When wood turning, why is my wood checking?

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Forum topic by BassBully posted 11-30-2010 04:54 AM 4220 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4513 days

11-30-2010 04:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: lathe wood turning checking

When wood turning bowls, the end grain section always seems to contain checks or pits in the wood. This is quite frustrating because it seems that the only way around it is to sand the piece to death. My first instinct is to check the gouges to make sure they are sharp and they are. That said, I use a General International grinder with a pretty fine stone for sharpening. I’m not sure the grit to be honest but what should I be using there? Any other tips for sharpening? I’m pretty competent at sharpening as I also sharpen my woodcarving knives and don’t run into problems there.

My next thought is the wood that I’m using which is spalted maple. That said, maple is typically a fine grained and strong wood but could the spalting have something to do with weakening the wood?

Then, I’m using a Barracude2 wood chuck from Penn State Industries. This chuck has had great reviews but I seem to have a few problems with it. Again, this could be all my fault but my typical problem is that when I turn the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over and put it in the chuck, it doesn’t seem to rotate exactly on center and always has a slight wobble.

I would blame my lathe but I have two and run into the same problem with both. My first lathe was a Jet mini lathe and my new one is an Old Delta 46-450 12” wood lathe that I recently purchased for $150. It seems to be in good shape though.

Thank You for any advice on this.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

4 replies so far

View lew's profile


12801 posts in 4172 days

#1 posted 11-30-2010 05:19 PM

Have you tried adding a bowl scraper to your turning tool arsenal? For me, the scraper is very effective for removing wood and leaving less to sand- but I still have to sand!

Also, I have read about lightly spritzing the wood surface with water. It is supposed to raise the end grain to allow more effective cutting. Although, I admit I haven’t tried it.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 4129 days

#2 posted 11-30-2010 06:02 PM

Where do I start, spritzing the wood is a good way of getting rid of the small surface cracks, I sharpen my gouge once right before I am finished, I do one final cut and I am done. As for the wobble you speak of make sure that the shoulder on your tenon is fitting inside the chuck properly, if its to big or to small it will not fit and will want to walk out of the chuck.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View Big_Bob's profile


173 posts in 4125 days

#3 posted 12-01-2010 11:53 PM


It sounds like you may have two problems.
I would suspect you are getting tear-out that would explain the pitting. Usually that is a technique issue. Use of a bowl gouge is not an easy skill to master, but when you do you become a great fan of the bowl gouge. A properly cut bowl bottom will need very little sanding. As for the bowl scraper, remember it is just a finishing tool. If you dig deep with a scraper you will also get tear-out.
The cracking could be from the heat build-up during the sanding process. Also, never try to sand-out the tear-out (pitting) that just creates more heat and more cracking. You will grow old trying to sand out the tear-out.
I would suggest you look for someone to work with you. It looks like you are near Des Moines, Iowa this link can help you find the woodturning club in Des Moines.

A club is a great place to improve your woodturning skills.

-- Bob Clark, Tool Collector and Sawdust Maker

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4513 days

#4 posted 12-02-2010 08:40 PM

Thanks guys. I’ll give those things a try.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

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