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Thread: Spalted birch?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Spalted birch?

    Help please! I have some spalted Birch which I have tried to turn into 3 bub vases and a 4" bowl. Moisture content was approx 40% so allowed a bit over on the rough turning to allow shrinkage during drying in the microwave. After drying tried turning to size but no matter what I tried; spindle gouge,skew chisel,bowl gouge or scraper all taken from the grinder to the wood the end grain came away in chunks leaving a moon cratered surface. Does spalted wood require stablising in some way, or was drying in microwave from that moisture content to much. As I have another piece of this wood in log form I am hoping not to waste this as it is 3ft by 8" dia. Any advice would be appreciated
    Last edited by John Ryan; 12-13-2007 at 08:37 PM.

  2. #2
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    John, I have a piece of spalted birch in my shop that has so far proven about impossible to get a clean cut on. When I first started trying to rough it out as a hollow form (with the end grain at the top and bottom of the piece), big chunks were flying off with the lightest cuts. And I was only working on the outside. I set it aside for a few months, and tried again later. The cuts were better, but still not acceptable. Put it away again and tried a few weeks ago, and decided to try the skew, and did get better results, but still not great. (I attribute each progressive success to my skill level improving over time.) I've now decided that piece of birch will serve as a jam chuck in my shop. Life is too short to fight uncooperative wood.

    A fair percentage of the various spalted woods I've turned has been punky to varying degrees. I know there are folks who've used wood hardener or epoxy/DNA mixtures to help stabilize punky wood, so something like that might be a workable option for your birch. I'm betting others will chime in with their stabilization recipes.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
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  3. #3
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    Birch is rather a soft wood at the best of times (at least European Birch is) even more so if spalted, I think you will need to strengthen the end grain fibres with cellulose sealer or similar to prevent tearing, you may even be starting the damage during green turning by pulling the fibres.

    If it is very weak you may find that you have to resort to a 80 or 100 grit gouge as you get close to size, this brings its own problems of course with unequal material removal.
    Chas. just a traveller on the road of time.

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  4. #4
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    John, I've had similar problems. I just put it aside and don't know where it is now...

    Bernie W. has said a mix of epoxy and DNA to a milky consistancy works for him....I would wait for Bernie to confirm the mixture before I tried though, as I don't have the best memory. Good luck!
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
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  5. #5
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    i have done a lot of end grain boxes with spalted birch. i have best luck with a sharp round nose scraper. after i get most of the stock out i switch to a modified square nose if i planned on straight sides. i would soak the wood with thin ca or minwax wood hardener. no matter what you use, put some wax paper or shipping foam between the blank and your bench. the thin ca wicked all the way through the box bottom and firmly attached it to my bench. needed a hammer and chisel to get it loose.

  6. #6
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    I have had good luck using either Minwax wood hardener which works pretty well or I have mixed my own epoxy cocktail as I call it. I mix 5 minute epoxy up and a pretty good amount. I then mix in Denatured Alcohol till it is about the consistancy of milk. I paint it on till it won't take anymore. I let it setup for at least overnight. I have had good luck using both of these. On your wood I would also take light cuts. If you try to take to much you will do as you said take out chunks. Just my $1.298.
    Bernie W.

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  7. #7
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    I've used the thin CA and it works, but I'm to the point that unless it is a really pretty piece of wood, I put in in the interesting burn pile

    Lots of wood out there, no need to drive yourself nuts over one hard to turn piece.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
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  8. #8
    Join Date
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    John, I had the same problems with birch, with getting ''moon craters'' with turning it endgrain, turning it with the grain, no problems.
    When birch is to dry, you get this result.
    The best is to turn fress cut birch, so wet, and doing it in one turn.
    This is my experience with turning birch, and I turned a lot of birch.
    I have for you a couple of examples, by showing you some pictures.
    One example is a small pot, turned of pretty dry birch, I used for the bottom a sharp multifacenet scraper for smoothing the surface of the bottom, with a not so satisfying result.
    Also I did the same with a birch candlestick (see close up picture) with a better result.
    Another example is a table lamp with a thin turned translucent lamp shade, I turned this shade in one turn out of fress cut birch, with a very good result.
    My opinion, the best is to use a sharp scraper for the endgrain, and take your time for getting the best result, I never used a woodfiller, but this could be a possibility
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 100_1455 - small birch pot.jpg   100_1456 - small birch pot.jpg   100_1457 - small birch pot.jpg   11'' silverbirch candlestick.jpg   inside view 11'' silverbirch candlestick.jpg  

    new table lamp tall 300mm (12'').jpg   new table lamp tall 300mm (12'') light on.jpg  

  9. #9
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    Jun 2007
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    Thank You.

    Thank's for the all the advice, I thought I had lost my touch. I think for my own education in turning that I will try cutting the log into blanks both bowl and log form. Then I will air dry them untill the summer. After that I will try the epoxy and dna on some of the pieces and leave the rest as is and see what the difference is. I am a typical Scot and don't like to throw thing's away untill I have tried all option's, this will also help me understand more about the nature of wood and should only help the learning process. Hopefully this may make me a better turner

  10. #10
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    Ad de Crom. Thank you for posting your pictures. You have now added another branch for me to try out. My only hope is that my attempt will produce something like the quality that you have in your pieces. Your lamp would be lovely sitting on any table. So it's back to the grinder for me to sharpen my scrapers and try again, this wood has some nice marking's in it so even if I only get one piece from it, I would be more than happy.
    Last edited by John Ryan; 12-14-2007 at 10:37 AM.

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