My First Woodturning Project(s)




Introduction: My First Woodturning Project(s)

So I took this weekend woodturning class at The Crucible in West Oakland, and here's what I made. This is actually my very first woodworking project ever. Needless to say, I'm quite happy with the results.

(The Crucible is a really cool place, by the way - they do lots of classes for youth and adults, anything from paperworks, to stone carving and blacksmithing, with a big emphasis on anything fire-related. Check them out if you're in the Bay Area!)

Both of these bowls were tuned from very wet / freshly felled black acacia. The first day, I did all but the finishing on the smaller bowl, and roughed out the second, larger bowl (which was a bitch - with all those knots, it felt like I was holding a jackhammer at times!)

That also means that I was able to dry the smaller bowl overnight (and a bit more in the microwave in the morning), but I didn't get a chance to dry out the larger one before finishing it.

The smaller bowl, shown first, is 7" across, and wound up very thin: about 1/6" or so - thin enough that you can see a little light shining through that big knot at the bottom. Because we started with very wet wood, and the walls of the bowl are very thin, it developed quite a bit of warping while drying afterwards. You can see this really well on the first, side-on set of pictures, but it's actually not that noticeable in person.

The second bowl is 9" across, and about 1/3" thick. It was made out of a much more "ambitious" piece of black acacia, containing a big "crotch" (Y-shape, where a big branch splits off the main trunk of the tree). I decided to leave a bit of the natural bark exposed at the crotch, to accentuate that feature.

Because of time pressure (most other people in the class were only doing one bowl for the weekend), the more challenging nature of the wood, and lack of drying, there are a few more technical flaws with this piece, but overall, I do like it a lot.

There's a lovely convoluted knot at the bottom of the bowl - shown in a close-up at the end. The wood is actually carved and sanded perfectly flat there, but the folds in the grain make it look like a little maelstrom...



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    34 Discussions

    I really like how your pieces turned out. I just started wood turning a couple of weeks ago and started with one lathe and ended up trading up to another. I have been watching every video on Youtube and not I can honestly say I am addicted. You bowls are GREAT, keep making shavings.

    Very Nice, I really love that wood. I want some.

    Your photos look fantastic! Of course, I can attest that the bowls look/feel even better than the pictures show.

    First Class From 60 Year Young Woodturner from Ireland

    Sweet first project if I say so. I would just maybe make the top level buy touching it on a band/disk sander. But the wave looks cool either way.

    Hey - nice to see I prompted another woodworker to post! Do try your hand at turning some green wood, if you still have access to the lathe. I found it very satisfying - you get nice big shavings, rather than lots of fine wood dust. You're definitely aiming more for "character" than precision when turning green wood, because you can't really control how the wood will settle when it dries out. Using a wood with a lot of contrast - like this black acacia with its dark heartwood - definitely helps. nobody is going to complain about a little wobble if they're lost gawping at the pattern of the wood itself. ;-)

    I have tried green turning before with little luck. The first time I tried the tool dug into the wood and sheered it off of the face plate. After I reattached it, I turned the project into a nice looking goblet and began drying it very slowly. Or at least I thought. After about a week the goblet split down the center and was almost in 2 pieces with no why to fix it. Same thing happened after that with a different project.

    Lathe, definitely - that's why it's called woodturning rather than woodcarving. Although you could do a bowl entirely by hammer and chisel, it would take much longer, and you'd have to be really good to get it this evenly round.

    A lathe is great, because even as a beginner you can achieve some beautiful results relatively quickly. The drawback is that It would be a much bigger investment if you had to buy your own equipment - which is why it's nice to have access to a fully equipped workshop, like at the Crucible.

    I like that the lip of the bowl is not level across. It adds the organic hand-made quality to it. Is that your "mark" just penned in with marker? I would figure you would burn it in or carve it in somehow. The do make branding irons to put your "seal" on wood like fine furniture.

    7 replies

    Yeah, I just signed them with a fine-tipped sharpie, before taking them to the Instructables Show-n-Tell at Yuri's Night. I knew I wanted to leave them at the booth while we were walking around, and I didn't want them to sprout legs and wander off, like Christy's dearly departed Mouse Mouse...

    I'm not happy with the lettering on the larger bowl, but I'm thinking I may want to redo the bottom of that one at some point anyway. I didn't have time to dry the wood properly in class, so I wasn't able to sand the bottom to my liking. The bottom is the wood closest to the bark, so it's very young and a bit spongy, making it really hard to sand when wet.

    Hm... a little branding iron would make for a great instructable though!

    Very nice work ,I may have to drive over there one day and check out The Crucible.. I have always turned wet wood to about 1/2 inch thick and set it aside to dry then finished it..Going to cut down a fig tree soon and will have to turn a piece can stick the wet wood in a bit of water in the fridge when working on it and it will ( most times ) not check ....never use liquid plastic on wet wood and put it over a heat source the loud bang at night isn't fun .....there is a co. that makes branding irons for carvers and wood workers ...or use to be I have one around here somewhere

    I have always turned wet wood to about 1/2 inch thick and set it aside to dry then finished it.

    Yep, that's more or less what we did - well, on the smaller bowl anyway. I roughed it out to a bit under 1/2 inch on the first day, then took it home to dry overnight. Next day, I put it in the microwave a couple of times to dry further, and finished it.

    The microwave trick was suggested by our teacher, Joey Gottbrath: just nuke your roughed-out piece on high for 30 seconds at a time. It heats the wood very evenly, and it's amazing how much sap just sweats out of the wood. If you nuke it too long at a time, the wood may crack explosively - that's why you only do 30 seconds at a time. Plus if it does crack at this point, at least you haven't invested too much time and effort into it yet, I guess. Joey mentioned that he had seen even some master wood turners use this trick, if they were too impatient to let their roughs sit on a shelf for weeks or months...

    For the larger piece, I only had time to rough out the outside of the bowl the first day, so we left it on the lathe wrapped in a plastic bag overnight, and I finished everything while the wood was still wet the next day. Not ideal, and it shows in the sanding in places.

    Hmm I can think of a way of doing that, using the letter for punching metal, a set of them to make a changeable (once cooled) branding iron for wood and such...

    Not possible, you'd end up with flat letters if you tried punching steel with them, they seem to be drop forged steel or high carbon in most cases...

    I meant: make sure you're not using lead typesetting letters (as opposed to punching letters) to make a brand. As that could lead to some, uhm... interesting... results. ;-)