Which wood is best for turning? Is it better to turn wood wet or dry?

In the intricate realm of woodturning, where craftsmanship and creativity converge, the choice of wood becomes an art in itself. “Which wood is best for turning?” becomes a central question for artisans seeking to breathe life into their creations. Concurrently, the inquiry “Is it better to turn wood wet or dry?” adds a layer of complexity, prompting craftsmen to navigate the delicate balance between moisture content and turning techniques. As we embark on this exploration, we unravel the unique characteristics of various wood species and scrutinize the advantages and considerations associated with turning wood in different states of moisture.

Join us in this journey to decipher the secrets behind selecting the optimal wood and mastering the intricate dance between wet and dry woodturning.

Which wood is best for turning?

Which wood is best for turning

Wood used for turning encompasses a vast array of species, each with its unique properties that influence its suitability for different projects. Beyond the mentioned popular choices, other woods are frequently employed in woodturning, offering a diverse range of characteristics.

Rosewood: Known for its rich, dark colors and distinct fragrance, rosewood is often utilized for decorative turning. It can yield finely detailed pieces and exhibits excellent finishing qualities.

Hickory: Hickory is a hard and durable wood with a coarse texture. While it can be challenging to work with, it is prized for its strength and shock resistance, making it suitable for items like tool handles.

Sycamore: Sycamore is a light-colored wood with a fine grain, often used for spindle turning and bowl making. It turns smoothly and takes finishes well.

Teak: Teak is a tropical hardwood renowned for its natural oils, which contribute to its resistance to decay and insects. It has a beautiful golden-brown color and is commonly used for outdoor turning projects.

Purpleheart: This exotic hardwood, as the name suggests, features a striking purple hue. It is popular for adding vibrant accents to turned projects and is prized for its durability.

Boxwood: Boxwood is a dense, fine-grained wood that turns exceptionally well. It has been historically used for creating small, intricate turned items such as chess pieces and tool handles.

Ebony: Ebony is known for its deep black color and fine texture. It is often chosen for ornamental turning, creating contrasting details in finely crafted pieces.

When selecting wood for turning, factors such as moisture content, grain orientation, and figure (patterns in the wood) also play crucial roles. Additionally, the availability of the wood and sustainability considerations may influence a turner’s choice. Experimenting with different types of wood allows woodturners to broaden their skills and discover the unique characteristics of each species for diverse and creative projects.

Is Pine a good turning wood?

Is Pine a good turning wood

While pine is commonly used in woodworking, it is not typically considered an ideal wood for woodturning, especially for more intricate or decorative projects. Pine is a softwood with a relatively low density, which can make it prone to tear-out and splintering when turned on a lathe. The wood fibers in pine are not as tightly packed as those in hardwoods, which can affect the quality of the turned surface.

However, some turners may choose to work with pine for certain projects, particularly those that don’t require fine detail or intricate turning. Pine can be suitable for larger, more rustic items or pieces where a softer, less dense wood is preferred. Additionally, it is readily available and relatively inexpensive, making it a popular choice for beginners who are learning the basics of woodturning.

If you decide to turn pine, it’s essential to use sharp tools, work at slower speeds, and pay attention to grain direction to minimize tear-out and achieve a smoother finish. Ultimately, while pine may not be the first choice for advanced or detailed woodturning, it can still be a practical option for certain applications, depending on the desired outcome and the turner’s skill level.

Is it better to turn wood wet or dry?

The decision to turn wood when it is wet or dry depends on several factors, including the type of wood, the intended project, and personal preferences. Both green (wet) and seasoned (dry) wood have their advantages and disadvantages in woodturning, and turners often choose based on the characteristics they desire in the finished piece.

Turning Wet Wood (Green Turning)

Easier to Turn: Green wood is generally softer and more pliable than dry wood, making it easier to shape and turn on the lathe. This can be advantageous for beginners or when working on larger pieces.

Less Tear-Out: Wet wood tends to have fewer issues with tear-out and splintering because the moisture content helps to lubricate the cutting action, resulting in a smoother surface finish.

Natural Warping: Green wood is more prone to warping and movement as it dries. Turners who prefer a natural, organic look may appreciate the subtle warping that occurs during the drying process.

Cracking and Checking: Green wood is more susceptible to cracking and checking as it dries. To minimize this risk, turners often apply sealants to the ends of freshly cut green wood to slow down the drying process.

Thicker Sections Possible: With wet wood, turners have the flexibility to create thicker sections in their projects since the wood will shrink as it dries.

Turning Dry Wood (Seasoned Turning)

Stability: Dry wood is more stable than green wood because it has reached equilibrium with the surrounding environment. This stability reduces the risk of warping and movement after the turning process is complete.

Predictable Size: Seasoned wood has already undergone shrinkage, allowing turners to work with a more predictable and consistent size, which is advantageous for projects with specific dimensional requirements.

Hardness: Dry wood tends to be harder than wet wood, which can be an advantage for achieving fine details and intricate turning.

Less Checking: Unlike green wood, dry wood is less prone to checking and cracking during the turning process. This makes it a more forgiving material for turners, especially those focused on precision.

Finishing Ease: Dry wood is generally easier to sand and finish, as the surface is more stable and less likely to fuzz or raise the grain during the finishing process.

Ultimately, the decision to turn wet or dry wood is dependent on both the turner’s personal preferences and the specific goals of the project at hand. Some turners enjoy the immediacy and ease of turning green wood, while others prefer the stability and predictability of working with seasoned wood. Additionally, some turners use a combination of both, employing techniques like rough turning green wood and allowing it to dry before final turning and finishing. Ultimately, experience and experimentation will guide a woodturner in determining the most suitable approach for their individual projects.

How long should wood dry before turning on a lathe?

When preparing wood for turning on a lathe, one must carefully consider the moisture content to ensure optimal results. Ideally, wood should be sufficiently dry before turning, typically with a moisture content ranging between 8-12%. The drying duration varies based on factors such as wood species, thickness, and the chosen drying method. Air drying is a traditional approach, albeit time-consuming, taking several months to even a few years. On the other hand, kiln drying is a more rapid process that provides controlled conditions. Regardless of the method, it’s crucial to be patient and allow the wood to undergo a gradual drying process to prevent potential issues such as warping, checking, or cracking during turning.

Leave a Comment