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Turning Douglas Fir

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Forum topic by bruc101 posted 08-13-2018 06:43 PM 1053 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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bruc101

1343 posts in 3959 days


08-13-2018 06:43 PM

I’ve been asked to turn 26 deck rail post, 3” wide x 34” high out of Douglas Fir. The person that asked me to do this has a whole pile of 4×8 Douglas Fir post that he wants me to use.

I’ve never turned Douglas Fir. Any pros and cons would be greatly appreciated.

-- Bruce Free Plans https://traditionalwoodworking.org


9 replies so far

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

2671 posts in 2552 days


#1 posted 08-13-2018 07:47 PM

Lot depends upon moisture content if to wet post will crack as they dry. Would definitely want to get moisture meter reading on them before installing.

Would look at Table 13-2 on page 5 for guidence on MC before start turning.

https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr190/chapter_13.pdf

Turning DF can be a blessing or curse, definitely need really sharp tools. If these post come from a home center no telling how well they will turn even if wood has reached EMC. May end up using filler on tear outs, no problem if painting those spindle just takes little more time.

Best to advise man wanting the post may have some cracking after installation or adding filler before installation.

-- Bill

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bruc101

1343 posts in 3959 days


#2 posted 08-13-2018 08:23 PM

Thanks for the info Bill. He said the post have been in a metal building for a year, and they do get painted. I’ll check out the link you put up for me and I’ll also go to his home with a MM and check the moisture in them.

-- Bruce Free Plans https://traditionalwoodworking.org

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

405 posts in 3499 days


#3 posted 08-13-2018 11:34 PM

I started practice turning on my lathe using scraps of douglas fir 2×4s. The coarse grain likes to split off large chunks. Some of that may also have been inexperience. Keep your tools sharp and ride the bevel. Scraping will probably result in a lot or tear-out.

Also, look at the ends and try to avoid the pith. Most home store 4×4s are from the center of the log. 4×8s might be the same, although you may get lucky and the pith is off to the side so you get one good half from each beam.

-- Steve

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bruc101

1343 posts in 3959 days


#4 posted 08-14-2018 12:39 AM

Thanks Steve for your info, and that gives me more to look out for. As many post as he wants turned, I’ll be using a duplicator. I’ll turn a few post to experiment and learn on before I jump on the rest of them.

-- Bruce Free Plans https://traditionalwoodworking.org

View David's profile

David

76 posts in 2444 days


#5 posted 08-14-2018 10:32 AM

All the advice above is sound. I have used sanding sealer on DF before turning, a heavy coat of the sanding sealer tightens the grain and helps with the chipping. It dose not stop it but it helps. Also high speeds and lighter cuts can be helpful as well .

-- http://littleredshop.net "A man that works with his hands, knows his soul" " Have Fun, Go Fast, and Take Chances for Christ's Sake!!"

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Lazyman

3518 posts in 1804 days


#6 posted 08-14-2018 12:48 PM

IMO, It may actually be easier to turn if they are not as as dry. DF is fairly brittle and even more prone to breaking off in chunks when completely dry. Splitting is going to be a problem anyway so you might want to consider using Anchor Seal to seal the ends after cutting to length regardless. The ends are not going to be visible when installed so the AS won’t affect the appearance.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Wildwood's profile

Wildwood

2671 posts in 2552 days


#7 posted 08-15-2018 01:14 PM

When turning fir for outside use you want it as close to EMC as possible. That still won’t stop splitting, tear out as you turn or cracking after installation later on.

Turning fir no different than any other hardwood, mo better if talking about old growth fir and not construction grade 4×8’s. Today’s construction grade fir may contain knots and or pith and prone to splitting, tearout, and cracking later on.

Using thinned lacquer (sanding sealer) my help before turning. Painting (oil or latex base) both ends after turning could also help.

Think can over come any those problem if use the right wood filler. Could be wrong but don’t imagine all those spindles will need wood filler but choosing the right exterior grade wood filler should give you good service after installation. Before begin the project need to talk enduser about additional cost and time with him.

Selecting a good exterior use wood filler a project in itself. Here are some that might want to check reviews on: Dap Plastic Outdoor Wood Filler, Minwax High Performance Wood Filler or 3M Bondo Home Solution Wood Filler. Would definitely involved the enduser in this process.

-- Bill

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REO

929 posts in 2491 days


#8 posted 08-15-2018 11:16 PM

what kind of duplicator. do you have it already or plan to purchase for the job.

View bruc101's profile

bruc101

1343 posts in 3959 days


#9 posted 08-15-2018 11:53 PM


what kind of duplicator. do you have it already or plan to purchase for the job.

- REO

We’ve got a commercial Vega lathe with the Vega duplicator on it in our millwork shop and that’s where I would turn that many post.
This is the duplicator I use in my home workshop.
http://lumberjocks.com/bruc101/blog/120857

Thanks guys for all your suggestions and I really appreciate them and your effort to tell me about them. I went to his home today and looked at the DF. We don’t see much of it here and I’ve never worked it on any project. The moisture ran anywhere from 12% to 18% on the post I checked.

I went into our warehouse today and found a good many 12” x 12” Cypress shorts left over from a timber frame job we did last Spring. Lengths ran from 3 ft. up to about 4 ft. I figure I could get about 18 post out of them so I may use them and the rest in his DF.

I brought three of the DF post back with me and will give it a try on them Saturday. I’m going to try some of your suggestions before I tell him…maybe we need to order you some more Cypress.

Once again I thank all of you for your suggestions. You’ve opened my eyes per say about working DF.

-- Bruce Free Plans https://traditionalwoodworking.org

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