Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

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Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:01 pm

I've been given a quantity of Leylandii wood - what's it good for?

I was given it primarily for firewood (I've used it for that before) but included some v. big pieces left large in case I could make big bowls from them. One huge piece - probably a base section - is covered in dozens of "truncated" branches, which would likely make an interesting sculpture of some kind but seems unlikely to be bowl material. The other huge one is much cleaner & straighter but obviously had a few big & small branches coming out of it originally.

So I'm wondering:
- What is Leylandii like as a material? Is it suitable for bowls/spoons/... or is it too soft? I recall a chap on Grand Designs who was a carpenter and used Leylandii -in the round I think - for the gallery rail in his octagonal eco-home.
- Will the knots prevent me making bowls from it?

I was trying to recall how I normally deal with knots when bowl carving. I generally try to avoid as many knots as practical when cutting the blank and aim to cut out as many others as I can when rough shaping the blank. However, I also recall carving through a few knots, which was surprisingly easy while the wood was still green & wet.

I like to make something for the people who give me wood, ideally from the wood they have given me, a spoon or bowl, something like that.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:53 am

Snow & sledges Jan 2013.jpg
A sledge (AmE. sled) can be useful for retrieving large/heavy blanks. A single tension strap will usually be enough to hold it securely. I use a metal-framed sledge (not shown).
Snow & sledges Jan 2013.jpg (61.1 KiB) Viewed 15178 times

Well, I split the biggest Leylandii blank a couple of weeks ago using wedges. I cut a flattish bottom on it today (with the SCA) - actually keeping the stubs of 2 branches as legs at one end - might be cool if it works out.
Potential bowl blanks Jan 2013.jpg
2 leylandii at the front, 1 ash (I think) at the back.
Potential bowl blanks Jan 2013.jpg (58.33 KiB) Viewed 15180 times


It is a very large bowl blank, several inches too big for the gap in my bowl mate so I've rested/jammed it into the tyre/tire that I have screwed to the top of my main, big outdoor chopping block - seems to work quite well (this is actually what I used when I started making bowls, as Dave Fisher previously mentioned, the sheer weight of a big blank helps). I've starting to hollow it out with my little HK adze but it seems very dry and the grain is coarse and prone to splitting. Being large, knotty and dry, progress is slow. So I have put it in a bin-liner bag, with wood chips and water, in the shed, to see if that might help revive it. Maybe I should abandon this bowl now, my head says "yes, save your efforts for the big ash blank" but my heart says "see it through" :D, or "Ride on through it" as the Dutch say.
Leylandii - start of rough hollowing.jpg
The Leylandii grain is coarse, dry and prone to splitting. Progress is slow.
[For scale reference, the tyre is large, from a 4x4]
Leylandii - start of rough hollowing.jpg (82.22 KiB) Viewed 15180 times


I plan to watch the Jogge DVD (& maybe one of David Fisher's youtube videos) as a refresher. I should know them off by heart by now but I always pick up something new or something I'd forgotten. Great resources, we are very lucky - thanks Jogge & Dave :).
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Sun Apr 14, 2013 6:18 pm

Well, I stored the blank in a wet plastic bag with some adze chips from the start of Feb through until April. I um-ed and ah-ed for some time but decided to try adzing it some more. Despite the long soak, the wood is bone dry inside (good firewood :D) but my adze did start to make a real impression so I committed to the bowl.
Leylandii bowl - vertical rough hollowed.jpg
Committed now.
Leylandii bowl - vertical rough hollowed.jpg (45.69 KiB) Viewed 15091 times

Today I think I have pretty much finished rough hollowing it -- it took longer than the soft green wood, even green oak.
Leylandii bowl - horizontal with SCA inside.jpg
Quite long but 1-1.5" will need to be removed from each end yet.
Leylandii bowl - horizontal with SCA inside.jpg (99.73 KiB) Viewed 15091 times

Leylandii bowl - angled 2 with 600g 5cm HK adze.jpg
Quite deep, hope I can maintain that.
Leylandii bowl - angled 2 with 600g 5cm HK adze.jpg (96.79 KiB) Viewed 15091 times

There is much left to do. Flattening the top next - always a challenge. Then smoothing the inside with gouges, which is usually fun. Shaping the outside will be hard work and it will be a challenge to keep the top & bottom level flat, level and smooth without splitting or otherwise damaging it.
Leylandii bowl - on table.jpg
Leylandii bowl - on table.jpg (81.89 KiB) Viewed 15091 times

Haven't worked out yet how best to remove the ends or how to shape the handles. I'd like to try clean, wide Scandinavian handles but it occurred to me another option would be the "stretcher handles"/"piglet" arrangement feature on a trough in Cornwall and a bowl in Austria, as featured on the old bowl appreciation thread. Austrian bowl:
Image
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Antique-Primi ... 4856859%26
Last edited by ToneWood on Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Leylandii bowl / Q: Marples drawknife?

Postby ToneWood » Sat May 04, 2013 5:28 pm

The bowl has been left, filled with soaking wood chips, in a black bin liner, in a shed for several weeks. Happily though, it looks good and when I worked on it with gouges today, I found wet green wood in the core - deep joy :)
Leylandii Bowl - first gouged.jpg
Radius 55cm HK curved bowl gouge - always a joy to use :)
Leylandii Bowl - first gouged.jpg (64.06 KiB) Viewed 15028 times

First (following Jogge's example), I used a draw knife to flatten the top. I find this step the most difficult. Although it did not go particularly smoothing or quickly, I think it did go quite well - not perfect but quite well. Using my Marples draw knife which has some back rocker/back bevel helped - it seems the best tool for delicate work like this, it rarely snags (are all Marples drawknives like this or was mine "tweaked"?).
Leylandii Bowl - second gouged.jpg
Radius 150cm HK dog-leg gouge, which worked remarkably well in the soft green wood: this step didn't take long at all. The dog-leg is ideal for quickly & cleanly dealing with the bottom of the bowl, which would otherwise be a problem area for me (doesn't seem to be for David Fisher though, I think he uses a Radius 70cm HK gouge, perhaps that helps? Great technique & lots of practice probably helps too :D).
Leylandii Bowl - second gouged.jpg (100.08 KiB) Viewed 15026 times

I am very pleased with this bowl so far, it is far exceeding my expectations. In my mind, I have already decided to give this one away - although hadn't anticipated until now that it might turn out to be my biggest, deepest, most Swedish* looking bowl so far (*now leaning towards wide Swedish-style handles).
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Mon May 13, 2013 7:45 pm

Rain slowed down progress, so decided to take the bowl into the "workshop". The outside of my big oak bowl was a lot of work so I have opted to stick with the axe longer with this one...but it is still a lot of hard work, enjoyable hard work though :)
Leylandii Bowl - mid-way through outer rough shaping.jpg
Leylandii Bowl - mid-way through outer rough shaping.jpg (79.59 KiB) Viewed 14987 times

The sides are still way too thick and the spare 1.5" at both ends has not yet been removed:
Leylandii Bowl - mid-way through plan view.jpg
I like the tool-marks inside in this picture, I aim to keep those.
Leylandii Bowl - mid-way through plan view.jpg (67.55 KiB) Viewed 14987 times

Leylandii Bowl - taking shape.jpg
Leylandii Bowl - taking shape.jpg (89.98 KiB) Viewed 14987 times


I still have a lot of work left but already I think I can say that Leylandii is an ok wood for bowl-making, better than expected, perhaps even good (TBC). Easier to deal with than crack willow*, so far, anyway :).

*Crack willow wasn't terrible, it just required extra care. My crack willow bowl is one of my favourite & most used bowls.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Sat May 18, 2013 4:54 pm

Fine weather at last!

Leylandii is good for bowlmaking :) One area suddenly & unexpectedly broke out a small chunk, twice today, alarming but no real harm done. Otherwise it's been a dream to work.

I've spent more time removing wood from the outside with my 600g Lidl carving axe (great tool now). I then started smoothing the outside with my general purpose Sorby draw knife, wedging the bowl in the saw-horse and/or between my legs as best I could. I was surprised how quickly and smoothly the draw knife worked on the outside. I then switch to my Marples draw knife which I use for more delicate work - the blade is the same length but the back it curved which gives it quite different characteristic: less tendency to tear out chunks, smaller shavings, greater depth control.

I was then "at a bit of loose end", trying to figure out how to deal with the "choppy" underside of the ends/"handles". I figured probably safest to gouge them out & quickly realized that I needed to brace the bowl securely to do this properly:
Leylandii bowl - braced for gouging.jpg
I used my vintage Gilpin shallow "finishing" gouge. I just noticed a former owner's name on the handle today: "N. Lugar" - German?
Leylandii bowl - braced for gouging.jpg (85.76 KiB) Viewed 14966 times

As I started gouging, I recalled that this is what Jogge recommends & demonstrates in his DVD. I've watched it so many times, some of it must have sunk in!

While the bowl was braced in my brother's cheap old Lidl workmate-shaped-object (20 years old, it's kept outside, looks like cr@p but...it still works :)), I thought I might as well take the opportunity to work on it with one of my recently tuned-up vintage spoke shaves. I was astonished at how well it worked, didn't even have to adjust it:
Leylandii bowl - braced for shaving2.jpg
Vintage Stanley spokeshave - my favorite currently.
Leylandii bowl - braced for shaving2.jpg (72.02 KiB) Viewed 14966 times

There is plenty of work still left to do: the bowl is still too thick & heavy and the ends need to be chopped down an inch or so - but the end is now in sight.

Leylandii bowl - Svedish.jpg
I've taken to calling this my "Svedish bowl".
Leylandii bowl - Svedish.jpg (101.8 KiB) Viewed 14966 times
Last edited by ToneWood on Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Mon May 20, 2013 1:37 pm

Since taking the images above, I've spent more time flattening & leveling the bottom (#4 plane) & thinning a thick corner (spokeshave) today. Then I removed 1" of the extra 1.5" I'd left on each end/handle, using my 12" bow-saw. Suddenly, the bowl seems almost complete. It will need hardly any any additional smoothing - quite a surprise. I've placed it in a hessian sack in the garage to dry slowly (Jogge suggests about 2 weeks drying before finishing, on his DVD). Next week, I just plan to tweak it: thin it down a little more, more work refining the base (thin, level & flatten).
Leylandii - ends cut but rough.jpg
Axe rack in the background.
Leylandii - ends cut but rough.jpg (73.79 KiB) Viewed 14879 times

I love big bowls, & this is big, ironically it'll likely be too big and deep for most people/homes, including ours. My smaller bowls get the most use around the house.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Mon May 27, 2013 10:43 am

Spent some time refining the shape and smoothing the bowl - not something to rush:
Leylandii  - ends cut.jpg
Leylandii - ends cut.jpg (92.61 KiB) Viewed 14879 times

Leylandii  - bottom.jpg
Leylandii - bottom.jpg (85.13 KiB) Viewed 14879 times
Leylandii bowl - blue sky.jpg
Leylandii bowl - blue sky.jpg (79.9 KiB) Viewed 14879 times
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby Shankar » Wed May 29, 2013 9:36 am

Looks lovely considering the cantancerous piece of laylandii it looked like at the beginning.
I can't gauge the size ? 18 inches long.

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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Wed May 29, 2013 2:51 pm

Thanks Shanker :D, yes I'm quite surprised myself. It's 20" long and just over 5" tall, too big really. I've been gradually refining the finish this week. I should stop now though - there is a real risk of doing more harm than good - and let it dry some more before giving it a final scrape and, perhaps a little sanding (TBD), and then oiling.

I've just started a new bowl, to discourage myself from tinkering with the leylandii bowl. The blank is a flat, wide piece of oak - left over from "planks" I made for my son's art project (originally thought it was lime). This piece seemed too wide and shallow to be of use at first. But I suddenly realized that it is probably the ideal shape for a nice big Swedish-style dough trough (the ultimate bowl for me) - not as long or deep as the leylandii bowl but wider. I cut off some big knotty areas at both ends, once that was done the blank looks more normal (it was very long, which made it seem shallower than it actually is) - more like a bowl waiting to get out! :)
Oak2 blank.jpg
The blank looked too flat & thin at first.
Oak2 blank.jpg (67.67 KiB) Viewed 14770 times
Oak2 - cross-section.jpg
The cross-section looks more promising though - the top piece was the knotty piece cut off the end.
Oak2 - cross-section.jpg (73.2 KiB) Viewed 14770 times

I have another blank lined up, which I am hankering to get to: it is a long, deep but quite narrow leylandii blank. I am thinking/hoping it will make a long, thin, reverse bowl. I've found this type of bowl very practical around the home and I think they have a very modern/modernist appearance. I want to give a bowl to a friend who gave me the leylandii wood and I think this might be just the one - the current one will I fear be too big.

BTW you asked about spokeshaves: I used the flat spokeshave quite a lot on this bowl, although the draw knife produced very smooth cuts. However, I did find myself wanting a curved bottom spokeshave while making the Leylandii bowl, just for the small area at each end, where the end of the bowl turns into the handle. There is always another tool "that would be handy" it seems :)
Last edited by ToneWood on Tue Jun 04, 2013 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby mstibs » Wed May 29, 2013 9:49 pm

Great work Tone!
Saxons. Were good wood-turners, they had to be because they were poor potters...from "A Short History of Woodturning with the Pole-lathe" by Brian G. Howarth; My bilingual (de/en) Blog: http://mstibs.wordpress.com
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Thu May 30, 2013 9:47 am

Thanks mstibs :)

I almost forgot, my new "secret weapon" - I only started using it yesterday, so it made no contribution to the above - is the venerable no. 80 cabinet scraper. I've created a new thread for it in the tools area at: http://www.bodgers.org.uk/bb/phpBB2/vie ... f=2&t=2830
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:51 pm

Disaster! The end of the Leylandii bowl has split - a long spilt in one end :o The Leylandii bowl wasn't drying in the garage with all the rain we've been having, so I brought it into the utility room - just as the weather turned hot & dry. Darn!

I guess all I can do now is let it dry dry and then glue it (white glue & saw dust?). :( Have to try an learn from these things - not sure what yet but I'd sure like to avoid it happening again. Perhaps shouldn't have trimmed the end pieces off until the bowl was dry enough for finishing?
Last edited by ToneWood on Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby bulldawg_65 » Wed Jun 05, 2013 3:26 am

Crap! You can always try to fill the crack with acrylic. Make it into an art bowl! :)
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Re: Leylandii / Leyland Cypress - bowls & knots?

Postby ToneWood » Wed Jun 05, 2013 2:17 pm

:D Oddly I don't feel too bad about it. I got a lot of enjoyment out of making this bowl & the thing is to learn as much as possible from it. I glued it with white glue & sawdust last night - it seemed prudent to stabilize the bowl lest it get worse. White glue shrinks, so it will likely need to be glued one or two more times yet.

I was thinking about what factors might have contributed to the wood splitting as it dried. A couple occurred to me:
(1) large temperature changes: I brought the bowl indoors just before the weather changed from cold & wet to hot & dry. Also, with that warm weather, we have been getting surprisingly cold nights.
(2) different thickness of wood/greater thicknesses of wood.

Re. #2 My bowl split in the middle of one end - this is the thickest area of wood in the entire bowl, as the inside is rounded at both end while I opted to keep the outside streamlined, like the bow of a boat. My birdseed scoop also split across the thickest part -the large knob-handle.

I should probably have just left the bowl in the garage for a month or 6 weeks before attempting to finish it. It just seemed too cold & too damp at the time, as it has been all year, but just a day later things finally warmed up & dried out - such is life!
Last edited by ToneWood on Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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