Late last Spring (2003) I posted a query about turning green Hemlock. A couple people responded, but of those who responded, no one had turned Hemlock (eastern, that it). One reply asked for a follow up report on the turning qualities. So, for that individual, and for future turners who might search the archives, here it is:
As most of you seasoned turners probably know, it's a very soft wood. I roughed out a few bowls and it turned very easy -- no sap or pitch like you might find in pine. I set the roughed out bowls aside to air dry. I did not treat them with end grain sealer, nor did I use an LDD solution.
After a few months of drying, I picked one of the blanks up and noticed immediately the difference in the weight. When I first roughed out the bowls, they were very green (wet) and had some heft to them. They lost a considerable amount of their weight in the drying process. The first bowl I put in the chuck had a dove tail recess. As I cranked on the t-bar, the dovetail proceeded to split wide-open. Too much outward pressure. I took another blank that had a traditional base, that the jaws gripped, and placed that in the chuck. No problem.
I began to work on the outside to true the bowl up, and learned that during the drying process the wood had become difficult to work. By that I mean, the wide grain between rings tore out very easily, some of it came out in chunks. I only got somewhat of a clean cut by going to an Ellsworth shear scrape.
I decided that, for bowl material, Eastern Hemlock isn't that great. Turning the green wood was fun, and easy. If a new turner was learning the skill and practicing techniques, it would be good 'scrap' wood to play with. As a roughed out, dry wood, it's value (to me, at least) was practicing techniques I learned from other turners. Next time, though, when I'm loading the truck, I'll forego the Hemlock and take the Red Maple (or any other hardwoods). Lessons learned.
So, the reason for the post, is, months or years from now, if a beginning woodturner searches the archives for Hemlock, s/he might find this, and make a better informed decision about the woodturning stock they use.