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Discussion Starter #1
I have some very unusual hickory from a crotch cut out of a tree. It was a trimming from a railroad tie so the original block was pretty big. We cut the block down to roughly 2x10x18 pieces. The wood is very figured in black and red.

How do I store it to dry? I has cracks in the cut ends (the 18" block was sitting in a tie yard for weeks/months.)

It seems like I read some where to coat the open ends with wax or paint to close the pores. Anyone know anything about seasoning wood?

I want to use it for knife handles, actually. I figure to lose a lot of wood when it dries and as when I cut/sand it down to size.
 

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I read on a number of gunstock wood sites that raw cut walnut is sealed on the endgrain using parafin, beeswax, or a tar-like material (roofing adhesive), kept under tarps out of the weather, and air dried for a minimum of FOUR years before shaping into a gunstock.

It seems to work. I happened on some pretty walnut slabs that were preserved that way and none suffered from endgrain splits. They were stacked on pallets to keep them off the ground, with several inches of air space between layers and between slabs.

After the seasoning, store in shed or garage out of the weather. I've some slabs stored for over twenty years and they are in perfect shape.

HTH
John
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for quick reply. I remember reading that about walnut also. These would be much thinner slices. I found some interesting reading here:

http://www.woodweb.com/KnowledgeBase/WDKBPPAirDryingLumber.html

I might have been lucky in my choice of how to cut the slabs out of the block to dry. I did it with chainsaw so that I could have manageable pieces to cut with circular saw or table saw. They will probably dry much faster now. Couple of places that I read mentioned sealing the ends like you said. I just didn't know what to use. Have parafin and carnuba wax onhand. Will dry both and see what is up.

Should I cut off the existing end cracks? I think that these cracks are called "checking". In any event, I am thinking that I need fresh ends to seal and that I need to cut all bark out of crotched pieces.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Strangely enough, I have a walnut slab that is 100 years old and hard as a rock. It was part of my uncle's barn and was used like a sole plate, don't know correct term. Barn was dated to late 1800's with pictures and abstract. I thought to use as a 700 blank. It was too short, but was thick enough. Anyway, I drilled a piece at one point and punched into a pocket of water. Not sap, but water. It boiled out around the drillbit (did I mention that the wood is hard?). I have not crosscut the piece to see what it was, but it surprised me.
 

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I would cut off the checked ends before sealing with parafin.

That four year seasoning estimate was for 3" thick slabs cut for one-piece rifle stocks.

Something as small as you described can be put into the rafters of a shed or garage for seasoning. I would guess a year or two if the tree was cut recently.

You have a 100 year old piece of walnut used in framing a barn? If it was a bottom plate and on the ground, I'm surprised that it didn't rot. Was it supported on some sort of masonry foundation? The walnut commonly available now is nothing like that grown and harvested 100 years ago.

Show some pictures. I've heard of spectacularly grained hickory, but have never seen any.

John
 

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I worked for several lumber yards when I was younger and have learned from years of experience that you should not use old wood that has been laying around in a shed someplace for woodworking projects.

This is due to the fact that even if you had it as part of a building that is 100 years old or something that has been laying in grandpa's garage for 20 years - it never dries. When you try to make something out of it and take it into the house and start applying stains and clear coats - it always cracks.

The proper method is to BUY what you need and only keep what you need on hand.

Hickory is the preferred wood for knife handles and hammers and axes. Unfortunately - there are not a lot of Hickory trees for sale in Pennsylvania and so there are not a lot of large lumber mills that cuts and sell's Hickory.

There are small specialty shops that do cut and sell Hickory, but you are going to pay for it through the nose.

Your best bet is to contact Brookville Wood Products and ask them about their kiln dried wood that they have commercially for sale to the public.

Their state of the art, vacuum and heat kilns are some of the only ones of their kind in the USA.

http://www.bwphdws.com/lumber.htm
 

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Sorry bit I must disagree about having to buy wood.. Kiln drying green wood will open the grain,,, make the wood more porous.. It forces the moisture out rather than allowing it to more out slowly. Walnut that's simply kiln dried is lighter in weight and not as strong as air dried. Allowing a couple of years for the wood to air dry before finishing with a kiln is much better. Still better is to allow the wood to naturally air dry. This will require a long time and a dry environment. I bought some walnut that was old growth and air dried in a barn for many many years. It's as hard as woodpecker lips!! This will take a while but a couple of years of air drying and a trip through a kiln work as well. Small homemade driers can be made up and plans are available on the inter-net. Most use plastic sheeting and the sun to generate the heat/moisture differential that speeds the drying process.
 

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Around here where I live the relative humidity seldom drops below 50% and is above 75% most of the year. I'm not sure wood could ever properly air dry here altho lumber sure seems to get dry in summer heat if left out in the sun. I don't think our conditions here tho are very conducive to proper air drying of wood for stocks and such.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I later found some solar driers like gunnut describes. This hickory is very interesting (to me) and I would like to use it. I found some info about using a closet or small room with moisture barriers (Tyvek, I guess) and dehumidifiers. A pretty standard answer was that you needed to determine moisture content. There was a lot of disagreement about what the target moisture content was for different woods.

If anyone is really interested, one guy suggested to weigh the pieces and to dry them in a box with light bulb lit at base for convection heat to vents at top. Using a dimmer switch you could get an inside temp of 100 degrees and (according to this guy) dry small pieces of hardwoods in 30 days or so. He said to dry the pieces until there was less than a 25% difference in weight loss over the course of a week if I rememer right.

What do I have to lose but time?

No, I don't think that I will attempt a stock, but I should be able to wrangle some knife handles.

All of the store bought wood that I look at is just crappy. I thought about buying table legs and stuff, but they are mainly straight grained.

JohnTraveller, I will post some pics when I can. We broke our camera. The hickory really is interesting. The walnut slab was on top of a stone foundation. The outside faces only have 1/8" or so of weathering on them. I gave a lady some of trimmings of the weathered wood to use for scuplture bases. What tickles me is that I can smell and taste walnuts for a day or so after cutting this wood. It doesn't have any special grain to it, but it is a beautiful reddish color and is hard like plastic.
 

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If my woodpecker could type - he would type = cheep - cheep - cheep. Because that is the only reason I can think of why someone would insult kiln dried wood.

Something that I have lot's of experience with and you obviously do not.

When you dry wood too fast, it splits. When you air dry wood, the best you can do is like Greybeard has already said - what ever the environment has for humidity is what you are going to have in your wood.

All of the top name furniture manufacturers buys all of their hardwood squares and dimensions off of Brookville Wood Products. As a matter of a fact, I have a couple of friends that works there and could have probably gotten you some for next to nothing.

Manufacturers such as Kincaid, Broyhill, Drexel, Klausner / Sealey all buy their wood there.

Do you know why? Because Pennsylvania hardwoods are some of the best in the world because of their hard long winters and moist spring and summers. From the time that the wood is harvested until the time that it is processed, it is kept in a moist enviroment - right out in the yard with sprinklers and humidifiers. They only sell the very best, the rest goes in the chipper.

If you really wanted to make nice knife handles - you would use Curly Maple.
 

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GM I'm surprised that the makers of the Kentucky rifles ever got a rifle built before it split... They surely didn't have access to vacuum and heat actuated kiln!! Wood is never dried completely and if it were it would soon re-stabilize at a moisture level commensurate with it's environment. Wood is a living breathing thing and it's moisture content varies over time.. As to being cheap as you infer, I readily agree but as to your assertion concerning your knowledge of wood I beg to differ. Based on your posts I see very little knowledge indeed. Wood splits not when it's dried too fast, it splits due to uneven drying. That;s why we add the sealant to the ends of the blank. It slows the moisture traveling out the end grain to equalize drying. Kilns dry wood quite fast indeed and it doesn't split as a rule. That's because the wood is dried evenly.. If wood never dried because of the airs moisture content then all the wood used in all the old cabins and buildings throughout the country is still green?? I did not say kiln drying was bad for furniture. They don't care about hardness, stock makers do. And one last point, kiln dried wood is not aware, it cannot be insulted. Only people can be insulted as they ARE aware.. I don't know about furniture makers but the gunstock industry is well represented here in Missouri. Perhaps you know about furniture but it's obvious you know little about stocks.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Wow.

Thanks for you input/I'll take that under advisement.

Simply put, I happen to have some Goncalo Alves, Bubinga, Coco Bolo, Featherwood, and other blanks for handles. I guess that as "cheep, cheep, cheep" as I am that I should reconsider trying to do something for the sake of trying.

Surprisingly enough, there are people in this world who appreciate an intellectual or craftsmanlike challenge. Some people even try to make things themselves.

As a side note, here in Southeast Oklahoma we have a few select hardwoods. But I am quite sure that you Pennsylvania hardwoods are far superior. <yeah, that was sarcasm>

This wood is nice. I am trying to fill my time with a constructive hobby. Price isn't the issue. But thanks for the addition of a second insult, by the way.
 

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Hi All,

Well you better call me Cheep. Kiln dried wood is done to increase production and make it cheaper. However they don't seem to pass this saving on rather they worship "The Great God Excessive Profit" years ago a friend who was a chippy ( carpenter/joiner) remembers going to the wood yard and being told:-


The said:
If my woodpecker could type - he would type = cheep - cheep - cheep. Because that is the only reason I can think of why someone would insult kiln dried wood.

Something that I have lot's of experience with and you obviously do not.

When you dry wood too fast, it splits. When you air dry wood, the best you can do is like Greybeard has already said - what ever the environment has for humidity is what you are going to have in your wood.

All of the top name furniture manufacturers buys all of their hardwood squares and dimensions off of Brookville Wood Products. As a matter of a fact, I have a couple of friends that works there and could have probably gotten you some for next to nothing.

Manufacturers such as Kincaid, Broyhill, Drexel, Klausner / Sealey all buy their wood there.

Do you know why? Because Pennsylvania hardwoods are some of the best in the world because of their hard long winters and moist spring and summers. From the time that the wood is harvested until the time that it is processed, it is kept in a moist enviroment - right out in the yard with sprinklers and humidifiers. They only sell the very best, the rest goes in the chipper.

If you really wanted to make nice knife handles - you would use Curly Maple.
The good stuff is here, over there is the cheap Kiln dried stuff. Now you get told the Kiln dried wood is there and over there is the cheap stuff. This is why the occurrences of warped stocks in more common now, all because of cheap Kiln dried rubbish foisted upon us in the name of profit. I have several rifles made towards the end of the 19th century. One in particular spent the first few years of it's life in South Africa then the next 90 or so years in the damp of Scotland before coming to me. It took me some 20 odd hours to clean up the fine rust on the metal and I had to drift out the rear stock spacer as it had rusted so it was trying to split the wood. made a new and greased it and fitted it. All this and the stock is still true and straight. Try that with a piece of Kiln dried crap and you would have a banana shaped stock.

OK in the UK we don't quite get the that that you do in some parts of the US, however we do know about damp and a moist climate yet there are still some yards that proper cure wood the old way. I used to pass one on the way to work. Fine furniture makers of hand cfarted quality pieces use proper air dried wood as it will last not like the modern stuff which will move and warp over time especially in a building with central heating.

Nope give me proper cured wood any day of the week. this is one thing which is holding up a project of mine, the re-building and restoration of a Mannlicher Schoenauer model 1903, the metal is doen and the bew barrel fitted and blacked I now need a new stock. As it's not original I won't try to make it look so and will go with a stock that suits me. It will be a custom Mannlicher even if the barrel was from Steyr, but finidng properly cured wood suitable that I can afford is proving not so easy :-\ :'(. The original stock has been heavily modified for a small lady or boy which is why it needs a new one.
 

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I had an old friend, old when I was still young, who's grandfather had cut and sawed a walnut. The wood was stacked with stripping to improve air flow and weighted down with foundation stones. When he died another friend bought the pile and upon his death I inherited it thru yet another. This wood is not beautifully grained but is as hard as any black walnut I've ever worked and harder by far than a lovely piece of kiln dried English that cost in excess of $850. The English is lovely with the contrasting figure they call 'marble cake'. It looks like old honey and chocolate but it wouldn't stand a heavy recoiling piece. It's going on a 7mm STW. Kiln drying to finish the air drying process seems to work well. If done from the green state it blows open the pores in the wood which becomes porous and warps more than the it should. This movement makes it less desirable as a gun stock. I have had some luck stabilizing mannlicher stocks with full length bedding. It is not as pleasing but it usually works if the wood is not too bad.. If any thin shell walnut is used and it's well filled and sealed it will do nicely.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Here is what the hickory looks like:





I have 4 pieces like the slab.

The barn walnut is here:



It is pretty straight forward walnut. Great color. Is a reddish brown when oiled.
 

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I have some cherry and some maple planks that my father in law cut in the 1920s. They were stored in a barn and fully air dried. The maple is only about four inches thick and 18 inches wide, but is pure white when varnished (no figure, but nice white wood). Pa said that ment the tree had never been tapped, but I don't know if that is true. The cherry is thicker, and I use it for bowl blanks I turn on my lathe. Some of it is spalted and is beautiful when turned. The rest is just nice sweet smelling cherry wood that turns wonderfully easy, and is a joy to use. Since it is hard to find wood this size around here any more, and I knew the man who cut down the trees and sawed the lumber, I use it sparingly. I think of Pa every time I make something with that wood. Most of the rest of the wood I use is a combination of air and some kiln dried. Much of it I sawed a few years ago, and stickered it when drying. Some is still stickered, most is as dry as air drying will get it and is put away until I need it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I would think that any unsealed wood gains and loses moisture based on the humidity. One of the sites that I was reading said that as long as it was covered and stickered that hardwoods could remain usuable indefinitely. There was talk about a fungus and cross contamination from the stickers themselves, but that basically clean and dry wood would last awhile.
 
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