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Burl Wood Bowl Blanks – Where Do You Start?

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One of the best parts of bowl turning is finding chunks of unusual wood that you can turn into amazing bowls. In this case, George was given a huge piece of red oak burl. In this video he explores the burl wood, and walks you through how he changes the huge chunk of wood into blanks for burl bowls. It’s all about processing the burl and converting it to what you need for your projects.

Green wood, or dry?

It’s best to start processing burls and logs for bowl blanks as quickly as possible. You want the wood green, wet, when you cut it up. If it dries as a log or burl there’s a good chance it will start to crack. Once you’ve got your green wood bowl blanks, you can use the trick George shows to keep them wet.

Making it easy

One of the easiest ways to get started on large pieces like this burl wood is by using an electric chain saw. Since it’s electric, it can be used in the shop with no worries about fumes. An electric chainsaw makes short work of cutting large pieces down to manageable size.

Bowl turning is a blast!

Turning bowls can be a very rewarding woodworking experience. An aspect of it that is very cool is the relatively short turn around from start to finish. Depending on the size of the bowl, you may be able to complete a bowl turning project in just a few hours. WoodWorkers Guild of America has lots of resources available to you that will help you master bowl turning.

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9 Responses to “Burl Wood Bowl Blanks – Where Do You Start?”
  1. Ralph oppermann

    Be careful having a partner hold your work with a chain saw. Kick back is a real thing…. I personally know of a fatality from this practice.

    • Customer Service

      Hi Scott. Paint will slow down the drying process, not enough to promote spalting. Plastic will essentially stop it, or stall it for long enough to allow spalting to occur. So yes, there is a chance that the environment in a plastic wrapped bowl blank will be so wet the blank could get overly molding and/or rot. But blanks wrapped in excess of two years have been fine, with perhaps a little spalting showing up. If you’re concerned about it you could try the stretch film and monitor the blank every once in a while.

  2. Carl G

    Ticket 21884 Do you use bar oil when you use the electric chain saw inside? I have an electric saw but it throws off enough oil I wouldn’t want to use it inside.

    • Customer Service

      Dear Carl,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      My saw calls for mineral oil or similar as bar oil. Like any chainsaw it throws a little oil off the chain, but not enough to make me not want to use it in the shop.


      WWGOA Video Membership

  3. Alec

    I have two large birch burls and I’m trying to figure out a way to get it round to go on the lathe. I have a chainsaw a bandsaw with a 4 inch height capacity and a reciprocating saw. Both burls are fairly symmetrical, I have seen people mount them on the lathe and round them on the lathe after cutting them to size like in the video. What are your opinions on this technique is it safe? What are some safety considerations that you have to be aware of when using this technique. Other than standard safety technique.

    • Customer Service

      Dear Alec,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      This technique sounds fine to me as long as you are using standard safety protocol.

      Woodworkers Guild of America

  4. Dan Davidson

    I understand the intent to keep the wood moist in order to prevent cracking and to promote spalting.

    As someone who is a bit green himself I’m quite curious as to when and how you let (or cause) it to dry without cracking.


Tags: bowl turning, burl, chainsaw, Free Videos