Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

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Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:47 am

I've been given some mixed wood which is mainly "crack willow", some of it quite big. I was wondering if this would be suitable for making a shave/bowl horse? The person who gave it to me has a pretty low opinion of it and thinks it is probably no good for making things - apparently some arborists call it "widow maker" as it gives little warning before large limbs fall.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby gavin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:57 am

If you have access to chainsaw or other means of quickly processing this timber, use it. But if you were to spend hours shaping it by hand and then it crack & be unusable, you'd be upset.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby Robin Fawcett » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:47 am

I would definitely use it for a bowl horse. Make some folding wedges out of it too.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby gavin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:15 pm

Robin Fawcett wrote:Make some folding wedges out of it too.

What is a folding wedge?
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby mstibs » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:54 pm

http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Wedge ... there you go Gavin :) had to look that up myself when I read it
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby gavin » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:29 am

mstibs wrote:http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Wedge ... there you go Gavin :) had to look that up myself when I read it

Ah thanks for that.
I thought they were called ' passing wedge ' - but I now have learned the proper term is ' folding wedge ' . :D
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:25 pm

With so much uncut firewood I couldn't really decide what to do. But I got a new starter fitted to my chainsaw (now the chain is getting hot and smoking the bar oil :( ) and so cut up most of the wood including the Crack Willow but left the biggest/most promising looking pieces. I cut a bowl-blank size log off the fattest log, which is too short to do much else with. I split it with wedges yesterday. It split easily but the jagged natural split through the wood and the dryness of the wood did not look promising - very unlike my last oak blank. I flattened off the face some with my carving axe but the awkward unevenness dissuaded me from attempting a regular bowl.

It was drizzly today but it occurred to me that I had been planning to do a reverse bowl and that the rather high wood-wastage involved might actually be a benefit with this awkward crack willow. I wondered if my little HK adze would make an impression on this hard, dry crack willow...
Crack willow bowl & adze 1.jpg
Crack willow bowl & adze 1.jpg (125.88 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

I decided to brave the occasional drizzle and the little HK adze worked just fine :) and it turns out the wood was still nice and green/wet. It took only 25 minutes to remove the bulk of the internal volume:
Crack willow bowl & adze 2.jpg
Crack willow bowl & adze 2.jpg (74.84 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

But another half hour or so to gouge it smooth inside:
Crack willow bowl & 40xR55cm curved HK bowl gouge.jpg
Crack willow bowl & 40xR55cm curved HK bowl gouge.jpg (60.08 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

Crack willow bowl & broad flat bent HK bowl gouge.jpg
Crack willow bowl & broad flat bent HK bowl gouge.jpg (88.15 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

The outside will take longer. I started with the axe - it removes crack willow faster than oak but care is required as the cracked willow will occasionally split off more than you would expect. I found a big rotten hidden knot which happily I was able to simply cut right out - it would have ruined a regular bowl as it would have been in the middle of one end. Phew.
Crack willow bowl & Swedish carving axe.jpg
Crack willow bowl & Swedish carving axe.jpg (80.58 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

Crack willow bowl  - roughed out.jpg
Crack willow bowl - roughed out.jpg (136.8 KiB) Viewed 15581 times

I went out with the family after this. But managed a little more axe work on my return, plus a little draw knife work & planing of the base . It is still very much a work in progress though. I expect it will need to be dried very carefully and might crack. I rushed through this pretty quickly, remembering Gavin's warning not to invest too much time in carving crack willow, I half expected the whole thing to break several times.

It was real nice to use the adze & gouges again - they are lovely tools to work with. BTW I have a wider draw knife now - a 8" vintage Marples, which gave me much better finger clearance when using the bowlhorse -- it's a more subtle tool than Pa's 7" Tyzack, ironically the little draw knife is still first pick when there is a lot of wood to remove. I've also been surprised by how much spokes shaves of similar design vary in character and cutting characteristics.
Last edited by ToneWood on Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:06 pm

I made my now classic mistake of accidentally taking a chip out of the bowl rim yesterday with the Swedish carving axe (SCA) - hate that :(, not sure how, it looked like it probably cracked off rather being sliced off, so perhaps collateral damage. I'm not ready to give up on it though. The SCA can be pretty brutal, so today I switch to my rather more refined Lidl Carving Axe (LCA). I'd forgotten how nice a tool this is, very sharp now too. I was able to chop off chunks with far less risk, and slice & plane with it too - deep joy :). We'll have to see if I can get that rim to come good as I get closer to finishing it.
Reverse bowl with Lidl Carving Axe.jpg
Oops :( That bowl rim will be even more of a challenge than usual.
Reverse bowl with Lidl Carving Axe.jpg (88.81 KiB) Viewed 15546 times

Reverse bowl upside down with Lidl Carving Axe.jpg
The bottom is looking pretty good to me.
Reverse bowl upside down with Lidl Carving Axe.jpg (84.76 KiB) Viewed 15546 times
Last edited by ToneWood on Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby SeanHellman » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:23 pm

Hi Tonewood, coming on nicely. We all have split bits of the rim like you have. It is too easy to do, make sure that the rim where you are chopping is always supported on the chopping block. In other words there was a gap between the rim and the block as the axe cut. Just a bit of a reshape and you will be fine. Are you sure this is crack willow, it looks like beech to me.
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby Robin Fawcett » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:23 pm

I agree with Sean - Beech
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:21 pm

Interesting. I see what you mean, I haven't worked much with fresh beech but it is common around here so I've seen plenty of downed beech limbs - and the split wood is reminiscent of that. I didn't have time to compare last night. The firewood was a mixed batch (including hawthorne, birch &, by special request, ash) but with most pieces, esp. big pieces, being crack willow. At least one big piece has a willow branch with green leaves still growing out of it (apparently when left on the ground they sprout fresh shoots), so I'll compare the other half of the log with that later. I seem to recall this thick stubby log had quite a lot of a distinctive dark brown globular fungi growing on the bark - perhaps that's a clue too?

I guess a beech bowl sounds like a more desirable item than a crack willow bowl :) - that word "crack" doesn't inspire confidence does it, sounds too much like "cracked willow bowl". Makes this bowl rather off-topic though :(. Perhaps I should attempt a crack willow bowl for comparison. :D

Sean, you are spot-on re. using the chopping block. I was much more careful to support the target area after noticing that chunk missing. Thinking it was crack willow, I was not as careful as I had been with my recent oak bowl (the outside of that took ages as I was determined not to damage it in any way).
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Thu Sep 06, 2012 7:55 pm

Yes, Sean & Robin, I think you are both right. Well spotted. I just checked and this piece of wood (and one other stubby log) look different to the crack willow, they have slightly different bark color and the striations are 90 degrees different (although some of the crack willow is smooth).
Crack willow & beech.jpg
Crack willow to left & behind, remaining half of beech bowl-blank, front & center
Crack willow & beech.jpg (107.94 KiB) Viewed 15471 times


There is also a long slim branch which looks like it might be beech too (or could it be lime wood/ash,that "patination" looks awfully familiar?) - possibly from an earlier load; if so, I may put it aside now for legs for a shave horse. :)
Logs.jpg
My best guess at the wood type of some some remaining logs. But looking at the image now, perhaps that beech at the back is lime/ash. And that big crack willow behind the beech, might that be beech too?? Oh boy.
Logs.jpg (104.02 KiB) Viewed 15471 times
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby Robin Fawcett » Fri Sep 07, 2012 5:26 pm

ToneWood wrote:I guess a beech bowl sounds like a more desirable item than a crack willow bowl


Just call it a Willow bowl then - I've made a lot...
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby ToneWood » Sat Sep 08, 2012 12:42 pm

Good idea :)

This however is a beech bowl:
Beech bowl  showing stern.jpg
I used the draw-knife on the bottom, just a little spoke shaving in hard-to-get-at places. Ditto for the top edge. I finished off the edge shaping using my Mora/Frost 106 & 120 sloyd knives, which worked v. well.
Beech bowl showing stern.jpg (130.52 KiB) Viewed 15435 times


I'm quite please with the inside & outside, so I don't think I will make this any thinner. It's fairly heavy but we quite like that and I've noticed that greenwood bowls normally loose quite a lot of weight (30%?) during drying.
Beech bowl  showing stern 2.jpg
Beech bowl showing stern 2.jpg (85.39 KiB) Viewed 15435 times


Thanks for the encouragement Sean, thankfully it wasn't too hard to flatten the gash out during final carving, phew :).
Beech bowl wet.jpg
This is wet, after I washed the bowl with soap and water - brings out the grain like oil. This needs to dry a bit. I was planning to scrape it later but perhaps it doesn't need it, the tool marks are already quite subtle. I have it drying indoors now, inside a cotton bag.
Beech bowl wet.jpg (104.29 KiB) Viewed 15435 times


I really like this bowl and think I may keep this one for myself - to hold nuts at Christmas perhaps :)

Tempted to make a smaller reverse bowl out of the remaining half (more like third) of the beech blank and/or the oak blank. Then there is the willow ...
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Re: Crack Willow (use? shave horse?)

Postby bulldawg_65 » Sat Sep 08, 2012 5:40 pm

Nice Job Tone!
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