I first wrote about Bocote back in 2012 and most of the information that I would normally include is in that post, although perhaps the format is not quite as polished as I like to think it is today. That might well be a matter of opinion! Given that significant time has passed, the information on pricing and availability should be updated and I will seek to do that as well as describe the bowl making itself.
This was my first time making of bowl using Bocote although I have made spindle projects using it before. This was also a green turning project. I rough turned the green blank back in January 2016, coated the rough turned bowl in Anchor Seal and allowed it to dry over the coming 15 months. This bowl blank lost the least weight of all of them and this isn’t atypical for a very dense wood like Bocote. It is also possible that the blank was drier than the other woods green turned at the same time. It can be difficult to impossible to know how wet any given blank is when you buy it because you have no way to know how long it sat, waxed, in storage before you bought it. The most common moisture meters only read the first few millimeters of the wood, so something quite dry on the surface may be quite wet in in the interior. Regardless, this blank did loose some weight over time, so it was at least slightly green and my decision to not finish turn it was likely a good one.
This Bocote blank did distort slightly during the drying process, which is another good indicator that it was at least slightly wet when first cut, but the Anchor Seal did a great job of preventing any cracks, or checks, at all during the months long drying process. Because Bocote is a good deal denser, hard, and more expensive, than the other three woods I was using as a green turning experiment, I was the most apprehensive when starting to work on it, but, as it turned out, all was just fine given patience and sharp tools.
In bowl blank format Bocote seemed less brittle and splintery than it did in spindle form, but that could just be the respective pieces of wood. Granted, Bocote doesn’t produce long shavings like many woods do when cut on the lathe, rather it produces something much more powdery and fine, but still it cuts fairly cleanly although the cross-grain segments did require a fair amount of clean up cutting and sanding. As I noted previously, sanding Bocote can be a bit of a challenge as it tends to rapidly gum up the paper because of the high oil content. Abranet screen sanding helps with this, but nothing completely prevents it. The best tactic is to achieve as fine a cut as possible with your tools to minimize the sanding required.
Once I had the Bocote bowl finish cut, sanded, and ready to finish, I chose my favorite, ShellaWax. Now, while I almost always favor ShellaWax, there a few instances, such as with Cherry or Walnut where I use something else, the choice of ShellaWax in this case was also strategic. The folks over a Griffin Exotic Woods out in the high deserts of Colorado have literally years of experience with drying and stabilizing exotic woods and they have reported that in their experiments, even wet green turned wood finished with ShellaWax will remain stable and crack-free for up to FIVE years without further drying. This makes some sense because both shellac and wax by themselves make excellent green wood sealants, so the combination in ShellaWax should provide a good seal that might allow for some limited residual drying while apparently also preventing checks. So, knowing this, I figured that IF the Bocote, being so dense, had not dried out completely over the intervening 15 months, then a good coating of ShellaWax should allow it to stay stable regardless, providing something of a fail-safe approach. And the finish shine is also outstanding regardless.