Green Elm Wood Bowl Project

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Project by RobertJ posted 01-18-2013 05:22 PM 3406 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Twice a week I drove by my favorite firewood yard to no avail. I was running out of green wood to turn when two tons of Elm arrived. Logs were up to 3 feet in diameter and weighed up to 350 lbs because of the high water content. It took two pickup loads to satisfy my eagerness to try turning this wood. Because the logs appear neutral in color I’m assuming this is American Elm not Red Elm. However, when you put boiled linseed oil on it the wood turns deep reddish brown (heartwood) and creamy white (sapwood). Fuzzy definitive grain patterns are very defined after applying oil. PS, the small blank on top of the rear log is a piece of english walnut.

I received the logs on 1/4/13 and have turned the 3 bowls shown with finishing progressing as shown on 1/17/13. The wood remains very moist but seems fairly stable. The shallow bowl is 13 3/4” diameter x 3 3/8”, the deeper bowl is 12 3/4” diameter x 4” and the vessel is 12” x 5 3/4”. I applied boiled linseed oil early to see what the grain and color will look like (since I have so much of this wood!).

The larger bowl (rear right) has the pith on the sides and cracked up to the rim but seems stable now with CA glue and sawdust sealing the cracks.

There seems to be some slight elongation in the open bowls but the rim remains stable. I must wait patiently now for the bowls to dry out to see if the wood will continue to warp. From what I have read the elm was used for water pipe many years ago and that it is in fact a stable wood. But that depends on what species I actually have here. Is it really American Elm or is it Red Elm? It’s one of the two. There are no small knots present. The grain has a U-shape pattern. There are the tell-tale tiny “tire track” patterns between the main growth rings. There are no color layers in the bark and the sapwood is creamy white. I didn’t think that Ameican Elm would turn such a deep brown…look at how light the log ends are! As the water works its way through the linseed oil the wood lightens back to a grey color but the brown returns with re-application of oil.

Anyhow, I will follow up to let you know if these bowls hold their shape.

Much fun. The wood definetely has an unpleasant smell when turned green. Hollowing out the vessel was frightening at best. Some catches caused the Oneway faceplate to unthread and tool handles to give my face shield a solid slap. I used a standard bowl gouge (1/2” and 3/4”) to rough it out and then a curved scraper to smooth it out. A chunk of the CA glued bark came flying off and I had to hand cut a piece of bark from another log and glue it in place.

Happy Turning!

-- RobertJ, Southern California

6 comments so far

View wooded's profile


371 posts in 3559 days

#1 posted 01-18-2013 07:00 PM

Robert, Great looking wood and work!.....................;-J

-- Joe in Pueblo West, Colo.

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 3912 days

#2 posted 01-18-2013 07:06 PM

Beautiful bowls Robert. Happy turning back at u.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View a1Jim's profile


118297 posts in 4864 days

#3 posted 01-18-2013 07:06 PM

Very nice turnings Robert ,they looks very nice.


View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 3461 days

#4 posted 01-18-2013 09:51 PM

Incredible turning buddy!

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View cosmicturner's profile


403 posts in 4683 days

#5 posted 01-19-2013 01:15 AM

Really nice work…you have pleasing form…my only concern is boiled linseed oil food safe…only concerned for you and family….nice bowls….

-- Cosmicturner

View tamboti's profile


207 posts in 4429 days

#6 posted 01-19-2013 06:50 AM

Hi Well done. If you are concerned about cracks try thinning done your finish or for food safe use liquid paraffin which you bye at the pharmacy. Regards Tamboti

-- Africa is not for sissies

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