New guy

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

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New guy

Postby krmcguire » Tue Mar 20, 2012 8:23 pm

So I have obtained a basic set of tools and built a lathe that seems pretty solid and will spin a piece of wood fairly well. My issue is I live in a hardwood desert (Montana). As far as I can tell, my best options are going to be Rocky Mountain maple, chokecherry and possibly mountain ash. Mountain maple and chokecherry around here seem to run around 3" to 4" max diameter but do grow very straight. Large diameter juniper is also readily available. My last experience with wood turning was appx. 30 years ago, but the whole concept of a pole lathe and traditional skills really appeals to me ( I work in the historic preservation field). My questions are 1) is there anybody else in this part of the world using a pole lathe, and 2) if so, have they tried the above-mentioned woods? Any input would be greatly appreciated, Thanks.
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Re: New guy

Postby Steve Martin » Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:23 am

krmcquire - Welcome and congratulations on getting your lathe built. I am in North Carolina, not too far from Charlotte, so I'm not really close and I have not used the woods you mentioned but I understand that river birch, which I have made spoons out of, is similar to aspen and it works pretty well, although soft, especially when green. I have also turned quite a lot of hemlock and I lkie to turn it, which I have been told grows pretty well at high altitudes. If you are close to any town, you might try asking about getting shiping pallets when stuff gets trucked or r-r'd in. I have found hickory, poplar, oak and even mahogany as part of shipping crates. You have to watch out for nails and screws but you can get lots of wood for chair legs, tool handles and other spindle turnings from such material. You might also want to watch out for shrubs such as rhododendren or fruit trees that have been planted but are no longer producing and maybe even old buildings being torn down or damaged in storms. If jrccaim can get stuff to turn in Alaska, I'm sure you can find stuff in Montana. Good Luck!
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Re: New guy

Postby jrccaim » Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:38 am

I agree with Steve. Pallets are a never-ending source of surprise woods. Another source is Harley-Davidson motorcycle crates, if you can find one. Go talk to your local Harley dealer, if any. They throw the things away after they have unpacked the bike. When I was in Juneau, I found oak and mahogany -- or something so close to mahogany that I couldn't tell the difference -- in pallets. Also found a wood that looked exactly like chocolate fudge ice cream. No idea what it was. Amazing source. But do try what you can find in the woods. Here in Alaska I find birch, spruce, aspen, alder, and willow. They all work. If you are turning branchwood then you are limited to the diameter of the branch -- which may be a trunk. But try it. Several samples. You might have a nice surprise.
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