Which timber to learn to make bowls

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

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Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby dan » Thu Dec 19, 2013 12:50 pm

What timer is good to learn bowl turning on I've got fresh beech and oak
From the last storm... Also should the blank be cut and left to season for a while ?
Cheers dan
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby ToneWood » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:54 pm

I carve rather than turn bowls: I find beech easier to work than oak, and perhaps less coarse & certainly less tannin, but both are fine.

Youtube (Ben Orford speed turning 1 week cut beech): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Inzxe25j9M
Last edited by ToneWood on Sun Dec 22, 2013 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby gavin » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:15 pm

North of Chilterns beech has a wavy grain. You are in Whitley Bay, so you may find your beech grain unpredictable.
Oak has large amount of sapwood and the tanin in oak will attack your metal edges, so oak would not be favourite

But: Since you indicate you are a learner, I would not worry too much but turn some 6 inch bowls of either species and be ready to treat them as learning items and not users.

Moisture content : not too wet and not too dry is best. That said, use what you have and learn by it.

If you can, look out for sycamore.
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby goldsmithexile2013 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:04 pm

dont forget alder as well, if you can source any-an attractive cream/orange wood, relatively soft, turns well

Out of beech or oak, for me its a no brainer-beech every time. The ones here (Suffolk) do have wavy grain, almost fiddleback/tiger effect in some cases. But it is also creamy and firm. Downside to using it for turning on a pole lathe of course, is that it is very dense.....
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby dan » Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:16 pm

Second bowl
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby gavin » Sun Dec 22, 2013 7:53 pm

Dan,
Can you bring yourself to cut one of your bowls in half? You'll learn much thereby. Your walls are too thick - understandable in a beginner's bowl. Just how much too thick - well, a slice in half will reveal.
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby dan » Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:20 pm

The first bowl ended up a quarter inch thick that one is about half inch and the third is 3/8 ths
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby TonyH » Mon Dec 23, 2013 10:58 am

gavin wrote:Dan,
Your walls are too thick - understandable in a beginner's bowl. Just how much too thick - well, a slice in half will reveal.


I would agree that the walls are thicker than most I've seen. But Gavin - can you explain a bit; when you say they are too thick, is that down to aesthetics, tradition, or likelyhood of splitting during drying, or something else ?

I have rather the opposite problem - the sycamore bowl I turned yesterday is too thin. The rim is OK, but towards the base it is only ~3mm thick. And I don't need to saw it in half to see - it looks wrong when stood on a flat surface, it feels thin, and calipers confirm it.
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby gavin » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:38 pm

TonyH wrote:... Gavin - can you explain a bit; when you say they are too thick, is that down to aesthetics, tradition, or likelyhood of splitting during drying, or something else ?

Aestheticks.
It is about the feel of the bowl in the hand. Does it balance well? Is it thicker than it needs be? is the thickness consistent from rim to base? Or does it change in a pleasing manner?
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:29 pm

A thin bowl will also be less likely to crack.
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby gavin » Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:10 pm

AlexanderTheLate wrote:A thin bowl will also be less likely to crack.

Yes, there's that too!
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Re: Which timber to learn to make bowls

Postby jrccaim » Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:34 am

When I first started carving bowls (not turning) there was a tendency to make them too thick. Good grief! I said, if I make it any thinner it will break! Well, no it won't. Or more usually, it will probably not break. Might be a pin knot in it, might indeed break. But you find out by experimenting. Myself I am very fond of alder, since I can get it here by the carload. I think a softer wood is a better learning medium than a hard wood such as beech. For hard wood your tools must be razor sharp, alder more forgiving. Take one variable out of the equation. Lots of variables. How dry is the wood. How sharp your tools are. How many knots in the wood, and where they are located. How uniform is the grain. Very creditable first bowl. Go make some more and do not be afraid to hog one up, as we say here. Leonardo da Vinci said:

L'esperienza è il nome che si dà ai propri sbagli. Experience is the name which we give to our own mistakes. Amen.
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