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Thread: School me on air drying chair parts to be steam bent later please

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    637

    School me on air drying chair parts to be steam bent later please

    I have the US Forest .pdf on both my phone and PC. It has been posted several times in this section of the website and is somewhat helpful, although my home isn't on their maps. Link thingy: https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr117.pdf

    What I have right now are some 16" pieces of green frozen birch.

    I worked over about three cords of 16" long rounds, but I was looking for chair parts and have a couple dozen clear pieces say 2" x 5" x 16" length. Quarter split, not quarter riven, I don't own a froe yet.

    So now what? I have about six weeks to come up with a plan. If my plan doesn't work it is OK, I paid for cord wood and if these pieces don't become chair parts I can still cook with them, or toss them in the woodstove in a few months.

    I want to build a drying rack(?) or tent (?) or stack (?) that can handle stock up to 6 feet long. I will put the pieces I have in it. The survivors I will attempt to steam bend in a few months.

    I live in suburbia. A PO neighbor to the west put in a 6' chain link fence with the plastic bars in it that interfere with my dependable evening breezes from the west. A PO neighbor to the east put up a 6 foot cedar fence that interferes with my dependable morning breezes from the east. My lot is only about 8k sqft total, with a house and driveway and so on. The other problem is, in the summer around solstice, Mr. Sun rises 15 degrees east of north around 3 AM, proceeds in the usual manner about three hand breadths above the horizon for about 22 hours, and then dips below the horizon 15 degrees west of north around 1AM for 2 hours of civil twilight... and birch end checks horribly with sun exposure.

    If I had a few acres in the country I could leave a few mature trees to provide both shade and not block airflow around my air drying stack. I do have a second floor deck with excellent airflow, but is south facing and I would need something pretty for the wife to sign off.

    I do have enough sun now I could put my chair pieces in one of my firewood kilns (passive solar) and get them down to FSP by mid to late April. Should I square them up first or take off the bark? Working frozen wood is kind of a pain in the neck for anything other than splitting.

    If I can get shade on it and airflow through it do I just wait? How do all y'all handle this down south?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    WNY
    Posts
    7,324
    In NY where I live Winter is a good time to sticker freshly cut wood and begin the air drying process. However, I've found that sun directly striking a wood stack, anytime of the year, is not good. If the stack is tight and uniform the effects aren't bad, but if the stack has open spaces as will happen if some boards aren't full length, or some are extra long, then the sun can cause those it strikes to check, split, etc. So I try to make sure my stacks are as uniform as possible and placed where the sun doesn't directly strike it. I don't have a drying shed so the best I can do is to put my stacks in a stand of trees, even though they have no leaves in the Winter. It still provides benefit compared to being out in the open. Another option I've only briefly investigated is to wrap the stack with landscape fabric, at least on the side and ends that get direct sun exposure. It definitely helps; the problem is keeping the fabric in place and avoiding mold if the weather stays rainy too long when the lumber is really green. In any case, limit direct sun exposure as much as you can.

    John

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    637
    Here is my first take. I put them on the shady side of a passive solar firewood kiln today. Once they are thawed out, probably a month or so from now, I will shape them some with a drawknife or the froe I have a tracking number for and go from there. Sled is nominal 48" long and 9" deep, that one sled is my entire take from splitting three cords of local birch rounds. Once they are thawn and flattened some I should be able to sticker and stack them.

    Once we get to the warm months I am thinking about using a small inexpensive camping tent as a drying shelter, but I don't have that problem yet and the wife probably won't go for that solution.

    16-18 inch stock length is too short for Windsor crest rails, but I might find an Irish or Welsh design that can use them if I can get them air dried without setting the lignin and then steam bend them.

    20210305_191916[1].jpg

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    WNY
    Posts
    7,324
    I hope you didn't have to split those 3 cords by hand, Scott. Lousy pay if you did.

    John

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    1,677
    Hi Scott
    Steam bending goes best with wet wood.

    John's suggestion of landscape fabric is a good one, it breathes and blocks the sun which will help with surface checks but end checks will need more prevention. You should start with longer stock so you can cut off some end checks. To minimize end checks paint the ends with something to seal them. In the cold you can't use paint (which works well in other conditions) and hot tar or wax might be challenging to set up safely. Not sure what to suggest.

    I visited Fairbanks in June one year. The way the sun moves is disorienting.

    I have hand split a lot of firewood. It's good exercise and keeps you warm in winter. Provides a sense of accomplishment and makes you appreciate a fire. Best not to think about the pay in dollars.

  6. #6
    You don't want to encourage them to dry before steam bending. Drying causes the lignin to set. Steam bending works best with green parts. It can be done easily, but you don't need to ENCOURAGE them to dry - just keep them from molding. If I'm not getting to riven parts destined to be steamed for a couple months, I've shrink wrapped them and air sealed them to prevent drying and mold.

    I would get anchorseal or wax on the ends ASAP. If you can keep them in your garage, that would be my first choice.

    What's the diff between quarter split and quarter riven? I thought riven = split.

    16" sounds like leg or arm material. Crests and spindles (the parts that get bent) are longer. What's your design?

    Peter Galbert did a great article in FWW about 2 years ago making a modern Windsor rocker. For Windsors, people often built inside mini kilns using light bulbs. For some of the parts, the only critical drying is on the tenons, so these kilns are surprisingly small, with just a hole to accept the ends of the parts to 'super dry' the tenons.

    Sorry if you've already done this, but you should really check out Dunbar and Buchanan's videos. Green wood chair making can actually capitalize on the fact that the wood continues to dry after it's constructed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    637
    Thanks for the input so far. I bought 2 cords of birch firewood delievered as 16" rounds, the guy bought me almost three cords. I split it myself with an electric splitter looking for straight grained pieces and only got a few with no knots.

    Right now it is still frozen, looking for -22 dF tonight.

    I can sense that steam bending green wood is easier than steam bending air dried. My only experience with steam building so far was tiwh kiln dried hickory and it sucked. I think I remember reading kiln drying causes the lignin in the wood to take a set that steam can release, but the lignin does not reset in the new shape as well as it did the first time, where with airdrying the ligning hasn't taken an original set.

    End checking with birch is a huge issue for sure. At this point I am just playing with firewood, if I end up burning all of it I will at least have some experience.

    I do have a friend with some full length birch logs at the edge of his driveway, but the snow plow guy has gotten them buried pretty deep, I won't be getting into longer birch stock for several weeks.

    I will make a point to get a bending form ready sooner rather than later to try steam bending some of this while it is still above FSP.

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