10 Tips For Turning Tricky Wood: Imperfections provide the perfect opportunity to create unique vessels
My specialty is turned wood bowls and vases made from highly figured, visually interesting wood. I’ve come to enjoy the challenges presented by blanks with unusual characteristics–bark inclusions, burl, spalting, quilting, voids, birds-eye and other figured grain conditions. The tips explained here are especially important for turning the “tricky” wood described above. But you’ll also find some of them helpful for many other types of turning projects.
Today, more and more woodworkers are interested in using salvaged wood. Some are building furniture that combines “reclaimed wood” with new material, while others complete entire projects using boards rescued from the dumpster. Even the high-end home furnishing catalogs tout this trend, showing off expensive wooden tables with nail holes, rust stains, and old paint as prominent features.
Because of the waiting time, air-drying your own lumber may not meet the needs of woodworkers who want to go to their hardwoods supplier and exit with a stack of project-ready boards. On the other hand, you may find the process both cost-effective and fun. In fact, air-drying is something every practical woodworker should consider when that big oak, walnut, or maple tree keels over in the yard, and the tree guy asks what you’d like done with the wood. Rather than watch the logs being reduced to firewood and mulch, a woodworker can save big by having the wood slabbed and then drying it himself. Understanding the pros, cons, and costs of air-drying can make the effort worthwhile for woodworkers lucky enough to hook up with a local sawyer.
Imagine walking into a lumber dealer’s show room and having first choice of all the best material–wide slabs of walnut, quartersawn sycamore, and cherry planks milled to exactly the right thickness for your next project, all with matching grain and color. Just down the aisle you encounter stacks of beautiful boards of exotic native species you’ve never seen before. Imagine all of this for less than 75¢ per board foot! If your property or neighborhood has a stand of trees, you may be wood-rich … maybe super rich.