Turning a Black Walnut Crotch
Black walnut wood is beautiful but it does not grow in northern Minnesota where I live. A friend brought me some from the Minneapolis area (thanks Jay) and I just turned a medium sized crotch bowl from one of the pieces. The gallery below show some images of the turning. I usually try to turn crotches so the centers (or piths) of the branches are contained in the sides of the bowl. The most interesting wood grain (feather figuring) is usually found in the areas between the branch centers. The main potential issue with this type of turning is that the branch centers are prone to cracking. Most books on wood turning say to avoid including the pith in a bowl. I generally ignore this since many beautiful bowls contain this circular growth ring pattern. The trick is to apply enough thin cyanoacrylate glue into both sides of the pith area to minimize cracking. I do this while turning and during drying. Small cracks can also be filled with fine ground coffee and CA glue if necessary. I included a few photos of the original crotch. The spike shows the position of the approximate vertical axis on the top of the planned bowl. I trimmed this piece with vertical cuts parallel to this axis and in a circular pattern. This circular pattern defines the sides of the bowl. I next made another cut perpendicular to the axis on the planned bottom of the bowl. I unfortunately did not take a photo of the trimmed piece. I shaped this bowls so the top rim is slightly curved in. This is a judgement call based on the appearance of the wood and the position of the branch centers. I try to visualize what the bowl would look like, and it helps to have turned a lot of similar bowls. There is no substitute for experience in making such decisions. This bowl is 12" in diameter at its top and 8" in height. It is now drying and being carefully observed with a bottle of CA glue at the ready. I monitor the weight of fresh turned bowls to determine when the moisture content is low enough re-turn the bottom and sand. This black walnut is very colorful with purple and red overtones. It also has beautiful white sapwood giving great contrast.