turnings #4: A bowl from that fallen Jacaranda wood

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 08-03-2009 02:35 PM 8935 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: European Olive champagne glass Part 4 of turnings series Part 5: too thin a champagne glass turning »

This past Wednesday, all in the span of an hour lunch break, I ran home, cut a chunk off the end of one of the Jacaranda logs from my recent haul, resealed the main log with Anchorseal and washed out the brush. Sliced the chunk in half through the pith, and turned one into a thin-walled, simple bowl, took a quick shower, and brought the resultant piece back to show off at work. Amazing what can happen in one hour! The turning itself took less than 15 minutes! I’m getting faster, if not better :)

Here’s the log I used, and what it looks like inside after a fresh cut. It is extremely wet:

Jacaranda log end cut off for turning

freshly cut Jacaranda log cross section

I think it’s about a 6” diameter branch. Here’s how it looked freshly split on the band saw:

split Jacaranda log

And less than 15 minutes later:

Jacaranda bowl on lathe

Jacaranda bowl bottom, showing turning tenon

This was the wettest green wood I’ve yet turned, and rivulets of water were running down my face shield. I could watch the wood change color as I turned, as water was being forced from the inside to the out along the grain. When I stopped the lathe, there were water stains on each side where it was soaked on the outer layer, but much drier inside. When done, I let it spin on high speed for a bit, just to help force a bit more water out. Tonight, Sunday, 4 days later, it’s pretty dry. I’m sure it’s not 6%MC, but it feels like a regular, dry bowl to the touch.

At work on Wednesday, after turning it only a few hours earlier, the piths cracked on each side just a bit – hairline cracks – but by nightfall, the bowl had warped a bit to the tune of about 3/16” difference across perpendicular diameters tightly pressing the checks back together. This bumped the piths up a bit.

drier Jacaranda bowl

There are some light tool marks, but I will be chucking it back in the lathe now that it’s mostly dry, and sanding those away. Also, note that the rim is a little bit wider on one side. I think this is due to the wood’s softness. Tightening the Oneway Talon chuck very hard probably bent the bowl just slightly to the side. In the future, I will probably give a pass to the outside of the bowl after flipping around to the chuck, and before hollowing, just to ensure concentricity between outside and inside.

Jacaranda bowl interior with light tool marks

The wood is a little bit ‘fuzzy’ in nature, and you can see some of the fuzzy tearout on the bottom of the bowl here. This was caused by the side of the parting tool scraping against it as I turned the tenon:

lighty, fuzzy tearout on base of Jacaranda bowl

The end grain pulls in a bit along the grain lines, leaving recessed outlines of the grain. You can just make out the check that pushed back together at the pith:

end grain of Jacaranda bowl

I have a bit of a cambial bark inclusion on one end:

bark inclusion on Jacaranda bowl

The pith sections pushed up as the bowl warped in a bit around it. You can see it in the front and back rims here:

bowed out pith sections on rim of Jacaranda bowl

bowed out pitch sections on rim of Jacaranda bowl

The wood turns incredibly easily, and I could get a sense at least of why it’s touted as such a good carving wood. It looks a little like the Ficus I’ve been playing with lately, but dries much more white. It’s about as pale as maple, and very lightweight, possibly lighter than basswood, but still sturdy. It smells remarkably like potatoes. Peel a bunch of potatoes and smell the wet pile of skins. That mix of starchy potato and dirt smell is basically exactly it. Rather enjoyable.

When I first began turning, while it was still square on one side, I would get catches of my large roughing gouge tool, but instead of the lathe reacting, huge chips of the wood would go flying over my shoulder. It almost seems like dry-rotten wood, except that it still has good, useful, vibrant strength to it, too. It’s an interesting middle ground. I’m getting pretty eager to try my hand at carving something in it. Naturally, if I do, I will take and post pictures of the effort.

Too, I will post the finished product, whenever I get around to finishing and sealing this thing up.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

9 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#1 posted 08-03-2009 04:07 PM

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5284 days

#2 posted 08-03-2009 04:08 PM

It looks like you are really enjoying both the wood and your lathe. I suppose it is too late to let you know that this is a slippery slope that you are on!! :)

Have fun and keep on turnin’.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View lew's profile


13534 posts in 5217 days

#3 posted 08-03-2009 05:21 PM

Great set of pix, Gary!

Turning green wood sure is fun but as the wood dries, there are always changes. I read a blog sometime back by Trifern about how he keeps the warping and shrinking to a minimum. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Nice Work.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 4729 days

#4 posted 08-03-2009 05:32 PM

you should turn some end grain and see what it looks like

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4876 days

#5 posted 08-03-2009 06:29 PM

Bowl looks great, nice job.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View bowyer's profile


340 posts in 4858 days

#6 posted 08-03-2009 06:40 PM

Nice blog, pics are right on with their description. Sounds like the fun has started for you.Enjoy your wood and lathe


-- If at first you don't succeed...Don't try skydiving

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#7 posted 08-04-2009 07:29 AM

Scott – Yep, too late! :)

Lew – I did a natural edge bowl I think the same day as this, and immediately threw a bunch of its shavings in a plastic bag, dropped in the bowl, and packed in the rest of the bag and bowl with more shavings to cover it entirely. I know this technique is mentioned often to help stop splitting. Maybe it’ll help it keep its shape, too. Of course, that one was turned much more thickly, to reveal more of the bark edge, but still, it will be interesting to see. I love those scientific results.

Mike – Definitely. I have so much of this stuff, I will be trying just about everything there is to try in it at some point. I’ll post everything I do, like always.

Jim, Innovator, and Rick, thanks for the kind words of support!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Broda's profile


313 posts in 4981 days

#8 posted 08-04-2009 11:56 AM

looks good, and only 15 mins!

If you are having trouble with the tearout while cutting the tenon try taking a very thin cut the the “long end” of the skew the same way you would if you were using the parting tool. If you make sure the bevel is rubbing on the side you should get a better finish

-- BRODY. NSW AUSTRALIA -arguments with turnings are rarely productive-

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#9 posted 08-05-2009 08:29 AM

Thanks for the tip, Broda!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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