Rough Woodturning & Alcohol Soaking Wet Walnut Bowl

Wet Turned Walnut BowlNow that I’ve return to my home shop and can again use my full sized lathe, I have an urge to turn something big — something I’ve not been able to turn on a mini lathe.

This rough turned bowl is walnut from a fellow member of the local woodturning club. The wood is wet but I had sealed it with wax emulsion to preserve it so there don’t appear to be any bad cracks.

I’ll rough turn it, leaving it oversized, then soak it in alcohol to try to dry it faster without checking. Once I can dry it, I’ll finish turn it to final size and finish. It’s not that pretty now – but just wait…

5 Responses to “Rough Woodturning & Alcohol Soaking Wet Walnut Bowl”

  1. David Campbell says:

    I have soaked a few bowls in Alcohol and I have not had any problems. I use a five gallon bucket…soak the rough turned piece for 24 hours and then wrap it tight in newspaper and let set for two weeks. I also learned this method from my woodturning club. A member keeps a 55 gallon drum with alcohol for his soaking. To much investment for me. Good luck.

    • Alan says:

      Thank you for your detailed comment. I appreciate the many turners who have stepped forward to fill in the blanks.

  2. […] This is a followup on the rough turned green bowl of a few weeks ago. The bowl is now dry after having been soaked in alcohol. This is about six weeks instead of the year typical (for me) of air drying an typical bowl. […]

  3. Bruce Wilhelm says:

    I’m still learning about turning & I enjoy watching your teaching & recordings. I have several large chunks of black walnut in the garage waiting to be turned. This might be a silly question. Why do you soak the bowl in Alcohol? Seems like its to speed up the drying process. Should you soak all types of wet wood in alcohol?

    • Alan says:

      One thing you’ll quickly learn (if not already) is that wood moves as it drys. As it moves, it may crack. The trick is to have the wood dry uniformly to try to prevent cracking. There are 2 major alternatives (assuming a bowl):
      1. Turn the bowl all at once down to the finished dimensions. Then as it dries, it will move and distort. This is either character or a disaster depending on exactly how much it distorted and/or cracked. Even here, a turner would try to moderate the drying process.
      2. Rough turn the bowl oversized, let it dry, then remount & finish turn the bowl. The upside is that the bowl will be uniform. The downsides are the time to dry, and it may crack excessively anyway. This is the route I took with the alcohol soaked bowl. The difference is that instead of placing the wet bowl in a paper bag and waiting a year for it to dry, I soaked it in alcohol and then let it dry. This took about 6 weeks.
      As to soaking all types of wet wood, it’s up to you. I’m still experimenting with alcohol and cannot give a complete answer except that all wet wood will have to dry somehow and some time.
      If you haven’t treated the black walnut chunks in your garage, you may want to inspect them. Wood dries at about 1 year per inch plus 1 year. Left untreated, your chunks may crack.
      Hope this helps.