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Making bowl blanks

Today I looked in at the tree surgeon’s dump where I often get timber. I came away with two logs of sycamore with dark heart staining due to early spalting, a log of plain sycamore, suitable for salad bowls, but without any figure, and a log of heavily spalted sycamore. Most of it should be excellent for making bowl blanks. There was a whole tree-trunk’s worth of the heavily spalted stuff, and the standing dead tree must have been dangerous. A wind would have brought it down. I was in two minds whether to bother with the spalted log, because most of the sections at the dump are riddled with worm, and some patches are turning to mush. I also brought away a couple of small bits of yew, just slender trunks with lots of side branches, too small for bowls.

Back home, I quickly sawed the yew into quarters that I hope will do for small spindles. Here is the rather unpromising yew trunk before and after cutting. You can see its leaves, as well as some ivy clinging.

Yew log before cutting

Yew after sawing

Next was the dark-heart sycamore. Using my bandsaw, I split the logs down the middle. Inside, a revelation! Streaks of yellow, brown and pink running right through the wood like lettering in seaside rock. I cut most of it into bowl blanks, but saved some for spindles. Here is one of the logs before and after cutting.

Sycamore log being sawn down the middle. The end grain does not show what is inside.

Colours exposed in sawn sycamore log
The colours in this timber are revealed. Note the pale sapwood unaffected by the spalting

Then it was the turn of the plain sycamore. This log had a heart shake (a central split), so I marked the cuts so the bandsaw would cut through the shake. It is tricky to cut out cracks like this, or the centre of the log, so if necessary the crack and centre will be turned away on the lathe tomorrow. Three bowl blanks from this log.

Sycamore log marked for sawing

Finally, the heavily spalted chunk. It was just too high on the saw table to fit under the saw guides, so I split the log with hammer and wedges. That enabled me to trim the ends a little with the bandsaw, then stand the pieces on end on the saw table. I made one bowl blank that I hope will be not too wormy, but the rest I cut into spindle blanks. I shall use them to make some decorative wooden cones as the spalting should look really good.

Here is the pile of bowl blanks, sawn into discs, waiting for rough turning tomorrow. You can see the colours in the wood. I hope they survive drying.

Pile of bowl blanks ready to turn
The bowl blanks ready for turning tomorrow

Update: when I put the dark-heart sycamore blanks on the lathe I realised they are not sycamore.


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