As a beginning woodturner, one of your first anxieties is finding a source of material. If there is a store nearby that features woodturning tools and equipment, they may offer wood for turners …but sometimes not. Under no circumstances would I suggest that you go to your local lumber yard, or go through your lumber pile and grab a chunk of 4x4 cedar or fir and “practice” your cutting skills. This material is barely adequate for construction and for a new turner is horrible to cut smoothly and cleanly.
There are a number of on-line sources for both spindle and bowl blanks, such as CraftSuppies and Packard Woodworks, Woodcraft Supply and Rocker. Even better, if you have a AAW (American Association of Woodturners) affiliated turning club in your area, hook up with them. The clubs are frequently given whole trees, and the members go omg-site to take them apart.
You don’t have to own a chainsaw …just be willing to help carry and clean-up.
OK…now you have a tree: what next? The chainsaw operator (you or a club member) will “buck” or cut across the tree to create rounds that will be a bit larger than the capacity of your lath. If your lathe, for instance, will turn a 14-inch diameter black, cut the rounds to a length of 16-inches. There position the round bark side up (!) on as mound of sawdust or on a stump or supporting rounds and make a cut through the pith (growth ring center)….make sure your cut is straight and goes through the pith of both faces. now you have two half rounds ready for face-plate turning. These rounds can be further shaped in circles (or circular) for mounting on your lathe with a chainsaw or a bandsaw. If you use a bandsaw, be extremely careful ss it is very easy to lose control of the wood when cutting backside down…the wood wants to spin or turn and you run the risk of serious injury or ruining the blade.
One way to do this safely is to remove the bark, place the blank face side down on the bandsaw table and draw a circle on the rounded surface ….or precut some plywood/hardboard discs of several differing diameters that you can use as templates to draw your circles with a sharp or chalk. Make sure your wood will clear the upper guides of your saw before you start. The upper and lower guides should be adjusted for the proper clearance (thickness of a $1.00-$100 bill!!) and always use a sharp blade…if your blade is old and worn, this becomes a very difficult and dangerous cut to make. When cutting, always make sure that your hands are NEVER in front of the blade.
After cutting your rounds, coat the exposed wood faces with Log End Sealer (anchor seal) which is an emulsified paraffin and slows down the air-drying process which limits the tendency for the wood to develop cracks . Wood will air-dry at the rate of 1-inch/per side/per year. A 4-inch thick bland will become air dried two (2) years. Find a place to store your wood that is not exposed to direct sunlight or drafts…..Remember: No matter what your wife/husband says, there is no such thing as too much wood. Not all of your wood is going to survive to be turned….Some will crack horribly …and we call this “firewood”.