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Turning a Green Wood Bowl Saco ME

Making a functional object directly from raw material in its natural state is incredibly satisfying. Just ask any potter. For woodworkers, green woodturning captures that feeling. You literally start with a log and end up with a beautiful bowl. If you’ve never turned green wood before, you’re in for a treat.

Rockler Woodworking and Hardware #33
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Turning a Green Wood Bowl

Turning a Green Wood Bowl

By Alan Lacer


Making a functional object directly from raw material in its natural state is incredibly satisfying. Just ask any potter. For woodworkers, green woodturning captures that feeling. You literally start with a log and end up with a beautiful bowl.  If you’ve never turned green wood before, you’re in for a treat. Green wood is easier to turn than kiln-dried wood. It cuts cleaner and produces very little dust. To top it off, the wood itself often costs nothing. 

TOOLS AND SUPPLIES: 

• 1/2” bowl gouge 

(from a 5/8” rod)

• 1-1/4 to 1 -1/2-in. 

heavy scraper  

(usually 3/8” thick)

• Jacobs style chuck 

• A 5/8” to 1” drill bit

• Double ended calipers

• Vernier style caliper

• Sanding discs and soft pads (5” and 

2” dia.)

• Flexible shaft tool or flexible shaft for a drill

• 1/8” rubber router mat material

• CA glue

MATERIAL

The process works best if the wood is wet and freshly cut. Storm-downed trees, areas being cleared for development and tree service dumping sites (often called “bone yards”) are all good sources of green wood.  For ease of handling and cutting, choose logs or limbs that are smaller in diameter than your lathe’s swing.  

Almost any species is worth trying, but here are some of my favorites: maple, walnut, butternut, ash, birch, locust, white oak, cherry, beech, Osage orange, and pear. My rule for green bowls is to try whatever is locally available—you may be pleasantly surprised by the abundance of material in your own backyard.   

SAFETY FIRST!

Wet logs weigh a lot! You don’t want one flying off the lathe. Use a faceplate that’s made from one piece of steel and is at least 3/8” thick at the screw hole flange. For bowls less than 10 inches in diameter, I use a 6-hole, 3-in.-diameter faceplate. The type of screw is also critical: Use #12 sheet metal screws. Avoid dry wall, deck and wood screws. Be sure the faceplate sits flat on the log’s surface—if it doesn’t, use a small hand plane across the grain to create the desired fit. Last but not least, be sure to wear a full-face shield—goggles are not sufficient for bowl turning. 

FINISHES

Is your bowl functional (made for food) or decorative?  If it’s decorative, choose any finish that gives the look and feel you prefer. My favorite finishes for functional bowls are mineral oil, walnut oil and pure tung oil. Mineral oil looks great on light colored wood, as it adds no color of its own. However, it never dries so it needs to be reapplied regularly, especially after washing. Walnut oil adds a little color and will dry in time. It’s available at health food stores.  I also like pure tung oil. It adds a deeper color that looks great on dark woods and...

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