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Is Elm good for turning

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Robert D Evans, Sep 20, 2020.

  1. Robert D Evans

    Robert D Evans

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    They were clearing a bunch of trees at the gun club. One of the few trees that was big enough for bowls appears to be Elm. I got enough good size pieces for about 8 bowls. I've never turned Elm and I don't know anything about it. Is it worth the trouble or just firewood?
     
  2. Gary Beasley

    Gary Beasley

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    Though Ive never turned it I would think it would be good for turning, being a hardwood. Let us know how you fare with it.
     
  3. Tim Connell

    Tim Connell

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  4. Donna Banfield

    Donna Banfield

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    Elm is fine for turning, although it does have an odor, that doesn't completely disappear even after the wood has dried. That smell makes it an unacceptable wood for turning utilitarian pieces that are designed to hold food. Of course, that's just me and my overly sensitive sense of smell :D.
     
    hockenbery likes this.
  5. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    American elm is a nice wood for turning with a reddish brown color.
    Chinese elm is a different species with a light colored wood - creamy white.

    both turn well and are well worth giving a try.
    Grain patterns vary - often uninteresting - consider some embellishment for uninteresting grain.

    Some of the American elm trees can smell like a horse stall that is passed due for cleaning.
    Some don’t seem to have much odor. Good luck with that.
     
    Charles Cadenhead likes this.
  6. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    Out of my limited choice of trees elm is my favorite to turn.
     
  7. Gary Beasley

    Gary Beasley

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    I wonder if boiling the wood can relieve any of the smell while relieving stresses in the wood.
     
  8. John Walls

    John Walls

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    I turn alot of elm, around here we call it piss elm. It can be dried for a couple years for firewood, any sooner and the wife gets upset, thinks I'm burning pee... I agree, it does stink. It still smells somewhat when I turn it but not anywhere like burning it. I get some with wild grains and burls, makes for some pretty nice pieces. I have some that I have turned into bowls that comes from dried wood, looks nice without the smell.

    At the moment, I'm bleaching small bowls/boxes made from elm. Then I'm playing around with some spirit stains but have not hit a color/combo of colors that I like. It's a work in progress.
     
  9. Robert D Evans

    Robert D Evans

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    Ok, thanks for the information. I'll give it a try. It must be Chinese elm because it's white wood all the way to the pith. I didn't notice any smell when I cut it up with a chainsaw.
     
  10. Randy Anderson

    Randy Anderson

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    I have a LOT of elm trees on my property. They are prone to die very quickly and I've turned some very nice stuff out of them. I wasn't expecting much when I first tried it. They're so plentiful here they're almost a nuisance but the ones I've done have a very nice color and are easy to turn, not prone to cracking. They do age fast and don't store long so turn them quickly. I've done some spalted ones but you need to watch and not let them expire on you. Supply not a problem here since there are I think three out back now that I need to cut down that died this year and probably 6 logs out in the shed that I know I let go too long. Never noticed an odor in the ones I've turned.
     
  11. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    Same around here, and it is also the species that most often form burls in my region. When I was cutting elm out of the municipal landscape waste, there would be cut logs laying there with sap running out of it. In the spring, you could see a ring of flies on the cambium layer drinking in the sugary sap. Wait a couple of days and there would be a twig with a couple of leaves coming out from the trunk. One last gasp for life! LOL I once found one of these covered with burls, in the spring. With some work with a hammer, I could get the bark to release and had a bunch of stripped blanks. I decided to pressure wash off all the goo. When I started stacking and working with those washed blanks, I could feel my clothes starting to stiffen. All that sugary sap was setting up on my drying clothes. Really unusual trees!
     
  12. Paul M. Kaplowitz

    Paul M. Kaplowitz

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    IMG_0721.jpg I grew up in New Haven, CT. New Haven was known as the Elm City because of the thousands on American Elms that had been planted starting in 1685. The Dutch Elm Disease struck in the 1960s and they were all gone by the 90's. When I moved to SC in 1997, I was amazed to find a large, healthy population of American Elms. It is a wonderful wood to turn, beautiful figure and grain. I grab any one I can get.
     
  13. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    Alberta has a huge elm population, thankfully disease free as well.
     
  14. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    I at one time was reading book about wheelrights and they said elm was first choice for the hubs due to the interlocking grain. When I was growing up in Minneapolis in the 1950s all the streets were lined with huge elms such that on the side streets the branches met and closed out the sun. In the 1960s when the Dutch elm deseze hit I started looking closer and noticed that many had large burls
     
  15. odie

    odie

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    Since much of Elm is fairly straight grained, I don't care for it very much, except for the occasional highly figured specimen. Big straight grained pieces are good for big salad bowls, though. It's been a few years since the last time I turned Elm, but if it didn't turn well, I'd remember......so it must be good for turning.....:D

    This spalted crotch Elm bowl is more to my liking, but not often encountered..... 726-3 spalted red elm crotch.JPG

    -----odie-----
     
    Charles Cadenhead likes this.
  16. Robert D Evans

    Robert D Evans

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    I turned the first chunk of it today. Made a 12 inch bowl about 5 inches deep. It turned easy enough but it slung water all over the place. Wall, ceiling, across the floor. Water was dripping off the LED light fixture. Every time I'd stop the lathe and start it back up, it would sling more water. Turning very green wood will teach you to stand out of the line of fire.

    I weighed the blank and then put it in a bag of shavings. I left it a little over an inch thick. Hopefully, it won't crack.

    It has a few branch inclusions but other than that, it's just kind of a white wood. Nothing spectacular. I'll probably have to add some embellishments when I do the final turning.
     
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  17. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    I haven't had an elm bowl crack yet. I seal it and throw it on a shelf. I usually will soak the knots and inclusions with thin CA.
     
  18. Karl Loeblein

    Karl Loeblein

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    After final turning and sanding then wipe on some walnut oil and then set it out in the sun to bake for an hour or two. The UV rays will help harden the oil and help get rid of some odors. A final buffing once the oil is dry will make it pop. Elms smells decent once it has fully dried.
     
  19. Robert D Evans

    Robert D Evans

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    Well, I got all my blanks roughed out into bowls with about 10% wall thickness. I put them in paper bags with shavings. The Chinese Elm is easy to turn. It's a lot like maple. I'll leave them in the bags and shavings for a couple of months and then put them on the shelf to finish drying. It's going to be a long wait due to their thickness.

    I like the idea about finishing them with the walnut oil. They don't really have any spectacular grain pattern so they'll probably end up being big salad bowls. Should be ready for next Christmas.
     
  20. Leo Van Der Loo

    Leo Van Der Loo

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    Well we al speak of Elm, but we seem to forget that there are several Elm species, and not alike at all.
    Amerikan Elm going by several more names like white elm etc.
    Red Elm, AKA Slippery Elm, etc.
    Rock Elm, AKA cork Elm
    Siberian Elm, very often called Chinese Elm but not alike at al.
    Chinese Elm.
    and there are several more species, like Russian Elm.

    I have turned the common Elm species, and a lot of Siberian Elm, as these are hardly affected by the Dutch Elm disease, and was/is available all the time in the area I lived then, S.W. Ontario.
    Amerikan Elm.
    Amerikan Elm.jpg
    Siberian Elm
    Siberian Elm.jpg
    Slippery Elm
    Slippery Elm.jpg

    Rock Elm
    Rock Elm.jpg
    The Rock Elm is the hardest Elm, it also shrinks a lot more, see how much it is oval here in this picture.
    Rock Elm bowl.jpg

    Chinese Elm and Siberian Elm bark showing the big difference between them
    Chinece Elm bark.jpg Siberian Elm bark. jpg.jpg
     
  21. Perry Hilbert

    Perry Hilbert

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    The saw mill in the next town was making skids and pallets from elm a few years ago and I got probably 30 or 40 cut offs about 3.5 inches x 5 inches and various lengths. Mill owner told me it was "elm" It turned very nicely, although has open pores if you need to seal it for food purposes. Then I was given some red elm pieces from a tree that grew at Wheatland, President Buchanan's home outside Lancaster PA. very light colored compared to the other elm. The same mill recently cut up another odd hardwood and I picked up pieces, but I haven't seen the owner to ask what it is. It has grain just like the first elm, but the wood is like a very light pine, almost white. Very light weight as well. I am guessing slippery elm based on the pictures Leo posted above.
     
  22. bbergst

    bbergst

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    Elm burl can be special. This has a red mahogany alcohol stand applied 22BEF79D-C302-4979-B31F-5AF16480CB04.jpeg
     
  23. Don Wattenhofer

    Don Wattenhofer

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    I can remember lunch break walks in the Minneapolis neighborhood near where I worked and seeing many burls on the doomed elms, but I had no way to get my hands on any of them.
     
  24. John Walls

    John Walls

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    The iPhone app I have identifies the elm on my place as Velvet Elm. Any idea where it falls, maybe goes by another name, American, etc?
     
  25. Perry Hilbert

    Perry Hilbert

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    The write up on Elm at botht eh hobbit house and Wood data indicates there may be 30 to 100 or more types of elm. Some going by several names, and some varieties and cultivars listed as their own classification vs properly part of another group of elm. I guess a bit like there are 30 or more types of red oak.
     
  26. John Taliaferro

    John Taliaferro

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    Ive have turned bowls thin boiled and used a bungy cord to elongate then rivet a handle on makes a strong light basket .
     

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