Small Sassafras Bowl

I have worked with Sassafras before in both 2016 and 2017 and reported it positively so my tastes and attitudes must have changed with experience.

There is nothing wrong with Sassafras as a wood but it really isn’t the ideal turning wood.  The texture is coarse, the grain is open, and the wood is ultimately plain in appearance, a perfect stand in for Ash for example.  When turned, the end grain areas become very raised and this is common with coarse textured woods such as Ash or Oak, fine woods with many excellent applications, but turned items isn’t really one of them.  And they are plain to look at as well.

Sassafras Bowl Interior

I’ve gained a lot of experience over the last 3-4 years of turning and what I realize is that I much prefer to spend my time working on larger pieces (this piece measures a diminutive 5″ x 3″) of fine textured, closed grain, hard wood that doesn’t have end grain lift to deal with.  And those woods are often quite wonderful to look at as well for their color and figure.  At least this piece of Sassafras has a bit of added interest due to the small areas of spalting present.

In the future I don’t expect that I will be willing to spend a lot of time with the Sassafras, Ash, and Oaks of the world when there is Cherry, Myrtle, Walnut, Claro Walnut, and a world of tropical woods as well that will yield something much more desirable that Sassafras ever can.  It isn’t Sassafras’s “fault,” it is a great wood for other purposes but not so much for turning.  Sassafras does have the advantage of being soft enough that sanding out the standing end grain fibers is relatively easy but better yet if they weren’t there at all.

Sassafras Bowl Side View

All cuts were made using the Easy Wood Tool system on my Robust American Beauty lathe.  Forward chucking was in a Nova Chuck, while reverse chucking was done using a Nova Chuck with Cole Jaws.  Sanding was with Gold and Green Wave sanding discs from Packard Woodworks.  Final finish is Shellawax.

As always, I wish all my readers a great experience in whatever your wood working interests happen to be and to those who like working with lathes especially, do a good turn today!