Preventing green wood from cracking while carving - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-26-2019, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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Preventing green wood from cracking while carving

Hi guys. What can I do to prevent my wood from cracking and splitting while I'm carving it. I've tried spritzing some water on in between until I'm done carving. But I was curious if I can use something like mineral oil or mineral spirits on it? Not sure how if that would be ok because of the water retained in the wood. I am making tiki sculptures and I cut a log in half.

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Curt

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post #2 of 14 Old 04-26-2019, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Curtislv426 View Post
Hi guys. What can I do to prevent my wood from cracking and splitting while I'm carving it. I've tried spritzing some water on in between until I'm done carving. But I was curious if I can use something like mineral oil or mineral spirits on it? Not sure how if that would be ok because of the water retained in the wood. I am making tiki sculptures and I cut a log in half.

Thanks

Curt

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About all you can do is dry the wood before you carve it. The end grain drying too fast is what is splitting and if you carve into it you just create more end grain. It's why I only carve kiln dried lumber. A log will take nearly forever to dry. Once cut into a board it takes about a year for every inch thickness. A complete log takes a lot longer.

When drying wood you coat the ends of the logs with a product such as anchor seal or dip the ends in gulf wax. The logs need to dry uniformly to prevent splitting and if the ends are not coated the ends dry too fast and split.

If you are going to carve green wood then it would be best to select a soft wood such as poplar. It would be less likely to split on you. Some exotic woods that are very oily would also be less likely to split. Teak for example would be a good in that respect however it's very expensive and tends to have sand in the grain which would wear badly on your tools.
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-26-2019, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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I've been carving ash green wood. What sort of results do you think I would have if I applied mineral oil or any oil for that matter?

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post #4 of 14 Old 04-26-2019, 11:34 PM
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I've never put mineral oil on anything but butcher blocks. Unless you kept it oiled often I don't believe it would help. Still the wood is going to take a very long time before it dries to the point where it's stable. I don't know how anyone can keep a carving oiled until then.
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-27-2019, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Forgot to include pictures of my project so here they are

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post #6 of 14 Old 04-27-2019, 11:07 PM
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Sooo, I donít even understand the OPís question
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-27-2019, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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Sooo, I donít even understand the OPís question
The question is how do I prevent this carving from cracking while it dries. It still has about 17% moisture in it. And it is cracking as it is drying.

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post #8 of 14 Old 04-27-2019, 11:26 PM
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Wow!!! That is Awesome work!!!

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Forgot to include pictures of my project so here they are

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Hey Curt,

That is really nice work...!!!.........I hope you do more of these...and thanks for sharing...

As to your query in the first posts, checking is often a characteristic of such carving. The folk styles in general are seldom seen or well understood by most today accept in the countries where the traditions have not been lost, and/or never stopped in practice...

DRY WOOD

Well to start...it never was...LOL!!!...

Traditional woodworking in general application was/is seldom if ever "DRY" as most speak of it today. Nor was it in the past for sure. Wood was (and is) worked green. Especially in the carving style you have embarked on. Even such carving as Carousel (and related orgin carving) circa ~ 1880's to today and of course, all the way back to the 12th century Turkish origins, the wood was worked green and/or dealt with in a transient state.

There are many methods for mitigating checking and to inhibit the drying process. Germane and applicable to what your doing (especially a spalted species like yours) would be to store the carving in water. This is the simplest, oldest and least expensive approach...even for huge carvings if one is doing this professionally.

In your case a plastic garbage pale should be large enough for future projects to help keep your wood "fresh" and very workable while your render the different stages of the carving. The other nice aspect of water storage is it tempers and relaxes the wood. If there is "reaction fiber" in side the bolt (aka log section) the water can arrest and/or mitigate the fibers from over stressing and warping the piece.

There are, as mention other modalities as well, one being a thicker version of the tradtional finish I use on many of my projects...from furniture to timber frames...including carvings and this is heavy in beeswax. This is a more expensive method because of the used of material and thus carving it off and reapplying it as on progresses. I would only recommend and/or employ this method if I did not have a way to store in water...

So, for your piece, since it been worked near to completion (or is complete?) I would recommend a heavy wax traditional finish...

When (if?) you get into finishing I can expand on that also, or any other aspect of this kind of work, should you have more questions?

Regards,

j

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post #9 of 14 Old 04-27-2019, 11:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks J! This is my first carving and I'm going to do a moai head next . Well I think I'm pretty much done carving now so I'm interested in your advice for slowly drying it to prevent more cracking. Should I put an oil on it?

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Curt

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post #10 of 14 Old 04-28-2019, 12:07 AM
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Thanks J! This is my first carving and I'm going to do a moai head next . Well I think I'm pretty much done carving now so I'm interested in your advice for slowly drying it to prevent more cracking. Should I put an oil on it?

Thanks

Curt
Hi Curt,

In your case, though its a bit more expensive, I would recommend Heritage Finishes wax sealer. Its the same blend I use almost daily for sealing joinery in timber frames (and other applications) and is the same materials as in there traditional finish accept this has about 5 times as much beeswax. This will almost fully arrest drying (approximately 80%) to the point that it dries supper slowly...

The other nice part is that it can be reapplied for more sealing or it can be cleaned of with the actual finish when ready for that...It all depends on what you wish to achieve...

Let me know if I can expand on anything?

Regards,

j
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post #11 of 14 Old 04-28-2019, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Hi J. Do you think I could achieve similar results if double boiled some pure beeswax and mixed it with mineral oil and kept the ratio of the beeswax just below the point of the mix solidifying when cool? I think whatever method I choose, I would like the initial sealer to also be the finish.

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post #12 of 14 Old 04-28-2019, 08:46 PM
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It's not uncommon to see some cracks on a carving such as that so would be deemed normal. When wood dries is going to shrink and that shrinkage is what is responsible for the cracks. If the wood is going to shrink enough to crack the treatments that you might do will only minimize the damage. It won't be something you can do once and forget it, it will be a process of keeping the wood moisturized for many years until the central portions of the log dry as well.
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post #13 of 14 Old 04-28-2019, 09:32 PM
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Hi J. Do you think I could achieve similar results if double boiled some pure beeswax and mixed it with mineral oil and kept the ratio of the beeswax just below the point of the mix solidifying when cool? I think whatever method I choose, I would like the initial sealer to also be the finish...
Hey Curt,

Oh Please...!!!...I love it went someone gets into making there own traditional finish blends... That would be awesome for sure.

You really don't need to "double boil" anything...just simply melting slowly (don't stop stirring) and then add the oil and/or solvent mixture recipe you wish to employ to the melted wax...off the heat source of course. Citrus solvent will soften wax all on its own without heat, just time...which I have also achieved with turpentine also...

There are all types of "beeswax" mixes in the old recipe books around the globe. I had learn a half dozen my mother and grandmother taught me before I was even in my teens. Most traditional solvent will just natural melt beeswax into a spreadable mixture. Some are more effective than others, or (??) perhaps I should say more efficient.

Many today will use mineral spirits for this, as you have thought about. I can't recommend it at all. For one, it's not the traditional formulation for a beeswax finish, the other is simply I have found it to be smelly and less effective. I use a citrus oil thinner, and have use turpentine in a pinch if I have to. Both botanical based and historically proven over the millenia of applications from several cultures.

A natural oil and wax (bee or carnauba...or both) is a great wood finish all on its own for work like your doing...Do share what you learn and choose for your formulation. You can purchase these raw materials from several good vendors, including the one I shared earlier. If you need more let me know, but find them isn't hard at all. Just make sure your materials are pure and not adulterated...

As to application, that is just a simple matter of rubbing it in. Since its a wax finish it will be paste like and not something you can spread well with brush (typically some you can like the formula I use recommended in the last post.) It all depends on how much solvent you mix with the wax. Some (me included) like to use the thinner (brushable) form first then the thicker version. I apply by hand and rub in...

Since this is a sculpture and not a piece of furniture that sees a lot of wear from traffic or will be outside...you can easily do this finish just once and be done with it. Wax is one of the few finishes that can yield an true 100% waterproof finish. It only issue is sensitive to wear, and high temperatures, which isn't a concern at all in your case with a sculpture. If you choose to rub this off in the future to apply another traditional oil finish type that is an option. It will not however effectively take a good stain after this method of treatment. Oil/wax stains are another topic, but I did not get the notion you had such interest...???...I would also note, even in a really fresh piece of wood (of many species) that is well treated from the point of harvest till the end, virtually no splinting/checking takes place at all. This is rather self evident, since most wood turning (a form of carving...) is done in green wood and they would not be effective at all if splitting and checking was normal. With large wood sculptures there well may be some, but these to can be greatly mitigated with the finish and a few other tricks like 背割り (Sewari) modalities. If you wish to explore these just let me know, yet these typically must be done to carving blank before carving layout and shaping begins...Perhaps for another project if checks concern you?

Another trick that you can employ to get a good start to the process is warming the wood. My mother would actually make a small bonfire to to warm some of her work when the weather was cooler, otherwise should would do strange things like park her van in the sun, or place the project in a glass tank in the sun with the first coat on it and rub it in during the "warm up." Between the solvent and the warm temperature, the material was well soaked with finish...

Good Luck!

j

Last edited by 35015; 04-28-2019 at 09:36 PM.
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post #14 of 14 Old 04-28-2019, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Curtislv426 View Post
Hi J. Do you think I could achieve similar results if double boiled some pure beeswax

I was sitting here drinking some coffee and I realized what you meant by "double,"...LOL... So yes, a "double boiler" is the method to slowing melt wax!!! Sorry for my confusion!

j
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