Jul 17 2012

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Turning End Grain

Most bowl turning banks I’ve seen are cut in such a way that you hollow the face grain to make the bowl. I’m not sure if they are sold like that because end grain turning is supposed to be more difficult or if maybe the mills just take the scraps from longer boards and sell them as turning blanks for inflated prices. Having never really turned any projects where I needed to hollow out the project from the end grain side, I couldn’t really say anything one way or another.

I have a project in the back of my mind that would involve hollowing the end grain of a blank, but since I keep hearing that turning end grain is difficult, I wanted to try an experiment before working on a more involved project. I had a cutoff from a 12/4 slab of red oak that I picked up for free that I thought would make a nice little finger bowl* and I figured that it would be a good test for turning end grain.

For the hollowing part, I found that the most effective tool was my small radius gouge, then cleaning up the sides with the edge of my square insert bit. I found that last part challenging — I had to cut above the center line of the blank since the inside diameter was so small that it hit the bottom of the shaft. The hole I made was small enough that I could have bored it with a large Forstner bit, but the purpose of this exercise was to practice edge grain turning.

I really didn’t find hollowing out the finger bowl any more difficult than the few other projects where I’ve hollowed out the face grain side, but this was just a small diameter turning and not a larger bowl. I’m sure I’ll encounter different challenges turning a larger end grain project.

*And yes I realize that red oak won’t hold liquids because of the open pores. I’m actually thinking of making a lid and using it as a box.

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