it can be very rewarding and at times disappointing like plenty of grain pattern or very bland some love it others hate it its a matter of have a go and see if it is for you good luck
 

al3ph

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Definitely, I've got a few in my log store, they are great fun, green ones even more so.

Obviously theres always a danger of cracking when they dry out, but the linguine you get when roughing out is great fun.

A lot of guides recommend roughing out to an inch thick (bowls) and drying inside wrapped in news paper, then finishing off a few weeks later when the wood has settled down.

Logs also have the avantage that they are dead cheap (firewood).
 

Bodrighy

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Green wood turning is very common, it depends on the wood whether or not it splits, warps or stays stable. Much of my work is done with green wood and usually I part turn something as it dries quicker and I turn a lot of what Chas deems 'rustic' work so splitting, warping etc is expected and welcome. You are correct in saying that heartwood and sapwood can dry at different rates but this can be avoided to some extent by turning things that remove most of one or the other as in vases, goblets etc. At the end of the day, experiment and see what happens. Apart from anything else it is a lot cheaper than buying pre-dried blanks.

Pete
 

Jacob

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Any shapeless lump you can fix between your headstock and tailstock which will turn without hitting the bed etc, will turn, and can have chisels gouges applied to it. Don't ask - just do it.
One really useful trick with lumps you are not sure of is to use slowest speeds.
 

graduate_owner

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Many thanks to everyone who has sent in their suggestions / advice / links. I shall certainly try a complete log, now that I know there's a chance of success. Hopefully I'll be able to post some images in the not-too-distant future.

That's the great thing about this forum - everyone seems so willing to offer their experience and expertise (and humour) and there seems to be a great deal of experience etc out there, so the advice is based on practice - not just pure theory which you can get from a book. And it's not just advice that members are willing to give - I've just taken delivery of a replacement motor for my lathe FREE from one of you guys. (I shall thank you properly in a PM).

K
 

gregmcateer

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K

There you go - lots of help from people who actually know a thing or two about it, rather than relying on a newbie like yours truly!

As they say - give the free wood a go and see what happens - it's just the cost of a bit of electricity, (and pride!!) if you fail.

I and many others here would recommend a lesson with a good tutor, and/or join a local club and short cut the more obvious cock-ups - well worth it, IMHO.

Happy turning,

Greg
 
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