Finding Center Woodturning Blog

Finding Center Woodturning Blog

Cutting Bench Makes it easy to convert fresh-cut logs into turning blanks

comments (0) March 6th, 2013 in blogs, videos

JoeLarese joe larese, Contributor
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Video Length: 1:11
Produced by: Joe Larese

Holding fresh cut logs securely and in the proper orientation is key to being safe when using a chainsaw to convert timber into bowl and spindle turning blanks, and I decided to build a dedicated bench for the purpose. I use this method with logs from about 8 to 18 inches in diameter. Very large logs are too heavy to hoist onto the bench and smaller ones are easier to cut with a bandsaw and a bandsaw sled.


 Preparing the log

Whether cutting the logs for bowl blanks or spindle parts, the initial process is the same. Measure the diameter of the log, add 2 inches and cut the log to length. Just be sure this length is less than the length of your chainsaw bar. I then use a grease pencil to mark the cut-lines on the freshly exposed end. It's tempting to cut into the endgrain of the log but it is much easier on the chainsaw (and the sawyer) to orient the log on the "round" and make the cuts along the log's length. The problem with this orientation is the log is less stable and the use of a bench makes the job safe and easy. 


Securing the log

The cutting bench should be sturdy and well built, and a good height would be equal to the length of you inseam and topped with a sacrificial piece of ½ inch exterior plywood. Note the section of the bench shaped like the letter "H". This allows the cut portion to roll off away from the blade and avoids the chainsaw bar being pinched, which is a common occurrence when using the "X" profile of a conventional sawbuck. A unique feature of this bench is the cleat that acts as a stop and cutting guide, but most importantly it allows the use of 2 screws to secure the log and prevent it from rolling. The screws are driven into the endgrain of the log, in an area that will most likely become waste. 



I usually saw right through the center of the log, eliminating the pith and creating two half logs with flat surfaces. If necessary, I secure the half log to the cleat and use the chainsaw to make additional cuts along the layout lines. This method creates material with flat surfaces, making additional cuts on a bandsaw safer. 


Using a Cutting Bench to Produce Bowl Blanks: Step by Step


Preparing the Log for Sawing

The grease penciled cutline is aligned along the edge of the cleat and two screws driven into the endgrain secures the log.

With the Log Secured, it's Time to Saw

With the log in this orientation, a chainsaw with a standard blade can quickly cut the log.

Flat Faces for Stable Sawing

The resulting large flat surfaces allow a stable face for further cutting. These halves will become bowl blanks.

Back at the Bandsaw

A template attached to the half log is a cutting guide to produce a round bowl blank, and the large flat surface makes the cut stable on the bandsaw.

Spindles, Anyone?

The endgrain of this cherry log is being marked with cutlines to produce 2 inch square spindle turning blanks.


posted in: blogs, videos, turning, cherry, wood turning, woodturning, milling, bowl blanks, turning blanks, spindle blanks, converting logs

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