Beetle Kill Ponderosa Pine Vase

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Project by TZH posted 10-17-2020 01:04 PM 390 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In my almost 18 years of engaging in forestry management and fire mitigation on our property, I’ve never come across a piece of any kind of beetle kill pine that had the color this piece does. I’ve seen the blue stain that is most common. I’ve seen brown stain in some pieces. But I’ve never seen the purplish red stain that’s present in this piece that was supposed to be an experiment that saved the log from the firewood heap. My attitude was if I messed it up, no big loss, right?

Because of the purplish red stain, I classify this as a ‘rare’ find. My original intent was to try a free flow artistic form modeled after fellow Lumberjocks artist(s), Shangri La Woodworks (Scott and Stephanie Shangraw). My attempt doesn’t come close to having the delicate fluting so characteristic of their pieces, but, to be honest, I’m pretty durn happy with the way this piece turned out.

I started with a catty-wompus log and cleaned all the bark off. The angle of the chainsaw cut on the top of the log was kind of what drew me to this log in the first place:

Next step was to drill a center hole to work out from when hogging out the inside depth of the vase. I did this using my antique floor drill press and the largest forstner bit (2 1/8 inches) in my arsenal. It also helped that I had a forstner bit extension that allowed me to get to a depth of 5 3/4 inches:

To get the irregular curvatures around the top of the vase, I used a black magic marker to scribe a rough shape I could live with:

To hog out the center of the vase, I used my ArborTech Mini Planer. The results were a whole lot better than I anticipated they’d be.

From there, it was simply a matter of grinding, shaping, and carving using a variety of tools. The tool that took off the most stock was the three tooth angle grinder grinding wheel pictured below. That tool allowed me to get the tapered shape in the final product. When this grinding wheel wears out, I think I’m going with a six or eight tooth grinding wheel in order to get something I have a little more control of as I’m grinding things down. Also, this grinding wheel is so rough, it tears the wood and causes a need for extra sanding I’m hopeful more teeth on the wheel will minimize the tear-out.

The other tools used included an inflatable sanding drum, a cup rasp on a long neck electric die grinder, a couple different styles of flap sanding wheels for my hand drill, and a whole lot of hand sanding to get the piece nice and smooth. :

The finishing process for this piece was a challenge in that worm tracks and worm holes left by the pine/bark beetles needed to get some varnish deep down into those crevices. My first attempt was to use a spray varnish (won’t do that again because it simply didn’t do a job I was satisfied with). My second attempt was to use an artist’s brush to dab varnish into the holes and wipe off the excess flow drips with a finishing rag as I went. That worked pretty well overall.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to find other pieces in my raw materials pile that have the purplish red staining present in this piece. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve never seen anything like this in any of the wood I’ve worked with in the almost 18 years of doing this. What a find!!!

Comments and feedback are welcome.


-- Where The Spirit In Wood Lives On

6 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile


4794 posts in 2507 days

#1 posted 10-17-2020 03:39 PM

very impressive – the coloring is outstanding and we both know it was screaming at you “please don’t burn me” I wanna be a vase

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Bricofleur's profile


1480 posts in 4078 days

#2 posted 10-17-2020 04:38 PM

Great piece. Hat’s off!


-- Learn from yesterday, work today and enjoy success tomorrow. --

View swirt's profile


5577 posts in 3856 days

#3 posted 10-17-2020 05:21 PM

Beautiful work. I like that you let the top flair upward at an angle. It gives it a nice effect. Does that three toothed shaper wheel for the angle grinder have a name or a brand?

-- Galootish log blog,

View TZH's profile


586 posts in 4025 days

#4 posted 10-17-2020 05:32 PM

Thanks for the positive feedback everyone.

swirt, I don’t remember the brand name of the one I have, but I don’t recommend it and wouldn’t buy it again because it’s so tough to handle and because of tear-out. I also had to scrounge for a flange nut that fit because the one that came with my grinder didn’t fit the wheel’s ‘well’. Minor inconvenience, but I was surprised it didn’t come with it’s own flange nut. I found a six tooth and an 8 tooth wheel on Amazon. I’m thinking the 8 tooth might have the same hogging capability as the 3 and 6 tooth wheels, and it ain’t that expensive either. The 8 tooth wheel apparently comes as a complete set. Link:

-- Where The Spirit In Wood Lives On

View swirt's profile


5577 posts in 3856 days

#5 posted 10-18-2020 01:38 AM

Glad I asked. Thanks @TZH. I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts on the 8 tooth ;)

-- Galootish log blog,

View TZH's profile


586 posts in 4025 days

#6 posted 10-18-2020 01:55 PM

You’re welcome. It’ll be awhile because these things seem to be almost indestructible, and I’m not getting another one until this one goes bad. I guess that’s one of my faults that has developed the older I get…..just not willing to have multiple identical use tools on hand for some reason :)

-- Where The Spirit In Wood Lives On

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