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Thread: Hemlock - turn once, or turn twice?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Lake Burton, Northeast Georgia

    Hemlock - turn once, or turn twice?

    When a hemlock fell on our property a month or two ago, I didn't think I would be interested in turning it. I took my chainsaw down into the ravine, to get the tree trunk (18" diameter) out of the way of a path down to the creek. Pushed it out of the way of the path, and left.

    Then I searched "hemlock" on this forum, and saw some things that looked nice. So I went back down and cut off a couple of 18" segments of the trunk, and then ripped them into half-rounds. I applied sealant to the end-grain.

    Today I cored out 3 bowls from one of the half-rounds. (Woodcut Bowl-Saver Max 3.) The rough-turned bowls show some promise, I think.

    Screenshot 2020-02-13 at 7.31.03 PM.jpg

    Screenshot 2020-02-13 at 7.30.04 PM.jpg

    So here's my question: should I bag-and-slow-dry the rough-turned bowls, getting back to them in a few months for final turning, or should I just go ahead and turn them to final shape now? Haven't ever turned hemlock, so I don't know which will be best. Your opinions appreciated. Thanks!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    I think I would try three different ways and see which you like best. You could bag and slow dry one piece, on another you could apply sealant to the entire piece and leave on a shelf to dry, and on the third you could finish turn it green and let it warp. Important thing there is to turn to an even thickness, even on the bottom.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Gresham, Oregon
    One of the issues you'll have is that when the bowl dries, the knots (I spotted a couple) won't shrink, but the surrounding wood will. So my thots are that particularly the ones with knots present will require a second turning.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Lummi Island, WA
    I’ve turned a bit of local hemlock - be aware that local is at the extreme upper left hand corner of the country, near the Canadian border, probably 3k miles from you. I’m not aware of species variations in hemlock based on geography, so take my experience with a grain of salt...hemlock is a very light, low density wood when dry, think white pine or spruce for comparison. I’m used to our native BL maples, madrone, walnut, alder, locust and bitter cherry - they’re all substantially denser woods with the exception of red alder.
    Looking at the three pieces I roughed then set on the shelf to dry and promptly forgot about, its warpage seems to be similar to the softer maples like our native big leaf variety or red alder. As mentioned, it will crack around knots and inclusions. If you get a relatively straight grain chunk, its worth twice turning. Just leave the thickness about 20 or even 30% greater than you would more dense woods.
    If you wish to turn green to finish, again, leave your wall thickness heavier than normal - it helps with stability and gives the lighter wood a little needed bulk. The piece I tried did not respond well to sanding when wet, clogging paper quickly so I’d plan to finish sand after drying. Warping was manageable and pretty symmetrical on a chunk that had the grain centered.
    In my opinion, its worth turning, but the wood it pretty plain for the most part. Lends itself to rustic style kitchenware like mixing or dough bowls. Low density means tearout particularly in end grain. As with all - sharp tools will give the best results.

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