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Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

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  • kiri
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    I have an old solid mahogany coffee table, which had been broken, and in poor condition. My wife told me to bin it, and get a new one. But I thought it could make it into good carving wood. I tried to cut them a bit with carving knives, but it was rock solid hard.

    I sectioned them into parts, and left in the back garden for a few weeks - it has been very damp and cold with winter rain, and there were a few days of snow.

    This afternoon, I brought the 4x table legs into the house, washed them, and put them in the bathroom to dry. They look and feel a lot softer now, so after light drying, I will see how they carve. The table top is still lying out in the corner of the garden getting softened. Not sure if this is good way to do it, but I was going to give a try, and see how it will work.

    cheers.
    k.

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  • Brian T
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    Air dried outdoors under cover, the equilibrium moisture content (MC) should run about 12-14%. Practically all the free water in the wood cells is gone. What is left is the so-called 'bound' water, stuck to the various biochemicals in the wood cell walls.

    Age-old, indoor furniture. House air can be so dry that it will suck off some of the bound water. Yup. Talk to people with $20,000 classical guitars.
    Anyway, you can't put it back. You can add some free water by soaking it but you might as well go soak your head = it takes years for that water to penetrate to the core of your WIP. Took years of house air to suck it out, right?

    The alcohol/water mix works well in the carving surface. Who cares what's 2" below that, huh?

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  • Rodster
    replied
    Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    Great tip. I hadn't heard of it before. Thanks.

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  • honketyhank
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    My first post :-)

    I bought a funny piece of furniture at Goodwill solely because the wood looked nice. I took it apart for carving material.

    The wood itself was nothing like anything I had seen (I am a novice) so I gave a piece to a friend who is an intarsia artist and asked for an ID. He came up with etimoe. Well, OK, better than shrugging your shoulders, right?

    So I began a project. Very difficult carving. The fibres seemed to resist cutting, even with a pretty well sharpened blade (I am not an expert, but I can get my knife pretty sharp). The pith between the fibres seemed weak, so I was basically carving by crumbling, then using very delicate cuts to smooth the crumbled cuts.

    Idea occurred. This seems like very dry wood. I have no way to measure wood moisture, but I said what the heck -- google "how to carve very dry wood" and see what happens. That is what brought me to this forum, that is what got me to become a registered user.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    The 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol/water works. Works fine. Worked fine for me anyway. Thank you again.

    Having a small bit of chemistry in my background, I would volunteer the following: alcohol is both hydrophylic (likes water solution) and oleophylic(likes oily solution). Many woods contain resinous substances that repel water. Look at your knife blade after some carving and notice the smears; on some woods they are minor, on some they are major. Those smears are resinous and are indicative of a wood that is resistant to water penetration. But add alcohol and the alcohol/water mixture can penetrate relatively easily. Then the alcohol evaporates, leaving water behind.

    Anyway, heck, I am enjoying scratching through the archives here.

    Leave a comment:


  • Hi_Ho_Sliver
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    I try to avoid much water.....could rust your knifes if not cared for....and at the price...something like .88 cents for a quart.....I just use straight rubbing alcohol..........!

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  • Dicky
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    That might be counter productive as most carvers try to dry green wood prior to carving to reduce cracking in the finished work.

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  • DeannaMajewski
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    What about soaking the wood in a bucket of water over night? I'm new here.

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  • Larry Bev
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    Thanks Dave i have cypress knees i had given up on will try your method.
    Larry

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  • DewragDave
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    I use a 90% rubbing alcohol because that is what I had. I tried just water and just the alcohol and the mix is the best. The water made the caring a little easier. The alcohol dried to quickly. When I added the alcohol to the water the knife seemed to slide smoother. My theory is that the water keeps the alcohol from evaporating and the alcohol lubricates the blade. Hope that helps.

    Leave a comment:


  • Feisty
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    I heard of this technique from a carving video on YouTube and that carver's wood definitely looked like butter compared to what I'm using (both basswood). For those of you who use alcohol/water combo what strength of alcohol do you use in the mix? I've seen 30% and 70% rubbing alcohol at my drugstore and was wonder which would work best.

    Leave a comment:


  • Callynne
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    Good point Dave, I never thought of that happening, fortunately, it hasn't, at least not that I've noticed, but then, of course, I usually put a couple gallons of paint on my carvings!!! Deborah

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  • Sharon of the Dell
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    I've used alcohol and water mix on hard,dry driftwood and it worked pretty good. Found out on accident that walnut oil on a carving helped too.I had to shave off a mistake on a spoon that I had put multiple coats of walnut oil. Made the carving go real easy. It also kept the dust down on sanding.

    Leave a comment:


  • schizoidlogger
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    Howdy Ron,
    Beautiful carving - great detail, that's the beauty of hardwood.

    Dave, Thanks for the tip, I carve yellow cedar quite a bit and will try adding the water/alc. mix. as well a oil or whatever's handy. Tear out is a real problem going cross grain.

    Regards,

    Merv

    Leave a comment:


  • Ron Davidson
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    DewragDave it still will take a finish in this case I used Danish oil with a light coat of deft. It really soaked up the oil.

    Leave a comment:


  • DewragDave
    replied
    Re: Problem Carving Too Dry Wood?

    wizzla111 - Sounds plausible, I'm no chemist (LOL) All I know is that water alone will absorb but not make the carving as smooth as the alcohol additive. I'm going to try a side by side test to see which one absorbs better.

    Ron Davidson - Will it still take finish if you don't carve off all the oil? Also, the ship is cool!

    Callynne - I wonder if the softened water would leave a salt or calcium deposit in the wood and turn white later when dry?

    Mudbone - Cypress can be a tough nut to crack if your tools are even a little bit dull. Side cuts are sure to get tear outs in my experience. I've recently been using a dremel on cypress to get a smooth cut, but it's not the same as using hand tools. The mix should help.

    Leave a comment:

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