Hackberry trees, which are part of the larger family of elms, are relatively common in the US, with several varieties occurring in different regions of the country. The wood's grain is very similar in appearance to both elm and ash. Most turners are unfamiliar with hackberry wood, but it is an excellent choice for beginners and experienced turners alike. The wood is easy to work with and will create beautiful finished products.
False elm, hackberry, hack tree, hoop ash, nettle tree and sugarberry
Sapwood and heartwood are both a light white or yellowish-white color. Sometimes this wood will develop areas of blue or black mineral stain, both of which are quite attractive.
35 lbs/ft3 - Moderately dense
900 lbft - Moderately hard (similar to cherry)
Turns well, with very little tearout occurring along end grain sections.
Dries fairly quickly due to its low initial moisture content and moderate density. Warping is slight to moderate. Cracking and/or checking is very uncommon. Definitely a good wood for inexperienced green wood turners.
Sands very well. For removing tool marks, 120 grit sandpaper is recommended. Will sand to a high luster, usually requiring grits no higher than 600 to achieve satisfactory results.
Readily accepts most stains and finishes without need for any special pre-treatment of the wood surface.
Can cause mild skin irritations in certain individuals.
Proper Cutting Techniques for End Grain (Vessel) Projects
Last month we covered proper techniques for turning spindle projects. This month we're covering spindle projects again, but this time more specifically when it involves hollowing for vessels and hollow forms. Please note, that when hollowing end grain forms, you should begin by drilling out a hole through the center of the blank, then begin cutting from the hollowed out center out towards the sides to remove waste material. The following diagrams showing proper cutting direction for the inside of vessels applies once the form has achieved its rough shape, and final cuts are being made to refine that shape.
With spindle turning projects, the grain of the wood runs parallel to the bed of the lathe, as shown in the photo above. What many turners do not realize is that they may or may not be cutting the wood in the proper direction in order to improve the quality of the surface produced by their tools. Let's take a look at how it should be done.
The most important thing to remember is that wood fibers need to be supported from behind in order for them to be cut cleanly, rather than broken off. When cutting the outside of an end grain vessel, the tool should begin its cut at the largest diameter, and end at the piece's smallest diameter. The inset red circle shows an example of what the wood fibers would look like if greatly enlarged. By cutting in the direction indicated by the orange arrow, each wood fiber is supported by another longer fiber directly behind it. This will produce a smooth cut. If the cut is made in the opposite direction, then each wood fiber is not supported by another fiber directly behind it, causing the fibers to be broken or torn, resulting in a much rougher surface.
When hollowing the inside of an end grain vessel, the tool should begin its cut at the smallest diameter, and end at the piece's largest diameter. Again, by cutting in the direction indicated by the orange arrow, each wood fiber is supported by another longer fiber directly behind it. This will produce a smooth cut. If the cut is made in the opposite direction, then each wood fiber is not supported by another fiber directly behind it, causing the fibers to be broken or torn, resulting in a much rougher surface.
For projects that have unsual curves, the prior rules still apply. For the outside of the vessel, cutting should begin at the largest diameter and end at the smallest. For the inside of the vessel, cutting should begin at the smallest diameter and end at the smallest. The diagram above depicts the proper cutting direction for these situations.
Learning to cut wood properly, by making cuts where each wood fiber is supported to facilitate cutting rather than tearing or breaking, will greatly improve the quality of your wood's finish directly from the tool and reduce the time you'll spend later in sanding.