Turning is a fascinating method of working with wood. If you’re developing an interest in this ancient technique, you may be looking for the best types of wood to work with, and apple wood may come to mind. You probably haven’t heard much about turning apple wood, but does this mean it’s no good for this particular technique?
Apple wood is very good for turning, especially for making furniture and detailed tools. It’s durable, dense, and has a fine and straight texture, which makes it suitable for turning on a lathe. The reason why it’s not very popular is that it is rarer and more expensive than other types of wood.
Stick around if you want to learn more about apple wood and woodturning! I will explain why apple wood is a good choice for turning and what else you can do with it. I will also show you other types of wood that can be used for turning if you can’t find apple wood or just don’t wish to use it.
Is Apple Wood Good for Turning?
Applewood is known to be heavy, dense, and straight, uniformly textured. The color of the wood varies from gray to reddish-brown, both light and dark. It is solid and durable, and it is regarded as an excellent choice for woodworking in general and, in particular, for turning.
In order to understand if apple wood is suitable for turning, you need to know what kind of wood is required for this type of woodwork and if apple wood fits the description.
What Kind of Wood Does Turning Require?
Turning is woodwork that requires working with a lathe, which spins the wood very quickly on its axis while you shape it using handheld tools. This method is ancient but has evolved over time as tools have become more and more sophisticated.
There is no straightforward answer when it comes to the type of wood that should be used for turning. Naturally, there are certain types that can be handled and turned more easily, but most turners would tell you that most types of wood will do. However, there are specific characteristics that make some types of wood more suitable for turning than others:
- Easy to handle: Given the nature of turning, the wood you’re working with shouldn’t be too heavy.
- Flexible: While turning, you want a type of wood that can withstand pressure and not break while bending.
- Durable: Turning wood should be tough and resistant to temperature and moisture, as well as to physical deterioration and shock.
- Compact texture: For a better result, turning wood should be finely grained and straight textured, especially for highly detailed work.
What Makes Apple Wood Good for Turning?
The high density, uniform texture, and excellent resistance make apple wood great for turning objects and intricate items in particular. Applewood is durable and sturdy, with beautiful tones, and is easily polished and stained; all of these features are useful for woodturning.
In particular, apple wood is considered ideal for turning furniture. The density and sturdiness of the wood help screws and nails to stay on the wood, and the fact that it’s durable and resistant certainly helps. Applewood can make great wood-turned furniture.
On the other hand, apple wood can be a bit heavy and inflexible, which might not be ideal. The heaviness makes it challenging to handle and work with using a lathe. However, apple wood is still a pretty good choice for turning, all things considered.
What Else Is Apple Wood Suitable For?
Apart from wood turning furniture and tools, apple wood can be useful for other kinds of woodworking. Its sturdiness and density are still valuable qualities, especially for some tougher woodworking techniques. Applewood can be suitable for woodworking inlay or chip carving.
However, apple wood is not very suitable for carving or whittling. Because it is so dense and dry, it can be pretty tiring to work with, which can result in imperfect or uneven work. However, its grain and variety of colors can make beautiful carvings.
If you don’t wish to try carving on such dry and dense wood, you can try working with freshly cut wood. However, green wood can be unpredictable because it will continue to dry out in the future. While it’s drying, it can split or crack.
Apple Wood Characteristics
If you are still considering whether to use apple wood for turning, you should be aware of certain features that can help you make an informed decision.
Woodworkers who have used apple wood for turning have noticed there is significant shrinkage after the turning process. When you prepare the wood before turning or carving, you make sure to dry it out as much as possible. Thus, you should know how long it takes apple wood to cure before using it for turning. However, wood continues to lose moisture over time, which results in shrinkage. The humidity of the environment also plays a role. [How Long Does It Take Apple Wood to Cure?]
Sometimes, spalting can occur when you store applewood in a particularly humid environment. Spalting is essentially the coloration of wood by fungi that typically live in dead wood. The fungi get nutrients from the wood, leaving behind dark spots. These spots can create beautiful patterns on the wood.
Applewood is actually perfect for bowls or other wooden utensils like wooden spoons. Not only is it durable and resistant, but it is also less toxic than other types of wood.
Some types of wood are actively toxic to humans, so it’s important to know what you should use if you intend to create kitchen utensils. Applewood is one of the non-toxic types of wood, so you can turn it to make bowls or carve it for spoons or spatulas.
Applewood is known for its particularly strong and pleasant aroma. While turning or working with it, you may feel a faint smell of apples. This lovely aroma is also the reason why apple wood is quite popular as firewood; when it burns, it releases an even more pungent smell of apples. It also makes an excellent choice of wood for smoking because it infuses the food with the sweet scent of apples.
Branch Wood Is Different From Trunk Wood
There is a difference between the wood you find in the branches and the trunk of the apple tree. The difference is in appearance and strength. Branches have a brighter color and are less sturdy. As a result, they may not be suitable for turning or carving in any way. Additionally, their bright color produces pretty average-looking pieces.
Trunk wood, on the other hand, offers denser and more robust wood with more exciting colors and patterns. Moreover, it provides you with larger size pieces with which to work. The wood from the trunk of apple trees is what most woodworkers use when they say they’re turning apple wood.
Is It Easy To Find Apple Wood?
When you begin to take an interest in woodturning, you may search for types of wood that are suitable for this particular kind of woodwork. Curiously, applewood might not be one of the top choices; sometimes, it might not be on the list at all.
In general, you don’t hear much about apple wood in woodworking, compared to other types of wood, like ash or cherry. The main reason why apple wood isn’t as popular is that it’s much rarer than other types of wood.
Apple grows slowly, so it takes much longer than other trees to reach its full size; even its full size doesn’t provide as much wood as others. As a result, apple wood is sold in limited quantities and sizes, which means you can rarely find apple wood, and when you do, you probably won’t be able to use it for larger pieces of work.
Understandably, apple wood is also more expensive than similar types of wood, like cherry. The fact that it’s rare and with limited sizing increases its price. This is probably why you can’t find apple wood in beginners’ woodturning guides; beginners are encouraged to work with cheaper wood that is easier to find and handle.
What Other Kinds of Wood Are Good for Turning?
If apple wood is too expensive or you can’t find it, you have other options for woodturning. Plenty of different types of wood are sturdy, flexible, and dense enough so that they can easily turn on a lathe without being damaged. Some good alternatives for turning are:
- Cherry: very similar to apple in density and heaviness.
- Ebony: dark and very dense wood with a beautiful finish.
- Yew: softwood but highly dense and resistant.
- Beech: lightly colored wood with high density and distinctive grain.
If you’re into woodturning and have come across a slab or two of apple wood, don’t waste your chance; applewood is excellent for woodturning because it is dense and durable, which makes it less likely to get damaged while spinning on the lathe.
Applewood can also be great for different types of carving but not so much for whittling. It can be rare because it grows slowly, and its full size is smaller than other trees. As a result, applewood is also more expensive than many other types of wood.