..... Timber ! ....

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..... Timber ! ....

Postby Richard Coombs » 22 Jul 2009, 20:41

One of my regular venues has just had to cut down a beech tree.

It was not a diseased tree ...just unstable.

So I would like to ask all the carvers out there ...does beech carve well and make good heads?


Also how long would I need to store fresh cut wood to dry and season it ?

Is it best to keep the ring slice whole to dry ? ( I can have about a 6 inch deep 'slice' ( just under two foot in diameter )..or should I divide it up into head sized oblongs first.

..And I daresay there is also some rules about which way up to store it ( grain up and down or horizontaly etc)


I am not expecting it to be a fast source of wood ...I am assuming it will be several years before it is ready to use ??


Any advice is very welcome .

I have only ever used 'bought' wood up until now .. I have a block that Mark poulton gave me , which I think he seasoned himself ..but have not had time to use it yet.

With both Chris'es and Mark and Geoff there is bound to be a wealth of knowledge here.

Many Thanks in advance :-) Richard
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Postby Richard Coombs » 22 Jul 2009, 20:52

Ahhh ..yes ..well before I get admonished or corrected ...I have just spooled down the list and found the 'Wood for carving' thread . vv


Chris S did not however mention beech in the list of woods....but CvdC did say any wood that is not too grainy is suitable.

I suppose there are really no hard and fast rules : if it is available and you can carve it I guess its fair game to try.

I hollow out all my heads quite thoroughly , so that even quite complex shaped ones have a fairly uniform thickness all over ( which is why despite their size , my figures are not proportionately heavy )


So I guess the beech will be worth a try.

I will cut it into blocks and store in under the bench as Chris said Eric used to do ...and give it four or five years and see.


But I will also try and find the information about microwaving that CvdC mentions. ( If I come across it on any woodturning sites etc , then I will relay the instructions onto here too).

But any extra advice anyone has is very welcome , I am very much going to be 'making it up as I go along ' ..so tips are welcome . Cheers :-)
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Postby Richard Coombs » 22 Jul 2009, 21:11

Found this ...it refers to Industrial Seasoning ( big machines , not kitchen ovens ) ..and doesnt give any indiciation of timescale.

But at least it proves CvdCs point , that it is possible.



Microwave seasoning

Microwave seasoning, is a process still in the investigative stages in Australia, but is an established technology in Canada and is now used for drying some commercial sizes of North American softwood timber.

Pulsed microwave energy is directed into layers of timber in a manner that will drive the moisture out of the timber at rates that will not cause seasoning degrade. The process has the ability to deliver energy that can be varied from second to second to suit the moisture content of the timber at the time, and the ambient conditions.

In some cases, microwave energy delivery can be combined with low ambient pressure to give optimal seasoning speeds.


I think I wil let time and air drying do its thing with most of the blocks ..and 'Nuke' a couple , and see what happens :-)
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Postby CvdC » 22 Jul 2009, 21:47

"A relatively heavy timber, European Beech is also strong"
however:
"Its fine and short grain makes it an easy wood to work with"
My suggestion is you use it to make a work bench or as a table top as it may prove a bit heavy at the end of your hand. It would be good for slap sticks.
But if you could hollow it out a lot it may produce some very robust puppet heads as on Wikipedia they say it is good for mallet heads.
You could ring Moss timbers (020 8748 8251) and ask them?
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Postby Richard Coombs » 22 Jul 2009, 22:28

Cheers for that CvdC :-)


I think I will experiment with it anyhow , despite it being possibly a bit heavy. ...It wont be well into the Winter months anyhow.

Meantime I have remembered I cut down a Laurel bush over ten years ago , the base of which was quite thick ... I stored some logs in one of my sheds.

( They were to burn , as I was not making wooden puppet heads at the time ) But I think that if I can find them , they will be my first foray into 'home grown' heads .

cheers
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Postby Chris » 22 Jul 2009, 22:53

<blockquote>I can't remember actually ever trying to use Beech Richard. And I don't remember Eric mentioning it specifically. I have a note which came from my mentor Ron Warriner (who had tried everything. He was a wonderful carver, but also a great experimenter. He would approve your attitude of having a go.) which may be relevant.
Ash: Strong coarse hard wood, unsuitable for carving, but used for tool handles.
Beech: Close-grained moderately hard wood, used for mallets and planes. May have use for marionette bodies but not to hold detail.

Incidentally his preferred woods were sycamore (hard), pear (medium) and lime (soft) all of which he found good for fine work.

About seasoning. Yes, to season naturally does take many years. But the commercial methods of artificially seasoning are satisfactory and reduce the process to weeks. I have no knowledge of newer methods involving microwaves.

Unseasoned wood will crack. But even seasoned wood can also crack. A crack that opens up during carving may close up again. If it does open up don't fill it with wood, this will only cause it to spread. You can fill the crack with beeswax which will prevent splintering during working, but because it never dries hard will allow the crack to close if it chooses. Of course if the crack appears permanent then you can fill with plastic wood.</blockquote>
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Postby Chris » 22 Jul 2009, 23:08

I just had a brainwave and rang a chap who carves walking sticks.
I have carved beech and it is harder than oak. If you carve it when it is green you will find that it carves beautifully. If you wait and age it, it will dull your tools really quickly. With hand tools it takes detail well, but with power carvers it fuzzes up. Personally I'd only use it green.
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Postby Chris » 22 Jul 2009, 23:28

And I found this on www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk
How to Season your own timber.

This process is for small batches and is based on a one inch thick board, for other thicknesses and varying species you should adjust this time according to your experience and judgement. I have made notes in italics below to help you along the way.

In the UK - generally ~ for a one-inch thick board such as oak will take about 12 months. Beech is much faster. Further rough guides for Air drying times for fresh felled timber in temperate areas similar to the UK:

Softwoods ~ 25 mm thick, stacked in spring reduces to about 20 % in 1 1/2 to 3 months.

Softwoods ~ 50 mm thick, stacked in spring reduces to about 20 % in 3 to 4 months.

Hardwoods ~ 25 mm thick, stacked in autumn reduces to about 20 % the following summer.

Hardwoods ~ 50 mm thick, stacked in autumn reduces to about 20 % the following autumn.

However, note that these times show reduction to only 20 %. Further outdoor exposure may bring it down to 16 or 17 % but usually will require indoor drying to get to 12 % or less. Extreme care and good judgement is needed to get timber down to these levels without tension and stresses developing. Low heat, correct humidity and ventilation is what you must get right and certainly do not try to force the pace. Read R.B. Hoadley's book, Understanding Wood for a better guide to home seasoning.
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Microwave caution

Postby martin@no10 » 23 Jul 2009, 07:39

Just a thought re microwaving - I have heard of carvers cutting green timber down to a size which would fit in their kitchen microwave - and the claim is that it is a useful method of "fast-drying" timber - I know that it is not unknown for metal staples and nails to end up buried within a tree while it is growing - if you picture a tree in a wood, quite often a temporary fence or fence wire has been stapled to it - as the tree grows sometimes the staple or nail ends up inside the timber. If the piece you were to microwave had a staple in it, I imagine it could be highly dangerous, as we are told not to put metal utensils in the microwave.

Apologies if this posting seems a bit negative or "glass half-full", but there is potential danger here.

Personally I tend to let Lime dry over time, in my case in the garage, although perhaps would be faster in some sort of car port arrangement out of doors as would allow for movement of air. Beech I haven't used, although from memory (I'm not at home at the moment so can't check) in Waldo Lanchester's book he refers to using beech for some parts of the marionette? Sycamore I have only ever carved green & it is a wonderful wood, with beautiful grain patterns, often showing markings re spalting, which I think is a stage of rot? I have not used sycamore for puppets personally, only for other carvings - it would be strong for a puppet head I would have thought, & if hollowed weight wouldn't be a problem.
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Postby lesclarke » 23 Jul 2009, 08:45

I believe rolling pins are/were made from beech, and a few years back I had a go at carving one and found it very hard going, I remember it as being very frustrating at the time. ...and as your quote mentions, it seemed to quickly dull my chisels and blades.
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Postby Miraiker » 23 Jul 2009, 09:58

I have a woodcarving book by Dick Onians which suggests beech is excellent for letter cutting.
However he says it is 'prone to beetle attack and rot while seasoning'.
I guess the microwave method would eliminate that problem
Who'd want a proper job?
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Postby James » 23 Jul 2009, 21:56

Beech is used for bread/chopping boards.

Geoff Felix uses it for puppet noses/chins/ears etc.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 24 Jul 2009, 19:47

Fantastic ...thank you everyone. Particularly Chris S ..very comprehensive .

By they sounds of things I think it definately worth cutting up the beech into head sized blocks while it is still green. I will play it all by ear from there.

I did not know you could carve green wood; so maybe that is one way to proceeed ..then microwave completed heads one carved

My supply of Oak has dried up...I have been using it for chins / noses and the 4th and 5th fingers of hands ( where they strike the playboard )

But judging by James comment about Geoff usung beech for chins / noses etc ...if nothing else , I will use the stuff I have to make whole hands.

Thanks again for all the wealth of advice.

Richard
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Postby CvdC » 24 Jul 2009, 22:25

Wait, wait, wait. Don't cut the wood into head sized blocks. Remember that it will shrink as it dries out. You will need larger than head sized blocks. Also if you carved the wood green the heads would need to be somewhat larger than you would want when they eventually dry.
I remember once a friend turned a bowl out of green wood. When it had dried it was not exactly round anymore - but very artistic.
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Postby Chris » 24 Jul 2009, 22:53

I don't think the shrinkage or distortion is always as great as you imply Chris. There is a whole rural woodcraft cottage industry here based on green wood - they make furniture, and turn spindles etc (using treadle bow lathes!). Apparently the main problem is cracking.

It's funny how things come back to you. As I was writing the above I remembered that I once carved in green wood - as boy scouts some of us used to whittle our own woggles! That was a very long time ago.
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