Apricot Wood Lessons

A while ago an arborist contacted me about an Apricot tree he had just cut down. Of course, I jumped at the chance to get some more wood! =)

Actually this is a load of Gamble Oak from the same Arborist, but you get the picture!

One piece in particular had some nice features in the end grain; I was excited to dig into it and see what my gauge would expose in the wood.

Beautiful grain pattern and color.

I wasn't disappointed. The green Apricot turned like butter and I was pleased with the hollow form I turned from that first piece.

First Form.jpg

But… and there’s always a but… As it sat and dried, each day it developed more and more cracks. By the third or fourth day the cracks got wider and wider.

Starting from top to bottom left to right... First was about a day after turning and the last about a week later.

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks later, the hollow form was all but unusable…

 The final devastation! Maybe I can do some carving on it?

So, with the following attempt numbers two and three, I decided to rough turn two hollow forms of roughly the same size and dry them using different methods. I don’t really want to create a debate on the methods I used as I know for a fact there are better ways of drying green wood. And...I do tend to buck conventional wisdom just because I want to try it my way. Not always to a good result. =)

The first one I wrapped in a paper bag and used the microwave to dry it. One minute on high… let cool, and repeat... This method had worked great on some cottonwood and a pine burl I had tried several months ago.....No such luck for the Apricot. At first, it was small "artistic" cracks, almost symmetrical around the whole piece, but several weeks later there was one huge crack through the whole side of the hollow form.

The second hollow form I soaked in denatured alcohol for about three days. I then wrapped it also in a paper bag and left it to dry on its own. It too looked like it was going to work at first, but several weeks longer than the first, it developed an identical crack along the whole side.

Exactly the same. It's hard to tell the difference if I hadn't kept track of which was which.

Now let’s fast forward a couple of months to a turning course I was taking. I brought a limb of the Apricot into class when we were working on thin goblets. Our instructor told me to make sure and get a coat of finish on the goblet right away as soon as I got home. This kind of surprised me as I had always assumed that you cannot apply a finish to a green piece of wood? Well… I followed the instruction and applied an initial coat of Murdoch’s Hard Sealer (great stuff!) to the goblet as soon as I got home from class. Three to four coats, and three weeks, later, still NO CRACKS!

 Stem developed a slight bend as the wood dried.

In the end I learned that fruit wood is a royal pain, but more importantly, that it’s worth the extra effort needed to avoid the cracks if you're turning it green. Plus, you don’t have to wait until it dries to turn it. My next step in this adventure with fruit wood, is to try yet another hollow form, only this time, turn it thin and put some finish on it IMMEDIATELY! I also have a Plum rootball I'm dying to get into!

Stay tuned…

Oh, and P.S., the goblet will be added to my shop if I can figure out a way to ship it without it breaking! =)

Any suggestions?

Upon a Lathe,

Dan