Ask WWGOA: How to Stop Green Wood from Cracking as it Dries

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In prepping blanks for bowl turning, I cut them out of logs for face turning. I am using a freshly felled American Elm stump and a year old Walnut trunk for stock (felled a year ago). The blanks range in size from 6-8″ inches round and 4-6″ thick.

Both the Elm and Walnut blanks are cracking against the grain as they sit in my garage. It’s been very humid and rainy since I’ve cut these out. As a test, I put half of them in my basement (50-60% humidity) and they cracked the same as the garage-stored blanks.

I don’t even have time to rough them out, they crack so quickly. What is causing this cracking? How can I prevent it?

Submitted by TroyM


The problem is that the wood is drying. If the drying is not controlled very carefully, the blanks will be prone to cracking. This is especially true on thick pieces such as you’re probably cutting for your bowl blanks.

The best way on how to stop wood from cracking is to seal the blanks as soon as you cut them. A commercially made product such as Anchorseal is the perfect answer for this problem. It’ll completely seal the blank and keep it wet until you’re ready to work with it. You can brush it on or, if you want to make it really easy, pour the Anchorseal in a tub and dip your blanks. This is my approach. Brush off the excess, let the sealer dry, and you’re blanks will remain sound for a long time.

You can purchase Anchorseal from woodworking specialty stores like Woodcraft.


Related videos:
Chemically Stabilizing Green Wood
Time for Green Wood Turning
Drying Wood in a Microwave
Should I Buy My Lumber Green?

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20 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: How to Stop Green Wood from Cracking as it Dries”

  1. Nick Turner

    Seal the blanks’ end grain with wax as suggested. But then bury the blanks in planer shavings of the same type of wood as the blanks. Completely slows down the drying process. Good luck 👍

  2. Dwight

    Mine were gifts, about 12” across, 1 1/2-2” thick, both were sanded and finished with an oil…one is cracking more than the other but both cracking, can it be be stopped/reversed?

  3. James Madren

    Be carefully "sealing" ends of logs / blocks. If it is much over 60° your wood will quickly become "dodie" or soft... in winter you can get by with sealing pretty well but when the temp gets above 60 mother nature is the boss, not us.

  4. James P Madren

    I've been making bowls from freshly cut "green" wood for over 35 years. Mostly from maple, but black walnut and cherry at times too. I try to only cut logs when the sap is "down" but that isn't always possible. Cutting trees late November and December and trying to get all I need by early January greatly helps with the cracking problem. But even if I cut a log in June - I can do pretty well keeping them from cracking. I buy mineral oil from STE-OIL.COM it's food safe but far heavier than what you'll get from a pharmacy or grocery store. The local stuff is 70 weight (like water) I buy 250, 350 and 500 weight and mix my own "weight". When I was a paid display artist for the NC State Fair I did shows outside so I was not in a controlled setting as far as wind and temperature go. I would use 500 weight, applying it with a brush as I was chipping out the bowl. But in a shop setting - I would wait until the bowl was completed and sanded to 80 grit - coat it with 250 weight... then place on a metal pan upside-down for 24 hours. Then after that - right-side up for 10-12 weeks (maple) and around 6 months for walnut. I check the bowls daily, and apply a light coating on the end grain inside and out for around a week, then "only if needed" after that. The 250 sinks in well but evaporates at a much slower rate than the 70 Wright you buy local. If it's hotter weather - the 350 weight sinks in pretty good but remains on the surface better to prevent surface drying prematurely and causing cracks. This method works very well and I will only run across a hard to get along with piece of wood on rare occasions... hope this helps. Feel free to contact me if I can help. JP Madren

  5. Paul Alexander

    I have 8"x8" blocks of wood used to shore up walls for sewer construction workers. I grinded it to the shape I wanted. I dyed it the color I wanted but didn't seal it. Within a week or so it cracked. How can I prevent cracking in that situation,

  6. George sichalwe

    Am a beginner in bowl coring so this interesting

  7. Gunther

    Does this anchor seal slow the drying, or suspend it? Hate to "pause" time just to have it crack when worked later, especially on a lathe! Whoa... What time is req'd for your 3-4" thick junks example? We have tropical hardwoods growing onsite here, and would hate to waste them.

  8. Vej

    I have a question not a commment hope it’s ok, can I use red cedar to crave spoons and bowls that will be in contact with food

  9. Ken Rahn

    A cap on top of a 4 x 4 post (treated wood cap) is showing cracks. What can be done to keep them from going further?

  10. Phil

    I'm making wood cookies for our wedding! I applied anchorseal 2 to both sides of nearly 40 cookies! Its been 2 months and I planned on sanding them before applying epoxy resin to them. They all look good no cracking bark is still attached on the black walnut 1 inch cuts. The wood sealer however is eating through all my sand paper. Will it dry enough to sand or do I need to use another technique to remove the anchorseal?