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To Turn or Not to Turn a Cherry Burl

I have been mostly turning commissioned bowls this past week and just finished a challenging/interesting cherry burl. The customer said it is OK to make a really rustic bowl as long as it is artistic with a live edge (my specialty). That artistic license is always a good thing and I have a lot of experience turning burls that many people would send to the burn pile. First, here are a few images of the complete burl (the red spike indicates the intended bowl axis), the trimmed burl, and the burl attached to my Stubby lathe with a 4" faceplate.

The burl looked solid and worth turning but on trimming there were signs of some decay. This is not unusual for cherry burls. My main concern was a hole in the area where a tenon has to go for eventual reverse mounting for hollowing. I turned the outer profile and there are indeed areas of deep decay, but the 4.2" diameter tenon was mostly solid with a hole on only a small part of it. It looked like a bowl with holes its sides was possible, meaning I could turn a bowl that would probably hold together, and it would be "rustic". The next two photos show the turned profile.

The tenon was used to reverse mount the bowl using a chuck. The bowl rotated with no wobble, a good sign. Hollowing started as usual but it did not take long to discover a hidden issue. Carpenter ants started pouring out of the holes. (first two photos below). I have had issues with ants getting into the ceiling of my shop and it took a lot of work to dispatch them, so I got my can of Raid Ant & Roach Spray and filled the holes to eliminate the ants. As hollowing slowly progressed I repeated this process many times. Finally the ants were gone and hollowing progressed with about ⅜" wall thickness. There are large holes in the bowl that nicely show the ant carved texture. The wood shows nice colors and figuring and the customer will get a rustic, bark edged bowl with a story. The bowl is about 11" in diameter and is stable and strong. The last three images below show the complete fresh turned bowl.

I love turning burls because they have great figuring and many have problems (like this one). I also love problem solving because it gives a good feeling of accomplishment. I am happy with this bowl but it will be challenging to sand once it is dry. I will post photos of the sanded/oiled bowl in a month or two.


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