Boxelder is great turned green. But, when turning seasoned wood, the grain around knots is brittle and breaks instead of cutting. Other sections of the grain wants to pull for no apparent reason. It seems more difficult to get a good finish behind the tool when turning seasoned boxelder than many other woods, which means a lot of sanding.There are other features that make boxelder worth the extra work. Take for example this small vessel turned from a boxelder limb near a crotch where there were also other side limbs.
This vessel was turned green and allowed to cure. As it dried, several small cracks formed around the knots. I put glue into the cracks and sanded over them, mixing the dust into the glue in the cracks. They now form accent marks, highlighting the most interesting grain in the vessel. Boxelder often exhibits streaks of red in what seems a random pattern. These streaks, when they appear, can make a stunning contribution to your work; at worst, they don’t distract from it.
One of the nicest features of boxelder is that most people consider it trash. Many may be willing to let you have a few limbs. If this happens to you, keep your foot in the door by giving the limb-donor a nice vessel or bowl from one of their limbs. This is a small price to pay for the wood and may result in opportunities or sales in the future.
My usual finish has been beeswax because I am quite sensitive to anything with organic solvents. This vessel is finished with Tried and True linseed oil with a coat of beeswax over the top. My only criticism is that the linseed oil seemed to take forever to cure, a matter of weeks. I will have to try some other drying oils, such as walnut oil, and see if there is a difference. However, I do like the results of the oil and wax.
Ellis Hein, author of The Woodturner’s Project Book