TurningBlanks.Net Store Newsletter - October 2012
Saturday , 29 November 2014 , 09 : 12 PM
TurningBlanks.Net Store Newsletter
October 2012 Edition
Focus on Wood - Sourwood

Flat Sawn

Quarter Sawn

End Grain

General Information:

Sourwood trees are common in the Eastern US, and are typically small to medium in size.  Trees are typically quite crooked, and frequently develop small burls within the roots of the tree.  The heartwood and sapwood of this tree are indistinguishable from one another, and is a light tan to medium brown color (eventually fading to a darker brown color with age).  The wood has a very fine grain, and works very well for thin-walled turnings or items that have intricately carved patterns or details.  Very similar to Bradford pear in all aspects, except for color.

Common Name(s):

Sourwood, sorrel tree


41 lb/ft3  - Moderately dense


940 lbft - Moderately hard

Specific Gravity:


Turning Properties:

Turns very easily while green.  Dried wood becomes increasingly hard, but is still relatively easy to work with.

Drying Properties:

This wood has a high initial moisture content, so may require additional time in drying compared to other woods.  Shrinkage and warping are light to moderate.  Checking and cracking are not very common when dried properly.

Sanding Properties:

Sands well.  For removing tool marks, 80 grit sandpaper is recommended.  Will sand to a medium high luster, requiring grits of around 400-600 to achieve excellent results. 

Finishing Properties:

Readily accepts nearly any type of finish or stain.


There are no known toxicities associated with sourwood.

Turning Tutorials - Understanding Carbide Tipped Tools

Understanding Carbide Tipped Tools

Carbide tipped turning tools are becoming increasingly popular with many of today's wood turners.  We'll begin this tutorial by looking at the pros and cons of these tools in comparison to standard high speed steel tools.  We will then conclude with details about how you can get better results using these tools by making just a few small adjustments to your methods.


Pros and Cons:

Tool Life -

Carbide-tipped tools have replaceable carbide inserts at the tip of the tool.  These small carbide cutterheads are much harder than conventional high speed steel tools, and will hold an edge for longer periods of time.  This equates to less down time, as the turner can spend more time at the lathe, and less time at the grinding wheel sharpening tools.

Sharpening -

Carbide tipped tools are designed so that they can be rotated (to a sharper section of the tool) or replaced when dull, rather than sharpened.  This is a huge benefit to beginners and persons without grinding equipment.

Sharpness -

Although carbide will hold an edge for longer periods of time than high speed steel or carbon steel, it can not achieve the same degree of sharpness.  A new, unused carbide insert will perform as well as a freshly sharpened steel tool, but only briefly.  For fine finishing cuts before sanding, carbide tools (at least in the long term) will not perform as well as other steel tools.

Cutting Ability -

Carbide tools, regardless of shape, are still scrapers.  They are designed primarily for scraping the wood's surface away, even if they will perform in other functions such as hollowing or shearing.  Learning to use the correct tools (such as bowl gouges, spindle gouges and skews) will greatly improve the quality of your work straight from the tool, and reduce the amount of time that must be devoted to sanding away defects caused during cutting.

Improving Your Results:

Choose the Best Tool -

There are multiple shapes made for the carbide inserts of turning tools.  The most common ones are square, slightly rounded square,  or round in profile.  Square-shaped cutters are best for removing heavy amounts of material quickly, or from cutting flat spots.  Slightly rounded square (the sides of the square are ground with a slight radius) cutters can remove material quickly, but can also be used to some degree as a finishing tool.  Rounded cutters can remove material nearly as well as the squared-edge types, but are best used for final finishing cuts. 

Initial Roughing Cuts -

Throughout the majority of cutting, designate a particular edge of the cutter, or a particular tool to the process.  A slightly used cutter will have more of a tendency to tear out end grain as it cuts.  This works fine during initial roughing cuts, when the overall quality of the wood's surface is not as important.

Finishing Cuts -

When making finishing cuts, make sure to use the sharpest portion of the tool available.  Again, designate a particular edge of the cutter, or a particular tool to this process.  A new, or very lightly used cutter will cut more cleanly than a used one, and can remove most tearout or unevenness in the wood's surface.  If you've done a good job of roughing out your shape, you should only require a few passes with the tool to clean up the surface and prepare for sanding.

All archived monthly newsletters do not include the following:

  • Business updates
  • Recently added woods and schedule of upcoming woods
  • Photo of the month contest results
  • Discounts and upcoming sales information

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