Turning a Large Amazing White Cedar Burl

November 7, 2019

I have turned a lot of burls but the one I turned yesterday was AMAZING in two ways, its appearance and its hidden decay. The first image in the gallery below shows the burl that measures 12" in diameter. The bark is spectacular and that is what attracted me to this burl. I secured the trimmed burl to my Vega lathe using an elio drive in the head stock and a live center in the tail stock. My plan was to have a rounded bowl with a spectacular bark edge. The third image shows the bottom (tail stock) view of the trimmed burl and the first signs of decay. In fact, parts of the bottom had soft spongy areas. I considered giving up at this point since the tenon will be turned in this area and it has to be strong enough to hold the piece for eventual hollowing. The mental image of that bark edge kept me going, maybe a mistake. There was no problem turning the outer profile of the bowl. Turning the tenon was another story. You can see a shot of the tenon turned on the bottom in the fifth photo. I used a lot of CA glue to stabilize the area around the tenon. The tenon is secured to the head stock of the lathe by a chuck and I doubted it would hold during hollowing. The following images show that I managed to hollow the bowl and maintain a great bark edge. It took me 3.5 hours to hollow the bowl using only a 0.25" gouge and working slowly and Very Gently. I kept the live center (in the tail stock) attached to the top of the bowl as long as possible. This trick kept the chucked tenon securely attached to the bowl. The real worry is  when the chuck is the only attachment of the bowl to the lathe. The tenon was a bit loose and needed frequent applications of CA glue during this stage of hollowing. The bowl was wobbling some during the final stages of hollowing, but not enough to cause a problem. The final photos show the decayed area in the bottom of the bowl. If you are a wood turner, these images are a bit scary. A lot of things can go wrong when a bowl flies off the lathe. I wear good face protection and gloves, and avoid standing in the areas the bowl would fly. I also turn at low speeds and use very sharp tools (sharpen every 10 minutes). The hole in the bottom of the bowl will add a lot of character to this bowl and I can smooth it out some during finishing. I was happy to have saved this burl from the firewood pile.

 

 

 

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