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Thread: Magnolia?

  1. #1


    Family asked me to turn some bowls from a magnoia tree that had to come down for demolition and new house construction. Based on what I fouond on line, my best guess is it was a cucumber magnolia, leaves 8-12" long and relatively dark green. The trunk was about 6-8" diameter so these will be more keepsake than utility or food bowls. Anyone have experience turning magnolia?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Springville, AL
    Have no idea which magnolia type I turned when green but it was beautiful turning. Long ribbons were a delight.
    Did the usual thing of roughing it out, coating it in Anchorseal and buried it the shavings it produced.
    A disaster when I open the bag later in the drying process.
    Warped and cracked so badly that I could not figure out how to mount it. Showed it to a couple of turner friends who just shook their heads.
    YMMV so good luck.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Tampa Bay area
    I cut up a bunch of magnolia a few years ago and all of it cracked and split too much to make much out of it. The blanks were any where from 3X3 to 6X6 and about 16" long. The ends were sealed and the blanks were put on stickers in the shade with a cover over them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    E TN, near Knoxville
    Apparently I've had better luck than some.

    Maybe it depends on the type of magnolia - there are many different species, a few more common:

    Four years ago I cut a bunch of turning blanks from green magnolia and since I prefer to turn dry I did what I always do - cut the blanks away from the pith, cut out any checks, then seal and dry.

    The smaller pieces are well dried now. The largest, 6x7.5x10" is well on it's way to being dry. Not a single crack in any blank nor any significant warping. (I air dry in my shop with heat and air.)

    The wood in this log was light in color with beautiful contrasting dark think lines on the ring boundaries. I have other magnolia from a 300 year old tree that came down in hurricane Katrina - it has a lot of dark areas (green, purple, brown) and has NO distinctive ring boundary figure. It also dried without any cracks or checks. I also cut blanks from big a tulip magnolia from a historical site in Knoxville - it's also drying without significant degrade.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Martinsville, VA
    We cut down a big southern magnolia tree last fall that was too close to the house. I have turned a few nice pieces from it and have several chunks of it sealed and stacked.

    It's much like soft maple in the way it turns. I think its grain has less tendency to tear out than soft maple. The pieces I've turned have had lots of interesting grain, which makes it fun to turn wet as different parts of the wood shrink differently and you end up with cool shapes. The color was a nice creamy yellow when it was fresh and it is darkening and spalting as it ages.

    The pedestal bowl was the first thing I turned from it. The yarn bowl was after that and the natural edge bowl a few months later.
    Magnolia pedestal bowl 0 small.jpgMag Yarn Bowl resize.jpgMagnolia bowl.jpg

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    San Diego, Ca
    I've had good luck with magnolia. But the tree was poorly watered and was standing dead. So, it's initial moisture content was probably less than if it was regularly irrigated.

    None of my dozen logs split, cracked, or warped significantly. I think that all of the pieces I turned were twice turned - - first to rough shape and then a few months later when the wood was dry. It is kind of pretty wood, but it seems to darken when exposed to light. Still pretty though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Houston, Texas


    I really like magnolia. What I've turned has a wide range of colors, and turns very nicely. I've had good luck cutting, rough-turning, drying then finish-turning magnolia. I cut down a tree for some friends a few years ago to make way for their new home, and a year or so later gave them a salad bowl and serving spoon/fork, along wits four individual serving bowls.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Don't let it bring you down,
    It's only castles burning,
    Just find someone who's turning,
    And you will come around

    Neil Young (with a little bit of emphasis added by me)

    Board member, Gulf Coast Woodturners Association

  8. #8
    I am not a turner but have a Magnolia story. When my mother-in-law was born, her father planted a magnolia tree in the front yard of their (then) home. About ten years ago, my wife and I were visiting and she made a comment that the house where she was born had been sold and was to be demolished. We thought it would be neat the get a piece off the magnolia tree, in case the new owners removed it, and have something made with it. So, we snuck over there and cut off a small piece of limb. One of my friends is a turner and we had him turn a small weed pot for her from the cut piece. As other mentioned, it was very pretty but warped and checked significantly after drying. But she still loved it.

    Ex-SCM and Felder rep

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Fredericksburg, TX
    YOu do need to twice turn. I had fairly good luck with some up to about 12" D. I even turned an end grain bowl about 8"D x3"H . It was almost white wood with grey streaks and tended to spalt. I would turn again if it was available. You can also turn natural edge by cutting your sections about 1.5D long and splitting and turn thick green (10% D thick). The warp will turn off when you finish turn dry. Make sure your tenon is over size to allow for oval.

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