I wish to name the banksia pod a pinecone from down below. It performs the identical operate as a pinecone, being the seed service of the banksia plant, which isn’t technically a pine, although it’s an evergreen. The Banksia genus of vegetation will get its identify from Sir Joseph Banks, the botanist who sailed with Captain Cook’s Endeavour voyage that arrived in Australia in 1770.

Banksia vegetation vary in dimension from shrubs and bigger bushes to timber of round fifty toes in top. They could be discovered rising outdoor in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. Of the seventy-5 named species, sixty-one are present in western Australia, together with the Banksia grandis, the species that generates the big seedpods. Although it’s the scale of the seedpod that makes it enticing to artists, the identify in all probability refers back to the tree’s giant leaf dimension.

Banksia pod growing in Australia
Banksia timber develop in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. (Photo: Stacey and Betty Hager)

The pods, or cones, generally used for woodturning are the fruit of the plant. These cones could be from 3″ to 16″ (8cm to 41cm) lengthy. Once the beautiful, upright, golden yellow or purple flowers fall off, the cone matures on the tree and the seeds develop. There could be each mature cones and flowers on the tree on the similar time. Often it’s the warmth of a forest hearth that causes the seed case holes, which give these pods their distinctive look, to burst open and launch their seeds.

Banksia pod and cone with petals removed
When the flowers fall off, the cone, or seedpod, develops. (Photo: Stacey and Betty Hager)

I noticed my first banksia pod within the mid-1990s at our native retailer and was captivated. It was the oddest piece of fabric I’d ever seen. I knew it may very well be turned however didn’t have a clue the way to start or what to make out of it. So, for fairly just a few years the pods had been stored on my windowsill as artifacts. When I noticed a field made by Bonnie Klein from a banksia pod, I knew what I wished to make. How to get from tough banksia to field—that was my first journey. Here are some issues I’ve realized about banksia through the years.

Choose the Right Pod for the Project

Banksia pod with roughtly evenly spaced eyes
No two banksia seedpods are alike.

How do I select a “good” banksia seedpod? Not all banksia are created equal. I search for equal distribution of eyes as a result of I like that look higher. But actually, it depends upon what you want and what you’re going to make. Rather than asking, “Is it good?” ask your self, “What is the best use for this one?” or “Which is the best banksia for my project?”

Banksia pod with very unevenly spaced eyes
Eye spacing and consistency differ; what character pod would you like to your mission?

The lighter, browner ones are typically sounder inside. Whitish or yellowish colour on the outside can point out a punky inside that may are likely to tear out when turned however might need some good colour variation. A greyish exterior and damaged or weathered-trying eyes may imply a punky inside, or won’t.

After inspecting the outside, one of the simplest ways to guage a banksia is by chopping the ends off, or chopping it in half, on the bandsaw and looking out on the cross part. You may see a bug gap within the very middle, which can or could not go throughout. A punky banksia could have lighter-coloured areas and may present tearout from the bandsaw lower. If it’s tender sufficient to dent with your fingernail, it’s punky and can more than likely tear out extra simply when turned.

Banksia pod with a crack developed in the center
Natural occurrences akin to cracks on the core will help dictate the kind of mission a pod is finest suited to.

Cracks on the core won’t yield a very good finial, knob, or stem (relying in your design) however might make an awesome-trying mushroom cap. Punky cores normally have plenty of colour variation and look good on a mushroom or weed pot. The ones with random distribution of eyes could make good weed pots or partial pure-edge turnings.

Nicely fashioned, undamaged eyes and a much less-weathered exterior make a greater pure-edged piece, however if you’re turning the outside away, the weathered ones work simply as properly. A sound pod with no punky core shall be simpler for making a field.

Anatomy of a Banksia Pod

The banksia consists of a darker brown core that appears just like the pith of a department. This core has no grain to it and can break off fairly simply at half″ (13mm) diameter. The eyes cease in need of the core, so it normally has no voids—except there’s a bug gap. Bug holes sometimes go up solely into that core space and should go throughout from one finish to the opposite. Or not.

Banksia pod with a sunflower-like pattern
The sunflower sample on the lower finish might make for a pleasant inlay.

Most seen on the ends, the place there will not be any eyes, is a sample within the cross-part of a banksia that appears like a sunflower. A slice of this part might work fairly properly as an inlay piece.

The core is surrounded by a roughly concentric zone that’s the nicest chopping and strongest. The eyes get smaller towards the middle of the banksia pod, stopping on the core. Surrounding this clear-chopping zone is a extra porous space that’s nonetheless good to show. It is on this zone the place the eyes are the most important and connected much less firmly. It usually seems to be like there’s a small house round them. On a skinny-walled piece, the eyes are vulnerable to fly out of the matrix on this zone. Drenching with cyanoacrylate (CA) glue or vacuum-stabilizing with resin takes care of that difficulty if I don’t need the eyes to be lacking. Not that lacking eyes is essentially an issue—a pleasant, although greater, void is left when the eyes come out. This is perhaps the look you’re after.

The exterior zone consists of “fur” coated in a skinny layer of onerous glaze. That fur is what provides banksia such a foul status. It makes an terrible mess when lower. The fur zone is also essentially the most vulnerable to coming aside. Pieces can fly off and eyes can fly out when chopping on this zone. With a pure-edge turning, I take advantage of this exterior furry zone as a part of the completed piece. Light cuts and loads of lathe pace appear to provide one of the best outcomes. Drenching with skinny CA, and loads of it, will hold the perimeters collectively, however I don’t like utilizing CA as a result of it could not have the longevity that I would like for my work. I favor skinny epoxy or different resin. The fur zone doesn’t take element properly, being, properly, furry!

Make positive the banksia are dry. They are normally pretty (or utterly) dry by the point they mature, fall off the tree, and get shipped to the U.S. for us to purchase. They have a tendency to not transfer a lot as they dry, and in the event that they shrink when drying, it tends to be in a symmetrical method. I’ve some banksia containers that also have the identical match after a few years. Even so, I nonetheless wish to dry each banksia I take advantage of in my kiln for just a few months so I don’t get any surprises.

What to Make from Banksia Pods

Turned banksia decorative piece
OZ Goddess, 2014, Banksia cone, African blackwood, 2mm black opal in 14Okay gold setting, 4-half″ × 2-half″ (11cm × 6cm)

Banksia pod sizes vary from further giant ones at virtually 4″ (10cm) in diameter to the smaller 1″- (25mm-) diameter selection I noticed rising wild in Brisbane after I was demonstrating at Turnfest. Those tiny ones had been 3″ to 4″ (8cm to 10cm) lengthy. The jumbos generally is a foot lengthy or extra. The most typical dimension is about 3″ in diameter and eight″ to 10″ (20cm to 25cm) lengthy. After the outer fur is turned away, this diameter pod, or cone, will web a 2-1/4″- to 2-half″- (57mm- to 64mm-) diameter piece.

Banksia pods provide plenty of pure texture and surfaces to work with, however there isn’t a fear about grain path, as with wooden. A pure outer floor (just like the bark round a department) and a small diameter however lengthy size make a pod appropriate for tasks that you’d suppose to make out of a tree department. Some examples are banana bowls, goblets, mushrooms, containers, small vessels, and weed pots. Since the core of a pod has no grain construction or grain energy, a skinny finial product of it will break off very simply. Thin-walled turnings and skinny sections are extra apt to interrupt than a comparable form turned from wooden. Using the tailstock helps to decrease the failure fee. Natural-edge turnings have a tendency to chop with much less eye loss when chopping from the periphery inward, however aside from that, they are often lower in any path.

You ought to all the time put on eye safety when turning, however remember that when roughing the outside of a banksia pod, there shall be fur and sharp particles flying off. Also, anticipate to want a shower after turning a banksia pod, as they’re very dusty.

Start Turning

So far, all of my banksia tasks begin with chopping the ends off. This permits me to mount the banksia between facilities on the lathe and provides me extra details about the fabric and its suitability for what I’m making (as described above).

Be cautious chopping the banksia pod ends off on a bandsaw. Use a V-formed sled to maintain the banksia from rolling uncontrolled.

Banksia pod mounted between lathe chucks
A banksia pod mounted between facilities with its core operating parallel to the lathe mattress. Tenons are fashioned on the ends for holding in a 4-jaw chuck.

After chopping the ends off, the middle core of the banksia could be positioned to interact the reside and drive facilities when mounting the fabric on the lathe. This works to middle the banksia evenly more often than not. While it’s between facilities, a tenon could be fashioned for mounting right into a chuck. I’ve not had good luck chopping the top off and simply gluing it flat onto a wasteblock with wooden glue. Banksia pods don’t appear to connect properly, with the failure being on the glue line. I’ve not tried utilizing a faceplate with screws straight into the banksia. Use the tailstock at any time when attainable for one of the best success fee. You can even mount a banksia pod between facilities with the pod’s core operating perpendicular to the lathe mattress, relying on the wants of your mission.

Banksia pod mounted vertically in a lathe
A banksia pod mounted with its core operating perpendicular to the lathe mattress.

Banksia scrape, lower, and sand properly, however they’re abrasive and can boring your instruments a lot quicker than when chopping wooden. High pace metal, the brand new “powder metal” instruments, carbide-tipped instruments and drill bits, and good high quality abrasives are actually beneficial for turning banksia. I like to chop at excessive lathe speeds however drill and sand at gradual speeds.

A banksia jam-suits higher onto a picket wasteblock than onto one other piece of banksia. Using a wasteblock of soppy maple, alder, poplar, mahogany, or different compressible wooden provides a greater and safer holding. Jam-fitting a fragile, skinny-walled banksia turning right into a recess as an alternative of over a tenon will scale back the danger of cracking the workpiece. Jam-fits with skinny-walled banksia items are by no means very strongly gripped. I take advantage of tape for insurance coverage when ending the underside with out the tailstock. It is straightforward to interrupt the piece or knock it off the jam chuck. Too a lot tailstock stress can even break a skinny-walled piece.

Use CA glue, or stabilizing resin, to strengthen skinny-walled items. When hollowing to the utmost diameter of the pod, the eyes are likely to fall out. CA soaked over the surface of the piece earlier than hollowing will glue within the eyes and won’t stain the completed piece. Be positive to let the CA dry utterly earlier than turning on the lathe.

I not too long ago began utilizing vacuum-stabilizing with resin to strengthen the banksia for skinny-walled turnings. It does an awesome job of preserving the eyes in (as a substitute for CA glue). Unfortunately, this technique doesn’t harden up the notorious fur across the exterior. If you wish to try this, CA or a skinny-bodied resin is sweet.

I’ve seen banksia pods forged in resin, filling the holes, although I’ve not achieved that myself (but).

Finish off of the Lathe

Hanging ornament made from banksia pod
Untitled Ornament, 2007, Banksia cone, pink ivory wooden, 5-half″ × 2-half″ (14cm × 6cm)

Some finishes that I like embrace wipe-on polyurethane, diluted polyurethane, skinny-bodied penetrating oil (to attenuate having to wipe end from contained in the eyes), and spray-on movie finishes akin to lacquer, polyurethane, and shellac. It may be very tedious to scrape wax or French polish out of banksia eyes. That is why I end off the lathe. To hold the oil end from accumulating within the voids, I blow it off with an air compressor proper after wiping the surplus end off.

As with any turning, the key to a pleasant end is within the sanding. I’ll sand banksia to 600 grit if I’m planning to spray a movie end. For a wipe-on end I’ll sand and polish to 4000 grit and simply apply one coat of end. The materials is so dense that not a lot end will soak in, and extra coats don’t appear to supply any benefit.

Bleaching the banksia piece after turning and sanding provides an attention-grabbing impact. I’ve stained my bleached banksia turnings with dyes and with white pickling stain. The look is otherworldly!

Be positive to signal your work. Metallic gel ink pens write on the sanded floor of a banksia and present up properly. Be positive that your chosen end is not going to trigger the ink to run. I normally use a vibrating engraver to signal my banksia items. Filling the engraving provides it extra distinction. For finest outcomes filling engraving, fill the entire floor voids with epoxy or CA glue and do the engraving after the end has dried.

Buying Banksia

Decorative stand with a turned banksia top
Libra, 2009, Banksia seedpod, African blackwood, black opal, gold, 12″ × 6″ (30cm × 15cm)

How are you able to get some banksia to show? It feels like enjoyable to go to Australia and collect your personal banksia, however plant merchandise with the bark on can’t be legally introduced into the U.S. in your baggage. It’s higher to purchase them from an importer who has already achieved the entire import paperwork and gone via the fumigation and quarantine crucial.

You can get banksia from wooden suppliers on-line, however then you’ll get what they decide for you. I like to recommend going to a symposium tradeshow and choosing out your personal. When I do get them organized on-line, I purchase loads of them so I shall be extra prone to get appropriate banksia for varied tasks.

I discovered the hardest factor was to take step one. My suggestion is to leap proper in. Buy three of them, lower the ends off, mount them between facilities, and switch a tenon on one finish of every. Then flip some weed pots, pure edge or not. Don’t attempt for skinny partitions or fitted components at first. These first three will educate you the way banksia lower and the way to use the assorted textures within the banksia.

Banksia seedpods are a really renewable useful resource, since no timber are lower down to reap them. Buy an additional pod or three and don’t be afraid to lose one on a brand new concept. Working with banksia pods is an journey, however the outcomes are properly well worth the effort.

Cindy Drozda has been turning wooden since 1985 and is now a fulltime woodturning artist who shares her information and fervour as a world demonstrator and instructor. Her web site is cindydrozda.com.

Lead Photo: Karmonic Vibrations, 2013, Bleached and dyed Banksia seedpod, dyed Jerusalem olive wooden, 3mm inexperienced opal in 14Okay gold setting, 4-half″ × 3-1/4″ (11cm × 8cm). Photo by: Tib Shaw, AAW

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