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Infinite supply of olive wood - now what?

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Trainee neophyte

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Apologies for the heading, but I have what amounts to an inexhaustible supply of olive wood. This is because I live on an olive farm, surrounded by other olive farms. I only realised what this means the other day when I found out what other people pay for turning blanks.
Now, I have a log pile. 3 actually. Last winter's pruning, the year before's, and the year before that. 3 year old wood is hard as steel, so I can only assume that it is fairly dry and well cured. 40 degree heat will do that.
I am finally taking the plunge and starting to do some real woodwork (my username should give you an idea of my level of skill), and I thought I might kick off with some end grain chopping boards. I have just bought a baby Axminster table saw, I have a thicknesser/planer but little idea of how to use it, and a crappy Clarke lathe needing a belt hiding in a corner that I have never used. So the point of all this preamble - can I take a few small olive logs, and cross cut them to make rounds, which I will then square up and glue up into a chopping board? What could possibly go wrong? Or do I need to go through the rigmarole of milling the logs lengthways, gluing it up, cutting it again, gluing it again etc? Your thoughts would be appreciated. Also any ideas on what to do next? I have a hankering to make raised panels out of olive wood, just because :)
Edit: I should have mentioned that these are fairly small bits of wood - anything from 1" to 4" across. I have bigger lumps too, but I was looking to play with smaller bits first, because my chainsaw really doesn't like rock-hard 3 year old wood.
 

Steliz

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I think the benefit of gluing lengths of squared wood together is that they are then processed in groups which makes it easier to glue together. Trying to do it with individual pieces would be more difficult.
 

thetyreman

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I've seen restaurants using olive wood serving platters, might be an idea?
 

Trainee neophyte

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Thanks for replying. My issue is how to take raw lumps of wood, and make them square, whilst keeping thumbs attached. Think a jig on the table saw to hold the log lengthways so I can get a reference edge will be safest. Then I ought to end up with square lengths that look like turning blanks. Ought to, being the operative word.

Having once attempted to take the end of my finger off with a chainsaw, I am trying to be a bit more circumspect around all this new kit, that I don't really know how to use. Thank god for YouTube. Being a farmer, precision isn't normally my thing, so woodworking will be going against the grain, as it were.
 

MikeG.

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I really wouldn't attempt that on a table saw. That's bandsaw territory. It would be seriously dangerous to attempt to slice up rough logs on a home tablesaw.

I'd also be cautious about reducing logs to planks after they've seasoned. Instead, if it were me, I'd be planking the newly felled stuff, putting it in stick for a couple of years, and then trying to use it. Seal the ends before you do that, and make absolutely certain that these boards are stored out of the sun as they dry. Drying too quickly is the surest way of wrecking them.......they'll split and twist. The stuff which has already seasoned I would use for turning, or for naturalistic garden furniture etc, but I wouldn't anticipate much success if you tried to make 4-square indoor furniture.

It can be an absolutely beautiful wood, though, with the downside that the board widths are small, and there isn't much straight stuff.
 

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I also have olive trees around me as I live in Cyprus. But the locals never cut more than twigs off the trees so even after 4 years of woodworking I still haven't used olive wood.

You definitely need a bandsaw. Even then you need a log gripping jig to safely cut along the wood. If you didn't and the wood twisted it could be very dangerous to your hands.
For chopping boards you need cubes exactly the same dimensions, or you will never get to close the gaps up.

Use the band saw to cut the wood into planks. Then the thicknesser to make them flat. Then the table saw to cut them into strips and cubes before they can warp.
 

MikeG.

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You should glue the strips together before you cut them into cubes. So you rip pieces say 20mm x 20mm x 300/400 whatever, then glue and clamp them together. Clean them up afterwards, then cross cut those panels to just over the thickness you want for your finished board, and glue the strips together. That way, firstly they are glued before they have time to move, and secondly, you never have to handle small cubes.
 

custard

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You're a lucky guy, Olive Wood is absolutely amazing, it's more like a tropical exotic than a European timber. Here in the UK we'll only see it intermittently and even then I doubt we get anywhere approaching the best boards.

But we should clear something up. You say you're using "pruning", does that mean branch wood? If so it's pretty restrictive.

Branch wood is okay for small turning and for making kitchen items like spoons or spatulas, but branch wood isn't any good for furniture making or joinery. The reason is the same as why trees growing at an angle, or trees growing on a hillside are only fit for firewood. The fact that the wood is in tension on one side and in compression on the other side means it'll always be unstable and prone to warping, the smallest changes in humidity and it'll move and twist.

What you need is the "bole" of the tree, the full log. When you have that then search for a local tree surgeon with a portable mill and get them in to plank it all up for you in a variety of different thicknesses between 20mm and 50mm, and a variety of different cuts (quarter sawn, plain sawn, rift sawn).
 

Rorschach

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Be careful gluing it, it's oily and I have had trouble in the past.
 

sunnybob

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custard, aint no such thing as a straight olive tree :shock: =D>
Theyre repeatedly pruned and cut to be as low to the ground and spread as possible so the olives can be harvested easily. The trees behind my house don't have 4 ft of straight trunk between all 50 of them. :roll: :roll:
 

Trainee neophyte

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Absolutely right about there not being anything straight! Our trees are anything up to 500 years old, and more than two feet in any direction in a straight line is very rare. Whilst I am using the prunings from branches, quite often these branches grow vertically, as the main lateral branches are part of the permanent structure.

I have definitely decided against trying to chop individual cubes, held between finger and thumb, so now it is down to seeing what comes out of ripping lengthways. If I can get a piece a foot long, it will be a result - two feet would be rare, especially as this is my firewood pile, and I have already cut it into handy foot long lengths.

Can you believe I burn four or five tons of olive wood each winter, just to keep warm? So do all my neighbours. Think of all those turning blanks being consigned to the flames...
 

El Barto

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It's bloody lovely stuff. Driving through Portugal last year, masses of it was being pruned and burnt so I took a few of the bigger branches. Here's a quick tester I did earlier today with some Alfie Shine lightly applied...
 

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custard

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Here's some Italian Olive Wood for sale in Surrey Timbers, a board 2050mm x 210mm x 35mm for £81.

Olive-Wood-Surrey-Timbers.jpg


That's fairly typical of the price and quality for Olive Wood I see for sale in the UK, I'm sure you could do far better living by the Mediterranean.
 

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Trainee neophyte

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I'm going out in the morning with a chainsaw! Much better revenue than bloody olive oil!

Also thinking about holidays for turners and other exotic rarities: all the bowls you can turn, and beach and ancient stuff for the family to look at to stop them complaining. Any takers?
 

El Barto

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Get an Alaskan mill and you’ll be sorted. And given you won’t be milling wide boards you probably won’t need to splash out on a big saw.
 

Vann

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custard":2hyzq98i said:
...a board 2050mm x 210mm x 35mm for £81.
Trainee neophyte":2hyzq98i said:
...Can you believe I burn four or five tons of olive wood each winter, just to keep warm? So do all my neighbours. Think of all those turning blanks being consigned to the flames...
That's several £100,000 to heat your house each winter. Makes a nuclear power plant look cheap... :wink:

Trainee neophyte":2hyzq98i said:
...Also thinking about holidays for turners and other exotic rarities: all the bowls you can turn, and beach and ancient stuff for the family to look at to stop them complaining. Any takers?
Seriously, that could work. Backpacker accomodation in Greece for woodturners. Could be a nice little earner on the side.

Cheers, Vann.
 

woodbloke66

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custard":wfvhvono said:
Here's some Italian Olive Wood for sale in Surrey Timbers, a board 2050mm x 210mm x 35mm for £81.

That's fairly typical of the price and quality for Olive Wood I see for sale in the UK, I'm sure you could do far better living by the Mediterranean.
I agree, it's lovely stuff but it seems to be rarely seen in the UK in board form like that. With some careful cutting and planning there's a nice little cabinet in that board - Rob
 

AJB Temple

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If you go to things like Christmas markets, craft fairs, artisan food fairs / farmers markets, you will often find people selling selling thinks like cheese boards and small cutting boards made of Olive wood. A few goblets, small bowls and things like that. So there must be at least a small market. We have a few olive trees. Slow growing is not the word!
 

Pete Maddex

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Just seen large olive wood ladles on sale for £25.
But I wouldn’t fancy making one for that price, it’s tough stuff but very nice looking.

Pete
 
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