Wood Hardener Experiment for Woodturning Bowl Project

Turning a Cherry Bowl and
Needed Wood Hardener

It’s been a while since I’ve added to my woodturning blog …..haven’t been feeling too well so I haven’t been working with my lathe. I’ve been cleaning up and trying to work on my garage roof plans and I’ve spent some time with the prototype’s for my carbide insert woodturning tools. Seems like there are a handfull of options out there if you want to buy a completed set of carbide tools but a full set could cost you anywhere from $400 to $600 dollars. I’m trying to develope 3 woodturning tools made with carbide inserts that will do everything you need and the entire set would cost somewhere around $250…..or about $85 each…. Going to take some time to get the prototypes finished and I might end up creating and selling just 10 sets or so a year ….and at $60 or so dollars…. just to help new turners get started. These carbide tools are really easy to use!

I know when I first started, if I could purchase a carbide tool for 60 bucks I would have jumped on it. I had so much trouble when I first started with Chinese wood turning tools. More on this latter….

Anyway…..I tried a little Wood Hardener Experiment for Woodturning Bowl Project

I had some wild cherry wood that was cut down a couple of years ago. I cut it myself, on my mothers property after a storm, thought I would be using for fireword or for the “smoker”. The logs were about 2 feet long and up to 20″ wide, sitting outside uncovered and no treatment for the ends, that is I did not seal the ends of the log or the endgrain.

The piece I decided to work with was at the above dimensions, it looks pretty good and I split it down the middle and found it to be very dry. I can only turn 12″ on my lathe so I figured I could cut off the outer soft material on the bigger piece and get a nice piece to turn ….looking for a good size bowl.

Next I created my blank and rounded the corners on my bandsaw. I really need to get a new blade so I can cut corners easily. In a perfect world I would have a dedicated bandsaw and blade set up just for cutting blanks!

Mounting the Cherry Bowl
Blank for Turning

I started my project with my Nova 2 Chuck fitted with a worm screw, it seemed to hold pretty good and pulled up nice and tight to the chuck. Next I pushed the tailstock into the other side of the blank and it went in rather easy, in fact, the outer layer was pretty soft in this spot. I decided to press the tailstock in tight and give it a try.

Everything seemed to hold tight. I did not find any more soft wood yet 🙂 So I shaped the bowl, with a tenon for the chuck to be on the tailstock side of the bowl blank. Shaping went pretty good but when I started to shape the blank for the chuck tenon I ran into more of that soft squishy wood! I decided I would finish shaping since I put this much work into it.

I really didn’t want the blank to spin off and hit me in the head, I don’t have a face mask yet, so I’ve tried to turn carefully and slowly.

I tried out my new carbide tools, a square carbide insert and a 15mm round insert, both worked excellently. Then I spend some time trying the get a handle on turning with a bowl gouge. I have a 1/2″ bowl gouge by Woodstock with a traditonal grind… up until now I’ve earned a new name…..”CATCH”, that’s right, I was the captain of catches and I was close to giving up. I thought it was the tool, the lathe and/or the wood but in reality it was just my technique! I’m really surprised a bowl hasn’t flew across the room and/or hit me in the head at some point because I’ve had so many catches.

Tradional Grind for My Bowl Gouge

Well I decided to give it another shot after waiting a couple of weeks. I reground my bowl gouge with a traditonal grind according to many experts, I’ll try to put up a pic. Not only did I regrind the tool, but I put a secondary grind on it for more clearance. As they say, “ride the bevel” seems my tool always got it the way causing me to have a catch or two or 10 🙂

Well, wouldn’t you know. My bowl gouge was cutting as good if not better than the carbide tools. I was “making shavings” as Capn Eddie says, and was that an awesome feeling. I didn’t care what the bowl looked like, all I cared about was watching the shavings fly just like the utube videos I’ve been watching. I had complete control of the side walls, inside the bowl and the outside shape!

Ran Into A Patch of Soft Wood

I stopped to examine my work and was proud of my turning! I finally got a bowl gouge to work right, I have to say it was the grinding on the original tool that probably messed things up, after using the oneway grinding jig I put a more desired grind on the bowl gouge and I could actually make it work. That’s what wood turning is all about. Finding these little changes or techniques that open the door to other methods and surprises 🙂

Usnig Wood Hardener on Lathe wood turning projectWell, as I was looking at the bowl I noticed a section that was off color and soft enough to push my finger through. I thought, great…. finally I turn my first bowl like a pro and its rotten. Then I remembered the soft tenon, it was the same type of wood, white and soft.

Experiment With Wood Hardener

I probably should have thrown it away, but it was my pride and joy. I wanted to hang it on the wall or something but because of the soft wood I was screwed.

I remember watching a video where the turner had the same situation and used a “wood hardener” so I did some searching and found some more info on different wood hardeners and thought I would experiment with my trophy and see if I could get a decent bowl out of it by using this “wood hardener”. I found a “minwax wood hardener” and ANOTHER wood hardener in a pint container at “Menards Home Center”, I know Home Depot has the Minwax Wood Hardener, a google search will give you some other sources for a wood hardener.liquid wood hardener for soft wood

You might think you could use an expoxy? The problem with most expoxies is that they do not penetrate the wood. If you know of an expoxy that penetrates the wood…. I would feel comfortable trying it.

Basically you just soak the soft spot with the hardener and let it dry. It soaks deep into the wood and hardens after a couple of hours. I also found 2 cracks and a chip. So I used some CA glue and poured it into the cracks, inside the bowl and outside the bowl. I also used CA and woodshavings and dust to form a paste to push into the cracks and chips.

I turned the bowl again, the wood hardener I used on the soft wood by the tenon worked great. It has keep the tenon solid and the wood chuck seems to be holding tight. As I turned the bowl the other soft spot turned nicely but after more shaping I found I needed to apply the hadener again.

Is A Wood Hardener Worth It?

You might think, “hey, don’t waste more money and time….throw the bowl away and start again!” I thought that initially but I really wanted to see how well this “wood hardener” works and if I have a bigger project would it be a possible solution should I run into rotted or soft wood? At this point I would said it is definitely something worth trying. It cost about 10 bucks for a pint and I only used, maybe a 1/5 or 1/6 or it ….so maybe I used a dollar or so of hardener. In my opinion, that would be worth the cost if you have an hour or more into the project.

BEFORE Woodhardener was applied, see white soft area in front of bowl
BEFORE Woodhardener was applied, see white soft area in front of bowl
wood hardener applied to woodturned bowl
AFTER wood hardener applied to woodturned bowl

I still think my chinese tools are half my problem when it comes to turning. I’d love to try an American made bowl gouge from D-Way, Thompson or Carter & Sons. All American made, and they seem to slice through wood like butter. Most of the guys doing high quality video turtorials always mention they are using these tools ….in fact Cap’n Eddie was just showing off one of his D-Way bowl gouges with a fingernail grind ….he gives it high praises!!!

Good to see Eddie returning to scene after his health problems!