Wood it's characteristics and use in model building

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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In model ship building i have heard people say "I would not use some woods because they are fuzzy or wooly or they don't cut with a clean edge". This is true but if you know how to work with the wood this is not that much of a problem. When model ship builders are asked if Basswood is a good modeling wood the answer most likely would be no because its fuzzy, to soft and it does not cut clean and sharp. In time Basswood and woods in the same category got a bad rap as unsuitable for model building. Builders leaned toward the hard woods. This is fine if your doing ultra fine carving or extreme delicate builds. These hard woods have some disadvantages like being difficult to cut, sand and carve. In some cases they tend to burn if your tool is under powered or the cutting edge is dull. Advantages to this group of woods is they are so hard they will take a polished surface if a polished surface is what your are after..

Depending on the direction of the cut will determine the fuzziness of the edge. Some woods have long stringy fibers and if you cut against the direction of the fibers they will rip and pull. Cutting in the red direction will rip the fibers but if you cut in the yellow direction you are cutting with the fibers and the cut is nice and clean. If your getting a ragged cut turn the wood around and cut from the opposite direction.


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The same idea applies when cutting with a knife, by cutting with the fibers you can shave off fine curls. going against the fibers you get short gouges because the knife edge tends to cut into and follow the grain.

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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A rough cut piece of willow starts out with a wooly surface. Some model builders will stop here and declare the wood unsuitable. Using a 80 grit sandpaper sanding in the direction of the fibers significantly reduces the wooly surface. Willow is a soft wood and 80 grit will leave sanding gouges. Sanding willow requires using finer and finer grit until you get the surface down smooth. Willow although starting off a wooly and unsightly looking wood will produce a smooth luster finish.
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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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a question often asked is air dried and kiln dried wood which is better? pick a live twig off a tree and it is difficult to break, now pick up a dried twig and bend it, what happens it will break with a snap. Over time wood dries and gets hard, I live in an old house and the wall studs are 4 x 4 oak you can not hammer a nail into the wood it is so hard. Wood also dries out and the drier it gets the more brittle it becomes. Personally in my modeling I will use seasoned wood and over all the years have had no issues with using it. for planking seasoned air dried wood will bend and twist so much better than kiln dried lumber.
here is my process
first logs are cut in half and then billets are cut then stacked to air dry

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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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here is a log that had a eyebolt buried in the log and the tree grew around it, I cut it out then split the log

metal reacts to wood I have seen models where tiny metal nails were used and the wood turned black around the tiny nail.

I have also used this process to an advantage. By cutting strips of Cherry, Walnut and Pearwood I soaked them in vinegar and steel wool changing the wood black. Then I used it on a model as weathered black wales., this is a finish you can not get with painting the actual grain and features of the wood stand out giving the black more depth and wood like.

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Brian077 said it quite well, an amazing outline~! Thank you didit~!!!

Didit, would (wood) you be willing to sell a board or two of the West Indian Boxwood to a fellow model ship builder? Perhaps you might be willing to trade for some flowering dogwood that I have harvested here in Connecticut. The dogwood is small, no planks. Thanks again for the great dissertation.

Keep building and above all, have fun! Duff
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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This is a superbly researched and written article. The writer really knows his stuff.
Question, there is a commercial brand of wood sold called Turkish boxwood. It looks nothing like boxwood at all to me. Any comments?
Thank you sir.


Turkish Boxwood is indeed a "brand name" and is common boxwood Turkish Boxwood on the lumber market could have grown anywhere and sold under these names.

Buxus sempervirens (Buxaceae) Abassian boxwood, , Circassian boxwood, , English boxwood, European boxwood, , genuine boxwood, Iranian boxwood, North African boxwood, Turkish boxwood

Think of wood like grapes, some say the best wine is from grapes grown in the south of France while others say nope Italy grows the best grapes for wine. The point is a grape is a grape it takes certain soils, certain weather conditions etc. which produces the differences. Same with wood I have had Cherry that was so fine grained it was better than the best pearwood and Cherry that had such a wild grain it was useless for fine carving. I have Cherry that is cream colored with just a tint of pink to cherry that is as dark as Mahogany.
The piece you have that does not look like boxwood is not because it is "Turkish boxwood" it is more likely that it is just that tree or that piece or shipment the next piece may be different again.

Japanese Netsuke and Okimono boxwood carving the artist goes out and hunts down the perfect piece of boxwood for the carving.
Studies the tree, samples the wood for that perfect color and grain. In this hobby I do not think anyone goes to such extremes. But then again?
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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There is this statement about wood "it holds a sharp edge" in general I do not know why this is of any real concern. for engraving or ultra fine carvings like the picture in the Boxwood section yes holding a fine sharp edge is a concern. For general modeling building the focus is the process of building if you use extreme hard wood cutting and joinery is difficult. Softer woods are more "workable" and you can develop skills by first using woods you can actually cut and shape.
with a hard wood cutting this notch would be harder to do with a knife than it would be using something a little softer. you would never be able to push a razor blade into hard wood like you can do with this Basswood.

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Cutting a notch for the end of a beam can be done in simple steps using a knife. You can do this in say Boxwood or hard Maple but it will take more effort you will be more likely chipping out the wood or taking light shavings. Softer wood you make the end cuts and then the back cut. Notice the slight rolled edge to the left of the notch, this is what the statement about a sharp edge is all about. BUT keep in mind you are looking very close to the work, you would not even see that rolled edge with the naked eye.

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next cut is an angle cut from center to the end

angle cut1.jpg

next cut is same as the first just on the other side

angle cut2.jpg

for the final cut clamp the beam in a vice and slice off the center piece

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The finished cut has edges as sharp and clean as you would ever need. Remember again you are looking really close at the notch holding this in your hand with a naked eye it is perfect. As you get better at it you can cut the notch ever so slightly small so when you fit the end of the beam into the notch the wood will compress slightly and give you a clean tight fit.

this wood is Basswood as you get better at it woods like Cherry, Poplar, pearwood, applewood and a big list of others that are a little harder than Basswood will produce excellent results.

When your told don't use this or that wood because it does not hold a sharp edge consider what you intend on using the wood for.


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Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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when you read through woodworking books and the properties of different types of wood there are categories called in general "working qualities" the sub categories are things like holding nails, taking stains and paint, bending, machining, carving and gluing. Do not take for granted all woods will hold up to gluing.

Wood contain resins, and oils and some of these are just not comparable with any glues.

an example of learning the hard way

wrong glue.jpg

If I were to say I have a glue that can glue wood. Is immensely strong. Can withstand immersion in salt and fresh water. Does not soften in high heat or become brittle in low temperatures. Has proven its long term effectiveness. Is chemically resistant to acids solvents and oils. Can glue Oak and oily woods. It is harder, slightly stronger in sheer joints, and more permanent than epoxy. You would be overjoyed and would ask what this wonder glue is called?
Resorcinol glue.

Don't jump in your car and go out to purchase the glue it is not all that simple first to find it and second the stuff I have is blood red in color and difficult to master.
 
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I had used resorcinol years ago on a 14 foot wooden sail boat. It comes as a powder, mixes with water, is dark red, and is strong like didit says. I do not recommend it for model ship construction as per didit above.

His photo of the failed glue joints confirms the need to always use trunnels. Duff
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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the Resorcinol glue I used was a 2 part a resin and a powder the reason I used it was for solid hull models where the hull was glued up of lifts. over time fine cracks appeared between the lifts. Resorcinol glue fixed that problem.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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His photo of the failed glue joints confirms the need to always use trunnels. Duff

years ago the Inland Seas Maritime Museum had a model club and we did testing on the use of wooden pegs in models.

for one thing wooden pegs "trunnels" were not used in planking iron nails were used like this one taken from a shipwreck

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the spike was 5/8 square with a chisel end and a 3/4 head at 1/4 inch = 1 foot that spike would be about .007 thousandths of an inch at that scale it would be a pin dot on the model. At that scale the wooden pegs did nothing to hold a plank in place. you had to at least triple the size to make them effective. I for one will not use a peg that is grossly out of scale I rather not use them at all and use a glue that works or a wood that can be glued.

the bottom dots are close to scale size the top dots are the size needed to actually have them hold. a hull covered with big dots is not my "personal" preference. That is the beauty of a forum such as this one I can say things like "I don't like this or that" but hey maybe someone does.

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JH

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Didit,

If you dont mind, where do you buy your West Indian Boxwood? I would like to find a source in the UK for making my own timber. I don't have any workshop tools but a friend can mill it for me. I've always wanted this wood more than the usual fruit stuff.
 

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Didit,

If you dont mind, where do you buy your West Indian Boxwood? I would like to find a source in the UK for making my own timber. I don't have any workshop tools but a friend can mill it for me. I've always wanted this wood more than the usual fruit stuff.
This is a big jump from your artesania kit you mentioned in the other topic in comparison to this question.....I would not recommend to start already with scratch building ..... I think this trade name wood is used mainly for carving, or?
 
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JH

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This is a big jump from your artesania kit you mentioned in the other topic in comparison to this question.....I would not recommend to start already with scratch building ..... I think this trade name wood is used mainly for carving, or?
I can't scratch build but would like it my friend to make me new planks I can glue onto my model to replace the kit wood.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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Didit,

If you dont mind, where do you buy your West Indian Boxwood? I would like to find a source in the UK for making my own timber. I don't have any workshop tools but a friend can mill it for me. I've always wanted this wood more than the usual fruit stuff.

the way it works is I have a connection with an importer who will add the wood to his shipping container. Only thing is I have the purchase the entire load at once which is from 2 to 3 tons. I do not think you will find a source in the UK because the wood is very difficult to find and not very common on the commercial lumber market.

for me to send you boards I think the shipping cost will be really high, this stuff is heavy. If you figure at least 50% of the wood once resawn into planking will be lost to saw dust it would be better to get pre cut wood, why pay for shipping of 50% of the wood when it will end up on the floor.

buying milled wood you are paying for the shipping weight and using 100% of the material.

this has been talked about for awhile milled vs bulk

with bulk wood you are not paying for the milling but you are paying for the shipping weight and the wood that ends up as saw dust

milled wood you are paying to have it milled but is far cheaper shipping because it is 1/2 the weight.

some say it is far cheaper to do your own milling. but consider the cost for the machines to do the milling and the time involved. Milling your own wood is cheaper if you just happen to have a shop with the proper tools and if you can purchase the wood local to save on shipping.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

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This is a big jump from your artesania kit you mentioned in the other topic in comparison to this question.....I would not recommend to start already with scratch building ..... I think this trade name wood is used mainly for carving, or?

there is some truth to this keep in mind this wood is stiff and not the best choice for bending but it can be bent you just have to be careful about it. The wood lends itself more for carving or structural members like deck beams and hull frames, carvings and small fittings.
 
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