Bowl Turning Techniques

I have been learning about and trying two different wood bowl turning techniques. The bowls on the left are elm and are being made using the first technique I've learned. First, I "rough out" the bowl. This means means that I get it to about the shape that I would like the bowl to be when it is done. These bowls have been turned from log halves when cut with the grain (grain runs left to right on these bowls). Once it is roughed out, I put them in a paper bag and let them dry over the course of a couple months or more. If I was to just put them in the house to dry without placing them in a bag, they will start to crack as they dry (I read about this after I had a couple bowls crack on me!). Wood moves; so I do expect them to warp while they dry, but this will be addressed when I do the final turning. Every so often I weigh each bowl with a digital kitchen scale and keep track of the weight loss. When I notice that it has quit loosing weight or is loosing such an insignificant amount, I am ready to do the finish turning. I've had good luck using this way of drying the wood. In theory, it will only loose weight when you either remove wood or water has left the wood. I haven't touched the bowl to a chisel, so it must be the water leaving. Once it is dry, I re-chuck the bowl, do the finish turning, sanding and finishing. The bowl or vase on the right was turned using a newer technique I have been learning about. This is an end grain turning (grain runs up and down on the bowl) made from a silver maple branch I cut off a tree in my yard about 2 weeks prior to turning this project. The idea here is to turn the project from "green" (wet, right off of the tree) wood. Using this technique, if you turn the walls of the bowl to 1/4" or less, you shouldn't have any cracking. Basically you turn this thing green, sand it and finish it when done and be done with it! I find it rather hard to get a good finish when sanding it right after I turn it because it is still wet. So, I have been letting them dry for a day or so before remounting and sanding the project. I've only done three projects this way so far and have had very good success. I've had a few small cracks and checks but this was my fault as the areas that have cracked have been thicker than 1/4"; ironically, the rest of the bowl which had no cracks or checks. When using this second technique, you also should be open to the possibility of the wood moving (warping or curving) as it drys and accept that as dried shape as part of the beauty of the piece. I like the perfection of the first method, but I also like the speed and freedom on the second method. Happy turning!

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