Some of us have a visual learning style. So in this section I would like to take you step by step using mostly pictures to view the process of going from a round log section to a finished bowl blank ready to mount on the lathe.
It is always good to start with safety first. Here are my hearing protector ear muffs and safety glasses with side panels. It is too late to prevent a problem after it occurs.
Now I am marking out guide lines to remove the heart slab on this piece of the trunk of a mulberry log. Fine splits or checks are already present around the center of the heart and they will always cause a problem. However, the slab produced in removing the heart will produce very fine quarter sawn pieces when cut in half through the pith. This quarter sawn wood will not warp or cup when it dries and has many uses such as for platters or cutting boards.
Now I extend these lines from the end grain to the outside of the log. This is to be able to see the mark when cutting with the chain saw.
Please note carefully. I am placing the log to be cut on two supporting waste longs. This is so important. There is space between the bottom of the log to be cut and the ground so that when the saw cuts through the bottom of the log it will not get into the dirt. Just the smallest amount of dirt will dull the chain and cause excessive wear. I had to learn this the hard way buy trial and error for years. I would like to offer you this short cut on that learning curve.
Here I begin to cut the log. I have read that cutting parallel to the length of the trunk produces lost of stringy shavings and these can bind up the saw. This author said it was better to cut the end grain by standing the log on end. This will produce a fine sawdust. I have tried it both ways. Sawing on end grain is slower and harder on the saw. I prefer to cut as pictured above. It does produce lots of stringy shavings but I have not found that a problem with my saw and it is ever so much easier and faster to cut this way.
Now I am making the second cut parallel to the first. This will remove the center of the heart. Notice that I did not complete the first cut. This allows me to make the second cut with the log still intact. It is much easier this way.
Now I have completed my second cut and will go back and finish the first cut.
Here I am finishing my first cut. I have propped up the log to be cut on the waste log underneath.
Now the first cut is complete. This gives two halves for bowl blanks and an center slab of quarter sawn wood.
At this point I am preparing to lay out a blank to mount on the lathe. For this I have made a set of templates of varying diameters with a hole in the exact center of the template. Then I use either a felt tip marking pen if it is a light wood such as this mulberry or chalk if it is a dark wood like walnut.
Note that there is a small check or crack on the heart area of the end of the log. It will be necessary to see just how deep this goes and to design your bowl so that this checked area is sawn or turned away if possible. If not, then it is better to discard this blank and use the that portion of this blank which is not checked for other purposes.
Hold the template steady with one hand and trace around the edge with the pen and mark the center as this will be important when you mount the blank on a faceplate. An off center mounting of the face plate will waste wood and give you a smaller than intended bowl.
Here is the completed outline to guide the rough cutting prior to mounting on the lathe and the center is clearly marked. This will allow you to center the faceplate correctly. Notice how I have positioned the template to avoid the checked area on the left side of the log.
Now I am marking the other half of the log we prepared. Note that I am using a larger template on the same sized log as the first. This side of the trunk round had no check in it so I was free to use the entire length in a bowl. So I used a 14 inch template in place of the 10 inch template used on the previous half. This means that the ends of the blank will be 14 inches but the sides will be considerably less. In a finished bowl the sides of this bowl will be much lower than the ends and result in a bowl which looks oblong. At trade shows customers are always asking how I could turn an oblong bowl on a lathe. Done properly it is eye catching.
Here is the completed lay out.
Now I am trimming the blank with the chain saw. It can be done with a large band saw but because the bottom is not flat, I find it safer to do with the chain saw.
Here I am trimming the corners.
Here is the trimmed blank ready for mounting on a face plate or mounting between centers to get the proper level of the ends and sides of the bowl so that a new face can be turned for mounting the face plate.
Every bolt of wood cut from a trunk or large limb should yield two bowl blanks and a heart slab with two halves which are quarter sawn. It is easy to calculate how many and what sized bowl blanks you can get from a given length and girth of a tree trunk or large limb.
It always makes me feel good to know that I have saved wood from the trash or fireplace and turned it into something useful or beautiful or, hopefully, both. A well turned object extends the useful life of this tree for many more decades. Further, if if came from someone who lived with the tree, they are thrilled to get a finished product to remind them of the tree they lost.
Special thanks goes to Todd Smith, my number one (and only) son of toddsmithphotography.com for the photographs and the design of this website.