Sometimes the most beautiful bowls come out of the funkiest looking chunks. I was recently given an incredible piece of box elder. With its dramatic red color, waves of flame, and patches of burl grain, I knew there was an amazing bowl waiting to be let out.
That's the good news. The bad news was that the whole blank felt a little punky, like it would barely tolerate spinning on the lathe. It had some obvious cracks, and I was sure there were more cracks and soft spots I couldn't see. Determined to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear, I cut the chunk round to get it ready for the lathe. Here's how you can stabilize a bowl blank.
Cut the blank round, which will expose the cracks that will end up near the rim of the bowl. Fill them in using thin CA (cyanoacrylate) glue. The glue easily flows deep inside the cracks and voids, bridging them together, making the bowl stable enough to get started turning.
As you begin removing material and rounding the bowl, you'll probably find additional cracks. Stop frequently, check your work, and add CA glue as needed. It takes only a few seconds for the glue to cure, so you'll be back at work in no time.
Thanks to CA glue, I was able to stabilize and use this beautiful chunk of box elder, without shrapnel chunks of wood zinging off the lathe. Try it the next time you've got a sow's ear to work with.