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Thread: Cleaning 'waxed' turning blanks

  1. #1
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    Cleaning 'waxed' turning blanks

    I picked up a few 3*3 and 4*4 blocks of wood sold as turning blanks. I will use them to make some bandsaw boxes. The end grain on the blanks are all coated with a wax-like substance in consistency. One block is covered all 6 sides. Some are transparent clear coatings, some are colored and opaque.

    Should I just mill this coating off, or hand scrape first, or use a solvent,...

    Thanks,
    Mark McFarlane

  2. #2
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    The coating is most commonly paraffin. If you want /need to keep wax off your machinery then scrape it off prior to machining-- or if it's grossly thick. I've never much worried about it. Certainly on the lathe you just turn it off. It's not very soluble, so removing it with a solvent would be an effort. It could certainly interfere with a finish, so you'll want to expose clean wood below it by that stage.

  3. #3
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    Scrape off as much as possible and then try using mineral spirits to clean off as much of the remaining as possible. What little is left at that point will likely get machined off. Obviously, you do not want any surfaces that still have the wax on your project prior to finishing due to adhesion concerns.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
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    Thanks Roger and Jim. I'll scrape it off with a chisel as best I can. The last bits will get planed off.
    Mark McFarlane

  5. #5
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    I would suggest taking great care when scrapping the wax off.The wax scrappings could make the floor of you workshop dangerous and result in a fall

    At the woodturning club I attend turning wood with wax on is frowned upon The fear being it could cause a fall or the person could further injure themselves by falling into a spinning lathe
    Last edited by Brian Deakin; 05-30-2020 at 4:18 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark mcfarlane View Post
    Thanks Roger and Jim. I'll scrape it off with a chisel as best I can. The last bits will get planed off.
    What kind of wood is it?

    I usually use a card scraper to remove most of the thick paraffin from turning blanks. For a dense, fine-grained wood like ebony I sometimes use a heat gun and a rough cloth to get even more off.

    Wood dealers often dip entire pieces of exotic wood into hot paraffin. It can make the wood look better and sell better but if the wood is green a wax coat on all sides can slow the drying enough to minimize cracking. The down side of that is the wood may not be completely dry inside and if dry may not be acclimated to the current environment. If not in a hurry, after removing the wax weigh the block on a sensitive scale and weigh it again in a month and see if the weight changes. I have large blocks of olive wood, bloodwood, cocobolo, and others I weigh periodically to check for dryness. Some can take years to reach EMC.

    JKJ

  7. #7
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    Thanks Brian and John. I shall be careful to get the leftover wax into the trash bin.

    John, I bought one maple block that is coated all 6 sides and a 3*3*12" block of angelique coated on the ends and ~ 1/2" up the sides. Also got a block of uncoated, rough cut maple that planed into a very beautiful chunk of wood.

    I should be able to get 4 bandsaw boxes out of these 3 blanks.

    I don't own a scale and don't think I have the patience to wait for further drying, but I appreciate the good advice. This will be my first attempt at making bandsaw boxes so if they explode I will be sad but will still learn a lot.

    I will use my as-yet unused and unburnished card scraper instead of a chisel. Great idea.

    Thanks again gentlemen.
    Mark McFarlane

  8. #8
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    Also be careful taking the wax off too quickly. The wood can be very wet under the paraffin and can easily crack when exposed to air. Don't assume it's dry, and don't remove it from the end grain for a few months.

  9. #9
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    To Richard's point, unless it's truly old...it most certainly will not be dry. The purpose of the wax coating is to retard drying because turners often prefer to work with wetter wood, at least for roughing out a shape because it's easier to cut.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark mcfarlane View Post
    I don't own a scale and don't think I have the patience to wait for further drying, but I appreciate the good advice. This will be my first attempt at making bandsaw boxes so if they explode I will be sad but will still learn a lot.
    A 3x3 end coated soft maple block might be dry in less than a year depending on the environment. I track the weight on a lot of blanks I cut from sopping wet green logs and I'm often surprised how fast turning squares dry. Unlike a wide board the moisture can escape from four sides. Two weight measurements just a month apart can give you a good idea. Or check with a moisture meter? (I use a Wagner pinless meter)

    Of course, your blanks may have been drying for a long time unless you know otherwise.

    A useful scale can be pretty cheap. I keep several, use these the most for wood:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002UEZ2FC
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013WU0FUO
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002E1AVU2

    If the wood is wet I would be concerned that it might warp enough after the bandsaw cuts to cause problems with the fit. Could also crack in thicker areas. If it's wet, one way to accelerate air drying is to first cut away as much of the outside profile as possible. Turners sometimes dry with a microwave oven but that needs to be done carefully to avoid burning the wood.

    JKJ

  11. #11
    I have never wiped that wax off, and I use a lot of green, waxed wood. I just mill it off. It wonít hurt your bandsaw or planer or lathe or table saw in the least.

    I do agree with John that the fact that itís waxed means it was not kiln dried, so the risk is that it may not be fully air dried yet. A moisture meter is useful. They donít have to be expensive.

  12. #12
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    OK, here is the measured MC using a pin-style mini-LIGNO E/D:

    angelique: 10% using 'group 3', 7.2% using 'group 2'. This is really dense wood and not listed in Lignomat's charts.

    uncoated maple: 12%

    maple
    coated 6 sides: 8.8%

    So are the angelique and 'maple coated 6 sides blocks' good to work now, and I should store the uncoated maple block?

    Wood in my shop tends to stabilize at 7-8% over time. I guess I could glue up some 4/4 maple or 6/4 white oak scraps (at 7.5-8%) for my first bandsaw boxes. They may break apart but I don't want to wait a year to experiment.

    How much accuracy does one want in a shop scale for multi-purpose use? The $14 ones seems to be around 1gm accuracy.
    Mark McFarlane

  13. #13
    If it were me, I'd personally call all 3 of those dry enough. I'd mill them up as if the wax is not there at all.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prashun Patel View Post
    If it were me, I'd personally call all 3 of those dry enough. I'd mill them up as if the wax is not there at all.
    Thanks Prashun. I had already planed one side of each blank to clearly see what I had .
    Mark McFarlane

  15. #15
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    Just be sure to mill them proud of final and let them acclimate after slicing and dicing so moisture equalized. Thin stickers are needed for this. Moving air is nice, too.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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