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Thread: Turning wet wood

  1. #1

    Default Turning wet wood

    Howdy all,

    I work in a cabinet shop and currently do turnings on our shopsmith lathe mostly for fun with scraps, but also would like to offer some decorative stuff from the lathe. I'm somewhat new to woodworking and have done a handful of turnings, so I've learned how NOT to eat a gouge via kickback, etc....

    I'm mostly interested in info on turning green wood. I've read some authors who put a cellulose lacquer finish right on the green wood (bowls or spindles)immediately after the final sanding, while others turn them thick and rough, stuff in wood shavings in a paper bag, and dry them. Still another guy took extremely thin turnings (like 1/16th inch) and nuked them in the microwave to dry them.

    Anyone out there have links to some info on this? I tried searching AAW's site but didn't get anything (maybe you have to be a paid member to?). Just found AAW so obviously I'm not a member yet.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2004
    billerica, ma


    There's a great book out there on turning green wood (wish I could think of the author but google it and you'll find what you need.

    Been doing this for a number of years and have three basic approaches. First, turn it green and thin, finish it on the lathe, let it move as it dries, and resand by hand before final finish.

    Second, rough turn it green, paint it over with a water thinned mixture of Anchorseal and let it dry for a few months to a few years before returning to finish.

    Third, coat the whole hunk o wood and let it sit for a few years before using it.

    I do alot of funky vases so method one is the usual for me.

    Seems like there are dozens of methods for speeding drying, reducing cracks, etc. out there. I've tried most of them and usually come back to "patience, patience, patience" as the best one.


  3. #3


    I have a book titled (appropriately) "Turning Green Wood" by Michael O'Donnel, which may well be the book your referring to. Got it at WoodCraft a week ago. He turns bowls green, but he turns them to 1/16th of an inch thick, something that I cannot do at the moment with my current tooling (lathe accessories are quite costly I've noticed). Has been of great help, though. I may try the "pack it in shavings and let it sit in a paper bag" thing. I live in a humid area (Charleston SC) so it shouldn't dry too fast in an non-air conditioned shop.

    I'm going to post another message here on tooling recommended for a beginner.

  4. #4


    If you have a Woodcraft nearby you can browse their books and choose from there. I found Richard Raffan's books to be helpful when I got started.

    I only turn wet wood for initial turning. It gets turned to about 10% thickness and then I paint it with straight undiluted Anchorseal. So for a 12" wide bowl, I leave it 1" thick. For a 6" wide bowl, I leave it 1/2 to 3/4" thick. etc.

    Then after about a year the pieces have dried and warped and I turn them the second time to final thickness. At this point they are totally dry and can be finished as normal. Here's a pic of my main stack of roughouts (still drying out)...actually most of them are dry.

    If you process mesquite or similar wood that gets bugs you may want to put the roughout in Denatured alcohol for a day to nuke the varmints.

  5. #5



    How does the wood dry through the wax coating? I mean, How can moisture escape?

    Have you ever tried covering or burying a bowl in its own wet shavings? What's the procedure there and how does that work? Any faster? any slower?

    In the High Desert of Central Oregon

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Toronto, Ontario Canada

    Default newspaper works for me

    pack 2 or 3 full sheets inside the roughed-out bowl and then a whole section around it, flip it over and another full section (business) wrap it tight and then a few pieces of clear wrapping tape to hold it all together, a 2" inch strip of masking tape with date and type of wood, leave it for 5 -6 months in basement.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Mercer, WI


    Jeff, if sealing with Anchorseal, the blank will dry. Anchorseal is formulated to slow the drying process, not stop it. In the winter I find some woods still dry too fast sealed so I still start them out on the cool basement floor.

  8. #8


    George is correct. The Anchorseal does not form an impermeable barrier. I suppose if you kept painting multiple coats on a piece you could keep the piece wet. Anchorseal is relatively cheap and is formulated for exactly this type of application. In the Anchorseal literature they list one of the primary applications is to spray the product on the end of freshly felled trees which are destined for lumber. Sounds like it is helping increase lumber productivity. Try it on a few pieces and you can watch/record the results.

    All the waxed roughouts are stickered with 1/4" x 1/4" x 2" wood stickers. I usually put 3 between each bowl so they stack straight. This allows air to ventilate the entire bowl/vase. For vases I do not coat the interior. I put in a somewhat loose plug of wadded newspaper in the neck/mouth.

    Since I live in Austin,TX we have real hot summers. I try to do most roughouts in the non-summer months so that the roughouts do not dry out too fast. The garage is typically around 95-100 in June-Sept.

    I have tried putting the roughouts in shavings. In Austin it is insufficient protection and it will result in cracks here. Maybe if it was cooler that method would work here. Also if you do a whole bunch of roughouts where are you going to have all those shavings piled? They don't pile up nicely as in my stacked roughout picture. This would work well if you have large property or a lot of room in your garage.

    For small pieces I have tried the newspaper/bag method as listed by Dr.Dewey. It is effective. However it can result in fungus attacks which cause spalting. On ash it doesn't do much spalting but the fungus is yucky.

    So, what are the results on my big stack of roughouts? From a close inspection it looks like about 5% of them are cracked. Some of the cracked ones are heavily warped. So that was reaction wood which is hard to control anyhow. Also some of the cracks are in be expected.

    Note that I cut the pith out of almost all pieces now. The pith is a cracking machine. Some woods are quite stable but most will crack along the pith.

    I hope this helps. Maybe I'll extract some of it and make it into a tip.

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