March 6, 2022

How to make woodturning blanks from a log

What are woodturning blanks?

A woodturning blank is a stock of wood that has been prepared and dimensioned to form multiple objects on a lathe. A woodturning blank is shaped into any cylindrical or round object.

How do you turn logs into blanks?        

  1. Start by cutting logs into turning blanks. That limits potential checking and waste to the two ends of the log rather than both ends of multiple blank-length sections.
  2. Leave tight bark in place. Bark slows moisture loss, helps prevent checking, and leaves the option of using the stock for a natural-edge vessel.
  3. Prepare to cut blanks, saw the log into sections about 4 inches longer than its diameter. That is how you find any checking after sealing and storing the blank. You will have enough stock to trim from both ends, exposing check-free surfaces.
  4. When chainsawing a log section lengthwise to form bowl blanks, lay the log on its side, and support it to prevent rolling. Cut along the grain, and do not stand the section on its end and cut across the end grain. Failure to avoid that leads to longer working time. That is how it overheats, and dulls the chain.
  5. At the centre of a log, there is a tree stem, called the pith. It is surrounded by unstable wood. It is easy to spot when you recognize this by wood-grain colour change. The size of this zone varies with wood species rather than log diameter. This wood may cause uneven drying and splitting, remove it.
  6. Slice the log section with a small-diameter unstable zone into turning blanks, making your cut through the pith. For log sections with a larger-diameter zone, remove additional wood adjacent to the pith. To guide you when removing it from a log section of irregular shape, draw potential bowl shapes on its end.
  7. Do not slice all log sections lengthwise to make bowl blanks. You can leave some log sections whole for turning end-grain bowls, which allows you to get the largest possible bowl from a given diameter log. End grain is more difficult to turn than face grain, and end-grain bowls have a greater tendency to crack than face-grain bowls.
  8. Seal the end grain of blanks, and if the wood is prone to drying stress, such as some fruitwoods, coat the entire piece. When the sealer dries, mark each blank because the sealer leaves a waxy surface, mark blanks before applying the sealer. 
  9. Store blanks off the ground in a dry, well-ventilated area.

        How do you prepare a blank for turning?

Start by removing the corners. Diagonal lines are drawn on the surface of the wood blank, to find its center. A circle is drawn, with its center crossing diagonal lines. A bandsaw is used to remove the waste material, and the circular blank is ready for the lathe.

        Can you turn firewood?

Yes, but it comes with consequences. Turning firewood is as dangerous as any other kind of wood. That is why you have to wear a good face shield and stay safe. Turning some firewood pieces is challenging. The bark is not harmful to the tools, but in logging and turning into firewood, the bark will get some dirt caught in it.

        How dry should wood be Before turning?

Kiln-dried wood is dried to an MC of about 8%, making it ready for turning. The process is not affordable but worth it. Air-dried wood is more affordable than kiln-dried, but it is only dried to about 10% to 18% MC. You need to dry this wood further before final turning.

How do you prepare the wood to turn blanks for storage?        

Seal the ends with a sealer or coat and keep it away from moisture.

        How do you keep wood blanks from cracking?

Seal the blanks as soon as you cut them. A commercially made product such as Anchorseal can be the perfect solution to this problem. It seals the blank and keeps it wet until you are ready to work with it.

        How do you preserve wood for turning?

Keep it a few inches from the ground to avoid moisture. Make sure it is coated or sealed. Keep it away from insects and natural disasters. 

        How do you dry logs?

  1. Cut your wood six months before.
  2. Pick an open area outside to cut and split the wood. Make sure the work area is open enough for you to handle a saw without interference from any obstructions. Keep people and pets well away from the work area.

        What is a lathe blank?

It is a stock of material that has been processed and dimensioned to produce a particular object.

How do you dry wood to turn blanks?        

Let it sit for a long enough period. A rule of thumb is one year of air drying time per one inch of wood thickness. A dryer or kiln reduces the moisture content.

        What is the fastest way to dry wood for woodturning?

Set up a dehumidifier beside the stack of wood to be dried, let it run, and it will suck the moisture right out of the wood.

        How long must wood dry before turning?

An old rule of thumb says that greenwood needs to be air-dried for one year, per inch of its thickness. While this rule is the standard for considering the air-drying period, some users would agree that this is a  long time to wait.

        How do you dry wood in a microwave?

  1. Set the microwave on its lowest setting. That is the defrost or lower option. Choose one setting that runs on roughly 200 to 360 watts.
  2. Place the wood on the outer edge of the carousel plate so that it rotates around the microwave cavity. Place two to three paper towels underneath the wood to absorb the moisture the wood gives off as it dries. Place any wood in the microwave as long as they fit on the outer edge of the carousel.
  3. Microwave the wood for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. 
  4. Remove the wood from the microwave with oven mitts or heavy work gloves. Place the wood on the counter to release the steam.
  5. Lift the wood off of the counter after 30 seconds to check the amount of condensation underneath the wood. Allow it to cool to room temperature and to release the moisture removed by the microwave.
  6. Repeat until the wood produces little condensation while it cools down to room temperature.       

          Can you turn wet wood?

Yes, you can.

        How do you dry green wood after turning?

Use paper bags, a microwave, kiln, denatured alcohol, even desiccant drying beads, or just waiting.

How to seal woodturning blanks

  1. Seal the ends of the cherry logs, 
  2. Cover the end grain using paint or wax. You can melt paraffin to seal your bowl blanks, although it may not stick well. 
  3. Give it a coat or two of your sealer, and stack it with your bowl blanks so air can circulate it and the blanks by slipping wooden sticks under and above the stack.
David D. Hughes
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