Turning green Japanese Maple into handles - how to finish?


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Jason Wheeler

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UKW Supporter
16 Aug 2023
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I (after a great deal of soul searching) have removed a 20+ year old Japanese Maple and have been left with a few decent pieces of wood that will turn nicely into tool/cutlery handles.

I have never spindle turned green wood before so should be fun, and hopefully they will shrink and hold on the things they are going on without epoxy.

My question is how to finish them -even though the Maple is very dense not sure how it will sand and not sure what finish will work on it.

Any suggestions gratefully received (even if it’s let them dry!)


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Sanding green wood is a pain, it will clog the paper/mesh very quickly, best hope is to get very clean finishing cuts, I'd use Danish oil as a finish as it dries and hardens, I've also found that it helps reduce shrinkage/warping slightly, a heavy first coat and allow it to soak in for a few minutes then wipe off the excess, 24 hours later I use 600g to smooth it off then a lighter coating of oil, repeat as many times as you like, I usually do 3 coats.
If the tree has been recently felled then it will have the highest sap/moisture content because it is the middle of the growing season. This will make the wood even more likely to split when you turn it. It would have been better to wait 6 months and cut the tree down in the middle of winter.
Using the whole log in the round would increase the chances it will split even further. Generally it is advised that the wood is cut/split to remove the pith to reduce the chance of cracking when drying.
I would suggest cutting the wood into blanks asap. Sealing the ends and letting the wood dry before turning it. Wet wood doesn't finish well with anything other than oil and even that isn't as effective under those circumstances.
Thanks Paul - unfortunately it had to be cut now not in the winter. I sealed all the ends within 20 mins of them being cut.
Having read all the advice given I will leave them for a while then turn some of the smaller pieces - if I do see any splitting I’ll take a view.
I would go with Paul's advice too. But, since you have already sealed them I would keep an eye on where the more major splits occur over the next few months. Cleave the logs along these splits then re-consider taking Paul's approach and cut your blanks. No guarantees and in fact, you will most likely get further splitting but it should increase your chances of usable blanks. If they are small enough blanks you may want to consider using the rice method to help speed the drying process if you're in a hurry. I've had mixed results. I wouldn't sand maple until dry but I don't have enough experience with Japanese Maple to say if an oil finish is the only option. Asking Chestnut Supplies might be a good suggestion.