Sycamore trees are capable of growing to enormous proportions, with trees of up to 15' in diameter reported in rare cases. When quartersawn, this wood produces fantastic ray flecks, and is commonly sold as American lacewood (very similar in appearance to the non-native lacewood most are more familiar with). The sapwood of this tree can vary between light tan, light brown, or light pinkish brown. Heartwood is typically a dark reddish pink or medium brown color.
Sycamore, American plane, planetree, buttonwood, American lacewood
38 lb/ft3 - Medium density
770 lbft - Moderately hard
This wood turns quite well. Being of a medium density, it has only a slight tendency to tear out when cutting across end grain areas. Has a high silica content, and therefore has a moderate to high dulling effect on tools, requiring more frequent resharpening of tools while being worked
Has a high initial moisture content and interlocked grain. Little tendency to crack or check, but prone to medium or heavy movement during drying. Will shrink somewhat more than other comparable hardwoods, and may require a bit of additional drying time to remove all moisture.
Sands very well. For removing tool marks, 120 grit sandpaper is recommended. Will sand to a medium-high luster, usually requiring grits no higher than 600 to achieve excellent results.
Readily accepts most finishes and stains. Stains may produce very different colors on heartwood areas when compared to sapwood areas.
No known toxicities have been reported for sycamore.
Lathe Safety Series, Part 3 - Skin Safety
This month, we will be continuing our series of tutorials regarding safety at the lathe. In prior months, we've discussed respiratory and visual safety. This month, we'll be covering skin safety.
Always keep in mind the old saying that "safety is no accident!" Simply knowing, while not following safety procedures is of no benefit. All too often, wood turners can develop serious breathing disorders, injured eyes, broken bones, serious cuts, bruises, and a variety of other ailments. Safety should be taken seriously. This is important especially to beginners, as it is much easier to develop good habits in the beginning than it is to fix bad habits in the future.
Ever developed an irritating rash, or found your skin stained and discolored while turning? Most turners discover these problems only after gaining quite a bit of experience, and are caught unprepared. Let's take a look at how to both prevent and treat these two occurrences.
Skin Irritations -
Some woods can cause irritating reactions on the skin. With most domestic woods, the effects are generally mild, but can be more severe in persons with sensitive skin or those that have specific allergies to certain woods. Below is a list of the most common domestic woods which are known to potentially cause skin irritations in certain people:
Ash - Mild
Birch - Mild
Black Locust - Mild to moderately severe
Black Walnut - Mild
Catalpa - Very mild
Cedar of Lebanon - Mild
Chestnut (American or Chinese)- Mild
Chinaberry - Mild
Cypress - Very mild
Eastern red cedar - Mild Elm - Very mild
Hemlock - Very mild
Maple - Very mild
Osage Orange - Mild
Persimmon - Mild
Pine - Mild
Sweet Gum - Mild
Tulip Poplar - Mild
Western red cedar - Mild to moderately severe
Some exotic woods can also be cause for concern. Its always a good idea to research toxicity of any new woods before turning them.
In order to prepare yourself for turning woods which may be irritating to your skin, you'll need to make sure you are wearing proper clothing. Closed shoes will protect your feet. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts will protect the majority of your body. Make sure that long-sleeved shirts fit properly and have no buttons near the cuff to ensure that nothing is able to get caught up in the lathe or work piece while turning. Gloves will protect your hands. As with long-sleeved shirts, make sure gloves fit properly, so as to avoid getting anything caught up in the lathe or work piece. For areas, such as the face and neck, which cannot be suitably covered with clothing or protective gear, consider using cold creme to provide a temporary layer of protection. Cold creme can help to close the pores of your skin, blocking some (but not all) of the potential irritants which might come in contact with your skin.
Skin Discoloration -
Some woods are known to discolor the skin, particularly while still green/undried. Black walnut will commonly cause a dark brown or black color on the skin. Osage orange will cause a yellowish or orange stain on the skin. Dark, oily woods in general will often cause staining as well. To help prevent staining of the skin, cold creme can be used. Applying it to the skin prior to working with the wood will help reduce staining effects. Using it after working with the wood will help to remove any stains which may have already occurred. Another useful tip: if your hands have become stained, and cleaning them is unsuccessful, try wearing a pair of rubber/vinyl/nitrile disposable gloves for a brief period of time. Since these materials are not breathable, they tend to cause your hands to sweat, which in turn will cause the outer layer of skin to soften and help to remove many stubborn skin stains.