Wood IDs #8: Found Eucalyptus tree in LA - part 3 of 3

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 03-28-2009 01:01 PM 10613 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Found Eucalyptus tree in LA - part 2 of 3 Part 8 of Wood IDs series Part 9: Sealing up the mystery tree (probably California Bay Laurel) »

In part 1 I found a Eucalyptus tree in a nearby neighborhood. In part 2 I cut it up and had a better look under the bark, finding great boring bug patterns.

In part 3, I finally took a 3” diameter piece of the green wood and had a go at it on my Sherline 4400 CNC mini lathe, set up as a manual wood lathe. I’m quite ‘green’ myself at this turning business, and don’t yet have many techniques, experience, and tools necessary, but it came out alright, was a lot of fun, and revealed that this euc is gorgeous inside. I didn’t expect that.

Here I’m cutting up the 3” diameter chunk and straightening up the side with a large pull saw:

preparing a Eucalyptus turning blank

small end removed while cutting the log to roughly 90°

Mounting it on the mini lathe’s face plate:


euc log mounted to faceplate with sheet metal screws

euc log mounted on Sherline mini lathe

Skipping well ahead, I have the simple outer form done, and the wood is quite pretty inside:

euc log outer surface turned to shape

Time to try clearing out the inside – really unskilled in this area currently:

lathe tool rest set up for hollowing out the inside of the euc log

Skipping ahead again, I’ve hollowed it out (poorly :), and sanded it to 12000 grit (yes, 12k!):

euc log turned into cup and sanded to a fine grit

The grain is a bit open, and really should be filled somehow. The lathe plate looks kind of nice as a base:

euc log cup

Removing the faceplate:

euc log cup with lathe face plate screwed to bottom

base of turned euc log cup after lathe face place is removed

A [thick-walled] cup! Check out that grain, and those colors;

Eucalyptus cup

Eucalyptus cup

As a first finishing test, I figured I’d rub in some tung oil finish that looked awful when I tried it on maple. It’s meant for hardwoods, and this is pretty hard stuff. It really deepened the colors and brought out their contrast. I loved it! Still, the open grain seemed to me to detract a little from it.

tung oil applied to turned Eucalyptus cup

tung oil applied to turned Eucalyptus cup

tung oil applied to turned Eucalyptus cup

tung oil applied to turned Eucalyptus cup

It holds Sharpie® markers nicely:

Sharpie® markers in a turned Eucalyptus cup

Sharpie™ markers in a turned Eucalyptus cup

The next day, tung oil finish dried up a bit, and in natural sunlighting, the contrast had died back significantly:

Eucalyptus cup

Eucalyptus cup

I definitely need a proper internal turning tool, and experience:

messy interior of turned Eucalyptus cup

It being a green turning, the bottom decided to start splitting in several places, including the center. Here are a few around the bottom edge:

splits in a Eucalyptus cup

Here are a couple of shots of the then-current state of the open grain, coloration imparted by the tung oil finish, natural swirling patterns of the log, and how it all looks in natural daylight:

euc log cup

euc log cup

On my next trip to Rockler (to get green wood end sealer to save all the logs I’m now finding around LA), I grabbed some Hut PPP (perfect pen polish), which are 2 different bars of polishing-compound impregnated wax ingots. You turn the lathe up to high speed, run the brown bar (satin) over the whole thing to smear hard wax all over it, then press hard on it with a paper towel as you run across the surface, removing the extra wax and polishing up the wood with it a bit. Then you go over it again slowly, pressing hard, melting the sheen of wax into the open grains. You repeat this with the white bar (gloss).

getting ready to polish euc cup with Hut PPP

Here’s a pre-Hut shot:

getting ready to polish euc cup with Hut PPP

And here’s the after shot, having followed the plan detailed above:

Eucalyptus cup polished with Hut PPP

You can see the wax burned into the paper towels in that shot. Here are a few more of the final, glossy look. The first pic shows a crack that formed in the base – the trouble with green wood – and the second shows a patch in the middle of formerly quite open grain, now filled in and made glossy by the Hut PPP wax:

Eucalyptus cup polished with Hut PPP!

Eucalyptus cup polished with Hut PPP!

With a bit darker exposure, this is closer to how the cup currently looks:

euc cup

euc cup

euc cup

The cup is still [as I type this] attached to the lathe face plate. It’s probably a week later now, and I’m shown something important and interesting – how much it shrinks. Note that the cup was sanded and polished down to match the lathe face plate in these shots. Sitting next to me on the desk here, I can see that it’s about 1/16” smaller in diameter, so about 1/32” shrinking around all sides. That’s a significant figure. The once-flush [temporary] metal base is no longer even close to flush.

I have since sealed the ends of all the Euc blanks I’ve readied, and the logs I’m storing. I’m anxious to see what other treasures it has in store for me. Still no idea which species this is, but I’ve since found a forum of Euc folk who might know. It’s an apparently tricky proposition to identify a gum tree all the way to a species. There are over 750, and lots of anomalies, like differences in the same tree, or similarities between different species that can combine to make two trees of different species seem more similar than two others of the same.

Anyway, this was all just an excited test of the wood. I had no plan when I screwed the piece of log into the face plate, so I was glad it came out to be anything at all. Now we wait, and wait, for the other logs and log bits, all painted up with Rockler green wood end sealer to finally dry out to more useful levels.

There are several more shots scattered throughout the flickr set.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

10 comments so far

View spanky46's profile


995 posts in 4853 days

#1 posted 03-28-2009 01:42 PM

Very interesting Gary! Keep up the good work.

-- spanky46 -- Never enough clamps...Never enough tools...Never enough time.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5284 days

#2 posted 03-28-2009 02:11 PM

This is a nice post. It is great to see wood that would be destined for a landfill or converted into mulch getting a new lease on life in the form of a nice piece like this. Not only are you getting some nice wood to work with at a great price (FREE!!!) but it also affords you the opportunity to spend more time in the shop honing your skills. Sounds like a winning combination to me. Great job, Gary.

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

View oldskoolmodder's profile


802 posts in 5142 days

#3 posted 03-28-2009 04:57 PM

Great stuff. As the pics went on, I kept thinking pencil holder, though I prefer Sharpie holder too. Looks like you’re learning quite a bit and despite being a beginner turner, you are keeping at it, and only getting better.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24657 posts in 5138 days

#4 posted 03-28-2009 08:59 PM

Interesting post. Looks like you’re doing better than your self critic says :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5111 days

#5 posted 03-29-2009 07:30 AM

fantastic! grain patterns looks beautiful. and that sheen from the SSS is remarkable!

how is the checking? is the wood still going on cracking? or did the wax help it out?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4844 days

#6 posted 03-29-2009 04:52 PM

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

Lev – All further checking has stopped. I’m not sure if it would have stopped there anyway, but it makes sense that the wax would have helped. The paraffin emulsion from Rockler (Green Wood End Sealer) has stopped the logs outside from further checking. I know they would have kept going as many are a week old now, but painted up right after cutting most show no checking. Any cuts I made before I had the sealer had several checks within a day.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Chris Cunanan's profile

Chris Cunanan

339 posts in 4942 days

#7 posted 05-21-2009 06:56 PM

looks like i need to get in the game with that friction polish. Eucalyptus is so easy to find around socal it’s ridiculous. I was always weary cuz of all the visible holes in it. Turned a bowl recently, grain looked just like that, but a bit more colorful. It was pretty easy to turn, and it was great how all the bug holes came out somewhat-random but consistent around the bowl, but they also caused me a lot of snags while turning (i hate snags! they scare me, and one actually bent my bowl gouge…a quick prying back to almost straight and im back at it though =)). Glad to see some other socal’ers utilizing the over-abundant eucalyptus

View Chris Cunanan's profile

Chris Cunanan

339 posts in 4942 days

#8 posted 05-21-2009 06:58 PM

‘n oh yeah, for the checking, try some microwave drying methods….works wonders, and pretty much lets you know where the cracks are gonna occur (if they do, i’ve dried some even with the pith in the middle of the turning with zero cracking….i’ll post some pictures soon)

View mmh's profile


3701 posts in 5184 days

#9 posted 02-26-2010 09:39 PM

Gee, I really like how the grain shows on this.

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

View palaswood's profile


1061 posts in 3213 days

#10 posted 09-20-2013 07:00 PM

Great job – I know what you mean about the open grain on this species. I got a ton of this stuff from up behind my place. Really sweet grain patterns though. Nicely done

-- Joseph, Irvine CA, @palas_woodcraft on Instagram

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