A Russian Olive Bowl Turning Opportunity - 08-2014

Storm Damage

In August of 2014, we had a once in every 125 year storm and it knocked over our Russian Olive Tree.

We had an arborist come out to see if the tree could be saved, but it couldn't.

So, there did appear to be some bowl making opportunities from s few of the crotch pieces and I decided to try the largest one first.  

Green Wood

The wood is totally green, which makes turning a breeze.

As an aside, Russian Olive is the only wood which I have had an allergic reaction to while sanding.

I will be using a particle mask this time around.


It is looking like I can leave some sap wood on this piece.  When you have woods without much character, a little sap wood can produce some nice accents.

Sap Wood

30 minutes later the bowl blank is about round and the tenon is cut.

Turning the Inside

Since this is green, turning should be completed in one sitting.  Cover it with wet rags and then a plastic bag over that should the piece need to sit incomplete for a period of time otherwise, the heart wood will will start cracking out.

About Done

Keeping this from cracking out can be a challenging proposition but there are a few things you can do to improve the odds.

Denatured Alcohol

My preferred method for the speedy drying of green bowl blanks is soaking them in denatured alcohol, the theory being that alcohol displaces water in the green bowl blank evaporates out much quicker than water.  

The blank will soak for four or five days, which seems to work best for me.  

CA Glue

The bowl blank is then removed from the denatured alcohol and air-dried long enough for the surface areas to dry out.  This is normally only an hour or so.

Once 'dry',  The heart wood centers are coated with CA glue inside and out, and that helps prevent cracking.

Taping Up
Time to put the Russian Olive bowl blank in storage.  The bowl exterior is covered with masking tape.


So far this has taken only 90 minutes or so, but it is getting late.  If you're going to quit for the night,  green rounds should be covered with wet rags and then placed in a plastic bag until ready for turning again.

If you don't,  woods like box elder can crack out all over the place in a short period of time.



Dry in around three weeks and very little movement either!  

It is a good idea to let the piece set for a day or two after removing the masking tape in order to let it do any more stabilizing that it may need to do.

Fairly Round!

It's not going to take much to get this round again.  I did have to switch out to another 'Easy Finisher' carbide disk.  Not bad at all - this is the second disc I have used this year so far.   Much better than hand sharpening!


For smaller pieces, the pen finishing sanding supplies work quite well.

As I suspected, I have something of an allergic reaction to Russian Olive and rather than the particle mask and Benedryl,  I am opting for slow-speed sanding.
Bowl Inside

Power-sanding the inside is a better option versus hand-sanding on the smaller pieces, provided of course that you can get the sanding disc inside the piece.

Tru Oil

Tru-Oil works very well for most pieces and has become one of my favorites.  Just remember to use it sparingly, with very thin coats.  This is coat #3.


Leaving a little sapwood can really enhance the end product..

The Other Side

I'll have to say that this is one of the nicer Russian Olive bowls that I have turned.


Even the inside looks nice!

Closing Comments

1.  Sanding Russian Olive has been known to irritate the sinuses and lungs of some people.  I'm one of them.  There wasn't much of an issue considering the size of the piece but for anything larger, I would wear a particle mask.

2. If you choose to rapid-dry a piece which has heart wood,  apply thin CA glue to the rings inside and out before taping it up to put in storage.  Most of the time this technique will prevent heart wood cracking.

3.  When storing green chunks of wood if waxing, painting or paper bags are not your style,  get some Saran Wrap of the same quality used in the food service industry

Saran Wrap

and tightly wrap the piece in that.  

Sealed Up Green Piece

CostCo and Sam's Club are good places to get quality Saran Wrap.


You may see a little mold when you unwrap the piece, but it is still green and there are no cracks.


After sitting stored in plastic for a couple months, after the lathe loosens up the bark a bit more, it is v ery east to peel off by hand.

Hollowed out.

Don't forget to use CA glue on the inner rings before drying!