Oak and Pine - Woods to Avoid

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Oak and Pine - Woods to Avoid

Postby stephanmoll » Mon Nov 23, 2015 11:59 pm

A number of woodturners have told me to stay away from oak and softwoods for turning: oak because it cracks so easily; softwoods because of uninteresting wood patterns.

I had initially heeded this advice and avoided oak. After all, there are many other woods to work with. However, this summer I received as a surprise gift a piece of an oak trunk that came from a tree cut down on Columbia Street in Chapel Hill, discovered and lugged to my office by a coworker during her lunch break. So, recently I turned it into a bowl (image 1); and was pleasantly surprised not only by the fact that cracking was not a problem, but also by the interesting and to me novel wood patterns that emerged. And how interesting and nice to hear my 14 year-old daughter spontaneously state, that this was her favorite wood of the (seventeen) ones I have turned so far.

As for softwoods: WGNC’s Chris Boerner has shown that beautiful pieces can be created from pine (images 2 and 3). I recently turned Himalayan cedar (deodara cedar) and found it to be quite an interesting and worthwhile wood to work with (image 4).

My summary: I will not avoid oak and softwoods any more. And furthermore – and not a new revelation to many, I am sure: Probably every wood is worthwhile turning and exploring.

Image 1: Oak (I think white oak); 8’’ in diameter, 2.5 ‘’ tall; walnut oil finish


Image 2: Pine bowl by Chris Boerner


Image 3: Pine bowl by Chris Boerner


Image 4: Himalaya Cedar; 12’’ in diameter, 6’’ tall; Seal-a-Cell finish
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Re: Oak and Pine - Woods to Avoid

Postby normcloutier » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:50 am

Almost any wood can be turned. You were most likely advised to avoid these woods as less productive.

Oak is hard on tools and can be difficult to get a good finish cut due to the open grain, but is perfectly acceptable. I have seen several lovely pieces over the years. It is mainly used for machine-turned spindle work, however.

Pine is a broad spectrum. What Chris got hold of is some extremely old-growth pine that might even be an odd species. The young, common pine found everywhere here is too soft to hold a form and splinters very easily. You can work it easily, but the finished pieces often do not hold up. I have seen sharp tools and good technique produce some amazing finial detail, but the finished product is very weak.
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Re: Oak and Pine - Woods to Avoid

Postby pmcqueen » Tue Dec 15, 2015 11:12 pm

I have some old rafters from an old barn by brother helped tear down. The beams are some kind of oak, with a nice warm color after finishing and very dramatic figuring that runs perpendicular to the grain. He was very pleased with the shallow bowl I gave him too. Experiment and enjoy the journey!
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