Sweetgum Bowls

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Project by CSmithWoodturnings posted 10-02-2014 11:53 PM 3672 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

At some point during the past few months when I really became a bowl turning addict, I came across a bowl made from a sweet gum tree. I did some research because I couldn’t remember ever hearing about this type of tree, and it didn’t take long to find out that I had stepped on the spiky little gum balls this tree drops more than I can count. I walked around our property one day towards a section near a creak, that is full of sycamore and ran right into one of these trees. I decided to cut this tree down instead of the sycamore and the first thing I noticed about sweet gum is that it is some tough stuff! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cut my fair share of cherry, and hickory, even black locust but this stuff definitely deserves some credit. The Chainsaw blade might not have been as sharp as its ever been but it was still a bit of a hassle to cut this stuff up.

The last picture was a natural edge bowl that I roughed out and just had to take a picture of this grain. Being a 22 year old, growing up as a 90’s kid, Nickelodeon was constantly on the t.v.. One of my favorite shows as a kid was “Hey Arnold”. This grain looks exactly like the shape of Arnold’s head, it has the football shape, and even close to the same haircut! The second to last picture was a 10×5.5 fruit bowl with some awesome grain streaking through. Last but not least the first three pictures are of a bowl I just roughed out about 2 hours ago. I had seen the design of the footed bowl multiple times, whether that being some one using deep grip jaws on their chuck and trying to fancy up the tenon left on the bowl. In my case I was turning a big, soaking wet, piece of heavy sweet gum and decided to turn the inside with my faceplate attached to the bottom of the bowl. I thought about putting a few beads on the foot, but decided just to make a layered look using a skew chisel, and working my way down from level to level. I can’t decide if I like this look yet, so any input you guys/gals have on this I would love to hear your opinion.

As far as the quality of the wood, I love how this stuff turns. If you have ever turned any kind of wood from the hickory family, its very similar to that but a bit better. You know when your turning a piece and its just flying off in long strings, well, this is what every piece has consistently done for me. The smell isn’t as strong as most woods such as cherry, locust, or walnut, but still has a very subtle sweet smell to it. Since all I have at this point are roughed out bowls, I haven’t really got to play with what kind of finishes look best yet. So far the wood looks similar to a ambrosia maple almost with the white grain and the brown streaks, but it doesn’t have the goldish tent to the white grain. If anybody else has any advice/experience with Sweetgum please inform a young buck! Thanks Guys!

4 comments so far

View CSmithWoodturnings's profile


24 posts in 2581 days

#1 posted 10-02-2014 11:54 PM

sorry for the picture quality on the first 3. I took these on my iPhone and didn’t realize they were this unclear.

View Rockbuster's profile


499 posts in 3852 days

#2 posted 10-03-2014 11:50 AM

Nice looking stuff, should look even better when finished. Are you sure it is sweet gum? Don’t forget, Buckeye and Chestnut all have the same type spiny fruit.

-- Rockbuster,Ft. Wayne,In It is far better to remain silent, and appear the fool, than it is to open ones mouth, and remove all doubt.

View Todd's profile


421 posts in 2920 days

#3 posted 10-03-2014 03:47 PM

I like it! Very unique looking. I’m not a turner but I can’t imagine it could have been turned any better!

-- Todd, Huntsville, AL

View leafherder's profile


1986 posts in 3195 days

#4 posted 10-03-2014 06:51 PM

Sweet Gum – trees are beautiful, seed balls are a nuisance, wood can be difficult but is worth the effort. There is a reason that the latin name is liquidamber – some sources say it is because of the beautiful fall foliage in shades of red orange and gold, others say it is because of the sticky sap that crystalizes in the bark as the wood dries after it is cut. I had one of these trees in my yard for over 30 years – it became infested with carpenter ants and had to be cut down, I was only able to save two pieces: one became a very attractive cane that my mother used after knee replacement surgery (see my project Sweet Cane), the other piece is a solid chunk from the trunk that I have been reluctant to try working with because I know that sticky sap is now dried as hard as rock. :)

As you learned, the wood can be very beautiful. Great job on the bowls. Thanks for posting

-- Leafherder

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