Working With Natural Defects in Wood, Part 1
This month we will begin a series of tutorials that will focus on working with the natural defects in wood. We will cover everything from beginning to end...how to plan ahead and how to recover from problems. This month we will begin with the initial stage of turning, in which the turner must decide the best orientation for a piece of wood.
Inspecting Grain Patterns -
With woods that have a characteristically straight grain pattern, one should inspect the outer surface of the wood for any areas of twisted or distorted grain. While these unusual grain patterns can look quite stunning in a finished piece, they can also be indicators of a possible defect on the interior of the wood. To reduce the chances of having an unforeseen knot or hole ending up in your finished piece by mistake, orientate your blank so that any areas of twisted or distorted grain will be removed as waste, thereby improving the odds that any potentially invisible defects will be removed as well.
Positioning Bowl and Platter Blanks -
As a tree grows, branches will fall off near the lower portion of the tree once they become shaded by larger branches above. As these limbs die off, they are quickly covered by bark and eventually grow into the tree's cellular structure. After many years, these tiny remnants of knots will remain near the center of a tree, with mostly clear, defect-free wood surrounding them in the outer part of the tree. To minimize your chances of finding one of these small, ingrown knots on the interior of your bowl or platter blank during turning, orient your blank so that the face that was originally closer to the center of the tree becomes the area that will be hollowed out as waste. The wood nearest the center of the tree is more likely to contain unforeseen defects. An easy way to do this - look at the end grain of the wood, where you will see the tree's annual growth rings. The larger, wider growth rings will become the bottom of your bowl or platter, the smaller, more tightly compacted growth rings will become the top of your bowl or platter.