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Waxed Blanks Still Drying?

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Frank Zuccarini, Feb 21, 2021.

  1. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    Hi all.

    I have a waxed blank that is not decreasing in weight, week to week. My question is, will a heavily (commercially) waxed piece of wood continue to dry through the wax, or will the wax arrest drying entirely?

    Thanks for any and all insight........................... Frank
     
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  2. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member Beta Tester

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    Yes but very very slowly.
    The purpose of waxing is to give you a green wood blank to turn.
     
  3. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

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    What I do.is scrape the wax off of the side grain areas. That speeds up the drying. Completely waxed pieces will.dry it just takes a long time.
     
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  4. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Contrary to Al's reasoning for waxing, the real purpose is to keep the wood unchecked until the wood turning customer buys it. From forest to retail shelf, none of those folks can sell a degraded chunk of wood with cracks in it.

    A heavily waxed blank can be no where close to moisture equilibrium after years on the shelf. Wax is a pretty effective barrier against moisture transfer. My technique for dealing with the wax is to scrape off the surfaces with a razor blade down to wood and allow the blank to sit on my shelf for monitoring. Keep in mind that a solid chunk of wood is more susceptible to cracking than a roughed-out turning, so it may be in your better interest to skip the scraping and monitoring and go directly to turning it to a preliminary shape and then apply your own drying techniques.

    What is the type of wood you are dealing with?
     
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  5. Ed Davidson

    Ed Davidson

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    The rule of thumb I've always heard for un-waxed green wood is one year of drying time per inch of thickness. I'm guessing that a waxed piece would up that one year to twenty, or more. Scrape off the side-grain wax...
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  6. john lucas

    john lucas AAW Forum Expert

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    Its really surprising to me how fast some pieces lose moisture when completely covered with wax. I ha ent actually checked the moisture but after just 2 years a 10 x 5" thick bowl blank will.feel.like its dry when you pick it up to move it. It probably isnt totally dry but has for sure lost most of its water.
     
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  7. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member Beta Tester

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    Yes - follow the money. :)
     
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  8. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    Thank you, one and all, for your advice.

    The particular piece of wood that I was asking about is a 5x5x2 piece of Goncalo alves. I bought it through eBay, and it was advertised as "waxed, but already dried for turning". No moisture percentage was claimed. Sitting in my heated home in northern IL, with outside temperatures between 0 and 25 F, in the two weeks that I've had it its mass has decreased from 845g to 844g. In the same time, from the same seller, also advertised as dried but waxed, a 6x6x3 inch piece of Canary has changed from 1390g to 1385g.

    I also have a 8x8x2 inch piece of genuine Leopardwood (Roupala species, bought elsewhere), unwaxed, advertised as 12% moisture. I carefully measured its dimensions, did the math, and it weighed precisely (within a gram) what it should have at 12%. In the eight weeks that I've had this piece, it has changed from 1389g to 1355g. I am waiting for the weight to stabilize before turning.

    It had not occurred to me that, if in fact my Goncalo alves is not as dry as advertised, turning it now may actually decrease the chance of it checking. Thanks for that advice.

    Interestingly, I recently turned a 6x6x2 inch piece of Macassar Ebony which I bought in 1987. It was heavily waxed, and I stuck it into my inventory of woods, awaiting my eventual acquisition of a lathe (which was only four months ago). I retrieved it two weeks ago, still heavily waxed and perfectly sound, and turned a nice little bowl from it. Since then, a 2.5" crack has developed in the bottom, dead center, over the recess I prepared for the chuck. I'm pretty sure that the wood was dry by now, unless the wax is really, really impervious to moisture transfer. Maybe just releasing some internal stresses that have been there since the tree stood proudly in the forest?

    Anyway, again thanks. I have to think a bit more about whether I want to wait or act.

    Frank
     
  9. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    'Dry enough for turning' can mean a whole lot of things... The thicker the blank is, the more difference there will be between the outside and the inside when you 'open' it up. I generally use Titebond on the blanks I want to seal for turning later. I would think that the sealers will keep the piece from ever reaching the moisture levels that unsealed wood will eventually end up at.

    robo hippy
     
  10. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    The species is the key, when added to your home air conditions. This is not the time of year in IL to open up a waxy piece of exotics. Al and Owen are actually saying the same thing. A wet block does not crack. I've been to Woodcraft stores, you can sell a cracked block. You just have to lower the price enough. There are thousands of young turners that love cracked wood. You been on Reddit woodturning forum? Those guys worship cracked wood and don't consider it a defect.
     
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  11. Doug Freeman

    Doug Freeman

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    Don’t wait for blanks to dry. Dont scrape the wax off to “speed them up”. Rough turn wet/damp wood and pick your method of drying - paper bag, desiccant, microwave, etc. One of the skills to learn in woodturning is how to process the wood and prevent checking/cracking. As a new turner, get more practice with the entire process with domestic hardwoods before messing up expensive exotics. I’m sure some people on this forum will have tips for certain exotics - how does xyz behave compared to oak, walnut, cherry, etc. Does it need to dry slower, etc. The key is to have a process that works in your situation - geographic location/prevailing weather, where you keep roughed out items (shop, house, basement, etc). IMO the best thing is go buy a chainsaw and asking friends and neighbors about trees to cut up. Get lots of experience working with free wood of various conditions to gain knowledge for handling expensive exotics.
     
  12. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    95% of the items I've turned so far have been with wood from my firewood pile. Mostly dry, some spalted. Fruitwoods, Oaks and a lot of Ash, thanks to the Emerald Ash Borer. I had a couple of exotics saved from decades ago, and the items I mention above are my first adventures with newly purchased blanks. I have, however, had a bunch of Osage Orange set aside (again, for decades). I've done a number of turnings with it, and it is close to an exotic in several ways. I love working with it.

    Again, thank you, one and all, for all your excellent advice........................... Frank
     
  13. odie

    odie

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    Frank, the initial MC reading from a moisture meter only gives you an idea of what to expect. Equilibrium at your location may not be the same as someone in another climate......but, it's all you have to work with! The wood is only capable of stabilizing to the climate it's in. The time it takes to stabilize will vary with species, grain orientation, etc. As long as it continues to lose weight, it hasn't stabilized yet. In some cases, I've had anchorsealed roughed bowls slightly increase in a given monthly weight, if the weather is very cold or rainy. Then it continues to lose weight for months after that. The only true way to know if the roughed bowl has stabilized, is if the weight is stable for a 3-5 month period. (I usually give it more time to be sure, during the late fall and winter months. A stabilized roughed bowl may fluxuate up and down a few grams/or 1/10th ounce, or so......this is common.) Because the seasoning process can be radically different for individual pieces of wood, this isn't an exact science. Your gut feelings sometimes have to come into play......but, if there is any doubt, give it a couple more monthly weighings to confirm.

    KNOW that it's stabilized, or you're destined to lose more bowls than you'd be comfortable with. Even the best of turners are going to lose a few, but if your successes are around 95%, or better, then you're doing about as best as can be done.

    Time is your friend, so give it plenty of leeway. I have a Camphor burl roughed bowl right now, that has been seasoning for well over two years, and continues to lose weight a little bit every month. Some other turners probably would have final turned it by now.....and, probably would have lost it!

    That Macassar Ebony is a tough one to season without cracking, as is all of the Ebony species. I have had them crack after roughing/anchorseal. You must monitor it like a hawk in the initial stages, to deal with any spontaneous cracks. If a crack is caught when it's still very small, I've found that an epoxy seal on the crack immediately, will arrest the crack, and you can likely turn it away on the final turning.

    These days, I rough out kiln dried blanks with a MC of 12-14%, or less. (Most turners don't bother to season KD blanks.) These I do not anchorseal, but I monitor the weight for a minimum of 3 months before final turning. Some of them do lose some weight, and take a little longer.......this, IMHO, is a good habit to get into. :D

    Good advice from Doug........get those wet bowl blocks roughed and anchorsealed right away. If there is going to be any cracking, the chances of that happening is much less, if the MC is high, and the roughed bowl is anchorsealed right away. The purpose of the anchorseal is to dramatically slow down the moisture loss. This enables the roughed bowl to better withstand the internal stresses it will endure during that seasoning process. Again.....time is your friend! ;)

    -----odie-----
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
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  14. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    Thank you Sir, for taking the time to consider and then write all of this for my benefit. I waited 34 years before turning into my Madagascar Ebony blank, so I am, indeed, patient.

    What a great community this is. Thank you one and all..................... Frank
     
  15. Doug Freeman

    Doug Freeman

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    One thing I’ve found that really helps figuring out the drying process - if you can put the roughed (or wet 1 turn) pieces in a climate controlled environment - your house or well controlled basement, and especially if you use a humidifier in the winter, the process is much more predictable. It removes the hi fluctuations or temp and or humidity. It makes it easier to find a process that works for you.
     
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  16. Russell Nugent

    Russell Nugent

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    I end up having winter and summer processes for each of the woods I green turn.
     
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  17. Bill Blasic

    Bill Blasic

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    I agree that it is waxed to prevent cracking, I agree with scraping the wax off the side grain to aid drying. I have turned a few waxed pieces I've had in the shop for a couple years and they were not dry at all. The few pieces that I had were for boxes or pepper mills and they need to be dry. Once the wax is off it may take up to a year for them to dry for what you planned for them.
     
  18. brian horais

    brian horais

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    Sad to say, but sometimes the wax coating works too well. This is especially true for the blocks of wood that are completely coated with wax. More than once I have turned a waxed blank only to find out the interior portion still has too much moisture. Most of these blocks of wood were purchased at symposiums and have been on my shelf for a year or more. If you have access to a moisture meter, give them a check before turning. If not, treat the blank like it still has some residual moisture and turn your wall thicknesses early and then wait for the moisture to recede.
     
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  19. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    I, too, am beginning to believe that the wax is sometimes completely impervious to moisture exchange. I just have to learn to deal with it as you and so many others here have suggested.

    Thanks........................ Frank
     
  20. Mark Jundanian

    Mark Jundanian

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    I wonder if scraping is that effective at removing the wax from the four long grain sides. I think there would be significant residual wax in the rough wood surface to impede the process.

    I think a better approach would be to skim cut the wax off at the chop-, table- or bandsaw. Or just use a handplane.
     
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  21. Donovan Bailey

    Donovan Bailey

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    I'm a little bit lost on how this thread drifted so I'll take a shot at a reply, Frank. Let's start with the universal fact that green wood should be roughed-out as quickly as possible. As such, someone (or some store) waxed your blank in order to try and slow down the drying process so that they can get you some wood that has as few cracks as possible...with the thought that you are going to do a rough-turn as quickly/timely as possible. We are talking in generalities here...but the blank was not waxed as a means to have you set it aside for a year or two or three until it dries. Again, we are talking in generalities here, but the general rule is to go ahead and rough-turn the waxed blank (if we are talking about a bowl blank here) and then coat it (or coat the end grain...or one of the other drying methods like putting it in a bag of shavings, etc.) with a sealant (say Anchor seal) to slow down the drying process and then set it aside to dry. In turn, this shortens your drying time issues tremendously...versus tripping over it in your shop for the next 3+ years or so.
     
  22. Frank Zuccarini

    Frank Zuccarini

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    Thank you Donovan, for explaining and summarizing nicely. I will re-evaluate and alter my techniques.

    Frank
     
  23. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    I have scraped the wax off bought spindle blanks with a cabinet scraper, leaving wax on the end grain, and it seems to work. Usually, I forget I have the wood so the blanks sit for 2-3 years waiting for me to have a project that needs that particular exotic wood.
     
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