How do I save this wood?
Ok here is the problem. I have about 400 bf of the most beautiful apricot
lumber you have ever seen, Most pieces are 20+ inches wide and 6 feet long
and 1 ¾ inches thick. But many of the pieces are twisted and warped
because of improper drying.
I want to rescue this wood for use in building guitar backs and sides so is
there any way to fix this wood? I know that the normal process is to cut it
into narrower strips then surface it on a jointer but I really don't want to
do that only as a last resort. I want to rescue as much of the wood as
possible and I know you people out there must know some ancient secret to do
this. The process must stabilize the wood with minimal memory for
springback. I will consider any process including vacuum reformation if
In the end I will probably cut it into strips 2X1 ¾ then glue and resaw to
thickness as they have done for the Zircote back of the guitar at
Any help or suggestion will be appreciated. Thanks for your help and
expertise. I just love the internet for this kind of exchange of knowledge.
1) Build a steam room/box big enough to hold the wood (all or part).
Make sure there is enough room to allow steam to get to all parts.
2) Put the wood in the steamer in such a way that it is properly
stickered for drying.
3) Steam the hell out of it for a long time.
4) Remove the steam.
5) Slowly, every so slowly start dropping the humidity. Once the wood
moisture gets back down to something close to the moisture content for
fresh cut wood remove it from the steamer. Sticker it ands start the
air drying process all over.
Warning - this might not work and it will take a year or so.
Some woods just will not dry flat because of the stress in the wood.
I think I'd start by cutting some of the wood into pieces
similar(lsightly larger) than you will use for the guitar backs and
sides. Remember that you will use one piece of wood for each half of the
sides and bookmatched halves for the back. So you're going to be ripping
your 20" wide boards.
Then, I'd get some large PVC pipe a bit longer, say 6' and a steam
generator(some have used electric stam kettle's) and steam the dickens
out of the wood. You need to get the whole of the pieces infused with
Then, I think you need to make some sort of clamping arrangement to take
the warp out of the wood. Maybe you need to clamp each piece of the
twisted wood at each corner with jorgensen clamps and protective cauls
to keep the clamp from damaging the wood. Then leave the wood in these
clamps overnight until it has cooled and dried out a bit to a point
where you can remove the clamps. However, you *may* have to leave it
clamped for some time to dry out to be sure it won't warp again before
you place it to continue drying until you get to a moisture level that
you can work with it to make your instruments.
Otherwise, I think you're faced with planing the wood and losing a lot
of it until you get a flat board and the warp is gone. Depending on the
amount of warp you may lose a little or a lot of each board. I'm also
assuming that you will cut the stock you have to size more like what you
will need for the parts, be it backs or sides. Remember that you have to
leave enough wood to bookmatch for each set of backs. Finished backs are
not that thick, luckily. Same for tops. In fact, I know Martin will
place their bookmatched tops against a strong light source to look for
defects "in" the thickness of the bookmatched tops so they don't miss
something that could affect the guitar at a later time.
Other than this, good luck...and if and when you do this, come back a
let us all know what you did and how it all turned out.
I'm in the planning stages of building a F5 mandoline. I've bought some
quilted maple for the sides and back and plan on carving a neck from
some built-up pieces. I've also got some adirondack spruce for the top.
More or less pretty tight grain and already bookmatched. I've just got
to glue it up and start carving. The back is a different story. I have
dried billets of quilt which I will have to resaw to get to a starting
point. I've got a form for the body. I have to buy some finger planes
and I have blueprints that were taken from an original Lloyd Loar F5
that also has thickness measurements along the top and back. Those would
change depending on the wood as the top and back have to be "tap tuned"
I think where the back is a D and the top a C#, or it't the reverse, I
don't remember. Then I have to get some clamps. A local flea market has
these guys selling the small version of the larger clamps that have the
ratcheted jaws with the rubber covers. I think those would work fine for
a mandoline as they have perhaps 6" capacity at most and have a deep
enough throat for a mando body. They go for 2/$5 so they aren't terribly
expensive and they have uses elsewhere too. So I figure 15-20 of those
would have more utility than buying or making those violin clamps from a
bolt and pieces of closet pole with wing nuts and washers.
"The measure of a man is what he will do while expecting
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