Advice on treating wood

Discussion in 'General Figure Talk' started by sippog, May 30, 2012.

  1. sippog PlanetFigure Supporter

    I know there are some woodworkers amongst the members, can anyone help me with this?

    I have some 'rounds' cut from a felled plum tree that I think would make great bases. I want to treat them to stop them drying out and splitting. Any advice? I was thinking Danish or Teak oil but perhaps I should varnish. I want something that doesn't darken them too much.

    Thanks for your help(y)

  2. Einion Well-Known Member

    Is the wood green (unseasoned) David? I'm not familiar with the properties of plum but generally speaking you'd want to season the wood before use - stack the rounds with spacers and let them air dry* for a good long while (months at least).

    *Outdoors but covered, or in an unheated garage or shed if there's good air flow. Then take them indoors to acclimate for a while before applying a finish.

    Wings5797 likes this.
  3. sippog PlanetFigure Supporter

    Hi Einion

    Thanks for responding.

    The tree was cut down over a year ago and the bit of trunk I'm using has been left outdoors but undercover most of that time. I brought the off-cuts inside a couple of weeks ago.

    It doesn't look 'green' to me but what do I know.

    I suppose the point is I just want to use the pieces as bases (rather than anything 'proper') so make them look a little prettier and stop them drying out too much and cracking. Would a wood oil do that, do you think?

    Your help appreciated, David
  4. housecarl A Fixture

    If it is still damp David, it won't take oil anyway.
    I'd machine it in to the sizes you want, let them dry slowly, then use your oil of choice.
    If you dry it too quickly, you'll cause splitting,
  5. Richie A Fixture

    Hi David,
    Why not give member "chippy" a shout - the name does exactly what is says on the tin.
  6. tbolt7 New Member

    A great way to prevent the wood from drying out is to wax it. This will prevent it from drying out to quick, which will prevent it from cracking or checking. After your certain that it has dryed enough, you can use Tung oil to bring out the natural wood colors. In reality the only way to tell if it is dry enough is to use a moisture meter, costly if you are not going to use it on a regular basis. Ideal moisture content for working and finishing is between 6% to 8%, which if aired dryed can take a couple of years. If you have any other questions, you can contact me and I'll be glad to help.

    Wings5797 likes this.
  7. Einion Well-Known Member

    Well you can't tell by looking unfortunately, but the wood has had a good start since the tree was felled more than a year back.

    Although cracks occur when drying it's not just about the wood going dry, as mentioned above wood is supposed to dry out for use - it's really wet when green. Some cracks are inevitable, due to internal flaws in the wood and any change in internal moisture content will start them off no matter how slowly it's done.

    Anyway, the faces of your cut rounds are all end grain, so moisture loss was/is very fast from them compared to lengths cut from the same log. As they've been indoors for a few weeks they may already be at equilibrium with your humidity, that's more time than is usually considered sufficient to acclimate wood to the indoors RH.

    So I think you could at least try finishing one off, see how it fares. Once it's smoothed you can finish with just oil, but I'd recommend either a thin coat of shellac or varnish first (acts as a sanding sealer). Alternatively just use a few coats of good polyurethane varnish, the first diluted a bit the second two at full strength.


    P.S. If you want to slow the drying you can use oil but the best way is with wax because it's far less water-permeable. This is used commercially to slow moisture loss, particularly from end grain but sometimes from an entire piece if it's small (not with a thin film by the way, usually the ends are dipped into a vat of molten wax so there's quite an amount on the surface).
  8. sippog PlanetFigure Supporter

    Thanks for all the advice - as I said, much appreciated.

    The wood looks pretty dried out to me so I might try just varnishing one piece and oiling another and see what happens. I thought I'd leave the bark on a few - for the extra rustic look - so varnish would work better.

    In the end, it's all an experiment. I can cut more pieces if needs be.

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