Turning Archive 2007

Turning elm: what I learned

Aage Rendalen
>Around December last year I acquired some big trunk pieces of elm and asked you all for your experience with it. I remember one of you saying that elm was well worth the extra effort I could be expected to encounter. And that sums up my experience as well. I've finished turned some large elm bowls and platters and like the results. Here is what I learned:
1. Wide rimmed bowls twist so much after being roughed out that you can easily lose two inches or more of your original diameter.

2. Your typical salad bowl shape does not warp nearly as much.

3. The zig-zag grain pattern is not easy to deal with. At my skill level, I struggled to avoid tear-outs that manifested themselves in the shape of deep pits. While finish-turning the outside of the bowls, I seemed to achieve a better result at times going against the grain (from larger to smaller diameter). The inside represented no problem, except that you need really sharp tools as you approach the center of the bowl.

4. On some of the bowls I ended up with some blotches (spalting?)in the sapwood. On one bowl with a lot of sapwood it pretty much ruined the looks of it. I finished it with tung oil, but it was still ugly, so I thought, what the heck and poured some blue (cyan) computer ink into it (from one of these messy refill kits that don't work)and brushed it on. Much to my surprise I gave the bowl a beautiful, glassy blue look. Even my wife who hates colored bowls fell for it. I finished it off with sprayed on polyutherane. What surprised me was that the color would take, on top of tung oil.

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