Today I’ll show you how I process a log for making bowl blanks. This is a hickory log that has sat for about 4 months. Today, a brisk Black Friday, I played while my wife and mother-in-law went shopping.
First, lets get something straight. This is my method of processing logs. Using a chainsaw is inherently dangerous. If you cut off your leg while attempting to cut a log, that’s on you. Proper PPE should be worn. Any lack of PPE on my part is not an excuse for your injury. Now since that’s outta the way, lets get to it!
As you can see there is some substantial checking on the end of this log. I first need to cut back enough to remove the majority of this checking. I’ll cut back 2-3 inches on each end since the log wasn’t long enough to get three segments out of. Before I start, I prop the end I’m cutting with some scrap. This prevents the chain from contacting the ground as the cut is finished.
The freshly cut surface looks much better and is solid enough if I get the wood on the lathe soon.
I “measured” the length of this short log by laying the bar across the log and referenced the log’s circumference compared to the length of the saw’s bar. Then I laid the bar axial next to the log and eye balled the length referenced previously.
This is where a slabbing/ ripping/ skip tooth chain comes in handy. If I were cutting a lot of logs, I’d get my other saw out that has a standard cross cutting chain on it. This would save a bit of wear on the slabbing chain and I wouldn’t have to sharpen it as soon. The only reason I have two chain saws is because the second one was given to me as a box of parts with the words of “If you can fix it, it’s yours. Otherwise throw it in the trash if you like.”
The process here is to cut with the grain, as it is much easier on you and the saw. This will create nice long shavings. If you cut from the end grain (think splitting a log) then you will get short shavings and a lot of dust, not to mention the saw feels like you’re cutting ice. I set the log on scrap again to keep the chain out of the dirt and also, chocking the log on both sides keeps it from rolling around while I’m cutting. Here you want to line up the bar with the pith. I missed the far side of the pith with my first cut, so I had to make a second cut to completely remove it.
I also don’t cut all the way through the log until I know the pith will be completely removed. Also, I don’t usually remove the bark, but it was already falling off of this log so I went ahead and pulled it off. Dirt and other abrasives are found in bark, so your chain will stay sharp a little longer the less bark you have to cut through.
Whoo, look at that heart wood! Can’t wait to get these pieces on the lathe and make some bowls!
No sense in staying outside now that the fun is all done. Let’s head over to the band saw and finish up these blanks. I made a circle cutting jig some time ago that allows me to rotate a half log (what we just made with the chainsaw) on an indexing pin. I have multiple diameters that can be cut with this jig.
The process is pretty straight forward. On the flat side of the log, find the center by measuring the diameter and length. Drill a shallow hole that is slightly larger than the index pin on your circle cutting jig. Then decide what size blank you can get out of the piece. Put the index pin in the proper location on the jig and locate your soon to be bowl blank on the pin. You can do this with the jig on the saw or on a bench.
Once you are ready to start cutting, grab your ear plugs, safety glasses, and a dust mask. Even with a dust collector, you will probably want a mask. Locate the jig on the table and be sure that the blade is not contacting your blank. Fire up the saw and slowly advance the piece into the blade. Once the jig is fully seated on the table, begin to rotate your blank. 360 degrees later, you have a bowl blank ready for turning!
Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to answer them. Thanks for reading!
Making Bowl Blanks – Woodshop Mike