As I noted at that time, Hackberry is quite soft so while it cuts quite easily it does not cut cleanly, especially on the cross grain areas and areas of significant spalting where fairly massive tear out was the norm.  In addition, Hackberry can be quite weak, especially along spalt lines, so beware that it can, and in more than one instance when I was working with multiple different pieces, did, break and crack under most any stress including the pressure exerted when using a chuck in expansion mode.  If I was to work with Hackberry in the future I would most likely use chucks strictly in contraction mode to help prevent this problem.

Personally I found the odor of Hackberry, even with dried samples, to be quite strong and extremely unpleasant such that I can’t quite imagine how much stronger the odor would be if the wood were wet.

I purchased my several pieces of Hackberry while they were still green and waxed and allowed them to dry over time.  They seemed to dry quite easily with no cracking, or checking as it is called amongst woodworkers, and fairly minimal contraction as well.

With the Hackberry being so soft it also sanded out very quickly and easily although not evenly.  Some areas of the wood seemed to sand far faster than other areas and I could never completely identify the difference between the two zones which seemed fairly confluent and not at all well-defined.  This characteristic, repeated over several samples of Hackberry, left the sanded pieces still feeling distinctly lumpy to me and I was not completely satisfied with this aspect of the material.

Hackberry Platter Interior

Hackberry Platter Interior

I have long been, and continue to be, a dedicated fan and user of the Easy Wood Tool line and I did use these tools when working with the Hackberry.  However, given the extremely rough cut, especially on the cross-grain areas, I decided to try more traditional wood turning tools, such as bowl gouges, to attempt to achieve a smoother cut that would help to reduce the amount of sanding time required.  I figured that with Hackberry being so soft that if the experiment were a bomb it wouldn’t be too difficult to repair any damage and it also presented a fair test of claims that a gouge angle of cut would provide a nicer finish than anything possible with the inherently scraping design of the Easy Wood Tool products that have the effect of lifting the grain instead of shear cutting across the grain.

So, I pulled my gouges out from a dusty drawer, sharpened them a bit (the need for relatively frequent sharpening was and is a key reason I prefer the replaceable cutters of the Easy Wood Tools) and hoped that I remembered how to hold and use these traditional tool shapes.  The result was a MUCH smoother cut finish with the bowl gouge than either of the Easy Wood Tool shapes could provide and this experiment has led me to revisit my more traditional tools in general.  I have not, and cannot imagine, completely abandoning the Easy Wood Tools and I still use them extensively, but I am slowly but certainly working more and more with the traditional gouges as I continue my development as a wood turner.

Some of the cut and sanded Hackberry pieces finished just fine with liquid Shellawax while other pieces finished poorly due to some areas of the wood absorbing significantly more of the finish than other areas which create a splotchy appearance on some pieces.  It seemed to me that areas of cross grain and significant spalting were more absorptive than other areas and I would imagine that this has to do with the different anatomy of the wood in those areas.  This splotchy finish effect is not entirely uncommon among various woods, most infamously in Acer sp. (Maple) and in the future I would probably try using a sanding sealer, such as medium cut shellac, before applying the final finish, although I don’t know if that would help given that Shellawax is a shellac-based finish to begin with and I am not confident that a sealer wouldn’t suffer from the same different absorption problems, but the only way to know is to try it.  Hackberry is priced such that experiments using it are not cost prohibitive in terms of materials.