Author Topic: WOOD ADVISE  (Read 10117 times)


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« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2009, 09:19:31 PM »
Belated apologies to Mr. Keller. I will have to look into Irion. What I need first is a generous philanthropist. Anybody out there?
There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.


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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2009, 03:48:16 PM »
Well I've been staring at stacks of raw lumber for years (I'm talking about Honduras mahagony) and occasionally buying some. And I have yet to figure out how I can reliably tell what a given board will work like, carve like or even look like when cleaned up and not in the rough. Yes, sometimes I can spot nice grain (I think these are usually the center cut boards and can tell from the end grain if it's not been sealed with paint). But more often than not I'm disappointed when I get home and plane it up. No, I can't plane enough of a stacked board at the yard to tell what it will look like.
So are there any secrets in determining what a board will look like, work like, and carve like when still in the rough? I agree that there is a huge variation in the carvability of Honduras Mahagony with "stringy" or "brittle" areas where the grain changes. But so far I have only been able to determine this once I've started to carve.

Howard Steier


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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2009, 05:26:38 PM »
I think you can judge the relative size of the "openness" of the grain in the rough. You buy all the ribbon type figure for your drawer fronts/panels/face lumber, then you try and find a similar colored, dense, small grained pieces for your carved elements. I think the bigger the pore/grain combination the softer, stringier and less likely to hold details- it becomes to easy cut, that is. Remember how small the pores are in cuban-there is a reason the old guys carved with it. I will try and attach a photo of 3 pieces here. Cuban on top, pretty good honduran in middle for carving, and too soft honduran on bottom.
My two cents only. I'm sure others have different opinions. Of course I try and arrange the carving so I am mostly making slicing cuts where the grain is running out-always to my advantage.


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« Reply #18 on: August 29, 2009, 02:03:39 PM »
Howard - Regarding evaluating mahogany for carving, most lumber dealers (dedicated lumber dealers, not retail stores that sell surfaced wood) will allow you take a small, shallow gouge to the surface of a board near the end to evaluate the color, grain, etc...  In fact, there's a whole class of collector's tools called "timber gouges" that were specifically designed for this purpose.  If not, I'd find another dealer.  On rough-sawn stock, removing a shallow chip to look at the wood underneath makes no difference to the end user, who will plane/joint the board flat and remove way more material than the gouge will.

Regarding Irion - they do indeed have a 150 bf minimum for a shipped order (used to be 200 bf).  This actually benefits the wood buyer - it's not so much that Irion won't ship a small board.  The problem is that almost all of their wood are standard lengths - 10', 12' and 14', which must be shipped by common carrier (i.e. not UPS or FedEx).  Common carrier freight carries a high front end that drops off rapidly as the weight increases.  By having a 150 b.f. minimum, Irion ensures that you're not paying 40% of the lumber costs in shipping.

In fact, most shipping companies charge two different rates based on the "spot quote" system.  Anything less than about 3000 lbs. will have a much higher rate per pound than the spot quote price (over 3000 lbs.), so much so that you can actually pay more in absolute terms for a 2800 lb shipment than you will for a 4000 lb. shipment.

What I'd say about the cash outlay is that one has to carefully consider their storage options to determine whether it's worth it, but wood, especially the kind of wood that Irion sells, does not depreciate over time.  And if you plan on making period American reproductions out of south american mahogany anytime in the next 30 years, it might be worth taking out a bank loan to get what you want.  Exportation of mahogany from south america is under increasing pressure from environmental organizations that see harvesting of this species as an incentive to road building and deforestation in the Amazon basin, and there are lawsuits pending or active in the courts designed to force the large American importers to drop mahogany from their list under the claims that they share responsibility for illegal logging from Peru.

Whether these lawsuits succeed or to the degree that they succeed may sensitively affect whether you can get any S.A. mahogany at all in the future.
Period Furniture & Carving as a hobby - about 20 years woodworking


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« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2009, 04:12:23 AM »
Howard- About picking out mahogany-

I always bring a spokeshave to the lumberyard with me to have a look at the grain, but I trust as well the weight and the sound of the boards. I pick out the heaviest ones, as they seem to be the densest and best looking most of the time. I also knock on t boards with my knuckles to find out how dense they are. The ones that have a "ring" instead of a thud seem to be what I like.

However, as was mentioned earlier, you want to show the fancy stuff on the big flat surfaces, so the dense and figured stuff is good for that, but not so much for carving. For example, if you look at a fancy carved bedpost, like the Salem one I recently copied, the post itself is nice but plain wood and the square sections where the rails come in have been veneered with figured stuff. That way they got the best of both worlds and didn't have to carve figured wood, which is not only a lot of work, but distracts from the carving and looks too busy. You won't see much, if any, carved figured wood in the period. It's a test of your carving ability, perhaps, but will take a lot longer.-Al
Allan Breed