shaping a green bowl blank on a lathe

Learn how to turn bowls from green wood or seasoned wood bowl blanks.

Should you turn your bowls from green wood bowl blanks or seasoned (dried) wood bowl blanks? The answer is, both green wood blanks and seasoned blanks can be great for bowl turning. There are some difference in the processes you follow to make your bowls, depending on if the wood is green or seasoned.

Rob Johnstone: Making wooden bowls is one of my most enjoyable woodworking pastimes. You can get a useful object, that can be exceedingly beautiful, they're fun to make and can be completed in short order. Rockler has a huge variety of ready to turn blanks and a spectrum of species and that's what I'm talking about today. Come a question about bowl turning blanks is whether they're kiln dried, seasoned well or whether they're green. The answer is that they can be either. The likelihood is that if you buy a blank like this, it's going to be green or wet wood. Especially so, if it has wax on the outside of it. The best way to go forward is just to treat them as if they're green. By that I mean, leave the wax on. The only way to know 100% is to use a moisture meter. I can almost hear you saying, "I thought we wanted to get the water moisture out of the wood fibers?" Well, you're correct, but we want to do it at the right point in time.

Here's a couple of options: if you've got a green blank like this one, the best practice is to rough out your bowl while the wood is still saturated with water. It makes the turning process much easier. You'll really love it. Many woodworkers get a bowl blank roughly turned and then stop. Once you have the bowl turned within about 10% of the final shape. Like in this case where we've got the walls about a half an inch. Now you have a decision to make. You can stop your turning process right here and set the bowl aside and let it come to equilibrium to let it dry out, and that would be a couple of weeks, maybe even longer like a month or you could continue turning as it is in the green.

If you keep going while the bowl is still green wood, after you have sanded and applied the finish, the wood fibers will continue to dry and the bowl will likely become oval in shape. If you let the roughed out bowl dry in this state, then later, when you complete the turning, it will stay closer to round. Here is what you should not do: you shouldn't scrape the wax off the blank and then set it aside for storage. This wax is on there to slow the moisture release in the wood fibers and keep it from cracking. If you do scrape it off and keep it aside, it's likely to crack.

If you're going to let your roughly turned bowl dry, just set it on a shelf and let it sit there for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month. Some woodturners use a brown paper bag full of sawdust and they put their blank in there. It slows the process down, hopefully to limit some cracking. Other folks use a desiccant to actually speed the process up. It's your call, but just know that at some point in time, if you're turning green bowls, one or two of them may likely crack regardless of how you treat them. Me, I'm a big fan of oval bowls and just moving forward. So when it comes to dealing with turning blanks, premade turning blanks, I hope you learned a couple of things and that it’s been useful. I'm Rob Johnstone, thank you for watching.