Here’s a “rip the band-aid off”quick write up my approach to drying bowls using denatured alcohol.
If you have any experience with turning green lumber, you probably also have experience with throwing away bowls that have split or cracked beyond the point of repair. You may have also encountered a piece that has warped so much during the drying process that finish turning your bowl would be an exercise in futility.
To the rescue is a myriad of drying methods that are used by many turners to reach the same end result, dry roughed out bowls that aren’t cracked or overly warped!
Before I started using denatured alcohol (DNA) to dry bowls, I used paper bags with a handful of shavings in the bowl to slow down the drying process. My success was about 80/20. As I’ve gotten busier and begun turning wood that is more green, I’ve found that my bagging method was less and less effective. This spurred a search to increase my success rate with turning green wood. The two methods I was down to trying was boiling the wood or DNA soaking.
While I like fire as much as the next guy, I don’t have a great area to set up a propane turkey fryer to boil a large container of water for drying my bowls. In addition to that, I normally have to do my work in relatively short periods of time. I seldom have a full day or afternoon to dedicate to roughing out bowls and then boiling them.
The appeal of DNA soaking for me is that I can drop rough outs in the solution as I finish them up and can forget about them for a while until I either need to add more rough outs to the tub or remember to pull the currently soaking bowls out. For my larger tub of DNA, I wrap the top with plastic wrap to help seal the tub and prevent the alcohol from evaporating. This probably isn’t required, but it’s cheap insurance that doesn’t take long to apply.
- Put rough turned piece into DNA bath
- Leave it for at least 24 hours, longer for more green pieces (no real quantitative guidelines here…)
- Remove piece and pour excess back into tub
- Let dry for 15 – 30 minutes
- Wrap outside and rim of bowl only with paper
- Store bowls upside down allowing air to reach inside of bowl (sticker similarly to drying dimensional lumber)
- Piece can be finish turned as soon as two weeks after removal from Alcohol, but check moisture content if possible.
Who doesn’t love pictures to go along with instructions?
I wrap the bucket & lid to slow down the evaporation of alcohol.
I like to wear gloves while I’m taking bowls out or putting new bowls in the bucket. Also, having good air circulation is a plus so you’re not inhaling large amounts of alcohol fumes.
Let the bowls hang out for a while after allowing the majority of DNA to drip into the bucket. If I have 10 or more bowls at this stage I put them in the driveway so I’m not flooding the shop with fumes. It’s also not a bad idea to prop one side of the bowl so that air can fully circulate around the piece.
Place the bowl in a paper bag after about 30+ minutes of air drying. We save our paper bags from the grocery store which work great for this!
Now just wrap up the bowl as shown! Tear the bag as needed to fit the bowl.
You should be good to finish turn the bowl in a few weeks!
- 5 gallon bucket for pieces up to 10″ diameter
- 15 gallon tub for pieces up to 18″ diameter (found mine at Agri Supply)
- Denatured Alcohol
**The buckets listed above are similar to ones I used. The 15 gallon tub listed is for reference and does not have a lid; you will need to find a tub with a lid)
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New To Turning?
Check out some of these posts!
- David Smith has written a fair amount about DNA drying.
- AAW forum
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps out! Please feel free to leave comments or questions below!