turnings #11: first hollow-form failure update - major checking!

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 09-06-2009 03:14 AM 3501 reads 0 times favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: Newfound respect for hollow-form turners Part 11 of turnings series Part 12: A small juggling pin »

Just an update on this post. When I left off, it looked like this:

failed hollow form turning

I took a week’s hiatus – no motivation – and upon returning to the garage (last Sunday), I found this:

huge check in Ficus turning

Note it goes right to the pith, as every check I’ve seen in any log, branch, or twig in which I’ve noticed any checking does. This is why so many people remove the pith entirely from their blanks, and why pith-in end-grain turnings can be a bit of a craps shoot.

huge check in Ficus

Note that this was completely green lumber, and turning this thing all the way down, instead of a mere 2” may have helped , as it would have effectively removed the pith over a much greater length, but still… The other probability here is that because this was a branch, and didn’t grow straight up and down, it probably had internal stresses that originally helped it counteract gravity.

Here’s the bottom – note that the check finds the pith again on this side, and there’s a second one, too, which is very common in checking logs:

checks in base of failed hollow form vase

And this is the part I turned away after realizing it was just way too long. This was sitting on my router table, and checked the same way, right from the pith out:

chunk of wood turned away and heavily checked

ficus block with checks to pith

With the checking, deep, fuzzy tearout which is really hard to manage, and rampant mold control issues, you begin to see why I have such a hard time finding any turnings – or anything – made out of Ficus wood online.

Anyone need about a half cord of this stuff? ;)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

31 comments so far

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 4315 days

#1 posted 09-06-2009 03:28 AM

You could always use it for firewood. Amazing what wood can do sometimes. I had a piece of green ash literally explode off the lathe last week – didn’t appear to have any checks or cracks in the piece! If I leave a green piece on the lathe I mist it with water and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. That does not always work either.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 3956 days

#2 posted 09-06-2009 03:36 AM

That stinks after you did most of the work.

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 4069 days

#3 posted 09-06-2009 03:52 AM

That’s the piths…........................LOL Jeff is right….......leave a piece of green wood on the lathe you must wet it down and wrap in plastic and tie it tightly. If you don’t….well you saw what happened.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View a1Jim's profile


117722 posts in 4088 days

#4 posted 09-06-2009 04:41 AM

To bad Gary

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3892 days

#5 posted 09-06-2009 04:43 AM

Yeah, it’s crazy stuff. Lou – I’d already given up on this piece. It’s halfway between both of my hollowing tool sizes, and just too hard to work for me – a novice – to be any fun. Also, I’d already cracked the rim all over just trying to widen it up to make it an easier project. It was already scrap, but it was still a little sad to see it crack so badly.

I cut some rounds off of a piece of European olive – the check’n’est wood I’ve ever experienced, and one of the larger pieces – only about 5” diameter or so – I actually wrapped a band clamp around and tightened as hard as I could with a large allen wrench. It STILL checked and opened up like a Pac Man with about a 3/4” mouth. It’s solution to get around band clamp was to dome outward on one side. It became a kind of flat, rounded cone.

I think I’m should keep some olive logs around in a humid environment, in case I ever need to forcibly tear anything, like a car, or foundation apart. I can just cut some short pieces and wedge them in a crack, and then put up a warning sign and leave :)

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3781 days

#6 posted 09-06-2009 05:07 AM

Ahhh…the joys of turning….I get that sometimes…it seems for a while I’m on a roll and the stuff rolls of the lathe just the way I envision….then there are the times that everything seems to go bad….checks, cracks, grain tear, knots that come apart..voids..the grain inside the piece is colorless….or my stain/finish goes south.

Sometimes I wish I had taken up golf….at least I know for sure I stink at that….....BUT…when you get that really nice burl or blank…and you turn that great one in a million goblet, hollow or segmented….it makes up for all those previous stinkers….Just always remember….there is another beautiful work…just waiting for you to discover and you will. By the way…you are making great progress…..I tend to think a person can’t be trying hard enough if they don’t get some stinkers….

I’ve been turning for a looong time and I still blow it now and then….I always have to remember that wood is organic….we do not control it…and we have to to learn to work with it the way it wants us too….and sometimes it iust isn’t happening….so the best advice I’ve ever gotten was to take the good with the bad….you can learn alot from both (the best leasons come from the failures – they tend to teach me more patience and a lot about humility…LOL). Anyway….you are lucky I don’t post my failures…...luckily wood burns fast…...sheesh..

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3892 days

#7 posted 09-06-2009 06:35 AM

reggie – you should come hang out and cheer me up. You’d have lots to do. I mess up very often :)

Thanks for the encouragement!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3941 days

#8 posted 09-06-2009 08:20 AM

Haveing your same problems Gary. Still only have one good success from my eucalyptus. Just took a piece out of the frige and tried to turn it today. Still checked and cracked all over.

Reggie, Thanks for the encouragement. I have had some great turnings from bought wood (seasoned) and some pallet stuff, but all old wood. Nothing green want to cooperate with me.

Will keep pluggin along and hope you do too Gary. Allways love to keep up with your posts.

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View Frankie Talarico Jr.'s profile

Frankie Talarico Jr.

353 posts in 3867 days

#9 posted 09-06-2009 01:23 PM

I always say….
if you don’t make a mistake, you werent working.

It’s all part of the game. I can’t wait until i start to turn. Never did that yet

-- Live by what you believe, not what they want you to believe.

View Hix's profile


161 posts in 3789 days

#10 posted 09-06-2009 02:20 PM

Now you have the opportunity to practice filling cracks. Mix up some epoxy and give it a try!

-- ---call me---- Mark

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4233 days

#11 posted 09-06-2009 04:37 PM

Well, I give you an A+ for sharing your experience with us. It takes more initiative to show a “Boo-Boo” and tell about it, than it does a project well done.

I appreciate your blog, as it’s a true learning experience. Thanks!

BTW: Have you seen the possom since he slept in your shavings bag? That was just too incredibly adorable!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View peruturner's profile


317 posts in 3873 days

#12 posted 09-06-2009 05:19 PM

Hi queep the wood if possible in a plastic bag,here in lima is very humid so very seldom the woods crack unless sun hit them see my pict(lat ones) Im turning pith and all very little movement on them

View stefang's profile


16748 posts in 3845 days

#13 posted 09-06-2009 05:27 PM

Well Gary, I too think you need to invest in some plastic bags. You could also try packing in your new green closed form with the shavings you are creating from the same piece in the plastic bag. That way you don’t have to wet it, although that is a good idea too. An endgrain turning needs to have even walls and bottom before it can take the drying out. Most (actually all) of my closed turnings have the pith in the bottom. I find that it is a good idea to use super glue on the pith from the outside as soon or sooner than you can get at it to reinforce it a bit. I hope you won’t think I’m boasting when I tell you that I have never lost a green piece, and I have turned quite a few over the years. I hope this is ENcouraging and not DIScouraging to you. Looking forward to your next blog describing a turning triumph. Have fun in the meanwhile!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Routerisstillmyname's profile


763 posts in 4020 days

#14 posted 09-06-2009 08:15 PM

Gorilla glue

-- Router รจ ancora il mio nome.

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3781 days

#15 posted 09-07-2009 12:12 AM

That is something I forgot to mention about keeping the humidity high until the piece has suficient area to allow for the natural dehydration rate to balance with the “breathing” rate of the wood. The bark and fibre of the outer rings are made to keep the hydration inside the tree (near the live pith) while it is alive – the cuts used to remove a branch or fell the tree allow an area for the hydration to escape. When those layers are removed the rate at which the hydration migrates into the local atmostphere is controled by the humidity around it. If the air is dryer…then that rate is accelerated…accelerate this too much and you have the fibres separating (cracking) because the water dehydrates faster then the ability of interal air to stabilize the pressure. In order to retard this acceleration, you need to make sure the humidity is more balanced….Needless to say, Jeff, Peru and Stefang have excellent suggestions on how to normalize this process.

I guess I forget this problem since I always keep my green turnings in a cool area with a pan of water nearby….while they cure. The humidity here is usually pretty stabile….(and it seems to be that I usually turn green stuff in the colder wetter months) so I haven’t needed to use plastic bags and or a sprayer….but those are great ideas to remember.

Once again LJ’s come up with excellent suggestions…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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