Sweet Gum wood, is also known as Red Gum, among other common names. It must not be confused with any of the other woods more typically referred to as “gums” of various varieties which are most all Australian Eucalyptus species. This gum is native to the United States and I have written about it in detail under the name Red Gum.
In this case, Sweet Gum and Red Gum refer to the same species of wood but there is a significant difference between the exact natures of the two woods I have used that are from the same species. In this case, I was using spalted sapwood with only a small heartwood inclusion as opposed to the unspalted heartwood that I used before. This distinction does not change the details of the wood but it does potentially change the working experience because sapwood is often much softer than heartwood as well as often being of quite different colorations.
As might be expected, the Sweet Gum wood was very soft, which meant that it cut extremely easily and quickly but it also, like most all very soft woods, cut very rough and ragged therefore requiring extremely sharp fresh-edged tools to achieve any clean cuts whatsoever. It was also necessary to wield those sharp tools with a very light touch to reduce burring and fuzzing of the surface, again, common problems with very soft sapwood.
One benefit of the extreme softness of the wood was that is sanded super smooth lightening fast. It also took a finish quite nicely, which is not always the case with very soft woods or with spalted woods.
Honestly, I didn’t find this to be a very interesting piece to make because the wood is so plain and rather boring. There was no significant figure and aside from the spalt pattern which provides some interest there just isn’t a great to the piece in my opinion. After my first experience with Red Gum aka Sweet Gum I said I probably wouldn’t be interested in working with more and my opinion has not been changed. I just happened to have more of the material in the shop and in the absence of a fireplace or fire-pit, I turned it.
Well, live and learn I say and perhaps there are wood workers out there that greatly enjoy working with Sweet Gum, and if so I wish them all the luck and joy in the world. Whatever your wood working interests happen to be, but especially for all those fellow wood turners out there, I wish you all a good turn today.