Monday, June 24, 2013

Mis-adventures in the Wood Shop-Working with Green Branch Wood/Discussion and Plans

Hi Everyone,


Whenever I begin a blog post like this it's a big tip off that something went astray today...but I'll talk about branch wood first.

We have had a lot of strong storms pass through Minnesota the past week and a number of trees and tree branches have come down as a result. While this has caused headaches for a lot of homeowners and businesses it has been something of a wood-collecting boon for me. I've been driving around and I've collected several large branch sections for use in the shop.

Probably a lot of this wood will become spoons as wet wood is much easier to carve than dried wood is and I made several spoons last week. This week I thought I would use some of the larger branches for boxes, which leads me into my next story.

Amongst the many activities my church parish* engages in is a series of annual art shows that showcase the work of area artists. We get to see original work and the artist gets a chance to make a sale and this is a good thing all around. I was told about the fall show which will have spirituality and art as its theme and I decided to enter. I normally don't enter shows but I think one or two of my tea boxes might stand well amongst other types of art. So I'm going to be making two boxes and I'll enter the best of the two.

*St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, St. Paul, MN. Yay St. Matt's!

Discussion and Plans

I've decided to use two of the branches I've collected lately: an apple tree branch and a branch from a large linden tree that fell last week nearby. As both of these came down during storms, they are not only unseasoned but have more than their share of water inside them.

Unseasoned wood from trees is a great resource for the wood turner but since the wood is soft and wet it can be a challenge to use it. It doesn't cut cleanly when sawing and saw blades have a tendency to get caught in the soft wood. And this is what happened today. I was turning a section from the linden tree to get it roughly shaped and ready for drying and I needed to cut the blank in half (see below). And well, let's go to the photos and do this step by step:

Let's get to work:

The next three photographs are of several large branches that I salvaged on my travels about. They are:

Linden wood

Red oak

And another section of linden wood:

You can see in the above and below photos that I've placed this section of linden branch on the lathe and turned it into a cylinder-shaped blank:

And cut a tenon on both ends for turning later:

And I decided to cut off the bottom and top sections. Since this was a soft piece of wood I thought I would just waltz over to the bandsaw and cut away.


As I was sawing the bandsaw blade got caught in the soft wet wood and stopped moving. And I do mean stopped. It got jammed in the wood and after about 20 minutes of disparate freeing attempts I couldn't get the wood blank off of the bandsaw blade. By now after pounding on the blank with a mallet and trying to pull the blade out of the wood with pliers, the blade was bent and damaged and the blank was still stuck fast.

So then I called Oliver. Oliver is my youngest son and a big strapping lad who is used to his mother's occasional shop outbursts. He graciously agreed to help me get the blade and the blank off the bandsaw. We took a hacksaw and cut the blade in half and gently pulled it and the blank off the bandsaw. Then Ollie finished sawing the blank in half for me with a handsaw while I walked around wringing my hands. And here is a photo of Ollie with the offending section of bandsaw blade:

You can see in the picture how happy he is...

After all this I roughly shaped the apple wood and linden wood blanks and here is a photo of them:

This is linden:

and this is applewood:

Since these are really wet, I'm going to wrap them in paper grocery bags and set them aside to dry slowly and with any luck and the wood fairies ok, we'll have two sets of blanks for shaping and turning.

We will return to this story in late July.



  1. Excellent tale of the occasional woes of a craftswoman. Excellent son to come to your aid.

    Also, our Norway Maple (whose wood you have crafted before) sustained some damage in the form of a large upper branch being broken and hanging at a right angle to the trunk. Consequently, we are going to have to have it taken down. We had hoped it could give us one more summer of shade, but we shouldn't take any more chances with these crazy storms. So when the tree guys are finished with the major storm damage clean up, we'll have it done. Do you want any of the wood?
    I am commenting as anonymous, because I don't have the other accounts, but I think you know who I am. Hint: I discuss the meaning of life etc with you on Sundays.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Hmmmm...well, I am sorry to hear of your tree's impending sacrifice but one tree's problems is a wood turners gold mine.
      I am currently looking for branches 4-7 inches in diameter for use in spoons, boxes, and bandsaw-breaking material so yes, I am interested.
      When you have the branch cut down, let me know and if you have time later this week, it would be helpful if I could come over and see the branch before finally committing to it.
      Thank you Anonymous and enjoy the blog postings.
      Vickie "Ol'Fearless" Woodcock