Amazing Burly Sugar Maple Log

May 9, 2017

I was given a freshly cut 7 ft long sugar maple log that was full of burls. The burls were all distributed around the full length of the log, a very unusual and rare piece of mother nature's handiwork.

I studied this piece for some time and decided on turning end-grain bowls. These bowls will have very uneven outer rims that follow the burly outer contour of the log and they will contain a maximum of burl wood. They will also be large, especially the ones that are turned from that massive area on the left end of the log. I started by cutting perpendicular to the axis of the log (using a chain saw) in the approximate center of mass of the smaller burl cluster toward the right end of the log. The cross section of the cut will define the tops of two bowls if all goes well. I like to have natural edged bowls with unsymmetrical shapes. This is achieved by flaring outward the end-grain cut toward the top of the bowl.

 

This is an image of one of the pieces mounted on the lathe so the top of the bowl is to the right toward the head stock. I also kept the tail stock in place to safely secure the piece. This piece is about 14" in diameter and 7" long. Note that the bark is falling off to reveal a beautiful outer skin full of many tiny prickly spikes. Most of the bark pealed off with ease.

 

This image shows the turned outer profile of the bowl with a 4.2 diameter tenon on the bottom for reverse chucking the bowl. Note how the top is flared outward to give a natural edge that follows the cross section of the cut burl. I often use this vase type shape to achieve an unsymmetrical natural edge on a bowl. This of course requires end-grain turning which is slower but well worth the extra time.

 

 

This image shows a side view of the profile. You can see the outer shape of the bowl and the great prickly surface of the outer edge. The shape of the bowl was chosen to best deal with the depressed areas between the burls. These low areas can become holes in the side of the bowl during hollowing. I tried to keep the bowl as wide as possible with a pleasing curve from the top to the base. It is important to maximize the regions of beautiful burl figuring, but it is also important to avoid a clunky shape. These goals often conflict and require compromise. It is OK to have a hole in the side of an artistic bowl, but better to simply let these low areas become dips in the rim. You can see such a dip near the top of this image.  

 

 

This image shows the reverse mounted bowl secured to the head stock with a Oneway stronghold chuck with #3 jaws. I always keep the tenon as large as possible to get  a secure grip in the chuck. The tenon and bottom of the bowl will be returned during the sanding process. The bowl has also been partly hollowed out in this image so the actual edge thickness is shown. I intentionally kept the edge thick (5/8") to show the beautiful outer spiky skin of this burl. This simply looked good.

 This is a view of the top of the completed fresh turned bowl showing very nice grain figuring. The dimensions are 14" x 11" x 5". The bowl now has to be dried for several months.

 

Immediately below is an update to the above post and includes photos of the sanded/oiled/waxed bowl. These better show the great grain figuring.

 

As an addendum to this blog post, I have also turned the piece from the other side of the cross section cut. This one was much more challenging as the following images show. Click on an image to see a larger view and to scroll through the gallery. This piece had much less burl to work with and required a different shape to avoid big holes in the bowl. I decided to cut the top nearly flat and inward until I could visualize a round bowl without major holes. This is a difficult shape to make look good. I rounded the bowl part to give a pleasing curve while avoiding breaking through the side walls. I came to within 1/8" of cutting through the wall in the depressed area. The outer wall has a depression in one side that shows some of the patina of the burl. The grain figuring of the burl areas of the bowl is spectacular and this shape maximizes the amount of burl. I had to stop and make shape decisions often during the turning of this bowl. I think the images will show the process and the fresh turned result.

 

 

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