Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Neighbor's Maple Tree

Sadly, I didn't get to the wood soon enough, and my neighbor and his son were only intent on removing an eyesore and not chainsawing bowl blanks for me. I wasn't home, I was at work, or I'd have helped and been able to reduce the eyesore into more usable chunks (blanks) and gotten them out of the sun sooner. But anyway, I was able to salvage some that is not checked and cracked beyond use. This is one of them.

This is the first "green" wood I have ever turned, and as everyone says, it was a pleasure to work. With disclaimers. First there is the problem of getting it dry without major shape changes or additional cracking and checking. Not having the luxury of a lot of spare time, I first turned the general outside shape of the bowl. I soaked it by brush with a solution called Pentacryl, which is, in my opinion cost prohibitive. At $20 or so a quart, and the amounts needed to effectively treat it, it just didn't seem to fill the bill. I followed the directions exactly though, let as much soak in as possible, wrapped it in a damp rag, put it in a cool, dry space and waited for my next day off to rough out the inside. What I found the next week was akin to the inside of a bachelor's refrigerator or a culture medium. What a mess.

As luck would have it though, I stumbled on a better, cheaper solution. It is referred to by my friends at Sawmill Creek as a DNA soak. No, no, not that kind of DNA, this is denatured alchohol. The blank is soaked for several hours to overnight after roughing out, then wrapped tightly, only on the outside with a paper bag and then left upside down on a rack to dry. In theory the alchohol replaces the water in the wood when it is soaked, and after about about a five or six day drying cycle, it is ready to finish turn. The theory behind wrapping only the outside with the paper sack and taping it tightly is that it allows the inside to dry faster than the outside, thus compressing the fibers on the outside making it impossible for them to crack. It works beautifully! At least on this first attempt. I think the worms that inhabitted the blank left too.

Needless to say, I am very, very happy with the otcome. Spalted wood, by my eye, is stunning in it's patterns and creates an eyecatching effect, without the need for any other embelishments or decorations.

I've always been a big fan of simplicity.