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from log to knife handle question


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Hi

 

the past month I have been felling trees (87 8-12" ones) and cutting up windfallen trees ( two giant beech trees and a maple). Now my question is : how should I cut the logs/limbs to get some of the wood for knife handles ? Alredy spoke with the owner, and he said I could just take as much wood as I want. The tree is still "green" and mostly in the range of 10-40 inch diameter. Would regular firewood size be a good idea (like 10 inches long pieces) ?

Edited by Troels Saabye
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Troels,the science of stabilising wood is kind of subjective to your area,climatic conditions,and your circumstances.The size/sort of storage room available,also on how soon you'd need the product.

(For a quickie,you may try boiling the pieces(somewhat longer than you'll need,eventually) for a couple of hours in a saturated salt brine.Then dry as good as you can,and stabilise with whatever oil-based product;something that you can expedite with vacuum(a closed jar or pipe,+a pump of any sort,even a bicycle one...pressure positive or negative,don't matter...).

 

The idea for the slow,gradual air-drying is Time(a couple of years),dry and airy environment(no direct sun),air circulation around the entire piece(stickering),and,ideally,the sealing of the end-grain,allowing the moisture to evaporate via the sides of the tubular cellulose cells.

You may try the arborists' supply,ask for the rosin-based compound that they seal newly-grafted tree limbs...

 

The overall process-experimental for your specific conditions,start,and you'll learn what you need fairly soon.Best of luck.

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I would THINk the best way would be buy a mobile sawmill and turn the logs into boards, then place stickers between the boards and a top plate or even cover them for a few months to dry out. Cut your boards 15% thicker or so to account for shrinkage. Seal the end grain. Once relatively dry , in a few months or years, you can bring the boards in and rip them into blocks, then into scales if you prefer. I dont know if this is the best method. I have never done it. But it is what i was contemplating on doing.

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I would personally focus my attention on crotches and burls . Since a piece of plain jane maple or beech is not worth the time and hassel to cut it up split it or saw it out dry it and cut it up further latter on for a small piece of ordinary grained wood. Heat your house with the strait grained pieces and use the twisted warped forked ect. for knife handles

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okay :)

 

well I have a barn, which is cool and somewhat good airflow - would that be a good place to store wood ? Personally I really like the look of beechwood ^^. But it is mostly for practice, we do have oak, cherry, plum and other stuff but I really want to practice on some more abundant wood :)

Edited by Troels Saabye
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Lacking a local sawmill, or a hardwood store within reasonable driving distance, I've dealt with a lot of hand-cut, air-dried wood. My method: cut into lengths (a bit longer than you'll eventually need, as the ends can develop cracks), split in halves or quarters (depending on the size of the logs...don't leave logs whole as they are almost guaranteed to split!), coat the ends with a sealer (can be shellac,wax, pitch, wood glue, old paint...just something to slow moisture loss), and sticker the billets in a sheltered spot with good air flow. Fresh green billets will most likely take a year or more to dry, depending on your climate; I often cut standing dead wood, which (being dead :ph34r: ) dries out quicker.

 

Straight-grained wood is nice to work with hand tools, but can lack visual interest. If you have a chainsaw (or a sharp hand ripsaw, and tons of patience :P ) you can slab up some of the crotch wood, which will have more interesting curly/burled grain. You may also encounter 'fiddleback' curled grain, mineral staining, and other interesting 'flaws'. No two trees' wood will be quite the same, which IMHO adds to the fun of cutting your own.

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;) I see, well chainsaw I do have ^^ a Stihl 362 CM best buy I ever made imo. Climate - tempered ;) scandinavian. About the grain - I just can´t get my hands on anything that isn´t straight grained - and even if I did manage to get a hold of some burl, how do you cut it ? Into slabs, seal and dry ?

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Any crotch or fork in the tree will contain some figured wood, if cut across the widest dimension. Any figured pieces, burl, etc should be sealed on all surfaces ('end grain' becomes hard to define on wildly figured pieces!).

 

A brief google search turned up this thread on a woodworking forum, with good photos of a crotch being slabbed, and the figured wood inside: http://familywoodworking.org/forums/showthread.php?30319-Cutting-Crotches

 

As someone who uses mostly hand tools, I actually prefer to work straight-grained wood (or a mild fiddleback curl, if available B) ). Burl wood can be very tricky to hand carve; the crazy grain makes blades 'dig in' in an unpredictable way. Rasps and files, or a power sander, work best for shaping it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I admit, I've never stabilized anything. I have cut walnut, maple, mountain mahogany, and crabapple, and usually use limbs about 3 inches thick. I cut them about 8 inches long (for most knives) or about 18 inches long (for longer handles, atlatls, and suchlike), and store them in a shed out of the sun. They're usually dry when I cut them. I leave the bark on. When I'm ready, I square them up with a bandsaw, then start removing everything that isn't what I need for a handle (depends on the project). When I'm finished with the knife, I give them several coats of linseed oil and let each coat soak in well.

 

With that in mind, that's what *I* do. I'm learning there are better ways...

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  • 4 months later...

The very best way to dry wood is to split the log in wedges. The smaller they are, the more you minimize cracks during the aging process. Also, you release most of the tensions the weight of the tree builds up into the wood. And, believe me, it's a looooot of tension. So much that, even after drying several years, when you cut it to shape, it always warps. So, split it in wedges along the radiuses of the section of the trunk, leave them twice the size you'll need for your handles. Store them leaning on a wall, almost vertical, until their liquids stop flowing out. There is a lot of water in the wood when it's just cut down from its roots, and that needs to go out. When it stops dripping, you can seal the ends with wax (I suggeat by dipping for few seconds or the wax won't stick) and store them in stacks, put some wood shim between every piece to allow air to flow. All the process should be in a ventilated area, the most humid is possible at the beginning because the wood will tend to balance the humidity and if it dries out too fast, it will crack badly. In violin making we consider 5 years the minimum but nobody uses wood that "fresh". We buy already dry wood and store it for at least other 5 years. But for a knife, 5 years should be enough to dry and stabilize a little the tensions in the wood. Less than that, you will have movement after shaping and using it for handles, as it will dry and move after that EVEN IF YOU SEAL IT/IMPREGNATE IT with plastic resins. You will notice shrinkage. I don't need to tell you how bad it feels if the wood shrinks and the guard doesn't... then you can stabilize them with plastic resins if you wish. Anyway, I have a book on wood technology but it's in Italian. If you find something in English, you will find a lot of information about drying/aging your wood. I cut a lot of handle blanks from firewood, roots extracted from construction sites, pruning trees, retrieving fallen trees etc etc... there is a lot of satisfaction on harvesting your own material from the source...

Edited by Francesco Muci
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