Filling Cracks in Turnings

Article - February 2, 2009

This week’s question comes from Skip who asks:

“I have some beautifully figured fruit wood (apricot) that I want to turn. There are a couple of cracks/checks in the piece. What should I use to fill the checks that will both look the same as the piece and not finish differently if I use oil? BTW- I believe the checks do not present a safety problem when turning.”

And this was my response:

Let me preface this by saying that I am a self-confessed utilitarian turner. Wow, that’s a mouthful. In other words, I only turn when I need to. So this is my best advice and hopefully other people with more turning experience than I will chime in.

“Hey Skip. It kind of depends on the thickness of the cracks. Many times a little medium to thick CA glue will do the trick. But more substantial cracks will require more attention. Turning cracked/checked pieces always makes me a bit nervous. So don’t forget the face shield.” :)

timbermate“Now there are a couple issues. First, even if the cracks seem pretty stable, they may not be if you start turning them as is. So you might consider filling them ahead of time with something like epoxy. Epoxy will hold the piece together as it seeps down into the cracks. The problem here is that epoxy is not going to look like wood, right? So, the only thing I can see you doing is carefully turning the piece down to the near finished dimensions. Then proceed with the filling as one of your last steps. I recommend using a good quality stainable filler. Just about anything else will show itself when the oil finish is applied. There are fillers out there, however, that will take stain/finish very closely to the natural wood, and will do a decent job. Timbermate makes the best filler I have ever used and was recommended to me by Charles Neil.”

“Now keep in mind, the filler will never look perfect. So sometimes its best to embrace the cracks/checks as part of an unique turned item, instead of trying to hide them. Otherwise, they could very well be an eyesore forever. All this is assuming these checks and cracks are not just hairline. If they very small, you can usually just use a little CA glue and some sawdust as a filler. Again, not perfect, but decent. I hope that helps a little.”


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