Buying wood burl pen blanks

Signed-In Members Don't See This Ad

How would you like your burl wood-wet or dry?

  • Give it to me fresh, wet and let me choose the really nice ones! ($5 ish)

    Votes: 12 30.8%
  • Dry the wood, sell it to me ready to turn (about $2 more than wet)

    Votes: 10 25.6%
  • Stabilize it!! Who wants to turn a blank that may crack!! ($4 more than wet)

    Votes: 15 38.5%
  • Other choice, explain below, please!!

    Votes: 2 5.1%

  • Total voters
    39
  • Poll closed .

ed4copies

Local Chapter Manager
Joined
Mar 25, 2005
Messages
23,864
Location
Racine, WI, USA.
I have purchased literally a ton of Australian Burl wood, it is gorgeous!!
BUT, it is wet, cut probably about six months ago. (About 13% water)
So, I am looking for input on what you want, when you buy really nice burls.
Please
 
Signed-In Members Don't See This Ad

jttheclockman

Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
13,598
Location
NJ, USA.
Ed I posted to your question in the other thread so I will just copy and paste my answer here.

I think there are questions to be asked and answered before that final question can be answered. First how are you drying them?? Are you going to sticker thousands of pen blanks? Are you going to force dry with ovens or are you going to air dry for a certain time?? Are you going to guarantee the moisture content of each blank as it leaves the shop?? How can you be sure of cracking in blanks due to drying process?? All wood takes on moisture due to environment and temps and humidity levels. Unless you hermetically seal in some form of protection there is no guarantee of the moisture levels.

My thoughts are every pen turner, woodworker, wood blank seller, harvester of wood should be aware of the moisture factor when working with a product that is alive and takes on moisture and wood is not the only product. I do believe it is the right thing for vendors to have a label or warning about moisture content and it does not have to be specific about amounts because that can vary from piece to piece even in the same lot. As pen turners we should know the effects of wet wood when it comes to cracking and sealing in moisture. This is all part of both woodworking and pen turning. As a woodworker I am concerned all the time about wood movement which you can not stop.

My suggestion is to have a label and also a place on your site to show how to dry wooden blanks such as a video if you do not have one now. Maybe have suggestions for moisture meters of good quality and in the video show how they are used. I would sell blanks as is and let the buyer beware and have at his disposal of how to deal with wet lumber or pen blanks. There is a ton of info out there and this question comes up alot here and mostly gets referred to as cracks in blanks. But with all that said the buyer must also be aware that some woods are just prone to cracking no matter what you do and burls are high on that list because of the wild grain patterns and the force applied. The owness would be on the buyer to use whatever method they choose to dry the blank check the blank and turn the blank to make into a pen blank. That is my point and opinion being you asked.
 

duncsuss

Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2012
Messages
1,496
Location
Wilmington, MA
I don't really mind if they are wet or dry, so long as:

(1) if wet, please cut the pieces oversized so I can still get a decent pen blank out of it when it warps and twists and bends while drying
(2) if wet, please wax it so it doesn't start drying in transit (or start passing the humidity to something else in the mailing box)

I know that if you dry it (or dry it then stabilize it) the blanks will be good before you put them out for sale.
 

MRDucks2

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
2,034
Location
Washington, IN
I fall in line with some of the comments above. I don’t mind wet blanks if they are oversized enough to account for warp, curl and deformation when dry. I realize this may add a little to the cost because you are getting fewer blanks/board foot.

If it is dry enough to prevent significant deformation, but not dry enough to cast or stabilize, I fine with that.

In both of the above cases you cannot guarantee against the occasional crack or split.

if you advertise it as dry enough to cast or stabilize, I will still check and dry further if needed. But, with these I expect no deformation or cracking to occur.
 

magpens

Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2011
Messages
11,792
Location
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
This is good news !!! . For sure, I am excited about the prospect of getting lots of Aussie burl pen blanks !!!!

But, I don't have enough information to give an answer to your question/poll .

What wood species are we talking about ? . What are the risks to me if I buy it "wet" ? . How might it twist and bend in the drying process ?

Yeah, I know that those last two are tough for YOU to answer .

I would prefer to pay more to buy dry blanks if they then come with the assurance that they are straight, and appropriately sized for pen turning.

The species that I am (at the moment) particularly interested in are Pyinma, York Gum, Brown and Red Mallee, and Spotted Gum ... all as burls.
I will always be interested in those species; my interests may grow to include other species as well, the denser and more "burlish" the better.

For the present I will say that I would prefer to buy the blanks dry, unstabilized, and based on individual photographs ... and pay the premium.

Please keep us posted, Ed. . I am extremely interested in Australian woods and especially burls. I lived in Australia for quite a while so I know a fair bit about their beautiful woods/burls. . Since I started making pens about 10 years ago, I have always had a strong inclination towards using those materials ... whenever I can get them.
 

ed4copies

Local Chapter Manager
Joined
Mar 25, 2005
Messages
23,864
Location
Racine, WI, USA.
There is no need for secrecy!!

I have Red Mallee, Brown Mallee and Red Coolibah, all burl wood. I am in the midst of "grading" a couple hundred red mallee. There are very few "ok" or mostly straight grain. LOTS of very nice!! The box is packed with the red mallee on top, so I have yet to uncover the others.

Based on what is being said here, I will start to sell them soon. Yes, with a "be careful" about the moisture content, though I am moving it to warmer part of the building to see if it will dry out some. The blanks are nearly an inch and professionally waxed--When I have dried some at 200 degrees for many hours, there is a residual of wax where the blank was and they have stayed straight, lost 13% of their weight.

More to come!!
 

robutacion

Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2009
Messages
6,364
Location
Australia - SA Adelaide Hills
I have purchased literally a ton of Australian Burl wood, it is gorgeous!!
BUT, it is wet, cut probably about six months ago. (About 13% water)
So, I am looking for input on what you want, when you buy really nice burls.
Please
G'day Ed,

I understand that the situation you are in may be a little out of your league which is OK, your questions reflect your concerns and intentions for putting these burls to the best use possible and provide a product that represents all the requirements to satisfy all your customs, I believe I'm in a good position to give you some advice regardless of the fact that I also sell some of those burl species but not exactly the type of burls you purchased what we call them "caps", these account for 99% of the Aussie burls sold all over the world, the really big high-quality burls have another more valuable market such as the veneers.

Anyway, I assumed the caps/burls have been debarked (water pressured), those 3 burl species are fairly stable and dense so shrinkage is fairly minimal, however, the current MC% content would be important to know to see where we are at.

I really don't recommend you using an oven at such temperatures, the chances are you will be introducing a lot more stress cracks than what you want so if you want to get the most value out of these burls/caps, I suggest you have them kiln dry or any other drying process that will not compromise the integrity of the burls structure, I don't think that you want to shelve all those burls to air-dry for at least 2 years off-course all depending on what MC% they contain at the moment so, if you are looking in process and move those burls quickly and without any other expense, I don't see any other solution than cutting the blanks oversized (22 to 25mm) and specify clearly that the wood may not be dry and supply the current MC% content, customers will then decided what they want to do.

I hope this may help you with some of your questions.

PS: I would be somehow cautious in waxing the pen blanks fully and then put them in the oven, not only is a risk of ignition but also the possibility that the wax as it melts to liquid state to penetrate into the wood contaminating it particularly if the blanks are going to be stabilised later, cooking the wax slowly will cause the wax to continue finding its way into the wood due to the temp the wood will be at.

Best of luck,

Cheers
George
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
Messages
1,506
Location
Wolf Creek Montana
Just a thought. How would you stabilize wood that has a wax coating?
Here's what I've done in the past. Take the blanks and place them in your oven at around 200 degrees or a bit more, put them on a rack, like a cooling rack, and let the wax drip off. Turn it occasionally so that you get off as much as possible. Make sure to put something under the cooling rack to catch the wax. Then take it to your belt sander after it cools and remove the rest. If that doesn't get it all, set the rip fence on your table saw to remove a blade width or less on each side. If your not going to stabilize it and you're going to turn it, the wax isn't an issue. That should get it off, it's worked for me in the past and I just got some Ebony that has wax and I'll do it the same way.
 

Lenny

Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2009
Messages
3,473
Location
Searsport, Maine
I don’t think it matters as long as the buyer is aware at the time of purchase. Would you be photographing each blank as you do with your specialty blanks? This alone makes a huge difference compared to some of the suppliers who often photograph their best example for the ad but then what you actually get is mediocre.
 

ed4copies

Local Chapter Manager
Joined
Mar 25, 2005
Messages
23,864
Location
Racine, WI, USA.
My inclination is not to photo individually. We have come to realize that the time it takes and the photo-editing, etc cannot be justified for blanks that are under $10. retail selling price.

IF I stabilize them, most likely I will select the best and then we will picture them, but price will be high. I will first have to dry them for several days, then do the actual stabilizing (Cactus Juice ain't cheap for US, either!!), so the selling price may be high enough to justify "one-of-a-kind" listing treatment.

This was why I wanted this poll information. Every step adds to the cost--I wondered whether I should do those steps and charge accordingly or if the buyers want to do it and save money.
 

ed4copies

Local Chapter Manager
Joined
Mar 25, 2005
Messages
23,864
Location
Racine, WI, USA.
If the poll results are not visible (I am not used to the new forum software yet), 38% said stabilize, 30% said sell it wet and 27 percent want dried, but not stabilized.

The conversation here has led me to believe "dried but not stabilized" would be a fool's errand. If it subsequently cracked, the buyer would likely complain I did not dry it properly. So, it looks like I will stabilize some and sell some wet. We now have it all unpacked and inside the warm building, so I hope it is drying a little. Will keep you informed!!

Still a few days to vote!!
 
Top Bottom