Beastly Aspen Burl Turned into a Bowl

November 2, 2019

Winter is fast approaching and I am back to turning bowls. I selected a medium sized aspen burl that I purchased up from my logger friend in the UP of Michigan during the summer. It is wet and heavy, which is good since I turn aspen burls green. It looked solid (photos below) so I trimmed it as shown in the first several photos (blue lines show where cuts were be made). I visualized the bark edge top of the bowl on the top of the burl. This would give maximum use of the burl and a nice jagged bark top. Most aspen burls have some decay inside, but it is difficult to know exactly where. You always take a chance since there are areas that would really mess up the turning process. You can see some decay/worm holes near the bottom of the trimmed piece (tail stock end) in the photos of the trimmed burl on the lathe. Never the less, I thought I could turn a stable tenon on the bottom. Aspen burl has a nasty habit of separating along grain lines so that pieces chunk out. I used a lot of thin CA glue to fill all the grain lines in the flat bottom area and turned a 4.5" diameter tenon. This appeared stable but as I started turning the profile of the bowl, more holes (some large with worms happily eating the wood) appeared. I just continued using more CA glue to stabilize the many dark grain lines, especially near the tenon. There is nothing wrong with worm holes in an artistic bowl, as long as the bowl stays in tact. These dark grain lines result from spalting and add amazing beauty to aspen burl bowls, so it is worth taking about 2 hours carefully stabilizing these. The shape of this bowl evolved from following what worked (minimizing decayed areas) and looked good. There were not a lot of options with this burl. I was, of course, worried that the tenon would not "hold" during hollowing. I re-glued around it before securing it in a chuck. I also made the tenon extra large to give it more stability. I hollowed out as much as possible with the tailstock attached to the top of the piece. I hollowed the bowl slowly and gently using small gouges (1/4 and 3/8") and kept them very sharp. It took about 3 hours since I applied CA glue often to stabilize the grain lines and the area just under the bark. I have turned many aspen burls and gained a lot of experience that helped successfully turning this bowl. The grain and colors are really nice and they will totally pop out with sanding and oiling. This will be a great bowl. Aspen burl bowls never crack during drying so the hard work is done. The bowl will have worm/decay holes that will look nice after sanding and stabilizing. The dimensions of the freshly turned bowl are 9.5" diameter, 6" height, 3/8" wall thickness.

 

 

 

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