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Wood Handle Question

Discussion in 'Steel, Hardware, & Handle Material' started by ToddR, Sep 6, 2016.

  1. ToddR

    ToddR Putterer, Tinkerer, Waster of Time Staff Member

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    I apologize if this question already lives someplace else. I did read through the headers of all the forum sections but if i missed it, I apologize in advance. I have a question I can't get a "handle" on.... (get it, handle on.. hee hee .. i slay me.... : )

    I plan on using some various exotic woods for handles. To be honest, I don't even know what they all are yet. They were in a bargain bin I found at a wood show for a couple bucks apiece. I know what some of it is (there's various walnuts, some maples etc.) but some of it is pretty wild looking. I think I have some orange osage but not sure. Anyway, that's not really my question. My question is related to how to use them. They all came covered in wax. I'm not sure why that is. Is that an import thing for bugs etc. or does it keep moisture out (in?).

    I was hoping you guys could shed some light on what the wax was all about and whether or not i need to treat or stabilize these woods at all. They seem pretty hard but the wax threw me and also, i really don't know if stabilized wood is a necessity or not. I've read a lot of people don't stablize the wood, depending on the species, the size of the handle etc. And others seem to make it an absolute must. I only bought about 6 or 8 pieces so i don't want to "waste" one by doing something wrong or omitting a step.

    Thanks for any thoughts you may have and once more, i apologize if i posted in the wrong spot but I did read through the forum headers.

    ToddR
     
  2. fitzhugh

    fitzhugh New Member

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    Others will shred more light on this, but it sounds like you got turning blanks intended for turning on a wood lathe. These are often very beautifully figured but, afaik, are covered in wax in order to keep the moisture content high. Wet wood (not yet dried after harvesting) is much easier to turn in many cases, and often when making bowls you do a rough turning first, set it aside in a paper bag also filled with its own shavings, and let it dry a few months or more before finishing it. Or you turn it fully and take advantage of the way the bowl warps all crazy as it dries to add a new element to the bowl.

    The rule of thumb is dry for 1 year per inch thickness. You likely have some stunning pieces there so don't give up on them. I would resaw them to a little oversized in thickness to let you cut out any warp later, a good few inches extra in length to let you cut off any end checking later, paint the ends in latex paint so they don't dry so much faster than the middle, and wait the few months. You may want to cut oieces with a few different amounts of extra thickness so you can, with luck, use them ASAP but if it warps way to much you'll have thicker ones available a little later.

    You can tell moisture content by testing some cutoff test pieces, if you like. Google "how to tell moisture content of wood oven"

    I will let others speak on stabilizing.

    Hope this helps
     
  3. fitzhugh

    fitzhugh New Member

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    And at least you didn't get "stabilized" wood off eBay like this salted hackberry. Only five minutes prior to the photo it was flat (again, after drying out from last time). I wet one side of each...
    [​IMG]
    Got my money back but only when I got eBay involved and no written response to any of my frankly polite notes to seller, hoping he'd say "oh, I forgot to treat that blank, send it back and I'll treat it" (i like the way this particular one looks)

    So what I really got was a valuable lesson in buying from better sources. So glad I caught this before mounting them!

    Btw, it's crosscut / end grain, making it warp way more.
     
  4. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    The end grain can be brutal, I cut some and let them it for a month before working on them and this was after the block was in the shop for four months and they still looked like yours.

    Ii did cut almost double thickness so I could flatten to some extent but after that I decided for end grain to always stabilize since that is more predictable.

    The wax is to prevent cracking of the wood, typically done on the end grain which slows down the rate of drying. The warped blanks look like something done with one of those brush applied stabilizing jobs and even if left for a week you do not get full penetration of the wood. This is something that needs vacuum and pressure for best results.
     
  5. ToddR

    ToddR Putterer, Tinkerer, Waster of Time Staff Member

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    I've never turned anything at all. I didn't know that's what the wax was for. I guess they'd be for turning small pieces, maybe even pens? Most of them are maybe 2x2 x various lengths. Makes sense. Lots of wood turners at those wood shows.

    I know I've had some of these for pushing two years and some much longer than that. Does this mean the wood has dried slowly that entire time and should be as dry as it'll get? OR do i still need to worry about it once i cut into it or start shaping it. Some of these pieces had no wax but are also species that I would expect to be normally pretty stable (like walnut, osage etc - i don't know about any of the ebony's). I have a couple of pieces of black-white ebony that are amazing. Incredibly beautiful wood.

    Do I need to treat these woods differently after i use them or have they dried all they're going to. They've been sitting in my shop for some time with all the normal relative humidity etc. Does that make a difference?

    Some of these pieces are extraordinary and I don't want to waste them by not knowing.
     
  6. John Noon

    John Noon Well-Known Member

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    The stuff I have in natural state was all the same after a couple of months as far as moisture goes and will around 10% to 12%.
     
  7. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    This is a great topic.
    Some people's idea of "stable" differs from others. ;-)

    As a rule, oily, dense woods are naturally "stable", but this has many variations.The stabilizing solution needs to penetrate the cells of the wood. That's not an easy task with oily woods like ebony, so we say they do not require stabilization.

    Stabilizing can range from roasting the wood to impregnating it with plastic resin under vacuum or pressure. Caveat emptor. One vendor will soak the wood in store bought wood preserver overnight and call it stabilized. You should always ask before buying.

    I have some yellow birch soaked in mineral oil for a a day and sealed with a few coats of tung oil that has been in daily kitchen service for almost four years. No checks or cracks. I always recommend periodic oiling, but really the oil from skin and errant fats goes a long way. Caring for the finished product goes further than any stabilization could acheive. The knife should of course never be soaked in super hot water, washed with detergents or put in a dishwasher (or oven!) as few handle materials would appreciate that.

    Dan
     

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