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Large Aspen Crotch, a poor woodturner's burl

I have not had any aspen burls for over a year. These are my favorite burls to turn and unfortunately the pandemic has made it difficult for me an my burl sources to get these very rare and beautiful burls. The next best thing to a burl is a crotch. Crotches often have beautiful grain figuring in the area where the branches intersect. My latest turning (yesterday) was a very large aspen crotch. Old and large aspen trees are a hazard when they grow near roads and homes. They tend to rot inside even though the tree looks healthy. Thus, they will likely come crashing down in a wind storm. My friend has been taking some of these trees down and this provided an opportunity to turn a crotch. The next two images show a trimmed crotch attached to my Stubby lathe. This piece is about 20" in diameter and 8" thick. Click on an image to expand the view.

This piece required the use of my shop crane to hoist onto the lathe. I used a 6" fac plate to attach it to the head stock and secured it with a live center in the tail stock. The wood is old and starting to spalt. Cracks can open along the dark spalting lines so it is always wise to hold such a piece from both ends. The turning went well and it is a pleasure to turn green aspen wood which cuts like butter. I turned a 5.5" tenon on the bottom of the bowl to be used for hollowing. I of course wanted to turn a live bark edged bowl to best show the wood in a natural state. I should point out (for wood turners) that I spent some time deciding on the center of the bowl to best show the crotch intersection area. Thus, the faceplate was positioned on the crotch intersection and centered equidistant from the top edges of the branches. I made sure the top edges of the outer branches would have a similar height in the bowl. This required shimming of the face plate. The following images show various views of the completed bowl, still attached to the lathe. The bowl is 20" in diameter, 7" high, and the wall thickness is about 1/2". I was pleased to see the nice feather figuring in the intersection area. There are also some dark lines from salting and decent shimmering glow. Now for the drying/warping/returning/sanding/oiling process. Aspen bowls seldom crack as they dry, but I do control temperature and humidity. I also keep an eye on a bowl during the drying process and am always ready with a drop of CA glue stop a crack before it grows.


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