Green vs. dried walnut bowl blanks

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Forum topic by CanfelinWoodWorks posted 01-10-2019 11:46 PM 757 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View CanfelinWoodWorks's profile


30 posts in 2525 days

01-10-2019 11:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: wood woodturning walnut bowl bowl blank turning lathe question

Long time lurker, first thread (so be gentle)!

I have the opportunity to purchase some 12” x 12” by 10’ walnut beams to make into turning blanks…I’ve been commissioned to make a collection of large salad bowls, so the blanks would be cut to 12” x 12” x 5”. The seller says they are green, which in my experience usually means a moisture content of between 25% and 30%.

For those of you who turn green wood, is walnut pretty stable as it dries, especially at such a large size? I’m trying to alleviate making the $$ investment in these large, beautiful beams then losing all my pieces because of cracking/checking.

The investment, BTW, would be $500 per beam. He has sent me photos, and they look pretty clean (only about 1/4” of pith on one corner that would be bandsawed off).

Thanks for reading and commenting…feedback is much appreciated!

8 replies so far

View RonGreenbush's profile


6 posts in 1638 days

#1 posted 01-11-2019 12:34 AM

In my opinion walnut is pretty stable. I have a bunch of it and have turned a bunch of it. If it is green you are either going to turn the bowls quite thin to hopefully eliminate warping and cracking. My experience with green turning to thin has been that the bowl still warps to some degree. Some people like this, I personally don’t.

Another approach is to rough turn them and then let them dry (when they have stopped losing weight they are dry) after you have sealed them (sealed with anchorseal, or…). When rough turning the rule is to make the thickness 10% the diameter of the bowl. So if your bowl is 10” rough turned you would want the thickness to be at least 1”. They will warp to some degree but with a 10% thickness you should be able to turn the “warp” out.

For me (a frugal turner), that is an awful price to pay for your wood. I am not saying that the beams are not worth it. Are you selling your bowls at a price to make up for your investment? You should be able to either get your wood free or get a better price. You also might want to have bowl blanks that size cored. If you don’t have the equipment find a turner with coring equipment. If you are only getting one bowl out of a 12×12 x 5 blank that would be a waste of walnut.

-- Ron, Greenbush

View doubleDD's profile


10170 posts in 3060 days

#2 posted 01-11-2019 02:21 AM

Ron has a lot of good things to say in the above post. My experience with green walnut wood (and by green I mean freshly cut trees) is that 25 to 40% of the wood will not be able to be used for its intended purpose cause of the cracks. Not saying that you won’t be able to utilize the cracked ones to bring up the percentage, it’s just going to change the size of all your pieces. Now you’re saying you think the moisture is 25-30%. That will help a lot but paying $500. for green wood would not be an option for me.
I had the opportunity to obtain a walnut log 15’ long by 15-18’’ in diameter so I took it. I cut it in 3’ lengths and sealed the heck out of them. Took 3 of those pieces and made cut boards out of them and a lot of different size bowl blanks. Now I still have a lot of that wood but as a crack develops here and there, I’ll have to re cut those pieces and make something smaller. My wood was free so whatever I use it for is a plus. That’s why I say I would hesitate to buy green wood in a large size. As we speak I have 3 honey locust bowl blanks that are 12×12 x 7’’ They are down to 25% moisture and half turned. They are still showing cracks.
Just my opinion with any green wood if you’re going to purchase it.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Lazyman's profile


6694 posts in 2404 days

#3 posted 01-11-2019 03:24 AM

I haven’t tried it myself yet but I’ve seen a couple of articles (here's one but there are several others as well) where they prevent cracking by soaking the rough turned bowls in a solution of dishwashing detergent and water. Supposedly it prevents all cracks. I’ve been meaning to try it.

BTW, just to make sure, I assume that the 12×12x5” blanks are NOT going to be cut across the the grain like cookies, correct? That would be the worst way to slice it up for making bowls, IMO. Cross cut blanks will result in the worst possible cracking, not to mention the most difficult grain orientation for hollowing out a bowl. The best way to get 12×12x5” blanks would be to cut 12×12x12” blocks from the beam and then cut them in half along the grain.

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

View OSU55's profile


2740 posts in 3006 days

#4 posted 01-11-2019 01:36 PM

~$5/bd ft seems very high for wet uncut walnut but theres a lot of walnut in MO where I live. Just make sure your price covers it and it wont matter.

Lazyman makes an excellent point about blank orientation – do not cut end grain blanks.

Dealing with wet wood- only cut the blanks you can turn in a few days and and let dry keep those blanks covered with plastic or a closed box to prevent evap. If you want “ straight” bowls rough turn wet to 10% dia then box or bag in kraft paper with chips and put in a preferably environmentally controlled environment – the house. Weigh after pkg up, and finish cut after they stop losing weight. A cheap 10# digital kitchen scale works great.

Yes you will get some cracks and potentially lose a few. Most cracking can be dealt with with CA glue and/or epoxy plus fillers if desired. I do quite a bit of this – highly figured wood that looks very good also likes to crack.

View Lazyman's profile


6694 posts in 2404 days

#5 posted 01-11-2019 03:09 PM

As OSU55 points out, filling the cracks will help you salvage any bowls that crack. I’ve used turquoise sand in beetle holes that I bought on Amazon. It would look amazing with walnut. I simply put the sand into holes and cracks and drip in CA until all of the gaps are filled. You have to complete the turning before you do that because you don’t want to use your gouges with the rocks in the wood. I use a dremel and carbide bit and/or sanding drums to level the turquoise and then mount it back on the lathe for some aggressive sanding, working up through the grits and then apply a finish. I have also experimented with brass powder inlay with epoxy which would also look pretty awesome with the walnut. You add enough brass powder to the epoxy (at least 10 minute to give time to fill before it sets) so that it is almost like a dough consistency and fill the holes, leaving them just a little proud. I used carbide turning tools to relevel the surface and then sand to at least 600 grit. If you have enough brass in the epoxy, it will actually polish up just like brass and looks pretty cool. Note that if the holes and cracks are fairly deep, you will want to simply fill with epoxy first and only use the other materials on the top layer.

Edit: Note that unless you plan to finish the bowl with CA, any CA that drips into the wood surrounding the crack could leave a little bit of a ring as it soaks into to the grain so you may want to apply a little bit if finish or wax around any cracks first to help prevent that. You can sand that off before applying your final finish.

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

View soob's profile


271 posts in 2225 days

#6 posted 01-11-2019 03:31 PM

Walnut isn’t an ideal wood for salad bowls, nor is it ideal to get your material from large cants as they tend to have a lot of surface cracking and defects. And 12” is a bit small, I think. Unless someone insists on walnut you’re better off making them from something else. IMO.

I don’t think $5/ft is unreasonable for 12” wide walnut, though, especially if it’s mostly heartwood and doesn’t have pith in the center.

View Wildwood's profile


2948 posts in 3151 days

#7 posted 01-11-2019 08:14 PM

Have turned both hard and soft maple mixing and serving bowls for few customers over the years from wood harvested. Also turned hard maple rolling pins where customer supplied the wood. Bowl customers selected from roughed out bowls think largest mixing bowls about 11 3/4” diameter and serving bowls between 5 & 6” diameter and finished with mineral oil.

Did turn a teak bowl 14” diameter 6 1/2” deep that became a sink on a sail boat where customer supplied the wood.

Not sure would even think about using Walnut wood for turning from green to dry and paying $500 per Walnut beam with out inspecting them with customer and they paid for the wood. There is a lot of reasons for conducting business that way.

Found air drying rough blank and setting aside to dry least expensive in both time and money for me and my customers. This from a guy that has given away just as many bowls as sold. Won’t mention those that sent to firewood pile.

-- Bill

View CanfelinWoodWorks's profile


30 posts in 2525 days

#8 posted 01-17-2019 05:19 PM

Thanks for all of the great tips from using the walnut, to prices, to shaping, to cutting! I really appreciate the insight.

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