Woodturners wanting to make bowls or other faceplate work have a difficulty in accessing wood suitable for the turning. Most of it at any suppliers will be too small, too expensive or split in the drying process. Firewood suppliers are an excellent source and it is relatively easy to prepare it for the wood lathe.
Firewood gotten for the fireplace or wood stove is seldom ideal for turning, especially after it is dried. Usually it is supplied in sixteen inch lengths and split into quarters. Generally half sections will be desired for faceplate work although vase wood can be gotten from quarters. It may be possible to obtain firewood split in half sections.
If so a sixteen inch long half section will usually give an eight inch bowl as the first four inches on either a sixteen inch half section from an eight or ten inch tree will likely be split and need to be cut away before mounting on a lathe. This resulting piece eight inches long will just fit a twelve inch lathe as the diagonal is the deciding factor. Cutting the corners off with a chainsaw or bandsaw can be a big aid in turning the bowl.
Better is to have firewood delivered in eight foot lengths and then cut it yourself with a chainsaw. Once four inches is cut off the end to eliminate splits, a section as long as the diameter can be cut. For example, a ten inch long log section from a ten inch diameter log. This can then be placed in a sawbuck and cut down center to form two bowl blanks. After the corners are cut off the piece can be mounted on the lathe. The down side to this of course is any wood that is destined for the stove or fireplace will have to be cut to length, split and dried by yourself.
A good way to mount the wood on the lathe is to estimate the center of the flat side and the curved. The flat side will face the headstock and the curve the tailstock. Once the spur center and tail center are pushed into the wood the piece can be adjusted for best turning. The flat side should be at ninety degrees to the ways of the lathe and the whole piece centered as well as possible after which the tail center needs to be advanced to seat both centers well into the wood.
With the wood clearing the tool rest and the lathe at low speed for this unbalanced section, the outside of the bowl can be roughed with a bowl gouge. As the bottom of the future bowl is established a tenon can be turned on it for a chuck or it can simply be turned flat. In either case a tenon is left on the bottom to be removed later off the lathe. If a tenon for a chuck is not turned, the blank can be reversed on the lathe and the future top of the bowl flattened between centers. Then the bowl can be hollowed between centers leaving a central tenon to be removed later, off the lathe.
Which ever method is used for turning the bowl, firewood is an excellent option of obtaining bowl blanks. It gives a renewable source of local hardwoods that may be turned into craft and art. Any offcuts, errors and waste can be burned without regret. After all, it started as firewood and can end the same way.