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Turning willow

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by John Hicks, Jul 7, 2020.

  1. John Hicks

    John Hicks

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2020
    Messages:
    199
    Location (City & State):
    Hoodsport, Washington
    We were heading out and saw that the power company had just cut down a large willow tree. The owner of the property said "come get all you want!"
    So I got 6 chunks; I cut them to rough length. Some were 26" across. I'm just wondering who has turned this stuff before and should I be looking out for anything?
    Strange thing is the center is actually reddish in color. The picture doesn't show the largest ones as I had to go back with help.

    IMG_7447.JPG
     
  2. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2004
    Messages:
    6,480
    Location (City & State):
    Lakeland, Florida
    Home Page:
    Easiest way to see how you will get on with it is to turn a small NE bowl.
    Don’t shear scrape it.
    If the bowl comes out furry your tool selection and use is not up to turning willow.

    The willow I have turned is quite soft. It cuts well with a sharp gouge using bevel riding cuts.

    scraping or coming off the bevel produces long stringy tearout.
     
    John Hicks likes this.
  3. Dave Landers

    Dave Landers

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    Messages:
    157
    Location (City & State):
    Estes Park, CO
    Home Page:
    I've had the same experience with Willow as @hockenbery - soft, somewhat stringy, tear prone, but cuts well with a sharp gouge. The Willow I've turned was nothing to write home about - pretty plain with little figure. Yours could be nicer if the heartwood has some color.

    I will often use those difficult woods that are prone to tear as a practice opportunity (especially wood that has little figure and thus little promise of a "nice" result). Make a few practice bowls, and keep making cuts trying to get a better surface. Experiment with gouge angles, experiment with scrapers, note the difference a freshly-sharpened gouge makes. Watch where in the wood the tearout happens. When the wood is difficult, it magnifies each change you make. It's a great learning opportunity, and what you learn will apply to any bowl, any wood.
     
  4. Donovan Bailey

    Donovan Bailey

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2017
    Messages:
    193
    Location (City & State):
    Gainesville, VA
    Agree with all above. Also, if this willow was cut this summer then you will need a raincoat to turn it. The willow I've turned from wood cut in my area when the leaves were on the tree had soaked up water like a sponge.
     
    John Hicks and charlie knighton like this.
  5. Dean Center

    Dean Center

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1,025
    Location (City & State):
    Bozeman, MT
    The willow in our area may be different that other spots, as it can be gorgeous, and is usually attractive. But it can be extra work to get a smooth surface.

    Edit: I've added a photo of a willow utility bowl I just finished as an example.
    DSC03749.JPG
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2020
    John Hicks likes this.
  6. Dave Bunge

    Dave Bunge

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Messages:
    108
    Location (City & State):
    Midland, MI
    I've turned several natural edge bowls from willow (once turned to final thickness from the beginning.) Most of them developed checks on the surface as they dried. Lots of checks, small enough that they didn't affect strength of the bowl, but large enough to be easy to see. After being filled with coffee grounds/CA glue they looked pretty sweet, a feature not a flaw for bowls used for decorative purposes.
     
    John Hicks likes this.
  7. John Tisdale

    John Tisdale

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2014
    Messages:
    230
    Location (City & State):
    Dallas, TX
    I've turned one - it can be a little stinky. I always try to get the log that was closest to the ground - that's where the more dramatic grain is located. The stuff shrinks/warps more than most - leave yourself room and dry slowly over several months. When dry enough to finish-turn, it's a good time to practice sharpening and light cut.
     

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