Preparing your own green wood bowl blanks requires labor and time but the entire green wood bowl blank making process is incredibly rewarding.
Making your own green wood bowl blank is the foundation for the bowl design process. Because you are working with the raw wood at its source, you get to make all the decisions regarding the location of cuts, which will dictate the eventual bowl appearance.
The key is having the right equipment and understanding the process. Here are my recommendations for green wood bowl blank making equipment. Each highlighted link will take you to Amazon where you can check the current price.
A strong gas chainsaw is a must if you are cutting anything larger than about eight to ten inches in diameter. I use an 18″ chainsaw blade that can handle large trees up to and beyond 24″ in diameter.
I really didn’t expect much when I ordered this electric chainsaw. Honestly, I thought I’d end up sending it back. I was pleasantly surprised to say the least! I own a 16″ Greenworks battery operated chainsaw, and it works great. It’s lightweight, super simple to operate, quiet and cuts very well. This type of cordless electric chainsaw is perfect for limbing and cuts up to about 6 to 8 inches in diameter.
This electric chainsaw is so convenient, simple, and clean, I keep it in my car if I think I might come across some wood in a ditch while I’m traveling. An extra charged battery is always a good idea to have on hand when larger projects arise.
There are many good and affordable chain sharpening jigs on the market like the Stihl 2 in 1 Easy File .
I use the Timberline Sharpening Kit (Amazon), which costs a bit more but is worth every penny. With this chainsaw sharpening system, I know I’m at the correct tooth angle (which you need to match to your chain when purchasing). Read the tooth angle details. The sharpening process is simple, just like sharpening a pencil in grade school. After each sharpening, there is a very noticeable improvement in cutting performance.
If you’re cutting often with a chainsaw, you might consider a dedicated bench chainsaw sharpening grinding wheel. This sharpening machine from Oregon Products returns chainsaw blades to almost brand new, out-of-the-box condition.
Being safe while operating the chainsaw is paramount. Take the time to thoroughly understand the operation of your saw and all safety precautions necessary. First and foremost be sure to protect your body at all times. The integrated Oregon helmet and face shield makes a great head protection device.
These innovative safety glasses combine ultra protection and functionality. I can’t tell you how many times, even when it’s cool outside, I get cutting with the chainsaw and the sweat drips down my traditional safety glasses, fogs them up and makes them very difficult to see through. Poor vision with a running chainsaw is not good. The Safe Eyes Mesh Safety Goggles are the perfect solution to this situation.
If you have a big project and will be cutting for some time, leg protection is very nice. Not only do these Technical Apron Wrap Chaps protect your legs from the saw, they protect you while loading and moving timber. Also, these chaps will protect your pants from moisture, tears, dirt, and debris. I can’t tell you how much jeans get destroyed while cutting logs. Not only do they get torn up, but the moisture, dirt, and sawdust make a nasty mess that never cleans out. And that is if the wood doesn’t have much tannin. Take a tannin-rich timber like Cherry, and your clothes will be trashed after a short time. These chaps help protect you and your clothes.
Occasionally I find it necessary to grind away smaller areas of wood as needed.
A bandsaw is a critical tool for processing green wood and making it suitable to turn on the lathe, in the form of bowl blanks. The size of bandsaw you select is really based on how large you want to make your bowl blanks. To learn more about Bandsaw Basics, click here, and to learn how to make Green Wood Bowl Blanks, click here.
To cut larger green wood bowl blanks, I use a 17″ Grizzly bandsaw with a two horsepower motor. It’s important to use a three to four tooth per inch blade, at least one-half inch wide when cutting green wood on the bandsaw. Fine blades with more teeth will bind up more easily and potentially overheat causing the likelihood of breaking. I initially used blades that were .025″ thick and found they vibrated and made a lot of noise. This Timber Wolf blade is .032″ thick and it does make a more stable and quiet cut.
The other thing I really like about my Grizzly 17″ Bandsaw is the foot brake. The momentum and speed of the turning wheels and saw blade take a long time to stop. If I’m working around the table of the bandsaw I don’t want to accidentally bump that blade after I’ve turned off the machine. By stepping on the foot brake the saw comes to a complete stop making the area around the blade safe.
A step down in size and price from the 17″ bandsaw is a Shop Fox 14″ bandsaw which comes complete with full base. With the maximum cutting height around six inches, this 93.5″ blade is sized perfect for this machine and to cut green wood blanks quick and easy.
If cutting large bowl blanks is not important to you and you will be cutting smaller material to turn, I suggest the Rikon 10″ Bandsaw. I started with this saw and progressed up to the 17″ Grizzly above. It was hard for me to part with my 10″ Rikon bandsaw. I only sold it because I needed all the space I could get in my garage.
This 10″ bandsaw is a workhorse and the size makes it easy to change blades quickly to execute countless tasks in the shop. For turning bowl blanks, which can be made up to about four inches thick, I’d recommend this 70.5″ long, 1/2″ wide 4 TPI blade.
An awl and a hammer are the best tools to quickly center a circle template over your bowl blank. To make the circle templates, you’ll need some scrap cardboard, a measuring tape, pencil, and compass to make circles of various sizes.
These marking lumber crayons are excellent for marking the ends of logs. They mark on any surface, even if the wood is dripping wet.
Protect Your Bowl Blanks
After all that hard work, it’s important to protect and preserve all that beautiful green wood until you’re ready to turn. The product that has worked very well for me in protecting bowl blanks from drying too quickly is Anchorseal.
This thick paint-like substance just needs to be painted on the end-grain of the logs to slow moisture loss. It drys clear. Simply use a disposable chip brush to apply the Anchorseal to the wood. I’ve also seen some turners coat and seal the entire bowl blank with Anchorseal for longer-term storage.
A necessity for handling green wood is a good quality moisture meter. This is the moisture meter I use. There is no way to know how wet timber is without using a moisture meter.
I measure several areas of a few green logs after they have been cut and sealed with Anchorseal. The moisture content and the date are marked on the log with a marker and that becomes the reference point for future moisture checks.
Another way to measure moisture a bowl is to weigh the bowl and write down the weight and the date. Then return to the bowl periodically and remeasure to see if the bowl has lost weight. When the bowl stops losing weight it has equalized with the environment. Use a digital postal scale which measures grams for the most accurate measuring.
Drying Green Wood Bowls
There are many factors and techniques to take into consideration when drying green wood bowls. I have an article that covers six different ways to dry green wood bowls.
One method for drying bowls is to use a product called desiccant. Desiccant beads make of silica gel can be found in little packets sometimes included in product packaging to keep the product dry. Believe it or not, these desiccant beads can be purchased in one-gallon quantities and used to dry green wood bowls.
This product has a color indicator that changes when the beads are saturated with moisture. Spread them on a cookie sheet and place them in an oven at 250° and they will dry and become reusable.
It’s not always practical to prepare your own green wood bowl blanks. When a project needs to be made with a specific type of wood or if you’re just getting started and want to try out wood bowl turning before you get too far invested, using prepared wood bowl blanks is a great way to go.
I recommend using blanks that will easily fit your lathe. Most of the time 6″ x 6″ x 3″ blanks will provide enough material to turn a nice bowl and are very manageable on almost any lathe. An ideal wood to try out is Maple. Here is a link to Maple 6″ x 6″ x 3″ bowl blanks.