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I am relatively new to woodturning and I could use some pointers on a couple of items.

I'm starting a new project (not to resale) for a couple of clients/friends and I'll need to glue up the blanks, 4'' x 4'' x 4'' per cup. Should I be worried about any grain direction issues while gluing up the 8/4 (or larger) material? There will be liquids in the finished piece, so I'll need as "watertight" of a joint as possible (I know water and wood don't work well together). It's more of a keepsake than anything else, with an occasional toast of alcohol from time to time.

To that extent, I've been told maple and cherry are the best species to use for a project like this. Does this sound right, or does anyone have any other recommendations for species that will look good and hold up to a food-safe durable finish? I've been told to stay away from oily woods (teak, olivewood, etc.), but I would like to use a species that "pops" a little more than hard maple/cherry. Maybe a curly or figured maple? It's most important the species is durable though. I'm told for a project like this, the best options are species with small-medium pores, diffuse-porous, and higher Janka & dried weight levels. It's hard to find something that fits those qualities at 8/4. I'm trying to minimize my glue lines, max 1-2 (unless this doesn't make a difference?).

Finally (if you're still reading), I am planning on finishing the insides with a wipe-on food-safe poly and the outsides with Odie's Oil. Any thoughts here? I know finishes are tricky and there's never going to be just one correct answer.

I look forward to hearing peoples' thoughts on all of this. There are a lot of questions/topics I touched on and I don't expect to get answers on all of them. But, if anyone has some advice on just 1 or 2 of the items, that would be greatly appreciated! I'll take all the information, pointers, suggestions, tips, guidance, instructions, or anything else as I can!

Paul
 

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It's not clear exactly what the requirements are in terms of durability. If holding liquids is an occasional short duration thing almost any wood will do as long as the finish is sufficiently water resistant. It would probably be a good idea to use a water resistant adhesive like Titebond 2 or 3, urea formaldehyde, polyurethane or epoxy just in case. Quartersawn wood will typically be the most stable and show the lamination the least (though harder to source.).

If you have access to green wood you can easily rough out and dry blanks of this size without resorting to lamination

"Food safe" is a term of art. Most finishes are safe enough when cured. If ingesting a few molecules of finish is an issue pure tung, linseed or walnut oil is probably a safer bet than polyurethane resin (except perhaps for people with nut allergies).
 
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This is an example of a tankard inspired by one retrieved from the wreck of the Mary Rose which I started to prepare an article for the journal but the editor decided against and instead it was featured in the Members Gallery. The tankard is made entirely of white oak and finished with walnut oil. The cup is made up of 15 staves and the bottom all glued up with Titbond III, then the handle and lid were added. The tankard can be used regularly but if left with liquid in it for prolonged periods of time the wood may expand and crack, which of course leads to leaks.
101_0960.JPG
 

Dave Landers

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I make shot glasses (Shot Barrels) from white oak, 8/4 stock. They are turned end-grain (grain running parallel to the lathe axis). I leave the bottoms a little bit thick, which helps control leaking out the end grain.
Most of mine don't ever leak, but a few do sometimes "weep" a drop or two. Some do crack - those are firewood. I loose about 10% to cracking or defects in the wood that make them leak too much.
I don't like anything mixing with my whisk(e)y, food-safe or not. So my finish on the inside is "propane" (I torch the inside like a whisky barrel). On the outside, to stay natural and help with sealing up the pores, I make a finish from pine resin melted with walnut oil. Wooden boats traditionally got a finish from pine resin, linseed oil, and turpentine - I adapted my finish from that idea.
 
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I recently made a few Chalice’s for a couple minister friends. These are made from maple, with purpleheart accents. The finish is several coats of GF’s Wood Turners Finish. This used to be advertised as “food safe” but GF has removed these claims in the last couple years.

I tested these with red wine for an hour without staining, additionally I’ve used this finish on some oak cereal bowls ~10yrs ago that are still holding up well with regular use.
 

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Paul,

Can you explain why something of this modest size needs to be glued up?

If the liquids to be held are wine, red wine will stain the wood. With a dark wood, like walnut, it will probably not be very noticeable, but if it's maple, the owner will have a red colored vessel.

Poly doesn't hold up to liquids very well. It will shortly start to peel up.

One way to deal with both the liquids and the potential staining is to coat the inside of the cup with epoxy. I make fishing rods and have lots of practice with epoxy rod finish, which is fairly thin. You can do the same, and have it cure much faster, by using regular 30 minute epoxy and warm the A and B jars of epoxy in a water bath (or even 10-15 seconds in the microwave without ill effect on the epoxy). You have to slowly twirl the cup as the epoxy cures in order to get a thin, uniform coating. You could do the same thing with slow curing CA glue, but there are questions about whether it turns out food safe.

If these are not beverage containers, it's possible to size them to fit a glass tube or cup. Then the liquid is contained in the glass and the wood is not in contact with the fluid.
 

john lucas

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I'm not sure species choice is a problem as much as grain orientation, glue choice, and finish. The only problem I have had is gluing some oily species. grian orientation is the most important if you want the project to last. All the failures of my early pieces can be traced back to wood movement and grain orientation. Glue choice is critical if liquid is involved.
 
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101_1205.JPG
These two cups are example of some of the things I tried before I made the tankard in my previous post. The method used on these is sometimes referred to as shrink box. The method is to turn a cylinder out of fresh cut birch and make a grove in the bottom inside up about 1/4" from the bottom, then make a bottom out of dry birch about 3/8 to 1/2" thick and a diameter slightly larger then the inside of the cylinder. The next step is to part off the top of the cup from the waste in your scroll chuck and then push the bottom in at an angle until it pops in place and is loose. The cup is then put aside to dry and shrink around the bottom which usually takes only 2 to 3 weeks. Notice that the top on each cup is smaller diameter then the base so you can be sure that the bottom is firmly held in place without any glue being used. The other traditional feature is the inside of these 2 are coated with pine tar (pitch) which does a good job of sealing the wood and is the method used on the tankard retrieved from the Mary Rose.
 
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Paul,

Can you explain why something of this modest size needs to be glued up?

If the liquids to be held are wine, red wine will stain the wood. With a dark wood, like walnut, it will probably not be very noticeable, but if it's maple, the owner will have a red colored vessel.

Poly doesn't hold up to liquids very well. It will shortly start to peel up.

One way to deal with both the liquids and the potential staining is to coat the inside of the cup with epoxy. I make fishing rods and have lots of practice with epoxy rod finish, which is fairly thin. You can do the same, and have it cure much faster, by using regular 30 minute epoxy and warm the A and B jars of epoxy in a water bath (or even 10-15 seconds in the microwave without ill effect on the epoxy). You have to slowly twirl the cup as the epoxy cures in order to get a thin, uniform coating. You could do the same thing with slow curing CA glue, but there are questions about whether it turns out food safe.

If these are not beverage containers, it's possible to size them to fit a glass tube or cup. Then the liquid is contained in the glass and the wood is not in contact with the fluid.
Dean, the only reason I'm looking into a glue-up is procurement. I'm having trouble finding an Olivewood or Tigerwood or figured Maple at 4''x4''x4''. I can find 3''x3'' but not too much at a larger diameter.

Thanks for the help!
 
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I'm not sure species choice is a problem as much as grain orientation, glue choice, and finish. The only problem I have had is gluing some oily species. grian orientation is the most important if you want the project to last. All the failures of my early pieces can be traced back to wood movement and grain orientation. Glue choice is critical if liquid is involved.
John, could you please elaborate on the grain orientation? If I glue (2) 2''x4''x8' boards face to face, does the end grain direction matter? Would you look for anything else?

Also, let's assume liquids will be involved. Do you know what glue(s) would hold up best for this project?
 
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I recently made a few Chalice’s for a couple minister friends. These are made from maple, with purpleheart accents. The finish is several coats of GF’s Wood Turners Finish. This used to be advertised as “food safe” but GF has removed these claims in the last couple years.

I tested these with red wine for an hour without staining, additionally I’ve used this finish on some oak cereal bowls ~10yrs ago that are still holding up well with regular use.
Looks great, Ron! Looks like you had to do some type of glue-up there. Do you have any pointers for me if I were to do the same? I would be using the same species, face to face (end grain at top of cup).
 
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Dean, the only reason I'm looking into a glue-up is procurement. I'm having trouble finding an Olivewood or Tigerwood or figured Maple at 4''x4''x4''. I can find 3''x3'' but not too much at a larger diameter.

Thanks for the help!
The City of Boulder has a wood lot and for $10 you can take home a pick up load of maple, assuming there's some in the lot. They usually have honeylocust, too. The Rocky Mountain Woodturners have a wood lot where you can cut pieces. It's free if you're a member or talk sweetly. It's at John Giem's house in Fort Collins, so you could drop him a line and see what they've got.
 
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Paul - I do lots of glue-ups, mostly bowls and plates that only see water for washing. But I have done a few chalice’s and tested them for an hour holding red wine without staining. As mentioned these used WTF, also used years ago on some cereal bowls that see regular use, and milk, and are holding up great.

Most glue-ups I use Titebond2E or Titebond3. My preference lately has been 2E because of it’s clear line on light colored woods and performance. A year or so ago I glued up 6” long strips from 1/16” to 1/2” thicknesses with T2E and T3 (both oak and sapele, 18” glue line length each) and stressed these with ten 3hr cycles in our dishwasher; both T2E and T3 did not see a glue failure on all thicknesses 1/8” and above (1/16” and 3/32” evidenced some failures). This stress was much worse than I expect any of my creations to see, but my turnings with different species and orientations will have some expansion stresses that this experiment didn’t test. Bottom line, as long as wall thickness is 1/8” or greater I’m very comfortable with T2E for occasional liquid contact.

My experience is with side grain glue-ups of a dozen or more species across hundreds of bowls and plates. I don’t do cross grain glue joints, but have various stacked glue joints with both horizontal and vertical glue joints with several species in the same pieces. With a good tablesaw blade I glue straight from the cut, typically I then run the glued multi-species board through my planer and then flat glue that to another multi or single species board. You’ll want lots of clamps :)

I find it easier to work with 30-40” lengths which then provide me 3-6 blanks to turn when I’m done gluing depending on desired size. Don’t forget about the snipe loss at the end of planed boards, you won’t be happy finding that snipe line in your turning. Longer lengths also give me more than one shot if I’m making a specific custom piece (for the chalice I had four blanks which all turned out and 3 have been given away or sold for charity at this point).

Lots more than you asked for, good luck!
 
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Paul - forgot to add that hard maple is the worst species I’ve found for “bruising”. Make sure you grind off the heel of your gouge and ‘float’ the bevel. You won’t notice bruising after sanding, but I’ve kicked myself a few times after starting to put on the finish
 
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