Wood thickness, drying and planing?

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Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Tim Good Man » Tue Feb 14, 2017 8:33 pm

Hi all,
I am cutting boards from fresh cut box elder logs with nice red spalting streaks.

Question: are one inch thick boards sufficiently thick to allow for shrinkage and planing to end up with 3/8 inch thick pieces to build with.

Question: rough cut boards would be 12-14 inches wide. Before sticking to dry,..should I choose the areas including the best spalting patterns, and then trim the edges of the boards to end up with 9-10 inch wide boards and then stick to dry? Or is it better to leave bark and edges on to dry and cut to working size after? I am guessing it wold be better to leave intact to dry since splits, etc might occur in the drying process. Better to have whole board to choose best area after drying?

Question: I have ordered a Stihl moisture meter. Do the boards need to be dry to acceptable levels (9%) before doing any planing? I was considering cutting and planing side pieces and putting them into dowel jigs to form curves while still damp? Seems like bending would be easier and the pieces would dry in the desired shape.

I am a newbie dulcimer builder, but I have ample wood working experience. Youtube is great and I have the Chet Hines and Dean Kimball books and plans from Feathercraft.

Thank all for the input!
Tim
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Strum-Numb » Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:10 pm

In my experience...
I prefer to remove the bark edges before curing.
They rot out or come unattached and make for dirty spots that can get rubbed into clean wood.
Often I will debark or at least pressure-wash the bark before milling the cants.
I drag logs down out of the woods and get clay and dirt mashed into the bark... dirt is bad for saw blades.
Even though it is an extra step in the process, I get far more mileage out of my bandsaw blades if I debark or pressure-clean the logs first.

As for thickness... I use a planer to thickness my cured wood. So, I take the pieces down pretty close in the original milling.
I go to 5/16 or 3/8 or even less sometimes. But again, my bandsaw mill can cut pretty accurately and cleanly. After curing, or in the case of resawing already cured wood, I plane down to 1/8 and just finish sand from there. I built a jig table thing for the planer which allows me to plane down that close safely.

You do lose some thickness to the drying stage, but it isn't as extreme as you may think. Surely you can go down to 1/4 inch and still get 1/8 inch cured slices. I do.

I never plane green wood. Softer bits shrink more than the hard bits, you'd end up with not-so-smooth side pieces and no way to correct that once they were bent. Probably best to cure the wood out first, then address bending issues. Now... wetting or soaking dry-cured wood can also raise the grains and cause issues as well, if steaming or soaking before bending. One way to avoid that is to dry-bend... very slowly in very small increments over a long period of time.

While steam or soaking and heat bending works fine and is pretty quick... dry bending over a period of a few weeks works fine too. Build a jig and tighten it in very small increments over several weeks and you can have bent sides without any of the issues that can happen with water and heat or steam. There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say.

No one method is necessarily wrong, or right. What works best for you, is the best method.
But of course you say you have a lot of woodworking experience, so you know this already.
That is one of the wonderful things about woodworking... there are many ways to address any given situation.

Love what you're doing man, keep on keepin' on.
- Tony
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Tim Good Man » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:09 pm

Tony,
Thanks for the word on not planing green wood. Thats what I thought to.
Also, I like the idea about bending with a jig over a period of time.
Yes, wood working is cool. Many ways to get the same endgame.
Like those guys who get wonderful results using the simplest of tools and
a lot of well thought out plans and elbow grease!
Tim
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Strum-Numb » Wed Feb 15, 2017 8:53 pm

I'm a big fan of the old ways, by hand. I see some amazing notch and peg work out here in the boonies. Entire barns built with no nails or metal fasteners, from back in the day.

Not so much anymore... a fan of elbow grease. I'm getting too old for extraneous craziness anymore. Now I use hydraulics and power tools :D

It has been really great chatting with you man, maybe we can get together at some festival or shindig and tip a few back some day. All the best to you and yours,
- Tony
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby KenH » Thu Feb 16, 2017 12:23 am

A thickness Sander, as opposed to a thickness Planer, is the option I prefer. I don't own one, but do have access to one. Unless your planer blades are freshly sharpened, they can really rip up a plank as you're getting down to the desired 1/8" thickness; a sander is a lot more gentle with the wood.
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby joe sanguinette » Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:01 am

what ken said. planing wood to 1/8" is extreemly risky. if you have a quantity to sand down try renting time on a thickness sander at a local cabinet shop
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Strum-Numb » Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:56 pm

Yeah, I want a thickness sander but can't justify it right now. I have other fish to fry, priorities at the moment.
I'm very careful to read the grain and make sure I put the slabs through in the right direction and favor one side or the other once I have one good smooth side to work from. So far, no major explosions or tear-outs. Eventually I'll probably trash some really nice piece and then scrounge up some sander-cash.

So, yes Tim, what these guys are saying is good advice about a thickness sander. A decent machine can be pricey though. I've seen some scratch built, single-drum units built using a motor and roller... could be something to explore if you're handy and can find suitable parts.

Another option is the Safe-T-Planer from StewMac: http://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tools/Types_of_Tools/Planes/StewMac_Safe-T-Planer.html
There are other sources for this type device as well, I refer to StewMac because I've had good experience with them.

I've never used a device like this, but have read articles where folks seem to really like it. Very affordable, and is powered by a drill press (which even a small shop or budget may already have on hand).

Could be a good, affordable option to explore. Extremely versatile device, watch the video on the StewMac page.
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby joe sanguinette » Mon Feb 20, 2017 3:15 am

u can reduce the risk of planing thin wood by taping it to a thicker board with double sided duct tape
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Re: Wood thickness, drying and planing?

Postby Strum-Numb » Mon Feb 20, 2017 11:12 am

Yep, that's a good practice. And like Ken said, be sure those knives are freshly honed and as sharp as possible.

More so than for aesthetic reasons, this is why I strive to produce quarter-sawn slabs. With the grain oriented vertically instead of flat-sawn, the planer process is much safer, less apt to grab and tear out. Same goes for the bending process, quarter-sawn is less likely to pop. I lose some material in the quarter-saw method, but the resulting sheets are much better to work with.

Mostly, that works for walnut. Cherry is a little wilder in general, and any other specimen that has wild grain is going to be more challenging. Perhaps that is why walnut and poplar were common in so many of the old timer instruments. I doubt those pre-1900 craftsmen had access to anything like the modern thickness sanders we have available today. Same goes for the sawmills back then, they were rotary-blade monsters, not the thin-kerf band saws we use now.

Of course, those mountain folk probably split wood by hand and then used a draw knife and scraper to produce sheets too... which isn't really too far-fetched, considering that dulcimer parts do not need to be very large. I can see sawing out a 3 foot hunk of walnut, using wedges to split it, drawing and scraping some sheets that would work. That actually sounds sort of interesting. Maybe a good winter project sometime.
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