Congratulations Robert, Welcome to the experience. Soon you will become one
with the wood, seeking the Zen my wife calls it.
In answer to your question: by saying you have no complete rings I assume you
mean that the pith was avoided - you should have much fewer problems.
Traditionally turners take a log and split it down the middle and then turn a
bowl out of each half. This reduces the splitting problems. Note reduces
not eliminates. Next you need to slow down the drying of the wood. There
are a number of ways to do this. One is to place it into a paper bag which
slows down the rate at which the moisture escapes by being a permiable
membrane. Another is to use a plastic bag which you seal and every day you
take it out of the bag, turn the bag inside out and put it back into the
bag. Examine the piece before you put it back and if you find a crack then
leave it in the bag for two days before checking it again. Some people weigh
the package and when the weight quits dropping, it is dry - I don't because
you can tell by the feel of the bowl - if it is cool then evaporation is
still occuring and you keep going. Now another point - turn thin - the
thinness allows the moisture to escape and absorb without creating the
stresses that cause the cracking are reduced. I have bowls that have the
pith included but because they are thin enough (>1/4" thick walls) they have
never cracked around the pith. If your project is a spindle type turning,
this is usually not possible because the shape usually has thick portions to
My final point I pass on from my instructor: If you encounter a problem,
sharpen your tool - it probably is the problem (better than 90% depending on
> Well folks,
> I just had to say I finally got to turn a couple pieces of wood on a
> lather after nearly 20 years. The first piece was a two week old piece
> of White Birch about 5 inches in diameter. I was using it as a test
> piece to check out the lathe I had been restoring. As I created more and
> more mulch from this piece, I realized that I was uncovering a nice
> little candlestick (is this the same syndrome that kids have in school
> art class, 'look dad, an ashtray!'??). At least my wife claims to have
> loved it. Something didn't feel right though, I felt like I was
> bludgeoning my way through the wood. I tried sharpening my tools, but to
> no effect.
> Anyway, I finished turning and sanding it and was going to apply a light
> stain followed by a thin paste wax when I noticed a small check in the
> base. Within several hours this check had become about 3/16th of in inch
> wide, quite wide compared to the fairly small base. I realized I had
> turned a piece from the center of the log, so my piece included the heart
> of the wood and many complete growth rings. Will checks be a problem if
> there are no unbroken growth rings in the piece?
> Oh well, I decided that this piece was a goner so I let my kids play with
> it. This time I was going to turn a billet of Black Locust, also cut
> down the same day as the birch. The difference being that I had just
> purchased an aluminum oxide wheel for my grinder and proceded to sharpen
> my tools with it before turning. Holy cow! Within minutes I was sending
> paper thin, 6 inch long shavings from my lathe! It was a wonderful
> feeling! I still dont think my wife understood the look of glee on my
> face behind my face shield! Now I have a taste for what it feels like to
> turn something correctly!
> Anyway, I rough turned this piece (she claims she wants another set like
> the first candlestick, god I love that woman) to a rough shape and have
> been trying to dry it in the microwave very slowly. This piece has no
> complete growth rings in it so I am hoping that checks will be minimized.
> Is this a fair statement or are checks a fact of life no matter what part
> of the tree the stock comes from?
> Any thoughts would be appreciated.
> Any finishing suggestions for either the birch or Black Locust?
> Much thanks to Jack Sims for helping me get this lathe working again.
> Without your help Jack, I wouldnt be writing this.