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Dealing with unstabilized woods for handles


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Hey guys

 

I had recently bought a lot of bocote and some ziricote (both unstabilized) to make a knife. It looks fine, but after a few days I started to feel the pins and the transitions between the wood and the brass I had in the handle and guard. Here's the knife:

image.png

 

It was really annoying, since I spent a lot of time researching for a wood that's relatively cheap, easily workable and somewhat stable. Now, I still am planning on using the bocote. I think it looks beautiful when finished with boiled linseed oil and it was easy to work with. But the question is; how do I work around the shrinkage? I've seen people do "heirloom fits" where the metal and the wood aren't flush but almost rounded off.  That sounds good, but what about the pins? They will still stick out when the wood has shrunk. Domed pins maybe? Although they might be difficult to make?

 

Stabilizing wood on your own seems to be kind off expensive and time consuming. Buying stabilized also seems pretty expensive, especially if you're looking for the nicer woods. Buying the more stable woods like ironwood, cocobolo, etc is probably also pretty expensive and also a bummer to work with.

 

I've heard of people using superglue and epoxy to coat the handle to then grind it down to have a rock hard surface. A good idea?

 

I'm out of ideas. What do you guys do with unstabilized woods? Only go for hidden tangs with nothing being flush with metal?

 

 

Sincerely,

Gustav

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First of all, not all woods can be stabilized, and if memory servers, both of those woods are in the Rosewood family and are probably too oily to stabilize.  Second, stabilization only reduces the amount of expansion and contraction of the wood.  The first thing you need to do is to measure how much moisture there is in the wood.  Depending on how dry the wood is you might have to set it aside for a couple of years before using it.  Moisture meters aren't all that expensive.

 

Doug

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unstabilized wood is fine, if it shrinks its not dry enough, ive gotten cocobolo from woodcraft that shrank on me a little bit before.

 

ive gone swimming with knives and put knives through the washing machine and it doesnt do much to them, they get real clean from the wash though. 

 

if they get lost and sit outside for a few days getting rained on you might have a problem. 

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starting with known variables is always best with un-stabilized wood...a good moisture meter is pretty much a necessity in my view...you can try making a small kiln drying box using a 100 watt light bulb to slowly remove excess moisture...I have also used a small convection oven set at 100 degrees with a thermometer set inside to slowly remove moisture...another thing to consider is was your epoxy fully 100% cured when you started shaping and forming....if not those little transitions you noted could be the result of your epoxy contracting as it fully cures out...

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@jeffM

Ok, what kind of moisture meter should one go for? I've never heard of measuring the moisture of a piece of wood before.

 

About the epoxy; it had been sitting for a few weeks actually before I started shaping the handle. I wasn't home for quite some time so it had a lot of time to cure.

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I lost the battle with a piece of Camelthorn (Acacia) from a stump that was planted as a fence post 80 years ago.

It spent several months lying around here after I brought it back from the farm...in our extremely dry climate.

When I was drilling the hole for the tang it constantly fouled the drill bit, drill 5mm, clean, rinse & repeat.  On both the outside holes at depth I required smoke came out, and as the bit came out an oily resin bubbled out as well.

Middle hole grabbed and broke the drill bit.

 

I assume wood like that will never dry out completely?

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  • 1 month later...

I learned from my friend Wayne Goddard (50+ yrs. a knifemaker)  that no wood is ever to be considered dry until it has spent a year or two in your dry box, or in side the house exposed to your furnace warm air vent, even if the seller swears it has been cut for 10 yrs.    If  a large block of dense wood like ebony, snake wood rosewoods etc. better to cut them up to useable sizes before their (quarintine) in the dry box or the inside pieces may still have an unexceptably high moisture content.  Having cut and dried hundreds of pounds of local woods myself, (oak crotch, maple, holly, walnut, and osage,) that some woods would dry to 7-10% moisture in the summer out in the shop on a shelf, then soak up ambient moisture to close to 20% in our damp Oregon air in the winter.  So shop shelf dry is not to be considered dry.  My dry box is a old shop tool plywood box standing on end with a wire mesh protected 60 watt bulb  at the bottom connedted to a thermostat and a humidistat.  The t-stat is set to keep the box at  60 degrees, and the humidistat at about 30%,  all of which keeps the wood dryer than anyplace except the desert.  I also use the microwave to dry some small pieces if I'm in a hurry and they can stand the warmth without checking.  Do it slow never getting too warm to hold comfortably.  The harder denser oily ones, read that expensive, I do not do there as they are prone to checking.  Practice on scraps though not expensive exhibition grade handle blocks.  All my hammer handles are dryed in the microwave until they no longer steam the micro window after nuking.  That way they are dryer than they will ever be in the shop and they can only expand in use.  They never get loose.  Some woods will tolerate being nuked to quite hot without checking, while others only to just barely warm, they all react differently.  Ash and hickory hammer handles are pretty tolerant, but our local white oak likes it just barely warm.  You gotta experiment.

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On 4/15/2020 at 7:35 AM, Gerhard Gerber said:

I lost the battle with a piece of Camelthorn (Acacia) from a stump that was planted as a fence post 80 years ago.

It spent several months lying around here after I brought it back from the farm...in our extremely dry climate.

When I was drilling the hole for the tang it constantly fouled the drill bit, drill 5mm, clean, rinse & repeat.  On both the outside holes at depth I required smoke came out, and as the bit came out an oily resin bubbled out as well.

Middle hole grabbed and broke the drill bit.

 

I assume wood like that will never dry out completely?

 

i have used acacia (mesquite as its called here) a few times and it was very nice to work with, you might have drilled into a pocket of bug goo, ive found big bunches of what i guess is bug poop or some kind of resin they make in trees and its really nasty black sticky stuff. there could also be wire, nails, bullets, or rocks in the wood that broke your bit. 

 

the dust from the acacia here will stain your skin purple/black if it gets on you, thats the only downside to acaia (or at least with this mesquite) it look bad for you so i try not to grind acacia and work it by planing and carving. 

 

wetter wood does seem to clog drill bits.

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most knife size blocks will dry in 3-4 days in an oven at 225f when stabilizing you have to have all the water removed so i dry wood like that on the norm (witch scale checks for weight) and do a lot of maple or maple like woods i can say that zercote and some other woods dont like that heat and will crack on you and if you go from wet to oven your probably going to get cracks so  no fresh stuff text a small block to see how it reacts before putting all your wood in also keep the wood in baggies when cooling and storing as it will start to pick up moisture from the air the up side is that dry should suck up your treatment of choice when your done shaping and start coating it in oil or what have you

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On 5/24/2020 at 5:14 PM, steven smith said:

 

i have used acacia (mesquite as its called here) a few times and it was very nice to work with, you might have drilled into a pocket of bug goo, ive found big bunches of what i guess is bug poop or some kind of resin they make in trees and its really nasty black sticky stuff. there could also be wire, nails, bullets, or rocks in the wood that broke your bit. 

 

the dust from the acacia here will stain your skin purple/black if it gets on you, thats the only downside to acaia (or at least with this mesquite) it look bad for you so i try not to grind acacia and work it by planing and carving. 

 

wetter wood does seem to clog drill bits.

Glad you didn't look at my location and tell me we don't have Acacias :lol:
I've made a handle from what I thought was Camelthorn, figured out it was actually Candlepod Acacia.

This piece of Camelthorn was planted as a fence post at least 80 years ago, spent at least 5 years in a pile out in the African sun, months on my porch

I've cut up the piece meant to be the handle and used part as a spacer, the wood is solid, no bugs, and that small piece was a (beautiful) pain in the rear end....

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On 4/15/2020 at 6:43 AM, Gustav said:

@jeffM

Ok, what kind of moisture meter should one go for? I've never heard of measuring the moisture of a piece of wood before.

 

About the epoxy; it had been sitting for a few weeks actually before I started shaping the handle. I wasn't home for quite some time so it had a lot of time to cure.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Stark-0-to-99-9-Humidity-Tester-Digital-Wood-Moisture-Meter-2-Pins-14013/311022733?mtc=Shopping-B-F_D25T-G-D25T-25_1_HAND_TOOLS-Multi-NA-Feed-PLA-NA-NA-HandTools_PLA&cm_mmc=Shopping-B-F_D25T-G-D25T-25_1_HAND_TOOLS-Multi-NA-Feed-PLA-NA-NA-HandTools_PLA-71700000034127224-58700003933021546-92700049573927173&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6rLWkY3S6QIVB77ACh341QA2EAYYASABEgLPFfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 5/24/2020 at 4:14 PM, steven smith said:

the dust from the acacia here will stain your skin purple/black if it gets on you, thats the only downside to acaia (or at least with this mesquite) it look bad for you so i try not to grind acacia and work it by planing and carving. 

Wash your hands in lemon juice or scrub with half a lemon. Works a treat.

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