View Full Version : What wood to turn?

08-24-2014, 03:42 PM
Hoping we can make this a really good thread to sticky for rookies such as myself.

I may have a potential wood source (meaning I don't need to pay, just can take what I want), however I personally only know basic Do's and Don'ts.

Regardless of what type of plug you want to make, what species of wood should be avoided? If my memory serves, Oak is the only notorious species that will make short work of our tools and if you happen to buy wood it should not be treated with any sort of chemicals.

Obviously, if a tree is downed by a storm and you want to take it home after sawing it up, it should not be rotten or full of termites. Is there any way you can tell the wood is not good if you cannot plainly see something wrong (i.e. the center is cracked)? Is there a minimum and/or maximum diameter the wood should be cut to put on the lathe?

If it is wet, is there any process to thoroughly dry it?

To start it off, I've gathered that Maple, Birch, Cedar, Poplar, Pine, Basswood, and Cherry are all good woods to use for plug making. Not sure about Hickory.

08-25-2014, 05:36 AM
Hickory will dull your tools way faster than oak, teak is even worse because of the silica in it(also wear a respirator). Some exotic woods you have to be very careful with, the dust will make you sick and I am serious about that. Always wear a mask with cedar too, it makes really fine particles that can get deep into your lungs.

The diameter depends on the capacity of your lathe, just go slower with large diameters. Drying green wood can be done leaving it by your boiler in basement over the winter, you want to dry it slow over time , if you put it by a wood stove, it most likely will split or check. The thickness will determine how long, a year or 2.

08-26-2014, 10:56 AM
use end grain sealer to minimize "checking" of the end grain while drying. You paint it on the end grain after cutting the wood to the length and width that your plan to use on the lathe once it is dry. For bowls many people turn while the wood is "green" (not dry) and then put it aside slathered in end grain sealer and wait one yr per inch of thickness. Some people determine wheter it is dry by weighying the piece every 3-6 months and once it stops losing wt it is considered dry.

Pete F.
08-26-2014, 09:13 PM
Read here, there's a ton of info.
Though I just cut chunks to length plus a couple inches and saw them up on the band saw. Hardwood gets the ends dipped in junk latex paint. Basswood gets nothing.

08-28-2014, 03:36 PM
Basswood is one of favorite woods to turn. I think epoxy sealing is the way to go if you decide to use it. Only downside is some balusters feel as heavy ad birch while others feel as light as balsa. a little inconsistent.

08-30-2014, 08:25 AM
I was always told to use what you got! :)

09-05-2014, 02:17 PM
All great stuff, maybe we can expand on this as to what tends to crack, what tends to soak up the most sealant, consistency in turning, etc.

The bookmarks just keep piling up from this place!

09-15-2014, 08:34 AM
Just to chime in quickly as I am 7000 miles away and getting on a plane...I use to turn everything. I started using AYC about 10 years ago and now turn nothing else. You can compensate for the weight factor with lead and, the biggest 2 reasons are:

1) It turns and sands easily

2) You don't have to seal cedar as it will not absorb water. Takes primer and paint readily and epoxy flows well.