I was offered this wormy cottonwood at the club wood raffle. It looked pretty ugly and I could have swapped it for another piece of wood. But, I was curious whether I could turn something from it. It became a challenge piece for me.

In my shop, I could quickly see that it was going to be a problem. It was very light and fragile. Pieces had already broken off. How was I going to turn it? And turn it into what?

I knew that any pressure on the wood could shatter it, leaving me nothing at all. So, I glued it to a faceplate with wood glue hoping for enough adhesion to be able to turn it. As I began to rough round it, my gouge produced only brown powder – no shavings. This was going to be tricky.

As I roughed it, I decided to try for a hollow form, a vase. With the outer turning completed, I hollowed it with my DIY articulated hollowing tool. This tool is good up to about 12 inches in depth. More than that would require a different design.

When hollow, I sanded only with 80 grit sandpaper. I could tell that there was no firm surface to polish up. I tried to woodburn my signature but there was little wood that could take a signature. I applied walnut oil which this wood soaked up like a sponge.

As I turned it, I thought this must be like turning cork. When finished, I decided cork would be easier.

The worms did not get the last word – maybe the get the last laugh.


Music: Traumerei by Shumann performed by Becky Schlappi. Used with permission.

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