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Cutting bowl blanks, help needed

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RichardG

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I’ve just been given some elm and I’m looking for advice on how to turn it into bowl blanks. The tree was dead when cut down and wasn‘t sealed after cutting so it may all split and be a waste of time. However, I’m a complete novice at this so going through the process and producing some blanks and some green turning will all be excellent experience even if they all split and end up in the wood burner.

I’ve drawn my first ideas on the photo based on reading THIS.

I have a RP BS300 bandsaw and a blade as recommended by Ian at Tuffsaw for this task. I also have a chainsaw.

Many thanks

C6A4162F-0E42-4B1B-B8B0-1D5646172A24.jpeg
 

Democritus

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Hi Richard
Lots of people would think you cut it across the bole, rather like cutting a stick of rock. Cutting in that way would produce end grain blanks. You have cut the timber in the right way. You need to mark the circumference of the bowl blanks by drawing circles on the flat side of your pieces., then cut them out on a bandsaw. The problem with this process is, as you say, the wood may be rotted, or very wet, and that can mean it isn’t usable. Even if you are able to part turn them before setting them aside for a few months prior to finishing them, you may find that they have moved a fair bit, or split as they have dried.
I have only once done this, using a bole from a cherry tree. I got one bowl out of it, the rest went egg shaped or split badly. Made good firewood.
Good luck
D.
 

mindthatwhatouch

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Hi.
Good article linked to thanks for that. Someone with more expertise than me will be along shortly, I’m a beginner but what I’ve learnt so far is:
Expect something to crack somewhere along the line.
Give it a go it’s all good practice.
I found best results were from a Rough turn, paint with a watered down PVA and let it be somewhere not too warm for a month or three.
Make sure cuts on the bandsaw are supported (ie flat side down) or make a cradle. Not rounded side down DAMHIKT.
Enjoy.
 

AdrianUK

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Richard,
Democritus is spot on, and your marking out looks ok.
With semi green timber, I often cut the blanks, then rough turn them, by which I mean just get them to a very very basic shape. Then I stuff them in some sacks of old shavings and forget about them for up to a year. If you don’t have shavings, scrunch up newspaper can be an alternative. This way, the blanks will dry out slowly so any cracking / movement is minimal, and if you can be patient, you’ll have some ready to finish later on. Green wood is great for learning on as it’s more forgiving, but all that moisture can be messy.
For dry timber, have a look on YT for bowl blank circle cutting jig, fairly easy to make, which allows you cut reasonably round blanks on your BS. However, the deeper your bowls are, the harder it is to process blanks this way.n
I find more often than not, I now tend to just knock the corners off my blanks on the BS, chuck them on the lathe and just go slow, careful and gentle to get them round.
 
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Linus

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Looking at the picture I see no end grain cracks as yet. I would advise either seal them with Chestnut end seal or I use a candle wax bath to dunk the ends in. One problem storing green blanks to dry is mould, so if you do this check frequently as it can discolour the timber badly. Alternatively, rough turn and store them to dry as per Adrian's advice. Oodles of vids on youtube showing how to do this. Good luck!
 

RichardG

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Thanks everyone for their comments and confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction. When looking at this I‘m torn between doing the natural quarter sawn approach which gives stable planks versus what will work as a bowl making the most of the grain. I’ll try and take several photos along the way and report back, even if it all goes wrong it may help someone else.
 

KimG

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I would also rough them out, whether you elect to turn natural edge or ordinary, turn them to about 1 inch thickness, thi9s way they will warp, but still be viable and much less likely to split.
 

RichardG

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Thanks for this, How are you mounting the bowl for the final turn? At the moment I’m using a screw Chuck, turn the outside plus a tenon on the base, remounting in the Chuck and then doing the edge and inside. At the moment I have no reverse mounting jaw....
 

minilathe22

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Reverse mounting jaws are only needed it you want to remove the final tennon from the base by woodturning. Often this is not needed, you can either leave it there or saw it off when removed from the lathe.

When using the screw chuck, make sure to have the tailstock supporting it at the beginning if its a rough piece. Slow speed and take it slowly until you have a circular shape. If the blanks have 8 sides to start with, progress will be slow at first, If you can get them approximately circular with the bandsaw that saves alot of time. I have setup a jig to rotate the blanks on a woodscrew protruding upwards in the bandsaw table, this cuts nice round blanks.

Endgrain bowls as suggested above are much harder on the tools, and take alot longer to create. But depending on the piece, the grain may look nicer.
 

Robbo3

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There is also the carrier bag method whereby each piece is put into its own bag. Each day for the first two weeks the bag is inverted & the wood replaced. Then do the same every two days for two weeks. Then every week for two or three months. Now it should store without cracking, but every piece of wood is different so there are no guarantees.
 

SkyBlue63

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As to drying rough turned bowls have a search on YT for ' A quick and Cheap Drying Box for Bowl Blanks'. The video is by Rick Morris.
 

Linus

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Thanks for this, How are you mounting the bowl for the final turn? At the moment I’m using a screw Chuck, turn the outside plus a tenon on the base, remounting in the Chuck and then doing the edge and inside. At the moment I have no reverse mounting jaw....
Some good advice on remounting rough turned bowls. Take a look at Glenn Lucas on yt?. He has a video describing how he does it.
 

KimG

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I mostly use a Sorby Patriot chuck with 50mm jaws, bigger ones if the bowl is large, as such I leave a tenon on the base of the bowl once it is roughed out, this does deform during drying of course, but it is sufficient to remount securely. Once mounted I cut a hollow for the jaws on the inside of the bowl, nothing else, take the bowl off and remount on the internal fix, then I true up the base tenon, reverse again and true up the inside, then swap round once more to commence work on the outside of the bowl. This process makes the bowl trun truer when you make the final revers to work on the inside and gives the most control over the amount of material you need to remove to get to a true circle.
 

Jonzjob

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You can get some very interesting results from wet turning as well. This is a rhododendron bowl that was wet enough to literally give me a shower. Fresh cut and turned within a few days. Since then we have taken it along to quite a few craft fairs and been offered what we wanted for it, sometimes several times, but it's SWMBO's
bowl and not for sale but just to show what does happen to wet wood.
Rhodeden bowl misshaped-02.JPG
Rhodeden bowl misshaped-03.JPG


Personally, I really like its bent all ways finish. It's about 8" diameter, well some of it is?
 

RichardG

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Thanks John, its always the temptation to aim for perfection but nature often produces the most beautiful shapes.
 

Nelly111s

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Try one of Richard Raffans books on bowl turning. Shows you how to cut timber and how to mount it. Clear and concise in my opinion
 

RichardG

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Thanks Neil,

which one have you got, I’ve had a look and none of them specifically mentions this aspect?
 

RichardG

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For info these are the blanks I ending up with after I cut round the various splits. I decided to go for few bigger blanks as they're more expensive to buy, unfortunately time has allowed me to rough turn them yet....however, I did seal all the edges with two coats of PVA.

IMG_1126.jpgIMG_1127.jpg
 
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