Tree to Bowl – Understanding and Handling Wood For Turning

In by Kent W24 Comments


  1. Yikes! Help!

    My loving husband did me a “favor” and cut a large amount of beautifully figured/spalted ash into bowl length sections. Unfortunately, they are a little short – meaning he didn’t add many inches of excess to allow for cracking.

    So, now the clock is ticking for me to get them to a hopefully stable state. There are probably 40 log pieces that need to be cut down the middle and ends sealed. I need to act fast.

    My question is, given the volume of logs to process, does it make a huge difference if I cut them in half once down the middle of the pith vs. cutting out the pith completely? 40 cuts down the middle is 40 cuts. Cutting out the pith completely is 80 cuts! Realistically, not gonna happen. But I want to give it my best shot.

    I will seal the ends with anchorseal. And I’ll round as many as I can manage on the bandsaw and seal them as well. I expect to lose some. Probably a lot. But I hope to get as many of them processed as possible.

    The logs are under cover and thankfully it’s raining here in Virginia so moisture loss is at a minimum at the moment.

    So, one cut down the middle and hope for the best? Or be picky about each piece, choose the best, and cut out the pith?

    Got my work cut out for me this weekend!


    1. Author


      Thank you for writing and sharing!
      Great question! Yes, one cut down the middle is fine. Just pass through the pith area as close as possible.

      Take your time with each one and find that balanced centerline through the pith. Remember, it’s more important later that you find the balanced distance from the pith to the sides than simply lopping the logs in half. You will have more balanced-looking bowls later if you take that time now. Be sure to review this lesson >

      Also, if the logs are short, consider cutting quarter-sawn sections out of several logs. They will yield smaller bowls, but quarter-sawn sections will dry more evenly and render stunning grain patterns. Yes, a little more work, but well worth the effort.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

      1. Thanks for the quarter sawn suggestion. It hadn’t occurred to me. I went back and reviewed that section of this course. Will definitely cut some that way. I assume I’ll still want to seal the ends?

        I appreciate your guidance and support. I look forward to harvesting some tenderloins!

        1. Author


          Glad you are going to give quarter-sawn a shot. Yes, seal the end-grain the same. All the best to you and Happy Turning!

    2. Such a good course—thank you! I am now ready to start prepping some gifted logs (cyprus and birch—both cut a week ago). I love the focus on experimentation and I have enough to try some different storing and once and twice turned bowls. Appreciate it!

      1. Author


        Fantastic! Enjoy the process and have fun with those trees!

        All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  2. I finished the tree to bowl course. Didn’t expect to learn so much at my age (74). Only started this hobby 1 1/2 year ago due to lock downs for Corona. Wood has become a whole new world , I can’t pass a tree without thinking what I can make of it and how this wood looks like after turning it.
    Thank you for this course,
    Cheers Hans.

    1. Author

      Thank you for writing and sharing! I’m so glad you enjoyed and learned from the course.

      Trees really are special in so many ways! And I’m glad you see them differently now. 😉

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  3. I want to buy the online woodbowl turning course but do not want to use paypall. Can I directly pay with VISA or what we normally use in my country “IDEAL” ?

    1. Author

      Thank you for writing and asking! Yes, you can purchase the courses using your credit card. Look under the main “Pay with Paypal” button and you will see a “Pay with Debit or Credit Card” button in grey. Click that button and you will be able to pay without having a Paypal account.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  4. Kent,
    Most excellent course! I’ve learned and put in to practice a ton from this. Thank you.
    Two questions:
    1: If I have an equalized rough turned bowl and believe it to be “dry” for the final turning, what are the risks if it leaves my particular climate? Two of my children live in very different climates then what I live in. if I turn a bowl that here is equalized and crack free, what (precautions / risks) might there be going in to completely different climates?
    2: If you over dry a bowl, do you need it to equalize in the other direction? I have a couple rough out bowls that I’m experimenting with the microwave and one I over dried (partly by design to see what will happen) It has been gaining weight once I stopped putting it in the microwave. Do you run a risk if you final turn it while it is still gaining water weight back?
    Thank you,

    1. Author

      Thanks for being a part of this course!
      1) Changing climates isn’t going to be much of an issue unless the two climates are very different and the change happens extremely fast. Usually, the wood will adapt over a couple of days. Did you know that master artwork is stored in the shipping crates at museums for about 48 hrs after arriving to allow the crate and the art to adjust to the new environment? Wood is similar.
      2) I’m not sure you can over-dry in the microwave. Typically, even if the microwave gets very hot, there is still moisture present. Now, if you used a drying box and over-dried the piece by removing moisture, that’s a different story. And yes, in this case the piece will weigh less and then gain weight as it absorbs moisture from the air.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  5. Kent, thank you for developing this course and your others as well. I have learned to turn from the internet. I’ve been at it almost 2 years and in all that time, with all the “turners”/”instructors” that I’ve watched and read about, your content is by far the most valuable and I might add accurate too. Your videos are all extremely well done and quite instructional. When I witness you teaching a segment, I can take it to the bank it’s a correct way to perform that function. Your approach seems to come across more as trying to teach others to become better woodturners and not to “show off” your personal skills. To me, that’s important. Keep up the great work. I highly recommend this and your other e-courses to anyone with even the slightest interest in our craft. Thanks

    1. Author

      If you could see me, I’m doing a gentle bow of gratitude towards you.
      Thank you very much for your kind words!
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  6. Kent, you many, many times speak about cracking and the negative effects from it. I’m new to turning so I’m wondering: Why are cracks “bad”? What happens if you turn a piece of wood that is cracked? I am really enjoying the course!

    1. Author

      Hm? Interesting point. Sorta like “weeds.” Weeds are only unwanted plants. If you are ok with cracks, then no problem. I suppose cracks are a concern mainly because they present structural issues with the wood and can lead to the destruction of a piece. If the crack is not structural and has stopped growing and you like them, more power to you! Of course, they can be filled and highlighted with color fills, etc. as well.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

      1. Can a cracked bowl blank “shatter” or come apart while spinning on the lathe? Is that what you mean by “they present structural issues with the wood and can lead to the destruction of a piece”? That sounds like a good thing to avoid, despite wearing a protective face shield and goggles?
        Or is the “destruction” usually occur after being turned?
        Thanks again so much and I’m loving your website and your course. There’s so much free information on your site but I don’t hesitate to support your site by enrolling in classes. I’ve taken one and I plan on taking the other two!
        Thanks again!

        1. Author

          Thank you kindly for your support!
          A bowl can come apart on the lathe. We obviously want to avoid that. Lathe speed and wood selection are the main ways to avoid these issues.

  7. I just completed this course. And I find it gives a lot of god advice on what to do when you are not turning. How to avoid craks in the fine wood you just got from a friend…. And a lot more 😃

    1. Author

      Thank you kindly! Yes, this course is designed to answer all those questions about the wood gathering and preparation process before turning. I’m glad you benefited and thank you for joining! Remember, you can come back whenever you’d like. Enjoy and Happy Turning!

      1. Kent,
        I completed my first trip thru the your greenwood program! Over the last couple of weeks I have been using the things I learned to cement them in my mind.
        I will be reviewing the info many times in the future.

        There is a tremendous amount of information in this course, and you’re other two courses. Allowing continued access to your courses is the reason I invested my time and money. Add to that your website and YouTube videos, and I have confidence I will have success.

        Thanks very much for helping me succeed.

        1. Author

          Thank you for writing and sharing your kind words!
          I’m so happy you are on your way to making the bowls you imagine.
          It’s an exciting path and I wish you all the best and Happy Turning!

  8. I plan on buying this course, but I’d like to know what tools are required. I looked at the “suggested tools” part of this website, but it isn’t designed to show what I’m interested in, instead it’s designed to mention all possible usable tools. If I must acquire all those tools before I start the course, it will be another year.
    Where is the list of tools required (or desired) to run this course? Is it in the lesson we don’t have access to?

    1. Author

      Good question. The basic tools for gathering wood for turning will depend on the size and amount of wood you are considering. A medium-sized chainsaw is about the minimum requirement. Small to medium logs can be processed and roughed out with just a chainsaw. A band-saw makes nicer round bowl blanks, but is not necessary. Other than that, some end-grain sealer is about the only other thing you’ll need.
      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

Leave a Comment