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Seasoning wood.


Maude

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Evening all, not build related yet, but possibly in the future. 

 

Today I bought a substantial slab of wood to make a bathroom counter top for a sink. 

I wanted something figured as most of the room is slate so wanted a feature piece as it'll be the only piece of wood in there. 

I found a farmer on Dartmoor selling slices of trees that had come down on his farm. He had some spalted Beech with some lovely figuring. I bought an oversized slab for what I need so that I can cut the area with the nicest pattern for the counter top, I then realised I'll probably have enough left for a bass body. 

 

My question is how long should it be seasoned for before attempting to make a body, and is a solid Beech body even suitable? It'll be my first first build and won't be happening for a while as I've got so many other things on. 

It was sliced up about six months ago and has been in an open fronted barn all summer but I'm guessing it'll need a few years, I don't know. 

What do we think? 

 

🙂👍

 

 

 

 

Edited by Maude
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The rule of thumb I read once was a year per inch thickness. That, said most stuff I have bought has been seasoned for more like five years. 
 

Spalted beech can be used for a solid body but that depends on each piece- some of it can be a bit soft so you just need to give it a good check! Press it with your thumb nail and see if it dents easily.

 

Cheers

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Yup, needs to dry very slowly, or risks warping, cracking, splitting etc.

 

It takes years normally, unless kiln drying, which can speed up the process.

 

Typically the ends of the wood are also sealed after felling (as that's where the most moisture is lost). The moisture is lost more evenly across the wood, and avoids problems by the ends drying at a different rate to the rest.

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Thanks folks. 

I work in a bodyshop so could leave it in the bottom corner of the spray booth with a cotton sheet over it to keep overspray off but let it breath. 

Although the booth gets hot, it wouldn't get very hot in a lower corner due to the way the air flows, but I still think the constant hot, cold, hot, cold would do more damage than just putting it somewhere dry. 

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10 hours ago, Richard R said:

:useless:

 

One every six months, so we can check on the drying process!

 

I gave it a quick go over with a 40 grit belt sander and wiped a wet sponge over it, just to see what it looks like. 

 

It's quite a substantial slab, 225cm long, around 60cm wide and about 4-5cm thick. 

 

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It's quite mad how different the wood is either side of the black spalting lines. To be honest I'm not sure why the wood changes in colour like this, the black spalting is essentially rot, but is the wood sectioned out like that in light and dark contrasting shades before the spalting, or is it a consequence of the spalting? 

Edited by Maude
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Just found this which is interesting... if you're a little sad like me 😁

 

What is Spalting? Many timbers can spalt but Beech is one of the most common. Spalting is a term used to describe the process by which certain fungi grow on dead or fallen trees and after colonizing the wood via travelling up the wood cells from the ends or from broken off branches,  leave a most attractive pattern. The process takes 2 to 3 years to reach the ideal stage to cut & season the timber.

The black lines are zone lines created by different species of fungi erecting barriers around their territory! There are primary colonizers who come first and establish territories and then have to defend them against secondary colonizers who are only able to colonize the wood because the primary colonizers have changed the ph of the wood & its structure.  A microscopic army!  If left unchecked eventually the whole tree is eaten & consumed, part of nature’s process of dealing with dead & fallen trees.

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7 minutes ago, Richard R said:

Ver nice! You could get a lot of  l veneer from that, which would make a lot of instruments and probably a tidy profit.  Someone on here will know what to do.

The baulk of it will be used for my bathroom counter top (and possibly matching window sill) but there'll be at least enough left for one, maybe two, solid bass blanks. 

 

He only wanted £50 for this slab and I'm considering getting some more and cutting up and seasoning at the same time. 

It's cheap because it's just a tree that came down on his farm and he sliced it up and is selling it rather than burn it. He has around twenty or thirty slabs like this, some around 3.5 metres long, and lots of smaller pieces. 

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Naturally seasoning wood for lutherie work (what is called tonewood, ... I know) is way slower than you might think as it's 1 millimetre per year, so expect to wait 40 to 45 years before using your beech, but as it's already rotting it would be better to kiln dry it and then impregnate it, like @skelf is doing, to stop the destructive process.

 

Nice piece, that said, and these spalted woods are just terrible fire wood as they hardly heat.

 

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On 22/11/2021 at 10:12, Jabba_the_gut said:

The rule of thumb I read once was a year per inch thickness. That, said most stuff I have bought has been seasoned for more like five years. 
 

Spalted beech can be used for a solid body but that depends on each piece- some of it can be a bit soft so you just need to give it a good check! Press it with your thumb nail and see if it dents easily.

 

Cheers

All advice on the subject that I've read says the same ,approximately a year of drying for each inch of thickness. That will give a moisture content of 12-20% depending on local climate. Bringing air dried wood inside will reduce it even further. I know with some woods which have higher resin content, (many conifers) the conversion of resin to a hard crystalline form can take 25 years or more, which might explain "drying" times for "tone woods" such as types of Spruce, taking decades. I have some reclaimed Douglas Fir that is over 40 years old, it came from exposed beams in a ceiling, splinters of that are like shards of glass and it's tap tone is like a bell, where as recently cut and kiln dried Douglas Fir still hasn't seen the resins catalyze and sounds quite dull by comparrison. Fortunately non resinous woods are much quicker to dry and don't need years for resins to catalyze. I've used Mahogany, Walnut, Tasmanian Blackwood, Maple and many other woods a few years after being cut, but generaly keep and rack wood for much longer. (I doubt Fender, Gibson and the like dry and rack thousands of cubic feet of wood for decades....)

 

 

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18 hours ago, BigRedX said:

I assume you need to do something to the wood to kill the bacteria responsible for the salting otherwise they'll eventually consume the whole slab?

I'm certainly no expert and have only read a few articles but it seems the seasoning process kills the fungi naturally. 

Spalting only occurs under certain conditions. When occurring naturally, a wound in the tree lets the fungi invade. Spalting can be forced by human intervention but the correct moisture and temperatures need to be maintained to allow the fungi to thrive, they feed off the naturally occurring sugars in the sap. Unless the wood is kept damp the fungi will naturally die. 

Kiln drying kills it quicker but naturally seasoning will do the same. 

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16 hours ago, Hellzero said:

Naturally seasoning wood for lutherie work (what is called tonewood, ... I know) is way slower than you might think as it's 1 millimetre per year, so expect to wait 40 to 45 years before using your beech, but as it's already rotting it would be better to kiln dry it and then impregnate it, like @skelf is doing, to stop the destructive process.

 

Nice piece, that said, and these spalted woods are just terrible fire wood as they hardly heat.

 

 

That seasoning time seems excessive, but as I said, I'm only going on what I've read. 

I was going to say that I'd imagine the wood would solidify in that amount of time by any resins crystallising, and is that for acoustic instruments, but @durhamboy has suggested the same. 

45 minutes ago, durhamboy said:

All advice on the subject that I've read says the same ,approximately a year of drying for each inch of thickness. That will give a moisture content of 12-20% depending on local climate. Bringing air dried wood inside will reduce it even further. I know with some woods which have higher resin content, (many conifers) the conversion of resin to a hard crystalline form can take 25 years or more, which might explain "drying" times for "tone woods" such as types of Spruce, taking decades. I have some reclaimed Douglas Fir that is over 40 years old, it came from exposed beams in a ceiling, splinters of that are like shards of glass and it's tap tone is like a bell, where as recently cut and kiln dried Douglas Fir still hasn't seen the resins catalyze and sounds quite dull by comparrison. Fortunately non resinous woods are much quicker to dry and don't need years for resins to catalyze. I've used Mahogany, Walnut, Tasmanian Blackwood, Maple and many other woods a few years after being cut, but generaly keep and rack wood for much longer. (I doubt Fender, Gibson and the like dry and rack thousands of cubic feet of wood for decades....)

 

 

My workshop has a 4x5m covered outdoor workspace at the front. It's a metal roof which isn't insulated in the outdoor part. Lots of timber, pipes, all sorts gets strapped under the rafters for starage. 

After the winter I could strap the beech slab up there to speed up the seasoning. It gets toasty warm with any sun on the metal roof but still has good airflow. 

The wood has been stored in an open fronted barn for six months of summer already, a winter in my workshop, then a summer under the roof followed by another winter inside. Hopefully it might be usable after that two year period. 

For the final winter it could go in the spraybooth at work as it'll be far drier by then and less likely to split or warp. 

 

This is all great info, thanks everyone. 

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9 hours ago, durhamboy said:

and sorry if I got a bit of topic and muddied the waters, by throwing in the bit about resins catalyzing in certain conifers. 

 

 

Not at all, it makes perfect sense. 

🙂👍

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Just to add some more uncertainty to the process, I have recently used some 45mm mahogany / sapele that was bought seasoned (hmm? it seemed good though I did not measured the moisture content at the time).  Due to various reasons (life intervenes) it had two + years more seasoning after purchase and then was subjected to my woodwork (planer/thicknesser, band saw, spokeshave etc.).  Needless to say It decided to move in ways that I did not require which required further intervention and rectification.  

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Every year at least I refurbish an oak grave marker. For the last two years I've weighed it on some accurate digital scales and leave it on top of a radiator.

Then I take a daily note of the weight.

When the weight stays the same for a few days I then sand and treat it with tung oil.

I found this takes the guesswork out of knowing if it is time to start sanding.

Don't know if this is helps or how you could weigh a big piece of birch, but good luck with it .

 

It is astonishing how much water will be lost in a week or so 

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In fact good seasoned wood is always seasoned outside the first year totally uncovered so the wood will be washed.

 

After that year, the wood is still stored outside, but covered, in a kind of warehouse opened to the wind, only protected by a roof.

 

It's only after a few years that the wood is stored inside to finish the seasoning that really takes time.

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I bought some 40 x 200 x 3000 from the DIY shed a couple of weeks ago. It felt nice and light and I bought the flattest ones I could find.

 

They've all cupped to a greater or lesser extent. Poxy things.

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3 minutes ago, Si600 said:

I bought some 40 x 200 x 3000 from the DIY shed a couple of weeks ago. It felt nice and light and I bought the flattest ones I could find.

 

They've all cupped to a greater or lesser extent. Poxy things.

 

I see Axminster have some very nice bits of timber are surprisingly sensible prices, including Sycamore and Ash. Do you have an idea how well-seasoned their stock is?

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