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The log that wouldn't be a bowl

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Blog entry by Brit posted 05-20-2020 01:17 AM 578 reads 0 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few months before the lockdown, I was driving through the New Forest National Park where I live and saw a tree that had been cut into sections after it fell across the road. Naturally I did what any woodworker would do, slammed on the brakes, popped the boot and heaved a section of the trunk into my Jeep. When I got home I painted the ends with PVA and it has been sitting under my workbench ever since. I finally decided to see what I could do with it, so I sawed off the two ends to leave me with a nice piece from which I could fashion a couple of bowls.

It was at this point that I noticed the spalting that ran through the log. I’ve never worked with spalted wood before, so I was looking forward to trying it.

I marked a line through what I thought was the pith with my froe…

...set my wedges…

...and progressively drove them in. I never grow tired of the sound of the fibres splitting.

A few more taps and we have two halves.

I selected the half with the most spalting and flattened the face with my axe.

Time to remove the bark. I used a wedge to remove the bulk of it…

...and then cleaned off the rest with a couple of drawknives.

Looking at what I had I could see that the spalting was throughout the entire log, so I decided to carve an inside out bowl instead of an outside in bowl in order to maximize the size of the bowl and the spalting. So I drew a centre line all around the bowl, tapped in a couple of nails and used a bit of string to draw an ellipse.

Now it was time for some adze work, starting in the centre and working out towards my line, leaving just enough to clean up with gouges.

Before I knew it, I had a pile of chips on the floor and an uneasy feeling in my head. You see normally when you use a razor sharp adze on a log, you see lots of shiny facets where the adze has left it’s mark. All I saw was lots of tear out.

Not to worry I thought, the gouges will sort it out.

Although all my gouges were freshly sharpened, they were pulling chunks of wood out of the surface. Never had that happen before. I tried coming from different directions, slicing cuts, but the wood wasn’t having any of it. Oh well, let’s try the Twca cam.

Sadly it was no better. I decided to ponder it awhile and shape the outside of the bowl with my axe.

Even that didn’t go well and a chunk broke off with very little effort. However it did make me realize that the pith was still there and I was the wrong side of it. You might be able to see where I drew a semi circle around it.

I decided to finish shaping the outside and turned to a rasp in case the axe caused any further damage.

So now I had to remove about 3/4” from the rim. I could have sawed this off, but I chose to slice it off with my knife.

So now it was back to the gouges again to deepen and widen the inside of the bowl.

I really brought my ‘A’ game this time and still got tearout. It was starting to not be fun now.

Here is a close-up of the kind of tearout I was experiencing.

Although I only used minimal clamping pressure, this still happened. I glued it up and left it overnight.

As a last resort I tried threatening it by telling it that these crosses were in memory of all the other logs that refused to be bowls, but it was to no avail.

So I went outside and sat on a stool with some sandpaper. I focused on sanding one spot just to see if it was possible to get the surface any better. It was a bit better, but still not great and sanding a bowl until Christmas was not what this experience was meant to be about. I hate to give up on a project after all my hard work…

...but I had to admit that this log would never be a bowl.

But here’s the thing. Just as I was thinking it might make a nice hat…

or even a mask…

...I swear I heard my tools crying out in unison “We want justice! We Want Justice! WE WANT JUSTICE!”

I tried reasoning with them, but they insisted that the log had disrespected edge tools the world over and that was tantamount to treeson, punishable by death.

So…

Here’s Johnny!

With a single swipe it was all over…

...and an edge tool had the last laugh.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."



24 comments so far

View dbray45's profile

dbray45

3378 posts in 3513 days


#1 posted 05-20-2020 02:21 AM

Andy. You know that minwax has a hardener for pethy wood. I have used it and works well. I don’t know if it is available in the uk. If it is, try it on what is left.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View socrbent's profile

socrbent

991 posts in 3006 days


#2 posted 05-20-2020 03:20 AM

Just to let you know – all your frustration aside – your post gave me lots of joy and sympathy!

-- socrbent Ohio

View socrbent's profile

socrbent

991 posts in 3006 days


#3 posted 05-20-2020 03:21 AM

duplicate post

-- socrbent Ohio

View Andre's profile

Andre

3460 posts in 2543 days


#4 posted 05-20-2020 05:22 AM

Nice Ax :)

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1113 posts in 3049 days


#5 posted 05-20-2020 08:23 AM

Nice spalting. Cuprinol do a wood hardening solution aimed at stabilising wet rot in timber. Might be worth trying on another piece. The trick is to really drown the wood in the solution and leave it to Harden before shaping. A trip to B&Q is in order as a part of your daily exercise regime! Good luck!
Jim

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Brit's profile

Brit

8046 posts in 3579 days


#6 posted 05-20-2020 12:22 PM

David – I don’t believe you can get Minwax products in the UK. I haven’t looked for a couple of years, but I know that when I did, they weren’t available. However, there will be something similar that I will try on one of the two halves like you suggested. In fact I think I already have what is needed.

Socrbent – Thanks for the sympathy and if it gave you joy then it was worth the effort.

Andre – Yes it is and to be honest, I’ve been itching to try it out since I rehandled it a few weeks ago. I only took one swing, but it felt good. I’ve never swung an axe that heavy before, but I liked it. Maybe a bit too much. :o)

Jim – Hi Jim, nice to hear from you. It has been awhile. I have a couple of tins of Ronseal Wet Rot Wood Hardener, so I’ll try that on the bowl and then try to work the surface once it has fully hardened. If it works, I’ll make another bowl out of the other half of the log. I guess the trick is to carefully work the inside and the outside of the bowl until I’m about 1/2” from my finished surfaces and then slap on the wood hardener which I know is the consistency of water. Worth a try.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

13556 posts in 1875 days


#7 posted 05-20-2020 01:34 PM

I feel your pain Andy. I have a lot of spalted Maple that has sections like that too. There just isn’t much you can do with them short of stabilizing it. Even with sharp tools on the lathe and sanding the living hell out of it, I can’t get a finished surface worth a crap. I do have an axe waiting for a new handle though…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

10152 posts in 3177 days


#8 posted 05-20-2020 02:51 PM

So satisfying seeing how beautiful the spalting was, a pity it lead to its anxiety inducing uncooperative tearing behavior.

I know your exacting standards and the immaculate finish to which you bring all your projects, but the fact remains, that bowl was gorgeous even without a glass smoothness. Is there any lower calling that a more rustic vessel could fill around the yard or shed?

Thanks for bringing us along Andy!

-- ~Tony

View Brit's profile

Brit

8046 posts in 3579 days


#9 posted 05-20-2020 03:48 PM

Kenny – I’ll see what that wood hardener does. I kind of think it will be rock hard though once set. Perhaps too hard for edge tools. I’ve used it before for DIY stuff and it does work, although I never tried to tool it afterwards.

Tony – It really wasn’t good for anything. I swung my axe at it because I wanted to swing it at something, but honestly I could have snapped that bowl with my bare hands. A lower calling indeed. One does not simply lower ones standards because one has some pethy wood old boy. The very thought!

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

10152 posts in 3177 days


#10 posted 05-20-2020 04:05 PM

HAha! Never was it my intent to pose you lower your standards; merely musing an alternative to a full submission by the piece and an effort to achieve a better return on the value of your time investment. Now, fully understanding that it wasn’t purely an aesthetical objection and that it was lacking structural integrity, I humbly retract my plea for a spalted birdbath bowl.

-- ~Tony

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4213 posts in 3688 days


#11 posted 05-20-2020 05:41 PM

Andy, this has the hallmarks of a classical tragedy. Such a pity. Such a terrible ending. But damn did I enjoy reading this.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Don W's profile

Don W

19609 posts in 3304 days


#12 posted 05-20-2020 05:59 PM

Andy Andy Andy. I can’t believe you let your tools talk you into a smash and bash !

Thinned epoxy, CA glue and even a few soaking in poly could have well proved your tools wrong.

But then, I’ve had a few bowls heating my shop before as well.

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brit's profile

Brit

8046 posts in 3579 days


#13 posted 05-20-2020 07:35 PM

Brandon – I suppose it does have the hallmarks of a classical tragedy. Glad you enjoyed it.

Don – I will try to get something good out of the other half, but by the time I realised that this wasn’t going to work without stabilizing the wood, I’d already removed too much. I still had a blast though.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brit's profile

Brit

8046 posts in 3579 days


#14 posted 05-21-2020 02:34 PM

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve added a short video of the moment the axe impacted the bowl.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Ptome's profile

Ptome

2 posts in 11 days


#15 posted 05-21-2020 04:02 PM

Waoooo, I’m in shock!!!
that bowl was amazing even without the smoothness. I would have used it rustic in many ways…..
Anyway, I know you probably enjoyed the project but you definitely are a perfectionist.
Thank you for the pic.
Pat http://poolcleaningdf.com

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