I was just starting to make another batch of napkin holders and when I launched into my first one I started getting nasty chip outs and very brittle cuts. Very frustrating. In the past when I had these kind of problems I would suspect dull knives or funky wood. But, now that I have the Diamond knives I started looking at the other likely prospect – dry wood. So, I stuck the partially carved piece into a plastic storage bag along with a wet paper towel, taking care to keep the two separated. After about a week, I pulled the piece out and gave it another try. It carved much better. Realizing that I had stocked up on a lot of wood inventory for projects, I decided to see if I could come up with a better long term solution to make sure all my wood was going to be ready to carve when I needed it. After a few trial runs, here is what I came up with.
It’s a 70 qt. storage bin (Walmart ~ $10), a hygrometer (Amazon ~ $2), a dish rack set (Walmart ~ $16), and a moisture meter (Amazon ~ $22).
I test fit the dish rack set in the storage bin while in Walmart to make sure it would sit about an inch off the bottom of the bin so that I could put a half inch of water in the bin and not have any of my wood touch the water. The drain tray that comes with the dish rack is additional protection against actual water contact with the wood. I cut a small rectangular opening in the lid so to mount the simple hygrometer (and be careful with this step so you don’t crack the lid – don’t ask me how I know). This lets me see at a glance what the RH in the box is. Lastly, I started using the moisture meter (which can be incredibly handy around the house) to make sure that piece I select from the bin is ready to carve.
What an improvement! That dry nasty basswood now cuts like butter. It’s one less thing to worry about when taking on a new project.
Here are some more pictures.
I have the bin pretty full. I have some pieces in there with patterns applied. Doesn’t seem to matter.
84% RH! Just like living in Florida in the summer. But, it’s TX in the winter!
This is the piece that started the whole thing. You can see some nasty chip outs and brittle bits. It got better after putting it in the storage bag with the wet paper towel. But, I left it sitting on my bench for a couple of weeks and you can see that the moisture content has dropped too low to get a reading. And, I was really trying to find some spots where it would give me something.
This is an uncarved piece that has been in the box for about two weeks. It was also too low to read before humidifying it. But, you can see that it is now nice and moist and ready for the knife! (That moisture meter is a handy device)
Side view showing how the dish rack drain tray sits above the bottom of the bin.
Thanks once again for helping me along on my journey as a chip carver.
Happy New Year!
Reply from Gord…
Great idea. What I have have been using is a guitar humidifier puck. I simply but it in a closed plastic container with the wood. It keeps very expensive guitars from drying out and works well with bass wood waiting to be carved. The water does not touch the wood. Just have to make sure you keep it moist.
This from Donald…
I have been doing this for a couple of years. I have to tubs of wood with bowls of water in them. Living in southern Utah it is very dry. For small pieces of wood ( I also carve figures) I take a plastic coffee container and use just the sponge part of my wife’s scrub sponge she does the dishes with. I cut off the green part and hot glue the sponge to the inside of the lid and get it wet. Put my pieces of wood in it and that keeps them moist. Works well.