How to dry green wood for bowl turning

If your going to be woodturning green wood then you will need to know the best ways to dry green wood for bowl turning.

We will cover the most popular ways and my favorite drying the wood bowls in paper bags.

Twice turned bowl blanks

It is really popular to twice turn a bowl. So you would cut your wood bowl blanks from a log, and turn them thicker than the end result bowl.

You would then add them back to the lathe after they have dried, and turn them to their final thickness and be able to make the warped bowl round again.

The only real big difference between the twice turned bowl blank and the once turned blank is that it’s typical to add an endgrain sealer to the twice turned bowl because of the thickness of the bowl.

This is typically done when you are doing the method of drying in a paper bag.

You want to make sure when you doing twice turned bowls to leave the thickness they say 10% bigger then the overall diameter of the wooden Bowl.

Personally, I like to leave the thickness of the bowl in the 1″ range for bowls as big as 15″ in diameter. 15-17″ I’m shooting for about 1-1/4″ and 17″-20″ at 1-1/2″.

Once turned bowl blanks

One of my favorite bowls to create is a bowl that is made once turned. You simply cut your bowl blank from the log and you turn the bowl thin to its final thickness all in one go.

The biggest thing to consider doing it this way is the bowl will dry a little bit warped.

Now a lot of these methods depend on where you live and what the climate is like. A lot of it can also depend on the species of wood that your turning.

How to dry green wood bowl blanks

bowl coming out of paper bag

Turning green wood is one of the most rewarding parts of woodturning. I turn mostly green wood and I would say over 90% of my turning is done with green wood.

1. Drying in paper bag

This is by far the most popular method that I can think of and the one that I use. This is typically done when you’re doing that twice-turned bowl method.

I like to dry my biggest bowls in a paper leaf bag, these are bowls in the 18 to 20 inch range.

If the bowls are smaller than that they just go in a typical bag that’s made out of paper that you get from the grocery store.

Sometimes it’s also a good idea if you doing once-turned bowls after you have turned it to put it in a paper bag for the first day or so and close the bag.

Then after the first few days open the bag and let some air to it.

After that you can go ahead and remove it from the bag and let it air-dry even further.

Now, remember you need to take all of this with a grain of salt and do some trial and error in your area. I do the paper bag method and I live in the northeast of the United States.

Another good idea is to talk to people in a woodturning club in your local area. They will give you a good idea of how they’re doing it in the climate that you live in.

2. Drying wood bowl blanks in the microwave

Now obviously this is only done with smaller bowls. If you are doing the monster bowls that I like to do in the 16 to 20 inch range you might not be able to fit them in your microwave.

One thing to also look out for is that the microwave can dry some woods too quick and you end up getting some fine cracks.

You see when you use a microwave to dry out wooden bowls it’s heating up the wood from the inside. What this does is help release some of the water that the wood is holding onto in its cells.

If you end up doing this to quickly like I said before you can actually get cracks in the bowl.

The process of drying in the microwave

  • First, add the bowl to the microwave and run it on medium heat for say 30 seconds. Then remove the bowl from the microwave and let it cool. Some people like to add the bowl to a Ziploc bac not sealed.
  • Now you’re going to weigh the bowl. Right down the weight and then go ahead and put it back in the microwave after it has cooled and microwave it for another 30 seconds.
  • Keep repeating this process until the bowl doesn’t lose any more weight at this point the bowl will be dry enough.

Now keep in mind this is really a trial-and-error thing. The process might be different for different types of woods and depending on the thickness of the bowl that you’re using.

Personally I really don’t think this is a great way to dry out a green bowl blank.

3. Kiln drying green wood

Now, this might not be an easy process for a lot of people because you don’t have a kiln to be able to dry your green wood bowl blanks.

I know there are some places that you could actually hire someone to be able to put your wooden bowls in their kiln.

There is also a difference in doing the final turning with air-dried bowls and bowls that are dried in a kiln. The Kiln-dried bowls seem to be a little bit harder to turn than air-dried.

Also if you do some research you will find some ways to make your own Kiln with dehumidifiers.

How to know when your green bowl blank is dry enough

Moisture meter

If you’re going to do this with a moisture meter depending on your location you typically looking at it 12 to 15% moisture content. At this point, it is typically ready to do the finish woodturning of the bowl.

Now if you’re not afraid of the bowl warping a little bit and that’s part of the design of your bowls then you can pull it a little bit at a higher moisture content and let the final trying to be done after it’s finished.

Measuring weight

This is the method I like to do when I’m doing twice-turned bowls. Simply when the wood bowl stops losing weight then it has done its drying process.

You’re simply going to weigh the bowl and give it a little time like a week or so and then check it again. This will give you a baseline of the weight that you’re starting with.

Every month or so check the weight. You will quickly see it stops losing weight and then you check it more consistently almost daily to the point where it’s not losing any more weight.

Final thoughts on drying green wood for bowls

This is defineatly something that will verify with the types of wood you are using and the area that you live.

Temperature, moisture and your environment will change all these things. I encourage you to try different methods and find what works best for your.

Don’t let all these processes discourage you from turning green wood. It is amazing and the most enjoyable part of the hobby for me!

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