Turning a Natural Edge Red Mallee
I bought a Red Mallee burl several years ago with the intent of saving
it until I got good enough with a lathe and lathe
tools not to trash out the burl or the tools..
I figured I would reserve the burl until a special occasion presented
itself. One did - my brother's wedding.
This is one hard piece of burl.
This is the back side. Still looks to me like a turtle shell.
The first order of business is to mount it and this clearly, is not
going to work.
My favorite tool - the chain saw blade attached to a grinder does the
Takes about five minutes go make a flat surface.
I tried mounting the faceplate and promptly broke two screws off in
This stuff is hard. I went to the local hardware store and
bought sturdier screws and
a new drill bit.
Drilling at even the slowest speed causes the bit to heat up and the
wood to burn.
This is going to be fun.
after drilling, three out of the six screws broke. I wonder
if this is superior Chinese craftsmanship.
Anyway, I finally got the burl mounted. I am using a speed
reducer, turning at about 100 rpm.
A quick way to get this round is with a little assistance from my
My aim here is to get the burl round and to find a center.
A view from the top.
I am finally finding the bowl bottom. My intent is
to attach a sacrificial block to the bottom so I don't lose too
much bowl depth. There isn't much to start with anyway.
The bowl is now reasonably round.
I decided to depart a bit from the norm and glue the block on to the
bowl while still mounted
on the lathe. I figured that when it dried, I would turn the
block down to exactly the same diameter
as the face plate and be able to transition from outside to
inside without much material loss.
Looks like it is glued on pretty well. Now it's time to
Switching positions from back to front wasn't much of a problem but
getting three broken-off screws
out of the center is.
That is, until I use my handy dandy chainsaw attachment to gouge in
near the screws and then extract
them with vise grips.
I decided this time to use a forestner bit to drill down to the correct
depth, which is 1/2" thickness to start.
I was making really good progress until the bowl flew off the lathe,
bashed into a shelf and landed on the floor.
My first thought was, 'Oh, #$%@ - I trashed this one big time.
And then after looking it over, it looked like the burl was so hard it
literally bounced off the floor and landed
intact. The advantages of hard wood.
Three days later, the glue job appears to be holding. Away I
I resort to my parting tool / gouge technique and
make rapid progress
One thing to consider when turning a really hard, natural edge bowl, is
that those natural edges
are pretty sharp. I upped the lathe speed to 500 rpm and got
in the way of the rim.
Gloves are a really good idea.
One bandage and an hour or so later, the bowl is pretty much turned to
where I want it to be.
There are numerous fissures, cracks etc., so I use medium viscosity CA
glue and sawdust to get the outside
looking reasonably intact.
Lots of problem areas inside the bowl too. There are a lot of
problem areas so I mix about a teaspoon
of CA glue with sawdust, forming a pretty good wood filler.
Sawdust and super glue - two staples of the wood turner. The
bowl sets for several days.
I could go into the grief endured in trying to get a decent finish but
I think it can be described in
one sentence: "Do Not USE Spray Finishes in Dusty Rooms".
The final finish was two coats True Oil and three coats Clear Urethane
After describing my woes with this particular project a female
acquaintance asked me why I didn't take a class
or two on this stuff and take some of the guess work and headache out
of the process.
My response was, 'Yes, that makes total sense but you have to
understand, this is a guy thing. '
Need I say more?
At any rate, Congrats Matt & Ann.
We hope you enjoy many happy years of home improvement and if you need
a little help getting
started, this may assist:
Dan & Debbie