Turning Green Wood
by Michael O'Donnell

210 x 275mm

Published by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd, East Sussex UK


ISBN 1-86108-089-1

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 96

The more we encounter successfully resolved designs in woodturning, the more we realise just how much there is to learn. Turning a nice bowl involves so much more than just mounting a blank on the lathe and cutting away some waste. It helps to know why we are turning that particular piece of wood in that fashion, what shape we are trying to achieve, and what course of action we will take to get there.

Turning Green Wood, a book by Scottish woodturner Michael O'Donnell, is certainly one of the best sources of information regarding the various qualities of timber, and how they impact on the designs we want to execute.

The book begins by looking at the structure of a tree, and the qualities present in specific areas (such as the crotch between two limbs). The more we understand the relationship between the tensions created during growth, and how this is reflected in the varying grain patterns, the more effectively we can use the raw material. Unique types of grain, such as crotch wood, ripple, burrs, burls and spalting are explained, showing how these phenomenon are produced and how best to harvest and use them in a turning.

Detailed information is provided on drying timber, including systems for measuring moisture content, air and microwave drying, the effects of shrinkage and moisture loss on the workpiece relative to the grain orientation, and similar factors. This allows the turner to accurately estimate what the blank or bowl will look like after drying.

By far the most intriguing illustrations are those that show what kind of bowl can be taken from which point in the tree. They demonstrate how - with care and planning - you can determine exactly the type of grain pattern you will obtain in the finished product. One illustration in particular shows how a log of irregular cross-section can offer a huge variety of natural edge cross-grain bowls. It shows in a simple way how the physical limitations of the raw material affect the type of bowl turned.

Design issues are further refined, providing insight into how the shape, size and angle of a rim will affect the overall rise and fall of the sides of a bowl. The design process involves a lot of planning, and a substantial portion of the book is devoted to this stage of work, which occurs before the tool even touches timber.

Technical issues regarding equipment are covered as well. O'Donnell doesn’t neglect the importance of basic tool knowledge, how he shapes his bevels (every author has to put in his two cents worth here it seems), and what chucks are used in which manner for turning bowls.

There are six projects in all, but the breadth and scope of the instruction provided makes them more like archetypes for a wide range of work. They include a translucent cross-grain bowl, natural edge cross-grain bowl, a translucent end-grain bowl, natural edge end grain bowl, a natural edge end grain goblet and a functional bowl.

All of the projects include plans of the bowl with dimensions, illustrations showing the section of the log from which the turning blank was cut, as well as how to mark out the blank. Chucking and cutting sequences are provided, with numbered illustrations and colour photographs.

Turning Green Wood is a ground breaking book for anyone interested in exploring techniques associated with bowl turning. Its greatest achievement is the clear guidelines provided for designing bowls, and choosing timber that has the best physical qualities to achieve the desired result.

Photos: Colour

Units of Measure: Imperial & Metric



Part 1: Planning and preparation
The tree
Bowls in the tree
Timber, tools and techniques
Planning the work

Part 2: Turning bowls and goblets
Making shavings
Translucent cross-grain bowl
Natural-edge cross-grain bowl
Translucent end-grain bowl
Natural-edge end-grain bowl
Natural-edge end-grain goblet
Part-turned functional bowl

Select bibliography
Metric conversion table
About the author