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Waxed Blanks

Discussion in 'Tutorials and Tips' started by Richard Marsh, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. Richard Marsh

    Richard Marsh

    Feb 21, 2006
    Sorry if this is a worn out topic, but I couldn't find anything through various searches. I'm a relatively new turner, turning mainly pens for the past year and a half. I just got a new lathe with a little more capacity and I'm really wanting to branch out into bowls and hollow forms. About a year ago I picked up some nice Tasmanian Myrtle Burl that was completely covered in wax (a couple of peices 8x8x4). What steps should I take to 1) determine if its dry (ready to turn) and 2) prepare it to turn.

  2. MichaelMouse


    May 16, 2005
    If it's small enough, put it in a clear plastic bag and run it for two minutes on defrost cycle in your microwave. Then put it in a cool place. If you have instant condensation, it's too wet.

    If you're not interested in a one-time shot, weigh it now and next week. If it hasn't changed much, it's probably good.
  3. Steve Worcester

    Steve Worcester Admin Emeritus

    Apr 9, 2004
    Location (City & State):
    Plano, Texas
    Home Page:
    I have a waxed blank I want to turn, what now?

    Chances are that it is not dry, being you have only had it for a year and a half, if the entire piece is waxed (and 4 inches thick). That being, you don't have to wait for it to dry either, you can turn it wet.
    As an example, if it were completely wet, and 4" thick, it would take at least a few years to dry, understanding that it would probably still be wet in the middle. The more dense it is, the longer it will take to dry. Even if it were fully dry, I usually move it to the shop and let it sit for a few days to acclimate to that temp/humidity. Of course, I keep the prize blanks in the house.

    There are several things you can do to get it ready. If you know you want to turn a bowl, use a compass, mark where you want, keeping in mind the top and bottom, and cut it out. You don't have to cut it out, you could put the square up there and carefully turn the corners off.
    If you are planning on turning it with a faceplate screwed to it, you are ready, mount it up.
    If you are going to glue a waste block to the bottom, scrape the wax off the area, and then sand it a bit to make sure it is flat and all the wax is gone so the glue will adhere.

    Now, a few directions to go.

    1) Turn and leave thick and even thickness (more important than thin) and put in a paper bag, roll the bag closed and put it in an area that doesn't get a draft or sunlight (This can risk the piece molding depending on the wood). The piece may split, it may warp, it may not. When dry (usually determined by successive weighing until it seems to have stabilized) return to the lathe and finish turning to the desired thickness and sand and finish.


    2) Turn thin and even thickness (more important than thin) sand and finish as you like. The piece may split, it may warp, it may not.


    3) Turn thick and even thickness, and prep dry in the method you like. Prep is usually to prepare a method to try to reduce or relieve the internal stresses built up in the wood, that you are letting out by removing wood.
    Methods include alcohol soaking, a kiln, a microwave, dish washing detergent soak, boiling. Each method would need to be researched on it's own.

    After the prep method, they are usually air dried (paper bag again) and turned down to even thickness.


    OK, don't get intimidated, it is part of the learning curve, and really no different that using a blank cut right from a tree in the yard, but using a blank you bought, increases the cost factors. Each wood species dries a bit different and even from the same log, can dry different in the amount of shrinkage en the three dimensions. It will take some patience and practice, but the end results are worth the effort.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2006

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