turning cottonwood

Discussion in 'Newbie' started by Hanley Lewis, Sep 17, 2009.

  1. Hanley Lewis

    Hanley Lewis

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    Does anyone have any experance turning Cottonwood? Is it worth grabbing some of my friends tree thats comming down?
     
  2. Tony Latham

    Tony Latham

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    Well...... maybe....

    It has pretty close to zero grain/color, has some tear out problems, very soft.... but is easy to turn. You'll not win any ribbons with it at the fair... but it is kind of fun to turn a fresh green cottonwood chunk.

    It's at least good for practice! :cool2:

    TL
     
  3. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Yes, cottonwood can be bland and it tends to fuzz, but the figure can be quite nice to downright stunning. I like it for large 16-18" fruit bowls since it's not as heavy as other woods.

    Never hurts to give it a go.
     
  4. odie

    odie

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    Might as well grab some.......if it's free, wouldn't hurt to stash some away.

    I can only remember turning one cottonwood bowl in recent times.....was a disappointment because was very plain looking. With a little creative turning, anything has potential!

    ooc
     
  5. Barbara Gill

    Barbara Gill

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    In my experience Cottonwood is anything but bland. Here is I posted to a thread on another forum about Cottonwood plus a link to a really nice piece of wood.
    http://www.velvitoil.com/WoodturningsbyBarbaraGill/cottonwoodplate.html

    "I have found that you should not be aggressive when roughing out green Cottonwood, even with sharp tools. As has been said when you finish turning the piece, go slow and use very sharp tools. One of these days I am going to rough turn a hollow form from dry Cottonwood and then spin oil all the way through it. I will then put the piece on a shelf until the oil cures. I think this will make finish turning it easier.

    The oil trick might also work with a bowl. You would have to brush on a lot of oil to the point at which it is standing in the bottom. Then cover the opening with Saran Wrap and tape it securely. Then put the piece back on the lathe and let her rip. The end grain is where most of the trouble originates. With Cottonwood, the oil soaks completely through the end grain when you finish a completed bowl so the spinning would work with a thicker piece."
     
  6. Griesbach

    Griesbach

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    That's an excellent idea, Barb.
     
  7. Tony Latham

    Tony Latham

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    Barbara:

    Your rang my bell with that plate! I'm not convinced your Virginia cottonwood and my Idaho cottonwood is the same critter but I'm going to give it a second chance one of these days after reviewing your work. Maybe look for some knarly old crotch wood.

    TL
     
  8. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    The whole family Salicaceae, which includes the willows, cottonwoods and true poplars are designed to suck water. They're long-fibered and soft, and can be very fuzzy if you get the edge lifting from underneath rather than cutting across the grain. I wouldn't trouble myself with the surface that comes off the lathe wet, because the dry stuff turns much nicer. They can have some spectacular figure when they load themselves with large limbs. The reaction wood is gorgeous, but it's even fuzzier initially than the straight stuff. It also has a tendency to grain reversals, which produce some nice shimmer once you put a finish on it.

    Since they're stringy, you want to keep the lift portion of the cut to an absolute minimum. Because they're soft, you don't want to try to turn the corner by digging ("riding") the bevel. The compression rings can go frustratingly deep. I regard them as an excellent wood to demonstrate a broad radius gouge, where you can get a lot of guidance with very little lift because of the constant bevel angle as you skew the tool to the direction of travel.

    About that first sentence. They suck finish at the same greedy rate.

    They also stink pretty bad.
     
  9. Barbara Gill

    Barbara Gill

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    We had to take down a Cottonwood where our house now is. I cut the tree into boards which we used to make the cabinets and molding in our bathroom. That was the first time I sawed up Cottonwood in the sawmill. The smell reminded me of leather tack after using in on horses. I found the smell pleasant. Some people think it smells like a dirty cow barn. :)

    I had forgotten how the wood absorbs finish. When putting the penetrating oil on the parts of the cabinet I thought it must be running through the wood and pooling on the floor; of course it wasn't. You can't appreciate all the figure in the wood until the finish has been applied. I have seen all the different figure of Maple in Cottonwood- birdseye, crotch grain, curl, etc.

    Because of the amount of finish it will suck up, you need to make sure it is completely dry before buffing.
     
  10. bernie

    bernie

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    cottonwood bark

    How thick is the tree bark?
    Woodcarvers carve figures, whimsical houses, and other items from the cottonwood bark itself. The bark is aslo sold by woodcarving supply houses.
     
  11. odie

    odie

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    Hi there Barbara......

    Yes, that plate is nothing less than spectacular!

    Is there some crotch in that?

    I will have to keep my eyes open for a chunk of wood that is better than I've worked with in the past.

    Interesting concept about saturating the wood with oil......I'll file that away for future consideration.

    Thanks for showing us........

    ooc
     
  12. Barbara Gill

    Barbara Gill

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    Odie, I am not sure. I had the blank sitting on the shelf for several years. I had no idea of the extent of the figure until I put oil on it. I hope one day to find companion boards in my stash.

    I now go looking for boards with a damp cloth.
     
  13. John Nicholas

    John Nicholas

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    Bark Thickness Cottonwood

    Eastern Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, is the State Tree here in Kansas. You find it growing anywhere water runs. Rivers and Creeks. Tall, many specimen have no real branching like an Oak or Maple. The leaves spin in the wind, kind of a twinkling appearance.

    The bark is thick on older specimen. Makes a wonderful natural edge bowl. I have a 20 inch crotch in the garage waiting its turn.

    Looking for some logs in the 10 - 15 inch diameter range. I have a friend that will turn a hollowed log into an authentic Indian Drum.

    Interesting mounting challenge to hollow a log that size for a drum.
     
  14. Gretch Flo

    Gretch Flo

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    cottonwood

    My orthopedic surgeon and friend and owner of an xmas tree farm and woods brought me some cottonwood 2 months ago. Several pieces were forked and I got some really nice figure, and there was some nice spalting. For the last year I have been putting on mylands sanding sealer after 120-200 grit and sand to 600. After drying 1-5 weeks-according to my moisture meter (wood/thickness dependent I then use Danish oil for a start, -it withstands multiple washings for home use. But this can make for alot of hand buffing for a satin finish if I apply 2-4 coats. The sanding sealer now cuts down on the amount of coats. After I get a little shine I switch to Mahoney;s walnut oil for bringing the thirsty areas "up to the level of the rest of the bowl.
    What I noticed about the cottonwood is that I didn't use many coats at all which is different from this thread. I suspect the sealer is the helper.. The bottom on one finished , dry bowl still stinks!!! Gretch
     
  15. Steve Harder

    Steve Harder

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    The cottonwood tree from my father-in-law's yard provided all the wood I used to learn to turn. And I'd gotten lucky and hit the motherlode of nicely figured wood with lots of chatoyancy.

    I turn wet, then DNA soak, dries fairly quickly.

    Large items are fun because they are so light for their size. You can turn really thin if you want. Yes, tearout is an issue.

    And you can always call it "Mormon Poplar" like some folks out west do.
     
  16. Tony Latham

    Tony Latham

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    Barbara:

    You'll be pleased to know that as I drove through town today I saw some fresh green large log rounds laying beside a stump... thinking they were cottonwood I checked them out... unfortunately they were willow so I drove off...

    (I'm pretty sure you are not going to trump your plate with something turned from willow....:confused:)

    TL
     
  17. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Same family. Willow is a gorgeous wood with lots of shimmer, neat little triangles from failed branches, and a lot of stress to flash. Nearly bulletproof in drying, just as the cottonwood.
     
  18. tdrice

    tdrice

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    If you are lucky enough to find the trunk of a large tree that has not rotted in the middle you will usually find fantastic figure like Barbara's link. I have been told by a forester that this is because the wood has low compression strength and the tremendous weight of the tree actually compresses the fibers toward the bottom.
     

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