Book Review: Turning Green Wood

Reviewer: Spinning Brewer

Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnell.

Having relatively easy access to fallen and freshly felled timber meant this book was an obvious choice of reading. I have now borrowed it three time – not because it’s a difficult read or hard to understand, but because the advice is so good, the book is well laid out and none of the other books in the library deliver the same breadth and detail about working green wood.

It starts by considering all aspects of a tree from the basic structure to the significance of reaction wood, moisture, shrinkage and how distortion or splitting during drying can be anticipated and controlled. A most useful chapter is devoted to excellent descriptions and drawings showing how different orientations of a bowl blank in the log affect both its distortion during drying and the appearance of the final bowl. In addition to the basic log, the potential of crotch wood in both end and cross grain orientations makes you realise how many bowls, with totally different figure, are contained within the same piece of wood. And all that is before burls and spalting are considered.

The significance of the log in determining final form is continued in that part of the book which describes a few well chosen projects, ranging from a thin stem goblet to a functional bowl. Unlike many other books there is more emphasis on timber selection, marking out and orientation of the blank for each project, than on ultra-detailed description of tool technique. Having said that, the basic order of cuts as well as specific techniques for retaining natural bark edge, thin walls, etc. are well covered. The inclusion of clear, dimensioned drawings is a very useful feature not found in some books.

Even if you can only get branch-wood from the garden, this book provides a basic understanding of how to use this free source of timber. This is a book that gives sufficient principles about how green wood behaves for you to successfully tackle unconventional timbers like Cotoneaster or the split prone Eucalyptus.

This book is a must-have if you want to enjoy the pleasures of green wood turning without the frustration of splitting or unintended distortion.

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