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End Grain bowl turning

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Scott Barton, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Scott Barton

    Scott Barton

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    What are some of the positives and negatives to turning a bowl with the grain parallel to the bed?

    I have some preconceptions, but I would like some feedback from experts...if the experts would be so kind.
     
  2. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

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    The most obvious reason is if you leave the pith in as in turning a log into a bowl. If you don't use the pith area then it's very much like turning a hollow vessel with a very large opening. The figure in the wood will be different than a side grain bowl.
     
  3. Donna Banfield

    Donna Banfield

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    I've done quite a few end grain bowls or vessels. The only negative is that if you are turning the entire log or branch, the pith will remain and you need to plan for that issue. Some turners remove the pith and replace that with a plug. I've not done that.

    Some woods I just won't turn end grain as a log or branch simple because of their propensity to crack regardless of the care taken. Oak, apple and cherry, for example, are three species that I try not to turn end grain with the pith.

    If you do leave the pith in, try to orient your blank with the pith directly in the center of the turning., i.e., start your blank between centers and place the point of your live center and spur drive on the pith at both ends. That seems to reduce chances of splitting outward. Then turn your tenon on whatever end will be your bottom, and put it in a 4 jaw chuck, or screw it to a faceplate. I also soak the pith area inside and out with CA glue once I've turned it, either roughed out or turned once to finish.

    Turning end grain the cuts are different, too. If you try to take a cut from rim to bottom of the bowl, as you would with a side grain bowl, you'll be fighting the entire time. That's because the wood fibers are bundles of straws, and all bundled together in that orientation they have a lot of strength. You need to cut from the bottom, up. I drill a hole into the center of the bowl or vessel, and using my bowl gouge, flute facing left at about a 45 deg angle (or at about 10:00), place the tip of the gouge into the hole, and take a cut and pull the gouge toward me, or to the top or rim. Keep repeating this process to until you achieve your final wall thickness.

    Hope this is what you were looking for.
     
  4. KellyDunn

    KellyDunn

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    Scott, If you leave the pith you need to be aware of the nature of that particular wood to split to the pith. Plus if its green it will elongate as it dries. Hollow vessels anyway. Your tool work is just backwards from side grain for your best cuts. I do lots of traditional Hawaiian forms up the log. I tend to leave a bit of sapwood for contrast. I work the inside a little at a time as you are coming back out on your cuts. So I do a bit to finish thickness and then move down. I tend to have the gouge upside down so I am cutting with the left hand flute only its now on the right. Same wood will just produce a very different look end grain than side grain. Translucent bowls are done best up the log and at an open angle. V shaped. I tend to use a termite tool for my final finish cuts on the inside. So other than it could split to center there are no downsides. And thinner is better if you leave the pith.
     
  5. Thomas Stegall

    Thomas Stegall

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    I turn almost exclusively endgrain forms (green)

    Benefits;

    1) If turned from the entire log diameter you will not have the piece ovalize as with turning bowls with the typical faceplate grain orientation.

    2) If turned from entire log there is very little waste of wood.

    3) You have greater flexibility with making pieces tall with the length of the log or wide because you can maximize the log diameter.

    4) Some woods are more visually stunning on the endgrain than the sidegrain. Red Oak for example has prominant growth rings which makes for a unique look, and with the right shape you will have nearly the entire surface as engrain. And the contrast of sap and heart wood or a pith can also add visual interest.

    When turning hollowforms you are basically doing spindle turning on the outside. And on open ended pieces I use a bowl gouge with the center of the log drilled out to the base, which means I can make cuts from the center out no different than spindle cuts from the outside to the center, rather than a typical endgrain cut which creates dust rather than shavings. For the inside bottom of my pieces, I sometimes do finish cuts with a hunter tool because it allows me to cut rather than scrape.

    As mentioned before the thinner the piece at the pith the less stress or tension in the wood to cause a crack. So, if you are doing a bowl you will want to hollow out the base somewhat, to avoid it being too thick. But with practice cracks can be filled or sealed without altering the structure or appearence of the piece. Some woods species are more cooperative than others, and you will figure that out through experience. I usually turn box elder, maple and red oak and have never had problems with the pith, but most of what I do is thin walled turning.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  6. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    End grain bowls by their nature are more fragile and the walls are more likely to crack if it is dropped or abused in use than a face grain bowl.
    Shallow thin wall bowls are extremely fragile if turned endgrain. Imagine an end grain platter with a 3/16 thick rim. Pick it up by the rim and the rim would just break off.
    When i didn't know better I blew a hole though an end grain hollow form blowing it off before applying finish.

    The grain pattern of the wood should show well in an end grain shape. There is a reason furniture makers have been hiding end grain for 2 millenniums.

    A ring of knots, a starburst heartwood show nicely in an endgrain bowl. Bowls with a crotch flame up the side wall are mostly endgrain.
    Large goblets with natural edge rim are sort of a an endgrain bowl on a stem and engrain is never really looked at.

    I enjoy the turning of a face grain bowl much more than turning an endgrain bowl.
    But some wood I just have to turn endgrain to sow a feature.

    Have fun,
    Al
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  7. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    It's a different look, no more.

    Not a lot of useful bowls were ever turned end grain. Between gravity and natural direction of the vessels, they would wet the table they stood on fairly rapidly unless they were loaded with resins or had short, closed tyloses. They are no more fragile than cross-grain bowls if similar thickness, since a cross-grain bowl is a nearly a third of pure end grain. With the old Irish lawman working overtime, it stands to reason that a drop would land the piece on the most vulnerable part of the bowl. Which is but one good reason for leaving the bottom of the bowl thicker, when you think of it. Makes it more likely to hit there!

    One thing I've had great success with is permitting airflow under the bottom of an endgrain piece. It's difference which divides in wood as well, and giving the outside bottom a chance to dry as fast as the inside reduces those radial checks to a memory.
     
  8. odie

    odie

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    I'm a "newbie" on this particular subject, because I've only done two or three endgrain bowls. The ones I have done were all done in Walnut with a natural edge bark left on. These turned out pretty well, but unless I happen to have a piece of wood that looks like the only way to make it work out is to do in endgrain fashion, I think I won't be doing any more. Bark left on does look interesting enough, though. There is just too many other nice pieces of wood to do many of these........

    Like I said, the few that I have done were all Walnut, and mine had no problems with cracking at the pith......maybe it's just luck, or maybe Walnut is better suited for endgrain turning......don't know the answer to that one.

    Donna Banfield is correct about the "bundles of straw" analogy, and the direction of best cut being from center to the rim on the inside.

    ooc

    Here is a photo of one of them. This bowl was probably done about 5 years ago.
     

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    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  9. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    One of those oft-repeated rules of thumb. What you really want to do is cut down hill. On an endgrain vessel with a smaller opening sloping into the interior, it is down from the rim, not up. Sometimes it's up from the bottom to a bulge then down from the top to meet in the middle. The wood will tell you.

    Nice platter, OD.
     
  10. odie

    odie

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    Thanks, MM......

    However you are incorrect about the best cleanest cut, because of the grain direction. This is what Donna was trying to explain, and you are not understanding. It's true that you can cut "downhill", but if you want the cleanest cut, you need to go with the best direction with the grain, not against the grain.

    Going "downhill" isn't a really a good rule......going with the grain is a better way to look at it.

    This illustration was drawn by me, but was a direct copy of an illustration that was shown in an early John Jordan video. Although it's not of an end grain bowl, it does show why there is a best direction according to the grain orientation........and, the bottom of an endgrain bowl is a good example of where the cutting acton is reversed, if the best possible cut is desired.

    ooc
     

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  11. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Sorry you can't wrap around it. Goes back to basic woodworking, where your edge stutters and chips into rising grain - thus "uphill" - and slides down to follow and slick downhill. It's an attempt to use standard edge/wood terminology, as here: http://www.turningtools.co.uk/wtintro/grain/grain.html Which has the illustrations as well.

    I'm sure if you stop and think, you'll be nodding your head in agreement.
     
  12. Thomas Stegall

    Thomas Stegall

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    Uphill both ways, against the wind, with the sun in our eyes

    Perhaps a simpler way of looking at it (excluding the tapered rim in OD's illustration), is that with endgrain orientation an internal cut going "downhill" represents cutting from the center out towards the rim. While typical face plate orientation interior cuts "downhill" will mean cutting from the rim to the center. Just as with OD's illustration of a faceplate orientation, an exterior cut on end grain requires the oposite direction from the interior.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2012
  13. Scott Barton

    Scott Barton

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    WOW...this is great info.

    The "bundle of straws" was the only way I could get it. Even with that said, I usually have to stop and think about it to make sure I'm on the right page with the wood.
     
  14. Thomas Stegall

    Thomas Stegall

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    Like many perishable skills, you will get it through repitition, and eventually it will be automatic. It simply takes time at the lathe. Good luck
     
  15. odie

    odie

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    I've seen MM's link, and agree with everything there....... I think the problem between our explanations revolve around one's interpretation of what exactly "downhill" means, and how it's applied to the subject.

    Regardless, there is a correct direction for the best cut, and that is illustrated correctly in both MM's link, and my illustration.

    ooc
     
  16. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    If it were true for all cases, I'd say direction of cut can be by rote. Since it isn't, it's best done by examination of the grain. That will determine direction of cut in ANY position. Always nice to have the basics firm, rather than rough and ready rules of thumb.
     

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