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Drying Wood

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MontanaAardvark

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I don't do much woodworking these days, except little projects here and there, so maybe this is common knowledge that just didn't make it into my brain.

I have a branch from my maple tree that I'd like to use for small things and I don't know how to dry it out.

I've seen people slice logs into large boards, and stack them up with spacers to allow air flow. My branch is maybe 4" diameter at the long end tapering down to 2". No wide boards are coming out of this, but I could see turning a couple of pens and maybe a little bowl or something.

How do I dry it out? Right now, it's just sitting on the north porch of the house, getting some afternoon sun. What if I just stood it up in a corner of my shop and ignored it for a year? Should I peel the bark off first?


Thanks,
Bob
 

RJSakowski

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For small items, I split the wood down to chunks that are slightly larger than the intended project. There is a much smaller tendency towards checking as it drys and less chance of warping in the finished project. Slow drying is best as the wood has the an ability to shift with the drying process. Small pieces will dry much faster than larger pieces. A warm dry location would be ideal for finish drying. Think attic.

You might consider using a stabilizer as well. It will make the wood easier to work and result in a more stable product. PEG (polyethylene glycol) is one and methacrylate ester is another.
 

Dave Paine

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If you want to make a turning blank a few options. You want the log to either not loose much moisture until you are ready to process the piece(s) in which case you need to seal the end grain and put inside. Do not leave in the sunlight, this will dry out one area resulting in cracking.

Cut into relevant oversize blanks to allow for shrinkage and warping. You can turn to a rough shape then put aside to dry. If you weigh them and note the weight, they are ready when they stop losing weight. Put them in a brown paper bag perhaps with some wood shavings. You want no air flow, just slow release of the moisture.

For the pen size blanks, you can cut oversize blanks then dry in the microwave. About 20 secs on high the allow 5 - 10 minutes of rest to allow the heat to dissipate. Microwaves heat from the inside, but the wood does not conduct the heat fast. Again weigh first, and check the weight as you go. Stop when not losing any moisture.

If you have a branch it will contain the pith. You will have more success drying if you cut down the middle and remove the pith. The pith will have the most dimensional change and is often the place where the cracks start.

If you are not able to harvest this branch section and want to make some pens, send me a PM. I have number of dried pen blanks about 3/4in square and I do not turn pens at this time.
 

dlane

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Not an expert but I would cut it up to the sizes you want strip the bark , paint the ends with sealer(to avoid splitting) latex paint works , let set for a couple years out of direct sun , where are you located I'm guessing Montana , dry climates are best.
 

MontanaAardvark

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Thanks for the quick replies. I brought the branch into the shop and I'm looking at how to strip the bark off, and maybe cut off at least one or two pieces that could make a pen blank. The rest I have no idea of how to cut up because I have no particular project for.

dlane - I'm in central Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center and a few miles from the beach, so about as far from Montana as it's possible to get in the US. Humidity is one of our major products and a constant concern in terms of wood warping and tools rusting.

Sealing the ends with latex paint is probably the way to go.
 

JohnG

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Dave's trick with a paper back and shavings is a good one. I've knew a guy with a small band mill who did that with sawdust and a tarp when he sawed oak. Sealing the ends also works well. You want a material with a low rate of moisture vapor transmission. Latex paint has a high rate since it is supposed to let the wood "breathe" as weather changes. The commercial stuff that loggers use is waxy. Yellow carpenters glue has a low rate and has worked well for me.
 
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