Processing a tree for turning

28 April 2013, Woodturning in practice, Would you like to leave a comment?

In my last blog post, I got rather excited about some yew trees I had just acquired! The largest one is now well on the way to being rough turned, which leaves about three or four good sized sections to be cut up.

Which one first?….


The log pile in the photo gives an indication of the work involved. I’m hoping to get between 120 and 150 bowls out of these and about 80% of all that timber will end up as shavings! Just about every piece turned will have a natural edge of some sort. This is going make preparation quite interesting, since the outer surface will be the focal point of every design. All of the undulations and characterful features will depend on how each bowl is cut from the tree.

On the way to being cut up...


My first guesses at where the bowls should be..


I start off by inspecting each section and look for obvious flaws. This is likely to be the odd lump of bark which has been knocked off, or a small branch sticking out. An area which is full of defects, will be ideal for standard fruit bowls, since the outer surface will not be used. There is however, the opportunity to be quite creative, since I can design in certain flaws, if I suspect they will look good when finished.

As an initial guide, I use a compass and piece of chalk to mark out each bowl on the timber. Once I am happy with their positioning, I will ‘log’ each section and then cut out the individual bowl. I’m usually able to get two from each log (one from each side) and maybe some smaller ones in between. The left over sections can be used for much smaller items, such as tea light holders and pegs for my coat peg boards.

The photo below shows one section ready to be cut. The chalk outline gives an idea of how the natural edge will look when completely finished. The defect in the center will be removed, when the bowl is hollowed out...


After an hour or so, the tree is a little smaller!


One of the bowl sections removed...


An assortment of pieces, ready for the next stage...


Everything back at home and stacked in the barn. The blanks in the foreground have been cut to size and a rebate has been made to accept a faceplate. Time to sharpen my gouges...


Jonathan Leech

Written by Jonathan Leech

Jonathan Leech is a woodturner working and living in Cumbria. He specialises in making bowls, dishes and platters from local sustainably sourced timber. Read more or about Jonathan or see a selection of his work.

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