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Thread: What's a good "practice" wood?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    Washington State
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    What's a good "practice" wood?

    So I've finally dusted off the gift lathe that I got the other year and am messing around with it a bit.

    Is there such a thing as a "cheap" practice wood? I've just been beating up pieces of fir scrap that I had kicking around the shop. But is there a less expensive hardwood, perhaps even from the BORGs, that I could try out as well. That way, if I was actually successful at something like a handle or a bottle stopper, I could finish it up and actually use it. A fir bottle stopper isn't really worth much.

    Apologies if this is a lame question, I'm really on the "newbie" end of anything having to do with turning.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    If you can get ahold of some 2x2 inch maple you can play and still have a nice project in the end. Tree branches can be really fun as well. Make some snowmen and let them check. I think they still look good. Turning stock literally grows on trees.
    I could cry for the time I've wasted, but thats a waste of time and tears.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Minot, ND
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    Poplar

    If you can find some poplar, it is a nice wood to learn on. Relatively soft, but not bad to work with. Cheap too. Don't know if you'd be able to find it in some thicker pieces to work on.

    I got some good sized chunks from a lumber supplier that were used as stickers on some of their palleted wood. Might be an option to look for.

    Clint

  4. #4
    For spindle practice I have a neighbor that makes wood screens and doors and uses a lot of Spanish Cedar. he gives me all of his cutoffs. It is soft but cuts well with very little tearout and the tool edge holds up very well. I also find that poplar has many of the same attributes. The Spanish Cedar also smells pretty good. I love free wood and am I am sucker that will try anything.

    Alan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Blairsville GA
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    Firewood

    Take a look around and see some of the stuff recently posted that was from a firewood pile!
    Whatever you pick make sure it's free of checks/splits/etc as you start playing around with learning cuts. You DON'T want to have a piece fly apart on you, but you may want that kind of stuff later for artistic reasons.
    For now...anything solid.

    I had a poplar tree that went down and I used wood from it to learn on, but I've heard people say to take a 2x4, cut it down to 2x2's and turn spindles till you're using gouges AND the skew.

    I would try to avoid buying anything, unless you just really have no hardwood and want something 'hard' to practice on.


    Good luck and be safe. Get in contact with a local club too, thats the best resource.
    Laugh at least once daily, even if at yourself!

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Depends on where you live. Several have mentioned poplar. If you live in the west where poplar doesn't grow, then it would have to be something else.

    You say that you've been turning fir. Fir isn't one of the choice woods to turn.

    Wally

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Almost anything but pine Josh. I called the city public works dept and asked who did tree work for them. Got the address, walked in and said "Hi, I'm a wood turner, here's a pen. Can I have some wood?" They tossed 5-6 pieces of something in my truck and I drove off happy. If it's free...it's me!
    Your Respiratory Therapist wears combat boots

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Burr View Post
    Almost anything but pine Josh. I called the city public works dept and asked who did tree work for them. Got the address, walked in and said "Hi, I'm a wood turner, here's a pen. Can I have some wood?" They tossed 5-6 pieces of something in my truck and I drove off happy. If it's free...it's me!
    That's a great idea Jim! Sadly, I don't have a nice pen to smooth the way. Perhaps a six pack.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the info so far everyone. Good stuff.

  10. #10
    The first day with my first lathe I was turning 2 x 2 fir.
    I am with Wally, This is probably the last wood to turn.
    just about any domestic hardwood is nice for spindle turning.
    otherwise you listen for the woodturners call to the wild (chainsaw).
    follow the sound and offer to help remove some of that wood.
    Just cut off the parts that don't look like a bowl...

  11. #11
    If it's free...it's me!
    ditto Jim's

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Washington State
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    Just to be clear, I'm aware that turning Fir scraps is less than ideal for the lathe. That is why I posted the question. I'm hoping to move away from "playing around" and more towards "working on learning". I figured a real hardwood of some sort would help a lot with that.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lewiston, Idaho
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    27,651
    Josh,

    Anything hardwood....limbs...anything can be used.

    It will be hard but initially concentrate on learning tool control and sharpening.

    Turning with dull tools is the pits. It can be no fun.

    Learn to "ride the bevel"......IMHO the first major lesson for using all turning tools......ride the bevel.

    pine and firs tend to have a high amount of pitch/tar and thus gum up your tools making them cut less efficiently.

    After some hours of just turning and getting comfortable with tool control, then worry about your first project.

    Turning is a constant learning and relearning process. I suspect it's never ends from that respect. To me it is a source of joy. Turning projects are the closest thing to instant gratification in the woodworking world.

    Have fun!......above all....have fun. Be safe! Have fun!
    Ken

  14. #14
    Don't know where in Washington you are, but there are several AAW clubs up there. Go to a meeting. Most have a wood raffle, and tickets are a dollar. Not to mention seeing things being done, and being able to ask questions. Mentors also available.

    robo hippy

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Harrisburg, NC
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    Another possibility is the folks who sell firewood. Most allow it to season at least a year after they split it and will have a variety of hardwoods. If you tell them what you are looking for (cherry, walnut, etc) some may save you sections whole for bowls. The price is very cheap since a cord of wood (around here) is about $110.
    Also check your local Craigs List and Free Cycle for people giving away wood where trees were taken down in their yard. If you can find where the local power company is trimming trees back from lines that is another good source. Locally they only remove (chip) limbs less than four inches and the rest the homeowners have to dispose of.
    "I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." - Edgar Allan Poe

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