Where Do We Get Our Wood?

While some of the wood we use are exotics that we need to buy from a supplier, much of the wood we use comes from local sources. Northeast Florida has some great woods for turning.

One thing that really helps is a friend that keeps their eyes and ears open for any downed wood. This week one of our friends that is exceptionally good at spotting wood gave us a call, letting us know that a beautiful cherry tree had just been cut down on a golf course he was playing on.

Today a couple of us trooped down to scope it out. We’ve cut trees on golf courses before, so know enough to turn off the saws when the golfers are playing through. It turned out that this was a great tree, good size and straight and the golf course maintenance staff had already cut it down. We all had chainsaws and hit the tree like a bunch of amped up beavers.

Keith and our trail of wood

Actually, we’ve done this enough that we can cut up a tree pretty quickly and more importantly, do it safely. It turned out we got over thirty nice pieces of wood in less than an hour, filling three pickups and an SUV.

However, that’s not the end of the job. Once a piece of wood is cut, it starts to dry. However, it doesn’t dry evenly, so if it is not handled correctly it begins to “check” or split, rendering the wood useless.

So after I got home I had to start processing the wood into rough blanks. This ended up taking longer than cutting up the tree. First the pith, needs to be cut out, since this is where most of the checking starts from. Then the wood is slabbed for bowls or cut into squares for making hollowforms or spindles.

Then there is only one additional step. Once all the blanks are cut, they can still start to split, so the endgrain of the blanks needs to be covered in wax, to slow down the drying process. Balancing the drying process between endgrain and side grain is the only way to prevent checking.

Cherry blanks, all waxed

Now I can at least rest for tonight. Tomorrow I can decide whether I want to turn these blanks green (without drying) and then go through a whole different process to keep the pieces from cracking, or wait until these pieces dry. To fully dry blanks of this size, I’ll have to wait four to five years.

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