Cutting wood for hollow forms

It might be a little confusing when you first look at a log trying to figure out how to cut the wood for hollow forms.

In this post, I will show how to cut wood blanks for your next woodturning hollow form project. The vessels will come from the end-grain as well as the side grain of the log.

cut blanks for hollow forms

How to cut wood for turning hollow forms

When your cutting wood for hollow forms you want to think about what your end product will look like.

Now this tutorial is assuming that you are getting your wood from a green log.

Your going to need a

  • Chainsaw
  • Strait edge
  • Carpenter pencil or wax crayon

Choosing the wood

One thing to consider is how long the log has been cut. If it has been over a year you could deal with a lot of punky areas in some types of wood.

As the log sits it can create spalting in the wood. This can be a good thing if this is the look that you are going for.

I prefer to use fresh-cut logs and use them as fast as I can. If I am going for a spalted look then I will save pieces of a log that I can monitor over time to see the depth of spalting before the log rots and decays.

Types of woods

I choose to use hardwoods. My favorite wood is Maple. I love all the types of maple and ambrosia maple has an incredible look on hollow forms.

Popular woods are…

  • maple
  • walnut
  • cherry
  • some oaks
  • birch
  • butternut

Orientation of the wood

orientation of the wood in the log

This is one of the most important parts to think about when you are cutting wood for hollow forms.

You want to think about the different layers of the tree and how that part of the tree will affect the look of the form.

Sapwoods can add a very nice feature on the entrance of a hollow form or the foot of one. The change in color will bring some interest to certain parts of the form.

I have an entire post on how to design wood hollow forms that might help you understand the orientation and shape of a form.

Types of hollow forms

types of hollowforms drawn on the log

These are the two types you need to consider when your cutting the wood. There are endgrain and side grain hollow forms.

To make this a little bit easier to understand if you’re looking at the picture the endgrain bowl will not have any bark on it.

Think of it as the top and the bottom of the vessel will be the cut ends of the log that are already cut.

Cutting wood for endgrain hollow forms

The wood for these hollow forms is taken from either side of the pith of the tree or they are taken with the pith.

If you use the pith you need to be concerned with cracking. Personally, I do not go this route. I will choose a log that is big enough so that I do not involve the pith.

So all you need to do is cut the log to the length that you want form to be. Leave some room for your tenon and the shaping of the form.

Now rip the long to the width that you want. If your not using the pith this can restrict the width but you will not have to deal with the pith cracking.

If you have a bandsaw you can make the form into a cylinder and do the final design and shaping on the lathe.

I use a chainsaw and cut the edges off or just leave them if the piece is small enough and I cut them off on the lathe as I turn.

Cutting wood for side grain hollow forms

If your cutting your own bowl blanks out of green wood then this will be easy to understand. You are using the wood from one side of the log.

Cut across the log to the width that you want your hollow form to be. This is the opposite first step then the end grain hollow form.

Now rip the cut piece to the thickness of the hollow form that you are looking for. Leaving room for the tenon and the design of the piece.

Now your want to shape it as round as you can so that it will balance better on the lathe. If you have a bandsaw then great if not then shape it the best you can with a chainsaw.

This is the same process that you would do if you were cutting wood bowl blanks.

So go ahead and try different things, but the main thing is to watch out for the pith of the tree. This will help you prevent cracks in your hollow forms.

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