The Curly Maple log pictured above is 42 inches across horizontally and about 35 inches vertically. The chain saw sitting on top of the log has a 36 inch bar on it and right behind it you can see the helmet that I wear when cutting up a log. The helmet has a face shield and ear muffs to help protect my hearing while running the saw. This is the bare minimum of safety equipment. You should also wear chaps to help protect your legs and steel toed boots. Remember safety is your responsibility and no one elses.
The first step for me is to cut about 4 inches off from the end of the log and then to inspect the fresh end of the log for cracks in the area that I am going to make the bowls from. If I find cracks I will cut back another 2 inches and I will keep doing this until I don’t find anymore cracks. If I don’t eliminate the cracks now they could be a potential safety hazard while turning and will also cause me problems later in the drying process.
Once I’ve gotten back to clean wood the next step is to figure out what I need for bowls and to cross-cut the log accordingly. I know that there are some of you turners out there looking at this log and saying my lathe will turn a 24 inch bowl so that’s how I should cut it up but realistically you would be wasting an incredible amount of wood just to prove that you can turn a big bowl. My most popular bowl sizes are 12, 15 and 16 inch bowls. So I’m going to cut up this log for maximum yield on the sizes that I need for my operation here.
I know that, for maple in my area, if I want a bowl with the final diameter of 16 inches I need to add about 8 to 10 percent to get me through the roughing, drying and final turning processes. Which means that I will need a rough diameter between 17 1/4 to 17 5/8 inches. So I’m going to shoot for cutting back on my log 17 1/2 inches.
In the above picture you can see that I’ve cut the log into four sections. I should tell you that log was sitting on 2×4 rails running at right angles to the log. So that when I cut all the way down through the log I wasn’t actually hitting the ground with the blade of my chain saw. The four sections are 17 1/2, 16 1/2, 13 1/2 and 22 inches from left to right. The only reason that I left the last section at 22 inches is because there is a lot of damage and rot on one part of that section and I’m going to have to work around it. My next step will be to mark the section that has been separated from the rest and then to cut it into the desired pieces. That will be coming soon in Part 2.