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Rule

I have a question. I just got some of those Box Elder blanks from Eamon (thanks again Eamon!) and I was wondering how I should proceed from here. I assume I should let them air dry for 6 months to a year?? I plan on using Bob's Plexiglas stabilization method. Should I wax both the ends with Paraffin wax??  Has anyone tried kiln drying their blanks in their heat gun rod oven?  Wouldn't it work just as well as air curing??  Heat + air flow, seems like it should work, eh??? Or should I just wait it out?  (Shawn Pineo)

    I've taken green wood and cut it into blanks for reel seats keeping them, a little large for warping etc. In small pieces like this I put them on top of my hot water heater and let them stay there for a few months. You get a few rejects but most of them are OK for turning. works for me. Better than waxing and keeping for years to dry.  (Dave Norling)

    Excellent wood from Eamon, huh? I paraffin the end grain, and have them sitting out.  Don't know how long it will take, but when sufficiently dry I will send them out to be stabilized.

    I don't think you could kiln dry them well enough with anything that any of us has for an oven. Kiln drying is a very delicate and complex process, that occurs over a course of many days. I'm relying on what I've read in this regard as it pertains to lumber. Smaller pieces certainly could be done quicker but I think the problem is one of actually drying the wood at a controlled rate, rather than simply trying to get rid of moisture, which, I believe, would tend to check the wood, rendering it useless. Also, the first step in kiln drying is to raise the relative humidity to 100% for several days, then, after complete saturation, begin the drying process.  (Martin-Darrell)

    The wood from Eamon Lee was spectacular. I am planning on sending them out to Wood Stabilizers, but I have yet to call them to find out how they prefer the wood treated before it gets there. Does anyone on the list know? Also, if I use the paraffin, should I cut them down into blanks first? And if so, how do you know when they are ready?  (Bob Maulucci)

      I just called a near by "Wood Specialties" shop about drying the Burl. They told me to bring it up and they would dry it with some other burl that they would be drying in a controlled environment.  They said it would take about two months. I will check into it and post the results.  (Tony Spezio)

        As I mentioned several weeks ago I took the Boxelder slabs up to a hardwood place that processes raw wood. The 1 1/2" thick slabs were checked for moisture content and the meter went off scale. It was wet.

        I wanted to get the slabs dried out so I could start using the burl. They could not guarantee what the slabs  would do in the kiln and thought it would take at least two months or more to dry out.

        I decided to take my chances with it. Cut it up into 1 1/2" X 1 1/2 X 4". Turned them down to 1 1/8" round. Placed them on a wire rack in the intake of my home heater duct. I have a heat pump system. The burl rounds were in the duct right at three weeks. Took six of them up today to get the moisture content checked and they checked at just over 6% I think he said. He said the burl could not get much dryer than it is now. Box elder really stinks when it is burned. Did not know what it would do in the duct.

        I was concerned that the burl would smell up the house but much to my delight not a smell. SWMBO did not know they were in there. I got lucky. I now have 38 Burl blanks that I can start making inserts with.  (Tony Spezio)

      On their web site they specify the preferred moisture content, though I can't remember what  it is.  Maybe something  like 12%  - 15%? They do have a little section devoted to this, though.

      I didn't cut mine up, just melted the paraffin then poured it into a narrow pan I made from some thin plastic, then dunked the whole edge into it several times. The paraffin sets up quickly in the pan, so haste is a must. I have no idea how to tell when they are ready, except to use a moisture meter.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I cut my wood immediately into blocks 3.75" long (got about 45 really nice ones), and am now air-drying them.  Up in my attic, where the temp is about 65-70 degrees, I stacked the blocks in a little row (four high), with scrap bamboo strips separating the rows.  I used no wax to retard the drying.

    My wood was clammy-wet and very heavy when I cut the blocks.  But now, after only about 12 days, they have already lost about a third of their weight, and show no signs of warping or checking.  Of course, the first stages of water-loss occur rapidly anyway, while the "true" curing will take a few more months.  (Woodworkers say one year per inch of thickness, but that's for long, full-width planks.)

    I would be concerned about any sort of "forcing" in the drying process.  I don't think you can safely speed up the drying of burls without risking warpage or internal checking.  Drying too fast, I think, gets rid of moisture more rapidly than the fibers of the wood can cope with.  In speeding-up the curing process, one really needs to know how to time optimum cycles of temperature, air circulation and humidity over a period of many days.  This is not a process that most of us novices really understand or can manage.

    Tony believes that box elder is not really a hardwood, and can benefit from stabilizing.  That may well be true, I don't know.  Stabilizing (like chicken soup) certainly can't hurt, but it does add weight, it does fix the color of the wood, and it does sometimes impart sort of a "milky" hue (though this may depend upon the material used).  If these factors are not a problem, there is certainly nothing wrong with stabilizing.   It's only that it may not be necessary.

    Because I shape my reel seats on a router table and not a lathe I don't get blowout (well, except for the occasional piece that's badly damaged inside), so I'm not particularly concerned about that problem.  Over the years, I have used the router technique to make perfectly satisfactory reel seats from unstabilized burls as soft as cedar and redwood.  (And, too, because the core of a reel seat is firmly glued to the bamboo blank within, I believe that even these softer woods become "stable" in use.)  (Bill Harms)

Rule

Took some of the Box elder burl I bought up to the Hardwood Specialists place yesterday. They said they would gladly place it in the Kiln and dry it for me but would not guarantee the results.

Some Burl will dry real good and some will not.  They were not sure about the Box elder Burl. They showed me some Box elder that they had dried and sawed into boards. It was real pretty but said that the burl has no end grain and did not know what it would do. The red in the Box elder he said was a virus.

He suggested I wrap a piece in a paper towel and place in a microwave for about five minuets on low setting. Take it our and let it cool. Keep repeating this for about 10 times and bring it up to him to check the moisture content. He checked what I had there and all the lights on the meter lit up. The stuff is wet. I opted to not have it put in the kiln. Will cut it up and stack it up to dry.

I would try one piece in the Microwave if I had an old one to set outside.

Years ago I burned a load of Box elder and the stink was real bad, I would hate to use Mom's Microwave and not be able to use it for food again. It might also lead to a divorce. That would be hard to take after 50 years.

One good thing came out of this. I found some wood that has beautiful grain. Had never heard of it before. It is called Kentucky Coffee Tree. Made up three inserts from it and will go back up there in the morning and get what he had left. Is there another name for this tree that anyone knows about.  (Tony Spezio)

    I talked with Mark at Wood Stabilizing Specialists, Inc. and he suggested putting the real wet burl wood under a fan at 80 degrees for five hours then another six hours at 120 degrees.  Used a cardboard box with a small electric ceramic disk heater w/fan.  It worked fine.  He would like wood at 10% before stabilizing. Tried turning some green wood on the wood lathe but it seems to turn better after it is dried somewhat. Didn't lose any pieces and it stopped any molding.  (Jerry Young)

    Thought I would post this, it might help some others that have this burl.

    As I mentioned several weeks ago I took the Box elder slabs up to a hardwood place that processes raw wood. The 1 1/2" thick slabs were checked for moisture content and the meter went off scale. It was wet.

    I wanted to get the slabs dried  out so I could start using the burl. They could not guarantee what the slabs would do in the kiln and thought it would take at least two months or more to dry out.

    I decided to take my chances with it. Cut it up into 1 1/2" X 1 1/2 X 4". Turned them down to 1 1/8" round. Placed them on a wire rack in the intake of my home heater duct. I have a heat pump system. The burl rounds were in the duct right at three weeks. Took six of them up today to get the moisture content checked and they checked at just over 6% I think he said. He said the burl could not get much dryer than it is now. Box elder really stinks when it is burned. Did not know what it would do in the duct.  I was concerned that the burl would smell up the house but much to my delight not a smell. SWMBO did not know they were in there. I got lucky. I now have 38 Burl blanks that I can start making inserts with. My heater has run a lot the past couple of weeks, winter has hit Arkansas.  (Tony Spezio)

      Thanks for bringing up the Box Elder, I too got some of this wonderful wood from Eamon (thanks again!) and had some questions.

      1. The Box Elder we got is not actually burl is it?? I thought it was just figured throughout the trunk judging by the size of the slabs in the pictures Eamon sent me, I think they were around 36" in diameter or so?? Or were those just really big burls??

      2. I have been doing a bunch of research on Box Elder (and other seat insert type woods) and can't seem to find out what it is called here in Canada, no one has heard of it, so I'm assuming its called something else here??? I saw it called "Ash leaf maple" on one page, and "soft maple" on another, but further research seems to say that Box Elder isn't quite the same thing as either. My dad says it reminds him allot of some of the Poplar trees that grow here??? Anyone have any insight for me??

      3. Has anyone seen Beech used for reel seats??? My dad has several good sized Beech trees in the back forty that he is going to thin out soon.  The whole tree looks "burly",  I wonder what it looks like turned??

      4. Has anyone tried the "Pentacryl" that Lee Valley sells for stabilizing wood?? I'm kind of eying this whole "stabilizing" thing with a cautious eye as I've had more than one insert go strange on reel seats that I have purchased. They were "stabilized" and have since turned dull white and crazed (the finish that is). I don't know what method the builder used to stabilize the insert or if any further preservation was done. I keep pristine care of my gear so I doubt it is from excessive moisture, I do want to avoid this problem when I make my own inserts, any tips??  (Shawn Pineo)

      P.S my Box Elder seems to be drying fine "a la air dry" other than some curving and twisting.

        I soaked mine down with my "use for everything" Royal Arm-R-Seal as soon as I unwrapped them. Tossed them up in the rafters in the basement, and turned them every few days. They have lost the "heavy" feel at this point, but I'm not planning on cutting them any time soon anyway. No warping or twisting to date, btw.

        For specific information on the Box elder (including the disease that causes the red staining), go here.  (Larry Blan)

        Acer negundo, Box Elder or Ash-leaf maple grows like a weed in northern swamps.  My horticulture teacher said that it was one of the only street trees that they could grow in Siberia.  (How can I remember that stuff and forget milk at the grocery every time?)

        It grows lots of wacky warts that make cool burls (you knew that already).  One of the guys at work turns pens and pencils and swears by Pentacryl.  He has used some other products that he didn't care for.  I think if you go back in the archives somebody (Dave LeClair??) discusses how to produce good blanks for turning.

        Beech is a great wood, turns well, but can be prone to splitting whilst drying.  Make sure you coat the ends with wood sealer or rub a piece of candle on them.

        Dry wood is dry wood.  It doesn't care if it dries in a kiln, your attic or a heater vent.  If you are worried about checking and splitting, drying the wood slowly on a shelf in a heated home is better than trying to rush things with extra heat.  Oh, and keep it out of the sun.  (Brian Creek)

        Box Elder is Ash Leaf Maple.  (Dave Norling)

      Just to chime in with my experience with the box elder, I have also had excellent results.  Upon receiving the wood slabs, I cut them immediately into 1" x 1" x 4" blocks (got about 65 of 'em).  Like Tony, mine were also almost "dripping-wet,"  and I wondered what was going to happen.  I strip-stacked all these little blocks and put them in a heated area of my attic, allowing just natural airflow around them.  Now, six weeks later, they are all dry as cork and just about as light as balsa.  The wood seems to be surprisingly stable, and only a handful of the blocks show signs of curling -- but not enough to make a bit of difference.

      I have sanded the surface on a few of the blocks and "colored" them with a very pale maple stain -- just enough to show off the beautiful grain.  This stuff is absolutely gorgeous!  (Bill Harms)

        I did the same cutting to 1x1x4 I stacked them on my hot water heater the gentle warmth dried them perfectly. Also have done the same with other wet wood.  (Dave Norling)

          Just goes to show that like many other aspects of rodmaking, there is more than one workable approach. I do suspect that anything short of forced drying of the entire slab will render usable wood for seats.  (Larry Blan)

            I did things a little differently.  I dried the chunks of wood for a day or so with a small ceramic heater in a cardboard box, then cut the pieces to 1x1.5x4 inch strips.  All seem to be drying quite nicely.  I've impregnated some of the drier strips with the plexi-acetone mixture, and been quite pleased with the results.  (Harry Boyd)

Rule

In one of the recent storms in the area several trees came down on my course and one of the cherries had a nice looking burl in the root mass (the tree uprooted).  I cut the burl out and intend to make several reel seat blanks from it.  The problem is that I have no experience preparing wood to do this and was wondering how I should treat this wood.  I guess I have all of the questions from “do I immediately band saw it into blanks” to “does cherry need to be stabilized” and everything in between.  Do I need to dry it?  When should I do this?  All of the questions.  You can assume that I don’t know it if it needs knowing!  (Carl DiNardo)

    You must treat the exposed cuts of the wood with end grain sealer ASAP. You can get it at Woodcraft.  Cherry will crack and check quickly if exposed to the air when fresh cut. (Randall Gregory)

      One immediate solution is to melt a couple or three candles and pour the hot wax on the cut places in the wood.  Leave the bark on, but cover all cuts with a nice layer of melted wax - then set it up in the attic or rafters or other "normally" dry and relatively constant temp place (low enough temp the wax won't melt) for a while - "while" defined as a year or so for proper seasoning.  (Claude Freaner)

Rule

I found a rather large cherry burl on a tree in the woods at my dad's house, and would like to know if there is a fast way of curing it without letting it sit around for a year. I have heard that you can cut wood into blocks and microwave them...has anyone tried this before? I thought about maybe baking it in the oven....any help would be appreciated. I plan on using it for reel seats.  (Robert Hicks)

    Haven't tried drying reel seat blanks but have dried sawmill-rough cut hardwoods for furniture making.  Here the name of the game is slow to prevent warping and checking (splitting on the ends).  On some short (<2'), highly figured pieces, I coated the ends with some old oil based paint to slow the movement of moisture through the end grain.  You will notice in the woodworking shops that all the lathe turning blanks of highly figured stuff is coated with wax for the same reason.  Most moisture loss is through the ends, and if they dry faster and shrink, splitting occurs.

    You might consider cutting the blanks long, coating with paint, letting it cure and placing them in a warm location.  (Carey Mitchell)

Rule

In order to facilitate a little exercise after Turkey Day, I decided to chop some wood (although it's 60 here in New Jersey!). We had just cut down a dead black walnut tree, and of course as I was chopping away, I happen to cut out a nice piece that would suit the lathe beautifully (reel seat).  I then of course got extremely side tracked and soon had many pieces of wood that would make nice reel seats.  My question is, what regiment (rod building is all about regiments isn't it?) do I used to properly dry these pieces out?  (Louis DeVos)

    Paint the end grain with melted paraffin wax and put them up in the loft for as long as you can stand it, figure a year for each inch of thickness. Try to resist cutting them too close to finished dimensions or they'll bend and ware so bad you won't be able to use them. I would cut them into 2" or so blocks a foot or more long and put them in the attic of either my house or my shop for at least a year then test turn a chunk, let it sit for a month or so and see if it keeps its shape.  (John Channer)

Rule

In the past few weeks there was a post about harvesting downed trees from the ice storm that hit the south for later use to make inserts.  I have no doubt that many of you have used local woods that you have maybe even cut yourself.  My question is do you have a method for speeding up the drying time so you don't have to wait months or years before the wood is dry enough to use.  I've got some mountain mahogany that I cut down this weekend that I'd like to use sooner rather than later - I mean SOONER.  (Tom Key)

    Find someone with a kiln.  (Will Price)

    I haven't tried, but I've read you can microwave it.  Maybe someone knows the particulars.  (Ron Larsen)

      I would be tempted to cut it into blank sized pieces and put one in a oven, just like you do your bamboo too temper it! Worth a try, and 1 piece.... a tree does not make!  (Joe Arguello)

        Yes, you can microwave wood to drive off the water.  Just be very careful because 3 minutes at full power can burn many woods.  Yes, I learned that by experience.

        To use a microwave, I would suggest bandsawing the wood into 1" x 1" or 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" blanks about 6 inches long and then microwaving those blanks.  Just go easy on how long you zap them.  Doing it in stages is best.

        Oh, by the way, other family members might not appreciate the smell of the wood in the microwave.  (Tim Anderson)

        I would try cutting some slightly oversized blanks and let them dry. they may dry without checking. You can cut several large chunks that you are not in a rush to use and coat the ends with paraffin or a couple of coats of latex paint and just leave them  for several months.  (Steve Weiss)

          You could cut the blanks into whatever size chunks you prefer and then soak them in Pentacryl.  I think the manufacturer suggests 24 hours of soak per inch of thickness.  Afterwards, you just let them dry naturally.  I soaked a piece of walnut burl in the stuff that was completely green.  If I remember correctly, the wood was about 1.5" thick, 12" wide and 15" long.  It took maybe a month or so to dry which wasn't too bad when it would have probably taken about a year to dry on its own.  Pentacryl is a wood stabilizer, but it does speed up the drying time, too.  I left the wood by my fireplace, which I do not recommend as a few of the pieces closest to the fire warped pretty badly.

          The brown bag microwave trick didn't work too well for me.  One piece split in half after a few bursts of 15 seconds and one piece "popped" and scared the hell out of my dog.  I may have done it wrong, though.  (Don Peet)

          Woodcraft & Crosscut Hardwood both have grab bags of all kinds of dry cut-offs they sell by the pound. Next time you are near one of their stores it might be worth a look.  (Don Schneider)

    You do have some options ...

    Paper Bag

    Alcohol

    Microwave

    Or you can do what I did ...

    Found an old dishwasher at a dump site.

    Pulled the motor and pump.

    Drilled a hole and added a Turkey thermometer through the top to monitor the temp.

    Ran a shop light up through the bottom and with a 100w bulb it dries wet wood in a week or less.  (Ron Hossack)

    When we used to cut our wood for guns years back we had a local mill who would slab it for us & then kiln dry it for us if we wanted.  Most of our wood (since we had so much, still do) we would let air dry.  I have wood sitting in a barn down in Indiana that has been drying for over 30 years now that I go down & get when I need it. (Bret Reiter)

    There is an article in the Better Homes and Gardens book (1993) "Wood Turning Techniques and Projects You Can Make" on drying green turned bowls in a microwave.  This is a very informative article on using the micro wave to dry out turned wood, but does not address it's use for things such as reel seat inserts, either as blanks or as turned objects. Might be a worthwhile read.  (Frank Schlicht)

    Thanks to those who responded to my request for ideas for drying green wood.  I know the best way is to let it air dry over time, but I'm just to damn impatient to wait that long.  Since I have close to 40 feet of the wood I want to dry (have any of you ever heard of or used mountain mahogany?  if not check it out.) and the rough is only 3-4" diameter, I'll rough some out and try each suggestion - microwave, bamboo oven, paper bag, water heater, etc.  I'll keep you posted.  (Tom Key)

      Thanks to those who responded to my request for ideas for drying green wood.  I know the best way is to let it air dry over time, but I'm just to damn impatient to wait that long.

      Understand ...

      Since I have close to 40 feet of the wood I want to dry (have any of you ever heard of or used mountain mahogany?  if not check it out.) and the rough is only 3-4" diameter, I'll rough some out and try each suggestion - microwave, bamboo oven, paper bag, water heater, etc.  I'll keep you posted.

      I have some and it turns a nice chocolate color ...  (Ron Hossack)

    Last week I posted a message asking how to "quick" dry some wood I had just cut with the hope of using it for inserts.  A number of you made suggestions and the one I decided to try was the microwave.  Patients is not one of my stronger virtues and I wanted the wood dry NOW!  I am pleased to report the microwave did a very acceptable job and the end checking was not too bad.  I rough cut the branches into 1"x1"x 7" pieces, sealed the ends with wax, cooked them using the defrost setting for three minutes, let them cool, then repeated the cycle two more times.  Once they were cool I drilled a 3/8" hole, mounted them on my threaded rod, and turned them to rough diameter.  Next I soaked them in Minwax Wood Hardener, let them set overnight, then finished milled them.  I know that it may take a few more weeks before I know for sure if the inserts are stable, but I'm hopeful.  And Now you know the rest of the story.  (Tom Key)

Rule

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