For the past few days, I’ve been rough turning some salad bowls. I’ll be finishing off my supply of hickory with these bowls. Maybe now I can tackle the rest of my lumber pile before I acquire as much Box Elder as I can handle in March!!! So, to the point of this post… My process for roughing turning a bowl and what to do when you see splits in the wood.
Admittedly, this post is geared more towards those new to turning. I’ll go through my steps to rough out a salad bowl. The best part is that I remembered to take pictures this time!
I started off with some bowl blanks that I had cut back in December. I didn’t think it would take me until now to get them on the lathe, but that’s beside the point. What you want to always be mindful of is splitting or cracks that have developed in your piece. I noticed a few on the end grain of some pieces I roughed out, but they didn’t look bad enough to keep me from using the blanks.
No, this post does not end with me reporting that I went to the ER or that anything blew apart on the lathe. Lots of people will tell you to never ever put a piece of wood on the lathe that has any checking in it. Well, if you’re turning green wood and have the shop schedule that I do, you would be throwing away every other block of wood you came across. Use your best judgement and if you have hesitancy then move on to the next block in your stash.
I’ll be mounting this piece to the lathe with a faceplate for initial roughing. I could use my beefy #3 MT spur drive, but I find that once the piece gets around 50 pounds I have trouble holding the blank still until I bring up the tailstock. Maybe I need to hit the gym? Anyways, back to the faceplate. Be sure to use good screws for mounting the piece to a faceplate. You really aren’t going to do yourself any favors by using drywall screws as these are very brittle and could shear apart from the forces present while turning. I like to use #10 sheet metal screws which are heavier in cross section. More important than a specific screw size is selecting a screw that will adequately fill the screw holes in a faceplate. You don’t want a screw has large amounts of slop in the screw hole. Also, I don’t usually bother predrilling my holes for attaching a faceplate.
The bowl is coming along nicely. The grain from this hickory log continues to captivate my interest. Since these bowls are just being roughed out, I will not spend the extra time to clean up any torn grain until the bowls are seasoned and finished being turned. Now I’m ready to put this blank into the chuck and hollow out the inside. One last thing to check before removing the bowl is to verify the spigot is the proper size and profile to allow the bowl to sit flat against the top of the jaws. Done?
Sometimes removing the faceplate from the spindle can be tricky. My faceplates have a hole drilled in the side of them to assist with removing them from the lathe with a tommy bar. I lock the spindle and use a bar to break the faceplate free from the spindle.
I now put the chuck on the lathe and remove the faceplate from the blank. Open the jaws so that the spigot on the bottom of the bowl will easily fit inside of the jaws and sit flat against the top of the jaws. I tighten the chuck enough to hold the bowl and then bring the tailstock up close and lock it into place. Then, I loosen the chuck slightly and advance and lock the quill to push the blank evenly against the jaws. Don’t forget to tighten the chuck!