There are some ways to chop bowl blanks out of a tree, however the methodical strategy that I take effectively makes use of the tree and produces steady, aesthetically pleasing bowl blanks. If you could have a chainsaw and are keen to place it to work, I’ll clarify learn how to consider a tree to find out the place the perfect bowl blanks lie in wait. On the opposite hand, when you purchase bowl blanks, my strategy will enhance your talent at evaluating the alternatives inside the inventory accessible for buy. The objective is to foretell what your completed bowl will seem like earlier than a gouge even touches the floor of the clean.

Timing Is Everything

Butterfly pattern bowl cut from a lumber blank
Comparing grain patterns. Both bowls have been turned from flat-sawn blanks, centered on the tree’s pith. Above: Bowl rim dealing with the trunk’s heart, leading to a roughly symmetrical, or butterfly, sample. Lead: Bowl rim dealing with outward, as with pure-edge bowls, leading to oval rings within the backside. These patterns correspond to the underside and prime blanks, respectively, drawn on the log within the subsequent photograph under.

When I get inexperienced wooden, it turns into my prime precedence till I get the next blanks tough-turned. Unprocessed inexperienced timber by no means improves with time. The longer the log sits, the extra cracks it is going to develop, fungus will transfer in and trigger discoloration and lack of luster, and bugs will tunnel into the wooden. For the log I processed for this text, I reduce the blanks on a Thursday and tough-turned them the subsequent day, and this was throughout a comparatively cool and humid a part of the yr. I take advantage of an emulsified wax resolution (Sealtite 60) throughout heat climate to coat the endgrain as quickly as I make the reduce. I will even spray water on the blanks and canopy them with a tarp till I can tough-flip them. In my expertise, a cherry bowl clean reduce in July will present seen cracks inside an hour. If the clean checks, I’ll have wasted my time in finding the wooden and reducing it up.

Chainsaw Safety

While the steps on this article depend on a chainsaw, detailed pointers for the protected use of this each useful and harmful software are past the scope of this text. Several articles associated to chainsaw security have been revealed together with this one by Sandor Nagyszlanczy. The worth of utilizing a chainsaw with out acceptable precautions might be excessive, even lethal, both for the noticed operator or observers who’re too near the motion. When I’m utilizing a chainsaw, nobody is allowed to be near me or to carry the piece of wooden I’m reducing.

Prioritizing the Cuts

I nearly at all times begin by reducing up essentially the most helpful—which means extremely figured—a part of the tree. If the tree has burls, that’s the place I focus my preliminary efforts. I reduce the crotch items subsequent, adopted by the bottom a part of the trunk the place it transitions to the stump. I then work my method up the trunk, leaving the limbs for final. Limbs are stuffed with stress and usually have each the poorest determine and the poorest turning high quality. My concept is that if the chainsaw provides up earlier than I do, the perfect wooden from the tree ought to already be at the back of the pickup.

Dissecting the Tree

The yellow poplar within the accompanying images lies in my driveway, and understanding I’ve ample time to complete the duty, I determine to chop the straight-grain blanks first. Measuring the tree’s diameter, I determine to make 14″ (36cm) bowl blanks. I slice a few inches from the butt of the log to take away any checking and to assist make clear the grain sample. I then reduce the primary spherical 15″ (38cm) lengthy, which can present leeway to bandsaw the clean to its ultimate 14″ diameter.

Outlining areas to cut bowl blanks from log
The three outlined blanks will all yield steady varieties, and the highest and backside blanks ought to have pleasing grain patterns.

A steady part for a utility vessel requires leaving the pith out of any clean. Checking originates from the pith, so excluding this space eliminates a dependable supply of stress within the wooden. With that in thoughts, there are three primary orientations for blanks from straight-grain wooden. I’ve roughly marked the grain traces as an instance how they’re oriented in every clean. The clean on the underside will yield my favourite grain sample. It is flat sawn with the middle of the bowl aligned with the underside of the curve of the expansion rings. This clean will yield a pleasing, symmetrical grain sample mirrored in both sides of the bowl—a sample I name butterfly grain.

Quarter-sawn blanks lie on either side of the pith. For the species of timber that I take advantage of, I not often make quartersawn bowls as a result of, to my eye, the ensuing grain sample is just not as interesting—the grain traces run straight by means of the underside of the bowl and present little or no curl, eyes, or any of the opposite variants that make wooden visually interesting. The exception is after I can purchase a species with robust medullary rays similar to our native Oregon white oak (Garry oak). The grain in quarter-sawn oak can far outshine its flat-sawn family members.

The prime clean within the above photograph can be utilized to make a pure-edge vessel, or the periphery might be eliminated for a clean rimmed bowl. The grain orientation operating by means of this clean will produce an roughly spherical or oval grain sample within the backside of the completed bowl. I often consider the clean and contemplate whether or not the outer (bark) edge will yield a balanced form, and if that’s the case I’ll maintain the surface intact for a pure-edge bowl. Here I determine towards a pure-edge type.

Two different methods for harvesting blanks, the top is not the best
The blanks within the prime log make the most of extra of the log, however seemingly will distort past use in drying and present little determine, even when they are often saved.

Yet one other orientation is feasible, an association I name slash-sawn, though the grain orientation approximates rift-sawn dimensioned lumber . The slash-sawn blanks will distort considerably whereas drying, generally to the purpose of being unworkable, and the completed bowl will merely not be as engaging because the flat-sawn bowl. It is true that extra of the log can be misplaced in taking the one flat sawn clean as a substitute of two slash-sawn blanks. Turner and trainer Lane Philips’ mantra is, “Don’t trade volume for beauty,” and I too encourage taking the perfect blanks out of the tree, not essentially the most blanks.

Setting up log for cutting bowl blanks
The log is reduce with the rules oriented vertically and the log solidly braced off the bottom.

I steadiness the spherical on wooden blocks to arrange it for reducing, guaranteeing the spherical is steady and won’t roll in the course of the cuts. I orient the reduce traces vertically, as reducing straight down is less complicated and extra correct than trying an angled reduce. Because most of my cuts are with the grain, I take advantage of a rip, or skip-tooth, chain on my chainsaws. These chains additionally work for cross-reducing and are much less liable to clogging from the lengthy curls generated by the rip reduce. A secondary advantage of a rip chain is that when it’s boring, it has half as many tooth to sharpen as a normal chain.

Initial cuts made in log for harvesting bowl blanks
While the log is on this steady place, the writer partially completes all of the cuts
earlier than finishing the dissection, working from the surface to the within cuts.

I make all of the parallel cuts, stopping every reduce wanting exiting the log. Before I make the primary heart reduce, I mark the placement of the pith on the far finish of the spherical. This guides my reduce to maintain it operating parallel by means of the block with the pith line. Having the grain oriented straight by means of the clean is necessary to the looks of the completed bowl. The prettiest bowl sample has the grain parallel to the underside of the bowl. If I’ve to decide on between making the reduce parallel to the pith line and the bark line, I usually reduce parallel to the bark line to protect the specified grain orientation.

Sectioning a log for cutting bowl blanks
The heart part of the log, subsequent to the pith space, yields quartersawn blanks. Depending on the scale of the clean and your bandsaw, it could be potential to take the log part straight to the bandsaw for sectioning.

The quarter-sawn clean rests on my reducing bench, a 22″- (56cm-) excessive jig that minimizes my stooping and saves put on-and-tear on my again. I reduce exterior the checks across the pith; I’ll get two quarter-sawn blanks out of the slab. I didn’t reduce by means of the slab as a result of the help blocks beneath the clean are within the incorrect location. A by means of-reduce on this state of affairs might pinch my bar.

Three potential bowl blanks cut from one log
With fastidiously deliberate and executed chainsaw cuts, the blanks are prepared for the bandsaw desk, the place the bowl blanks are reduce spherical from the sq. chainsawed blanks. From left: a flat-sawn, pure edge- oriented clean (however on this case, with the bark eradicated), a quarter-sawn clean, and a flat-sawn clean.

The three primary straight-grain blanks sit on the workbench, bandsaw prepared. The flat prime and backside provide two steady surfaces for the bandsaw desk. Trying to chop a spherical or irregular- backside bowl clean on the bandsaw can result in an unsupported and harmful reduce.

Cutting the Crotch

Marking a vertical cut through a log
As with the straight-grain log, the crotch part is reduce aside vertically.

I reduce a 15″- (38cm-) spherical from the tree that features the crotch part. In the realm between the 2 limbs’ pith traces will lie an expanse of interlocked feather grain, or crotch determine, and I’ve tried to cross-reduce the log under this area.

Straight-grain log set up for cutting bowl blanks
Transferring the placement of the pith to the highest of the go surfing each ends, in addition to drawing the vertical line to the pith, guides the central reduce.

A straight line connects the pith of the limb to the pith of the tree. As with the earlier spherical, I orient this line vertically for reducing. I mark the pith on the finish of the spherical and switch the mark to the highest of the log the place I’ll use the placement to information my reduce. I additionally mark any checking to be prevented round every pith, of which there’s little on this log.

Three potential bowl blanks marked out in crotch
The prime two blanks promise essentially the most determine, whereas the underside clean will seemingly be pretty plain.

This photograph reveals the approximate orientation of the three blanks I might extract. If this have been costly or uncommon wooden, I’d separate the underside bowl clean first, however as a result of that clean could be flat-sawn and straight-grain, I determine to forego extracting it.

Chainsawing out bowl blanks from crotch
The writer decides to sacrifice the underside clean to optimize the size and placement of the higher two varieties.

I make the middle reduce first, stopping wanting reducing fully by means of the log. Then I slice off both sides earlier than returning to complete the middle reduce. I at all times noticed from the higher finish of a crotch part the place essentially the most prized feather determine lies. The feather will taper off in direction of the underside of the reduce, so if my reduce wanders a little, there’s much less chance of dropping the perfect determine.

Diagram of how to cut bowls with feather pattern
The feather sample happens between the pith traces and the crown of the crotch. The determine is usually strongest on the prime and tapers off in direction of the underside the place the pith traces meet.

The drawing reveals how the feather-determine bowls are oriented within the tree’s crotch. The facet view on this illustration reveals the placement of the pith, which I intend to bisect with my reduce. The bowl bottoms are oriented in direction of the middle of the tree, inserting the feather sample within the backside of the completed bowl.

Drying out two quartersawn bowl blank sections
Because of the steadiness of quartersawn timber, the 2 spindle blanks reverse the limbs are price coating with wax and setting apart to dry.Because of the steadiness of quartersawn timber, the 2 spindle blanks reverse the limbs are price coating with wax and setting apart to dry.

With the crotch part halved, I mark out the perfect patterns with my calipers and spotlight the pith traces with crimson chalk. Cutting the blanks alongside the pith traces yields two bowl and two spindle blanks. The feather determine lies above the pith line of the limb and to the best facet of the trunk pith line. This crotch didn’t have a huge feather space. Harder to see within the images is that the burden of the limb has compressed the wooden on the junction with the trunk to create fiddleback determine, which I’ve shaded with a marker.

Close-up of drying bowl blank with fiddleback figuring
Although this specific log has little feather determine, the quantity of fiddleback determine under the limb is a nice shock.

These blanks at the moment are able to be bandsawed and tough-turned. I’ll make my ultimate changes to the varieties for grain alignment as I tough out the blanks between facilities, an strategy I realized from John Jordan. Turning between facilities provides me a possibility to make ultimate changes to the bowl clean and probably appropriate errors made throughout chainsawing.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to working inexperienced wooden, together with salvaging native timber that might not be commercially accessible. Cutting one’s personal blanks presents the prospect to optimize clean measurement and grain patterns. Turning inexperienced wooden additionally generates much less mud and requires much less bodily effort than seasoned wooden. Finally, after I tough out inexperienced blanks, I get to see colours within the contemporary wooden that nobody else will see. Fresh madrone might be shiny crimson, nearly fluorescent, and black walnut can present shades of deep purple and inexperienced. Unfortunately, these shiny colours fade because the wooden dries. With expertise processing my very own bushes, I not often purchase a bowl clean. I discover I’m now not keen to surrender management of this a part of the artistic course of.

For those that wish to dive deeper into this topic, I like to recommend two books: Reading the Wood by Michael Elkan and Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnell.

Dale Larson has been turning bowls for forty years. He is a founding member and previous president of the Cascade Woodturners in Portland, Oregon. Dale served on the AAW Board from 2009 to 2014, as each symposium chair and president.

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