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Round and round the mulberry bush

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Good, bad or in between, using a new wood species for the first time is always an interesting experience. Last weekend, I used mulberry for the first time.

For an article on green woodturning I needed just one thing: some green wood of suitable size for a bowl blank. Seems like someone is always cutting down a tree where I live, so I figured it’d be easy to find something. Not so. I was about to resort to sneaking into a neighbor’s yard with an ax when I spotted a downed tree being bucked into chunks while out doing errands. A quick inquiry secured me a perfectly sized and shaped blank of mulberry.

Turning green wood isn’t for everyone — you either like it or you don’t — but it’s hard to resist those long continuous ribbons of wood shooting up into the air. The project went well and the mulberry turned like a dream.

However, I didn’t like the smell.

Yeah, that’s my quibble. I liked everything about it except that it smelled really weird. Not bad, not good, just … odd. That might seem like I was really reaching for something to dislike about the wood, but it’s not. It’s just an odd quirk, but it bothered me the entire time I was turning the bowl. (On the other hand, I would very much like to try some seasoned and dried mulberry for flat work; I’m betting it could make even a mundane project look fabulous.)

For me, woodworking is all about the total experience — if I’m not enjoying 100 percent of it, I’m not enjoying it at all. Sure, if the work is a commission or part of paying project I can put up with anything, but if it’s something I’m doing just for myself, I want everything to be just right. I doubt I’ll turn any more green mulberry.

How often do you try a new wood species you’ve never used before? Whether you loved it or hated it, I’d be curious to hear about your experience.



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