Discuss wood turning with us
Wood turners like to work with green wood. No, it is not colored green, it is wood that is freshly cut so uncured or “green.” In fact, for some turners the ultimate in wood turning fun is cut a tree down and immediately mount a piece on the lathe. It is like turning in a rain storm. Some wood turning shops will have a streak of stain from the sap running up the wall, across the ceiling, down the wall and across the floor to the lathe.
Why is this so enjoyable to so many turners? For one thing it opens the door to a great many woods that are simply not available at the local lumber merchants, especially not in the sizes needed by most turners. However, most cities and large towns have arborists or tree specialists who cut down trees for home owners when the tree is unhealthy or has roots that are getting into foundations and so on. These trees are often ornamentals and species that are not usually available. For the arborist, the tree leavings are a landfill cost. For the wood turner they are turning stock. Many times the arborist will drop the logs off at the turners, while other times the turner will pick them up. Both parties win and the landfill has more space.
Still, a wood turner could simply let the logs dry before working with them. This however takes a lot of time and often leads to cracks that make the logs unworkable. Instead they can be rough turned to about ten percent thickness of the beginning log and then let dry after sealing the ends so as to prevent cracking. For instance a ten inch bowl would be roughed to one inch thick, treated and left to dry. Instead of taking four or five years to dry, it will be ready for final turning in about three months and will likely have no cracks at all. Many green wood turners will have fifty or more bowls waiting to be finish turned.
You see, the real reason for turning green wood is simply that it is fun. Shavings come off much more cleanly than in dry wood and they tend to be longer and wider. Many times one can aim them straight into the garbage can. Other times they pile up into a satisfying mound on the workshop floor.
The moisture in the wood serves to keep tool edges cool and thus sharper longer so turning is not interrupted as often. As wood dries out the moisture leaves the cells of the tree and those cells collapse a little. Hence green wood fibers are a little more tight and it is easier to get a smooth and shimmering surface in the wet wood as opposed to the dry.
There can be an element of mystery in green wood turning. If a piece is turned to finished dimension and left alone it will warp and twist. While some of this can be previously determined by knowledge of the way wood moves, there is still surprise in the results as every tree has individual stresses that influence the movement as it dries.
Then there is of course the beauty of the finished object, central to all wood turning endeavors. If it is turned green there is no waiting period for drying and the finished product may be enjoyed right away.
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Wood Turning Centre