If an arborist offers you free wood, under what conditions is it worth doing? And, what is the process of turning it into usable lumber? – Andy Young

Mike Cyros replies: From a bowl turner’s perspective based on my experience, this is often the best way to find quality wood that can be easily turned into bowl blanks for green turning on the lathe. The first question to ask is what is the species of wood. Any type of maple, walnut, cherry, apple, or even box elder for close grained woods, or oak or ash for open grained woods make for great bowl material. Avoid species like willow.

Generally, I’ll ask for limbs or trunks that are a minimum of 8˝ in diameter, and gladly accept crotches or burls which are great sources of beautifully figured grain. Only when I’m within 24 hours of turning the green blanks (to avoid drying and checking of the lumber), I’d cut the limb into chunks of a length that is a couple of inches longer than the diameter with a chainsaw.

The next step is to rip down the middle of the blank to remove the middle 1˝ or so that contains the pith of the tree. I do this by setting the blank on its side, and cutting down the left side of the pith, and then another cut down the right side of the pith, with the cut running parallel to the grain of the wood. This rip cut can be tough on your chainsaw’s blade, sometimes quickly dulling a normal cross cut blade. I’d suggest having a spare chain that has been sharpened especially for rip cutting.

Once the rip cuts are completed, you’ll be left with two opposing bowl blanks with the bark on the outside curve, and the inside flat face without the pith. Coat the end grain of the bowl blank as soon as possible with a wax sealer unless you plan on turning within the next couple of hours. Prepared green bowl blanks can check relatively quickly if left untreated.

Bottom line – an offer from an arborist to provide you with lumber should be seen as a great opportunity for any bowl turner!