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Troels Saabye

I need advice on working plum wood for handles

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Hi

 

Yesterday I collected a plumtree from my parents farm(European plumtree), it is around 14-15" diameter (trunk) and the longest section of stem is around 3-4 ft. In addition to this I collected some of the bigger branches (2-4 inch diameter). But I realized that I haven´t gotten a clue on how to/what to do with this green log :unsure: have you Guys gotten any great advice for preparing the stuff for knife handles ? Or some other cool stuff :)

plumwood (2).jpg

plumwood.jpg

Edited by Troels Saabye

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Paint the ends with either white glue or emulsion to slow the water loss while it dries. Which should reduce the amount of shakes.

You can also work it green and leave a bit of extra material to correct any changes as it dries. I've turned some plum when green which end up slightly oval when dry.

If your impatient look up how to microwave dry. I've never tried this but it looks like a quick way of working.

Andrew

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Hi Andrew

 

would bees Wax be good for sealing the ends ?

 

I got nothing but time ;)

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I'm not an expert at this, but I have done similar things with interesting woods that i have had to cut out o my yard over the years.

 

For knife handles, I would cut the wood into blocks that are 50% over sized, and dip the end grain in paraffin. Then put the blocks in a cool dry place and wait a year or so. Small knife handle sized blocks will dry pretty quickly, and with less internal stress to cause splitting and warping. However, if the ends start to split, there won't be much extra material to cut away to recover the piece.

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I'm not an expert at this, but I have done similar things with interesting woods that i have had to cut out o my yard over the years.

 

For knife handles, I would cut the wood into blocks that are 50% over sized, and dip the end grain in paraffin. Then put the blocks in a cool dry place and wait a year or so. Small knife handle sized blocks will dry pretty quickly, and with less internal stress to cause splitting and warping. However, if the ends start to split, there won't be much extra material to cut away to recover the piece.

Be aware that the United States is the only place in the world that refers specifically to petroleum wax by the name paraffin. In the rest of the world paraffin is what we call kerosene.

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any sealer will work on the ends of the logs, wax, shellac, polyurethane -- you just want to slow the release of water so the wood doesnt check. It would be faster if you could split the section of the logs into staves.

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I've done this (with plum even among other woods).

 

Step 1: Seal the ends. There are commercial sealants available (anchor seal for example), wax of some sort, PVA glue (standard wood glue) and shellac all work well. Sometimes you'll see paint listed but I've had problems with latex paint (haven't tried oil). Polyurethane (or other urethanes) may not adhere well enough to do any good. Wood glue is cheap (can even be diluted 50%) and easy, wax is cheap and nearly as easy (have to melt it first).

 

Step 2: Cut the logs in half through the pith (center). This will allow the limb to move as it dries while minimizing the stresses that will cause checking (splits). If, for some reason you can't do step 1, this may suffice. If you get to step 1 soon enough after cutting, this step may be skipped. This step (and step 1) is not needed if the wood was dead on the tree for a couple of years before cutting.

 

Step 3: Stack in a manner to allow for air flow and has pressure on the stack to minimize twisting. OR

 

Step 4: Trim to length plus 2-4 inches to allow for loss from the ends. I usually trim at large side branches (knots) or where a branch turns. If step 3 wasn't done before this, do step 3 now.

 

Step 5: Wait. "How long?" You ask? That is a big unknown. There are a couple "rules of thumb" that may or may not apply. If you have a pin moisture meter, you can use that and when the moisture level stabilizes, it's ready. If you have a good scale, accurate to 1/10 oz. or 1 gram, you can weigh a sample and when the weight stabilizes over 2 weeks, it's ready. Or you can wait a couple years.

 

You'll need to flatten and mill the wood to lumber before use.

 

I don't bother trying to kiln dry wood. There may be advantages.

I don't bother trying to stabilize wood either.

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Be aware that the United States is the only place in the world that refers specifically to petroleum wax by the name paraffin. In the rest of the world paraffin is what we call kerosene.

Doh! Good point.

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Thank you Guys for all the great advice :) I´m going to cut the Wood into 30 cm long pieces, and seal the ends (found some Wood glue) and the leave it be for some time to dry . Just to make sure I understood Son_Of_Bluegrass - seal the ends and then split the log through the center and leave the Wood "open" and only Sealed in the ends ?

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Only the ends need to be sealed.

This slows the moisture leaving the ends, which it does faster than through a "face" (end grain versus long grain). As the wood dries, If you've cut it through the pith, you'll notice it bows up in the center on the cut side. This has to do with the way the wood dries. If you don't split it lengthwise, the stresses that bow the wood are still there and this leads to splits and checks as the wood dries.

 

ron

 

Edited to add

Often fruit wood is attacked by insects. Most of them prefer the wood just under the bark, so stripping the bark off can reduce insect attack.

Edited by son_of_bluegrass

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I don't know about Denmark, but in Tennessee we have a small wood-boring wasp that will wreak havoc on dry stacked wood.

 

They leave hundreds of pin holes into the wood. I've had 'em ruin both holly and hickory, and that's stacked in the rafters of my shop.

 

I'd say a spray or dust, perhaps an organic repellent, would keep them at bay.

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If I was going to treat for insects, I'd mix a boric acid solution and brush that on the surface. Insects don't like boric acid, it doesn't break down, it has low toxicity, and I suspect readily available most places (Roach Prufe is 98% boric acid).

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Alright :)

 

well I am not aware of any insects with those preferences in Denmark. Besides Boric acid isn´t readily available here, I´m having a hard time even getting borax because the goverment thinks it is in the same category as arsenic... I tried to microwave a smaller piece (4x2x2 inches) of the Wood, and it worked like a charm ^^. But I wouldn´t try with larger pieces, so for now I´m practicing in the smaller pieces.

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This being the second time recently somebody has mentioned the EU regulations on borax, I looked them up. There is a 348-page study on the relative toxicity of boric acid, anhydrous borax, and both forms of ordinary borax. The study concluded all forms of borax may be toxic in extremely large doses, but only via ingestion or inhalation, it is not absorbed through the skin (for instance, if I ate 3/4 pound of anhydrous borax I'd have a 50-50 chance of death) but that in all its forms it is relatively harmless to humans at ordinary exposures and leaves the body completely in a day or two. The only concern any actual scientist had about boric acid products is that it does cause testicular degeneration in rats if you give them enough to almost kill them once a day for 72 days.

 

I am totally not surprised that the bureaucrats took that as all the evidence they needed to ban the sale of borax products to the general public. :rolleyes: Why, the amount of borax vapor I have sent up the chimney in the 18 years I have been smithing must be nearly enough to slightly reduce the fertility of a single rat forced to inhale said vapor every day for that entire time, poor rat (never mind the effects of inhaling the coal smoke as well)! Seriously, I have used maybe three pounds of borax in my entire smithing career. If I were to let that amount enter the local water table it would be so diluted as to be unmeasurable.

 

In the end all I can do is sit here with a look of utter disgust on my face that some idiot thinks he or she is helping the fertility of EU males by removing a product that is basically harmless to vertebrate life from the market. Their own study says it is a minimal risk, for pete's sake. :wacko: Pressure-treated wood treated with chromated copper arsenate I can understand, if you burn it the ash of one wall stud has enough arsenic to kill a cow. But borax? Geeze...

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Exactly Alan :)

 

but fortunatly it is still possible to get a hold of borax ;)

 

I think I need more pratice on my woodwork, because the first handle just split on me :/.. oh well got another 100kg of Wood to practice with and 200kg of australian hardwood, hopefully practice makes perfect :P

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The various borax and boric acids do have some ecological concerns. I believe plants, non-target insects and maybe aquatic species. On a community-wide scale it could pose a concern (especially considering that many think "a little works so a lot must work better).

 

How did the handle split? How was that piece treated (did you dry it in the microwave, or air dry it, or buy it)?

Pictures of the end-grain will be helpful.

 

ron

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old timers used to boil green wood in water for tool handles, I first read about it in the fox fire books and have done it with several hammer handles and axe handles and I have never had a problem with splitting. I have boiled some green cherry wood in water that I used for carved cookie molds and it did not split or crack. Cherry is very similar to plum as they are both in the Prunus genus.

 

Of course you have to let it dry several days after you boil it.

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