Here's what the walnut crotch pieces looked like right after I chainsawed them in half.
Fast-forward to this last December, and my oldest daughter was wanting a nice wooden bowl for her new apartment. And I'd been wanting to try out my new-to-me Universal Tool Rest and new Pro Easy Rougher, not to mention wanting to make something with those walnut-crotch blanks. So I decided to turn her a bowl for a Christmas present. Problem was, I couldn’t get started on it until about a week before Christmas. So I researched accelerated bowl-drying methods, and decided to try the bury-it-in-desiccant method. Several reviews claimed that you can dry a rough-turned bowl in about three days, with little to no cracking. I was skeptical, but you'll see my results in the photos that follow.
Here's my daughter's bowl blank, trimmed down just enough to clear the way tubes, and mounted on a 6" faceplate. The rough blank started out at about 16” in diameter. To preserve as much of the crotch figure as possible, I used the center of the tree as the bottom of the bowl, and left some sapwood at the rim.
And here that blank is again, all trued up. Love that figure! The surface you're looking at will be the bottom of the bowl.
The blank was still fairly green when I rough-turned it. But after three days covered with desiccant in a plastic bag, the bowl weight had dropped by about 20%. An existing crack in the bottom of the bowl had opened a bit, another small one formed, and some slight checking appeared in the crotch-figure part. But there were no showstoppers, and some slow-curing epoxy penetrated and stabilized the cracks easily enough.
Then back it went on the lathe. While the bowl was still green, I'd been practicing trying to get good finish cuts, but kept having tear-out problems. But after the desiccant drying, I was able to get clean cuts with another new toy -- a Henry Taylor Kryo bowl scraper, burnished to form the sharpest hook that I could get on the cutting edge.
Here it is after finish turning and sanding to 220 grit, ready for the finish. Final bowl dimensions came out at 10-1/2” diameter, and 2-3/4” high.
Finish for the bowl was Minwax satin wipe-on poly, smoothed with 400-grit sandpaper every couple of coats. I didn’t get as many coats on as I wanted before Christmas morning, so my daughter got to decide on the final sheen. As it turned out, she preferred an even lower gloss. So I applied two or three more coats of the satin wipe-on poly, leveled the last coat with 600-grit sandpaper, and then rubbed it out with #000 steel wool.
In this next shot of the finished bowl bottom, you can see a little checking from the accelerated drying. An existing crack in the bottom of the bowl had opened up a bit, another small one formed, and some slight checking appeared in the crotch-figure part. But there were no showstoppers, and some slow-curing epoxy penetrated and stabilized the cracks easily enough. I'll be curious to see how the conventional three-months-in-a-paper-bag process compares on a future bowl.
And finally, the beauty shot. As this was only my second bowl, I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to start with gorgeous figured blanks!