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KenB259

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I coworker brought me a small walnut burl that he saved from a tree he lost last year. He just wants a pen made from it and then I can have the rest. Now, this is all new territory for me. All the wood I have ever used is dried and ready to go so I have a lot of questions. I will probably google some but I know there are a lot of experts right here at IAP. I would appreciate answers to the following. Should I cut it into pen blanks and let them dry as smaller pieces? Should I remove all the bark from it? Can I dry pen blanks in a regular oven?, if so how hot and for how long? Does all burl wood need to be stabilized? I don’t have stabilizing equipment and I’m not wanting to go down that rabbit hole. That’s enough questions for now. Thanks in advance for the help.
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Pierre---

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I would saw some blanks and let them dry quietly. You can use an oven with more cracking risks, but you will quickly know, and walnut is forgiving. You don't really need to stabilise it, but if you are afraid of anything you can always soak it in CA.
 

Fred Bruche

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Not sure how it has dried until now but it looks like there are no obvious cracks on that face, that seems a good start. I agree with Pierre, slow drying as 1" square blanks is probably the best. If you are in a rush, oven heat is probably too much too fast and I'm guessing most blanks are likely to develop cracks. I've had good success using desiccant silica beads on semi-dry wood like you have (I used these but probably many other sources https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01G5NTCWW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1), I left the 3/4"blanks in the middle of the bucket of a few weeks and used them once they stopped losing weight. It was spalted oak, not walnut burl though, so you might have a different experience.
 
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Interesting question. I just read an article about this and the author said to dry wood, cut it larger than you want by just a bit, weigh it, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes on defrost, take it out and weigh it. Continue this cycle until the wood weighs the same between microwave running. It might have been in the "Pen Turners Bible" by Richard Kleinhenz but I can't remember.
 

KenB259

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Thank you both , I will forgo the oven and cut a few blanks and let them dry naturally. Now I know you can’t give me a definitive answer as there are a lot of variables, but about how long would it take a 1 inch pen blank to dry?


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KenB259

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Interesting question. I just read an article about this and the author said to dry wood, cut it larger than you want by just a bit, weigh it, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes on defrost, take it out and weigh it. Continue this cycle until the wood weighs the same between microwave running. It might have been in the "Pen Turners Bible" by Richard Kleinhenz but I can't remember.
I never thought about the microwave. So I googled it and there is plenty of information on how to do this. I probably give it a try on a few blanks.


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tomas

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Interesting question. I just read an article about this and the author said to dry wood, cut it larger than you want by just a bit, weigh it, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes on defrost, take it out and weigh it. Continue this cycle until the wood weighs the same between microwave running. It might have been in the "Pen Turners Bible" by Richard Kleinhenz but I can't remember.
I have done this with green bowl blanks with good success. I rough turn to the general shape leaving it about .5" to .75" thick. After doing the micro wave process it is usually a bit misshapen but subsequent turning takes care of it.

Tomas
 

donstephan

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My experience, it is unbelievably easy to make a red hot coal in the middle of a piece of wood in the microwave. Fortunately it was at work and not SWMBO's kitchen microwave. Got lucky, though, the smoke didn't trip the smoke alarm to bring the fire dept.
 

ramaroodle

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Thank you both , I will forgo the oven and cut a few blanks and let them dry naturally. Now I know you can’t give me a definitive answer as there are a lot of variables, but about how long would it take a 1 inch pen blank to dry?
Walnut burl will twist if dried too quickly. If you have the equipment the quickest and safest way to keep them from warping is to stabilize them but stabilizing works best if they are dry.

Never heard of the microwave idea. Will have to give it a try but i suspect they will still twist.

You can put them in a bag of sawdust if you don't have silica if you want them to dry naturally. I'd start off with 2 1/2" blocks and let them dry for a week in the sawdust then cut them to 1" and let them dry some more.
 
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dpstudios

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The general rule for air drying lumber is 1 year per 1 inch of thickness.That being said, I have some holly ( gathered day it was cut down) that I cut into 1" x 6" blanks 8 months ago that are about as dry as they are going to get. Though to be on the safe side, I am going to wait the full year.
 

KenB259

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Well I went ahead and cut some pen blanks from it, 1 inch square, 3 inches long and ran it through the microwave 4 times, 1 minute each time at 30 % power. It went from 39 grams down to 23. No cracks and for the most of what I cut, it looks pretty solid,so looks like stabilization won’t be necessary. It doesn’t look like it’s very figured, but it’s nothing that I pursued or bought, just hope the pen looks nice when done. I will post a picture when done, assuming it all goes well.
I should have said, the pen blank I’m drying is 3 inches, I did not cut it all up into 3 inch lengths.

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Pierre---

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How long would it take a 1 inch pen blank to dry?
Rule of thumb is one year for 1cm under the surface. So a good year would be enough assuming it is fresh and green. As your wood is not, I would say half a year maybe.
 

MRDucks2

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In the winter in central Indiana in a shop with central HVAC I was able to dry wood to equilibrium cut 1”x1”x5.25” in 3 months with a shop relative humidity between 20-25%.

From there if I felt it was needed before use, I would to dry to less than 7% with either a toaster oven or the no heat kiln.
 

KenB259

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My plan is to dry one blank to get one pen for my coworker and then let the rest dry naturally. I like the idea of placing them in a bunch of sawdust. Lord knows I create a lot of that


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greenacres2

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Stabilizing is best if the wood is completely dry. Sometimes in the winter i put wood chunks that are partly air dried on our rectangular ducts in the basement. When i do that, i'll start on a Saturday morning and flip every few hours for the first day or two. Then flip a few times a day before i put them in my drying oven to finish the job. Again--this is not fresh cut...that would need to be a little slower than the furnace duct!!
earl
 

ramaroodle

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Well I went ahead and cut some pen blanks from it, 1 inch square, 3 inches long and ran it through the microwave 4 times, 1 minute each time at 30 % power. It went from 39 grams down to 23. No cracks and for the most of what I cut, it looks pretty solid,so looks like stabilization won’t be necessary.
Cool. Gonna try that with some of the walnut burl I have.
 

MTViper

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I've used the microwave trick once and it worked wonderfully. This was from an oak tree that had rotted from within and fallen. I used a piece of a limb that had been cut into firewood 3-4 months before. When I cut it into sections to turn, internal moisture level was still 24%.

I was making a gavel for my brother who was elected County Judge. The tree was one we climbed as kids. I cut one piece that was 1x1x12 to turn the handle from, one piece that was 2x2x4 for the head and one piece that was 2x4x4 for the striker plate.

I did as was recommended above - 2 minutes on Defrost then let it cool for 5 minutes. Then repeat. Took me about an hour to get it to where I wanted. Turned beautifully and has not moved in 2 years. Take it slow and rest it and it works well.
 

Charlie_W

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I bought a scratch/dent microwave from HD several years ago to dry a bunch of small peppermill blanks. I drilled the hole first to facilitate drying. It worked great. I started weighing every blank and recording but was time consuming. After a while, I could simply feel how warm/hot the blank was to determine acceptable dryness.
One thing to remember is to let the wood acclimate to your shop/house environment before turning as after it comes out of the microwave, it will be very dry and then the moisture content will usually increase.
 

keithbyrd

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Think about what you have _ cutting a blank out of old wood you will have a 1x1x5 inch piece of wood. Raw grain on all four sides. Just for grins check the moisture content and leave it in a breeze/fan and after one night what is the moisture? Probably very low. What would happen if that same piece were drilled and rough turned? What would the moisture content be? I am always amazed at how much energy we expend in trying to make sure it is dry enough. over the years I have down what it described and have never had one fail or crack. Remember the wood after turning in maybe 3/ 32 thick and will be dry! Please try and let me know how it goes!
 

ramaroodle

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I am always amazed at how much energy we expend in trying to make sure it is dry enough. over the years I have down what it described and have never had one fail or crack. Remember the wood after turning in maybe 3/ 32 thick and will be dry!
My thoughts exactly. Not much wood to move once it's turned down to final dimensions on the tube.

Again, I'm liking the microwave technique. Will probably work well with stuff like pine cones and sweet gum pods too. Can't wait to try it.
 

howsitwork

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awaiting the result with interest Ken

With bowl blanks turned wet I have had success by putting in a bag of shavings with some newspaper. Change the paper every few weeks and stir the shaving up a bit each time.
 
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FWW. Another possibility I did not see mentioned is to use a dehydrator. Sold for drying fruits, vegetables etc. My dehydrator does not have a heat source other than from the small motor (clenched fist size) for the air circulation fan, which is low volume. Have successfully dried spalted apple, and a nut wood, not walnut. Just a few days is all that is required.
 

philipff

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I have used the microwave many years. I start at low power and work up - -without hurrying - -until the weight is stable. Remember that all microwave machines and NOT all the same power so be careful to start slow. A fine scale is essential to reaching the ultimate weight. P.
 

jttheclockman

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There are many people that use DNA bath as a form of drying woods as well. From what I understand that works well too. But for small piece a microwave or even a toaster oven with controlled heat cycles should do for pen blanks.
 

KenB259

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Okay here’s the final result. I dried the blank in the microwave until it stopped losing weight I used 1 minute cycles at 30% power. Our microwave is 1000 watts at 100% power. It is not a highly figured burl but I’m sure my buddy will like it as he has a personal history with tree from which the burl came from. The pen is a GT Knurl with gun metal plating.


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ramaroodle

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Looks great. I always find it hard to get walnut burl to really display the burl like I think it should in the final product. There always seems to be figure but not much contrast. I'm open to suggestions. Anybody? Bueller?
 

howsitwork

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I like Walnut for the smokey figuring and you’ve captured that well Ken. I’ve tried melamine lacquer and that brings it out well for me anyway.
 
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