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kiln drying wood


Luke Shearer
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I have a 3" diameter log that I am planning to turn into a dirk handle. How and when should I kiln dry it, before or after I shape it? Also how can I stabilize it.

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

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Unless I'm wrong, you probably won't be able to fully stabilize it at home. Since stabilizing involves pumping the wood full of acrylics and other strange chemicals, you probably need special equipment to do it (vacuum environments come to mind, maybe all bologna).

 

I've made a few of things out of backyard wood (combs, hair pokey sticks, etc.). Of course, none of these things ever have the stress put on them that sword handles do.

 

Apparently soaking the wood in lacquer can give you a degree of stabilization. Never tried it myself. As far as kilns go, I'm clueless. :)

He that will a good edge win must forge thick, and grind thin.

-Colin Sampson

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There is several ways of drying wood. Most countries go with sun dried milled wood. (slatted and turned at certain times through the year) Although it does drop the moisture rate of the wood it also leaves lots of headaches ahead from checkering or getting serious cracks during finishing.

 

A simple tool is a moisture rate indicator, (looks like a cooking tool) if you can get your core wood % in the 4-8% moisture rate you should be good. Of course all things change by species, oil content of the wood and if it is character wood.

 

You might also look into a simple humidity box with a quick exhaust system, basically drawing out the moisture and sweep it away from the wood.

 

I'll look around for a picture of a box used for warping woods, similar process to building the box.

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when is a personal choice.

you can dry it before shaping or you can dry it after.

 

i know of a few world class wood turners who carve and turn their bowls while wet and then use various drying methods after it all ..

 

the main thing to keep in mind is that wood goes through a lot of stress as it dries out .. and it can be so much of a shock that it crack, checks, splits... just about anything nigh on exploding in a hail of splinters and curse words.

 

so, if you shape down to a totally intricate carved handle and then go about drying the wood, you have a smaller handle, with less support, to take the stress and splits may occur ... plus, you might be left with less material to correct your oops.

 

if you dry the log .. it takes time ... hence why many people turn to kilns ..

some woods are good for kiln drying .. others arent so great. (or at least ive found them to be less than wonderful)

 

the trick is trying to get the wood to dry so that its stable... without putting too much stress on the wood that leads to a crack.

 

personally, i allow my woods to age fairly naturally.

i coat the ends of the wood in a waxy substance that you can get from wood turner suppliers or wood carving suppliers ..

and then i just set it up on a drying rack .. out of the sun .. and let it dry ...

the ends being covered means that it will dry slower .. and therefore with less stress ..

i let it season and just wait and see.

 

sometimes you still do get cracks .. but you havent started investing time into it yet .. so you can work the wood around the designs you have in your mind.

 

once the wood is cut up and shaped . . i usually stabilise my wood .. simply because i like the added benefit that the "other strange chemicals" can give to the stability of the wood.

 

if you dont have the equipment .. you can send your wood away and have it stabilised by professionals ..

 

or you can cut out all the hassle and just buy seasoned, stabilised, blocked wood from one of the knife supplies.

 

depends on what you are going for.

 

if you are looking to make a simply kiln .. one of the quickest and easiest setups ive seen is an old fridge that had a few 100w light bulbs inside that were left on constantly.

it was a nice controlled environment .. and the warmth of the bulbs allowed the "kiln" to get for a pretty uniform temp .. i have a few blocks of wood from the guy i saw use this .. and they look great.

 

personally, if you are trying to do it cheap, i would just leave the wood to season... depending on the wood you might want to wrap it in a plastic bag or two ... leave it somewhere where it wont get too much direct sun .. and come back to it way later on down the track.

and in the meantime look for woods that are already seasoned to use.

 

but thats just my ramble rant on the subject.

^_^

deeDWF4.jpg

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Luke,

some good advise given... I would add that you should cut the log right down the center and add 6 inches on either end plus the length of the finished handle... the extra length is to have enough room to cut off checks that happen from drying ... the matching (Bookmatched) slabs will come out quarter sawn ,one each .from either side of the log so keep the pieces marked . If you bring wood inside in the winter for a few weeks it will dry enough that you can put it in the toaster oven at 200 for a while and then up to 300.... It's not nice to fool with mother nature but you can force the drying with an oven.... do a trial piece .. but first cut the log down the center before it cracks .... you should always cut a log down the center as soon as you can after it has been cut if you are turning it into boards... as an experiment. just cut off a few inches of the log and leave it round and compare it to one you split in two.

dick

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An old-timey trick for drying small wood for hammer handles etc is to boil it- drives out the sap.

 

I have also dried wood for hammer handles by splitting the log into quarters, then leaving it next to the wood stove for a week or so. Yes, it will check, but then you know where the checks are going to be, and work around them.

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I think you might half or quarter it first also. You may have less usable wood than you're hoping for. Like folks mentioned above, you may not want to use the center pith of a log.

 

Good luck with it, Craig

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thanks for the tips. In Jim Hrisoulas's book the Complete Bladesmith it describes stablizing horn and ivory by coating the piece in super glue and putting it in a vacuum chamber. Can this be done with wood?

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

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thanks for the tips. In Jim Hrisoulas's book the Complete Bladesmith it describes stablizing horn and ivory by coating the piece in super glue and putting it in a vacuum chamber. Can this be done with wood?

 

Super glue, though i haven't tried it, i think would have too short of a cure time. Most stabilization i've had experience with are with a two-part epoxy type mixture. Not like your average 24-hour epoxy, as that is too thick to sink into the wood well, but a thinner urethane or polyester some such.

 

Ariel has a couple tutorials on stabilization:

 

http://www.aescustomknives.com/docs/tutorial11.htm

http://www.aescustomknives.com/docs/tutorial14.htm

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Thank You very much!

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

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Thank You very much!

 

Luke, you can always look into using something like Pentacryl to self-stabalise the wood as well. I used some of this to stabalise some spalted birch I stumbled into in the woods. It seems to have worked pretty good, right now the blocks are just drying out in my cold cellar.

 

Cheers, Will

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