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Woodturning Projects: Solutions For A Crack When Turning Green Wood

April 07, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 278

Woodturning green wood is a pleasure. The wood is soft and shavings fly off in wonderful cascades. But, there are also challenges. You have to first rough turn the blank, then let it dry before finish turning. As the wood dries, it shrinks, but not necessarily uniformly. Occasionally, internal stresses can build and the wood may split. Despair comes as it appears the woodturning project is ruined.

Now what do you do? Throw away the bowl and start over? Not necessarily. There are many alternatives. Which one to use? Mostly, it is a personal choice involving personal taste and the amount of effort to repair the bowl. These alternatives can be grouped into three main categories: conceal; accept; and emphasize.

Concealing the split may well include the simplest alternatives. If the crack is very small, a simple fill with CA glue may suffice. Or, fill the crack with matching wood putty, or use sawdust from the bowl itself mixed with glue to fill the crack. Sawdust may blend the best. Easy, but with less of a match would be to fill the crack with colored epoxy or casting resin. Escalating the scene a bit more, the crack may be cut out with a router or saw and new matching wood inserted before the finish turning. Even more drastic would be to cut off an entire bowl segment and turn a replacement. For example, if the crack is in the bowl's bottom, cut off the bottom, and turn a new bottom.

Splits and cracks are common when drying green wood. The wood was once living; it is unique. So when a rough turning develops a split or crack, why not accept this fact and not hide the crack. The simplest alternative is to leave it alone; go ahead and finish the bowl with the split.

But, beyond leaving it alone, again look to filling the crack or replacing the wood. The main difference is to use a contrasting or supplementing wood or other material rather than matching material. For fill, use a contrasting putty, sawdust, or epoxy. If replacing the wood, route or saw out a groove and use a contrasting wood to fill the gap. Or, patch the area. A patch in this case would be irregular but still contrasting. Patches are more difficult but may add much more character to the finished result. Hawaiian calabashes are often patched and with beautiful results.

Beyond accepting the split, a woodturner may choose to emphasize the crack or its repair. Rather than simply repairing the crack, the creator may add additional design elements such as a parallel fake repair symmetrical to the required repair. A further escalation would be to expand with a geometrical design or with butterfly keys, wood inlays, or metal inlays.

An even greater escalation may be to expand the project. For one bowl, another woodturner suggested making a stand or foot that inserted into the crack. This made the crack an essential feature of the expanded project.

In the end, exactly how to repair a crack is a personal choice that expresses the woodturner's philosophy and creativity. Conceal the repair, accept the repair, or emphasize the repair. There is no "right" answer. When life gives you lemons, why not make lemonade. When a crack happens in a green woodturning, maybe the end result could become more beautiful and noteworthy. Where are the bounds of creativity?

Alan Stratton is an avid woodturner. His web site,, contains information specifically about woodturning. Woodturning is a creative outlet for Alan. He has dreamed about woodturning for years and has made a number of beautiful wooden items. While not claiming to be a professional, Alan wants to share his dream with others and help them to achieve their dreams as well.

Source: EzineArticles
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