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logs for bowls

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Doug Rush, Oct 31, 2020.

  1. Doug Rush

    Doug Rush

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2020
    Messages:
    6
    Location (City & State):
    Cambridge, OH
    Is there a rule of thumb on how long a tree can be down and still be suitable for turning bowls and platters? I live on 7 acres on woods (plus access to dozens more) and have several large trees that have come down in storms in the last few years and would like to use them if that is doable. Is it as simple as just cutting into them and if they aren't rotting then they are good to go? I know for sure that one of them has only been down for less than a year so I assume that it would be ok but I don't know about the others. I'd hate to fell a big tree if I don't have to. Any advise would be appreciated -- thanks!
     
  2. John Walls

    John Walls

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2020
    Messages:
    171
    Location (City & State):
    Larimore, ND
    You answered your own question. I am a rookie myself so take that with a grain of salt. I am using a lot of old, punky, spalted (elm, maple and red-oak) and red (box-elder) wood. BUT, it is hard to do and most consider it dangerous. It can and does come flying off the lathe and I have more than once been grateful I wear a face-shield. You can throw solid wood off your lathe too, I had a large chunk of hard oak go flying today, but that was my fault, too big a hurry....... big catch caused that one.... did I mention I'm a rookie too.... I use a lot of hardners, turn very slow/easy and still throw alot in the fireplace. Solid wood is better/safer and cuts better. I have never and never will cut down a tree for my hobby, or as firewood as I have access to alot of downed trees.
     
  3. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2018
    Messages:
    363
    Location (City & State):
    Wayland, MA
    Home Page:
    You have two issues, rot and checking. Rot (AKA spalting) can be a good thing and it typically obvious. Checking is pretty much never a good thing. I've frequently used trees that had been down for a year or two, but often needed to cut a foot or more off the end to get to un-cracked wood. Undiscovered checking is a major cause of bowls cracking while drying. You also run the risk of bringing lots of bugs into the house or shop. AFAIK the fungi that grow on trees in the woods aren't a particular health risk to healthy humans, so ordinary precautions like N95 or HEPA masks and washing after exposure usually suffice. Consult your doc if you are immunocompromised.
     
  4. John Walls

    John Walls

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2020
    Messages:
    171
    Location (City & State):
    Larimore, ND
    This is why when I bring wood into my shop/home, turn it immediately to around 75% of desired bowl/spindle, etc, then I nuke in the micro wave for a minimum of 30 seconds, up to 120 seconds depending on where I think the wood's moisture content is. All the wood I bring in is suspect of a foreign invasion.
     
  5. Dean Center

    Dean Center

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1,129
    Location (City & State):
    Bozeman, MT
    Fruitwood tends to start cracking between the time it starts to fall and the time it hits the ground. Other folks who live in the hardwood forests will have to speak to specific types of wood, but soft woods, in the poplar or birch families, will rot very quickly. A year would be too long, most of the time.

    One other thing to keep in mind. Those trees fell for a reason. Oftentimes, that means there was already rot in the center of the trunk making the tree susceptible to the wind or snow.
     
  6. John Walls

    John Walls

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2020
    Messages:
    171
    Location (City & State):
    Larimore, ND
    That's kinda why I like turning them. Get to them before the rot totally destroys the wood and you can get some solid(ish) wood for turning with some dramatic results, IF they don't become UFOs while turning. AGAIN, it's dangerous to use. Alot of the wood I'm getting is the result of a tornado that hit our farmstead a couple years back, that, and some very strong straight-line winds that took down good trees.

    Doug, I highly recommend to NOT use punky/rotted wood. I can/will hurt you when, not if it comes flying off the lathe.
     
  7. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2004
    Messages:
    6,691
    Location (City & State):
    Lakeland, Florida
    Home Page:
    You can’t tell until you cut into them.
    If you have a lot to choose from you will probably find some turnable wood.

    avoid any with radial cracks..

    lots of variables.
    Some wind blown trees - the main trunk is unusable from cracks.
    Amount of ground contact, sunlight, species, insects, etc
    Most likely the sapwood will be discolored this is an esthetic - lots of people turn wood with discolored sapwood.
    in species like white oak and walnut the heartwood will survive many years of ground contact while the sapwood will rot in several months.

    The wood unless it has radial cracks will likely have a high moisture content.

    you may be interested in the thread I started on green wood. It is from a demo.with 3 parts
    Pdf - slide overview of working with green wood, video roughing a bowl for drying, video of mounting and finish turning a dry bowl.
    https://www.aawforum.org/community/index.php?threads/working-with-green-wood.11626/
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  8. robo hippy

    robo hippy

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2007
    Messages:
    3,061
    Location (City & State):
    Eugene, OR
    Well, the fresher the better as far as I am concerned. As with anything related to turning, a lot depends on what type of tree it is. Out here in Oregon, a big leaf maple that has been on the ground for more than 2 or so years can be totally worthless since that sugar in them is prime food for all the little things that like to turn good solid wood into compost. If a tree goes down from being uprooted, most of the wood can be good. If the tree is broken apart by a storm, you may get some spindle blanks out of it, but not bowl blanks. I have only gotten a couple of dead standing trees. The first couple of bowl blanks were good, let it sit over night and the wood shatters. Other than that, cut into it and see what it feels and looks like. Sounds like you have a lot of wood to choose from, so if nothing else, you get fire wood.

    robo hippy
     

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