Wood it's characteristics and use in model building

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

poking around in the log pile I found a short log of box elder a member of the Maple family

box elder.jpg

What caught my eye is the ripples in the log this indicates a figure that will look something like this, I can also see different colors in the log. right now it looks a dirty gray color and all wood when kept out will turn a gray color. This color does not go very far into the wood and is removed quite east.

curlwood.jpg


Box Elder is one of those Maples that can have a spectacular figure so when I get Box Elder logs I will block them out or keep the entire log for the local wood turners.

BE cross section.jpgbox elder 2.jpgbox elder 1.jpg

Maple will also have some interesting figure

maple f1.jpg

dsc01192.jpgth6NRV6N4G.jpgspalting.jpg

One of the logs on the pile is Ambrosia Maple
 
Last edited:

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

I get questions about using dead wood for modeling. The questions are usually about having a tree that dies and then cutting it down to use as lumber.

It all depends on how long it has been dead but in most cases using naturally dead wood is fine. However, in my experience for some reason dry dead wood is much harder to work it is like cutting wood that is full of sand it is very abrasive on tools. Naturally dry dead wood also forms fine micro crack throughout the log and once cut tends to fall apart.

Awesome Informative post. I work with a lot of wood types for making Bows great information in this post to help me in that process. Thank You

In many cases wood that has been dead for a long time becomes hard and brittle. In the above case I would not use dead wood for a bow.
Fresh cut Osage Orange was used for bow making around these parts for a couple hundred years. Yew is the wood for long bows.

These are logs of dead Ash if green I would not be able to pick them off the ground, but theses logs I can pick up and throw them a few feet that is because natural dried dead wood gets punky very quickly and you will never get a smooth finish on the wood.

ro4.jpg

looking at the end you can see a few inches around the log has rotted but the center of the logs are still usable. Personally I do not bother with such logs they are firewood.

dw2.jpg

this is what is called ring shank and naturally dried deadwood tends to separate at the growth rings. This is an extreme case but sometimes you don't notice it until you use the lumber and it begins to fall apart. Wood workers will use this type of wood because it does have a beauty to it. In this case the wood is stabilized by putting it in an epoxy and under a vacuum the air is sucked out and replaced by the epoxy. Spalted wood is nothing more than dead wood and as you can see in the above examples of Maple the results are striking.

ro5.jpg

now this has gone beyond use and is called dirt wood, It just crumbles

ro2.jpg
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

The log now being cut is a log of Red Maple on the lumber market it would be called Ambrosia Maple, it is not how the wood naturally grows but is the result of the Ambrosia Beetle boring a hole into the tree. You can see on the end of the log the darker markings.

ambrosia maple.jpg

When the log is cut those marks are long streaks. Here are examples of Ambrosia Maple and you can see the tiny hole from the beetle.

am maple bowl.jpgam maple box.jpgambrosia-maple-flooring.jpgtonewood-ambrosia-maple.jpg

For those of you following the research and in time the construction of a model of the steam Frigate Mississippi of all the wood I have here which amounts to tons the one wood I selected to build the Mississippi is Red Maple. This wood is a dream to work with, it is very stable and I can get a really nice luster finish on it. Another reason is the subtle tones of color. As I build up each frame the shift in color will make the individual components of the frames stand out from one another. also the wood is light in color and lighter colored woods tend to make the joinery stand out better than darker woods. The log I have in the yard has only a slight ambrosia figure so most of the wood will look like this. As the wood ages the white will turn a soft amber /honey color.

red maple.jpg
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

Harold Underhill used Maple to build his model of the Leon and Harold Hahn used Maple for the colonial dockyard diorama. Maple turns a beautiful honey to golden yellow color. There is little figure to the wood so you will get an even color. The wood is so named Hard Maple, Rock Maple for a reason it is difficult to work with and will burn a saw blade if it is not super sharp. It would be difficult to work with little 4 inch table saws and hobby tools it will burn the blade as well as the wood or if you hog the saw you might burn out the motor.

a30.jpg
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2018
Messages
1,259
Points
443

Location
Baltimore, Maryland USA
I use good live wood for my Bows for sure I build them mostly in Osage with Sinew or Bamboo backing. I also like Hickory and have made Iron wood bows. Id like to find some good woods for laminated handles and such as I do make take down recurve bow. the ambrosia maple and plum would be awesome. I'm currently building a Quilted maple guitar. I play guitar and always wanted to make one myself. Ton of work putting laminations together
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

I had a furniture maker stop by when he noticed the logs of Oak and wanted some slabs. I said sure but I got to ask why green wood?

He said because when you kiln dry wood it sets and the wood will keep it's memory making bending difficult if it dries straight it want to stay straight or will split before it bends, wood that warps while drying will stay warped and it is very difficult to straighten it out flat. Green wood or air dried wood does not have a set memory so once bent it will set bent.

I did notice years ago working seasoned wood was so much better than the kiln dried wood found in kits.
That wood could be a year or more setting there drying out to a point it looses its natural elasticity and it becomes brittle. This could be the reason builders have such a hard time bending hull planking.

you learn something new all the time wood has a memory
 
Joined
Sep 7, 2014
Messages
31
Points
58

Location
England
Hello didit
That was such an interesting post I found it so informative that its going in my favorites bar so I can refer to it easily.
If I can go back to around your #42 post that's me, I have spent a lot of time and money sourcing wood for colour to use for a ship build and have so much of it now that I'll probably never use it all, I've done the same with tools bought a Dremel table saw on ebay and not content with one I end up with 4 still I do enjoy it.

Again a very very interesting post. Thanks for your time doing it.

Kind regards
Paul
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

there are times you want parts of a model black. Ebony is the wood of choice for black parts, however ebony is not always black sometimes it has a figure to it that looks like dark brown and black marble. also Ebony is very brittle and difficult to work. Cost wise you can spend $90.00 a board foot for Ebony
There are builders who like using natural woods and using Ebony does not add a whole lot of value to the model so why not use another wood and make it look like Ebony.

There are times I wanted to color wood black and found myself having to buy a can of wood stain only to use a table spoon full and the rest never gets used. Well there are other ways and here are some videos on how to do it




 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

yesterday it was below freezing with 4 inches of snow on the ground today it is 52 and the snow is gone. A week or so ago it was so wet, then it warmed up and all the surfaces on my tools were wet from condensation.
this creates havoc with wood and its stability. when wood is sitting out in an unheated barn then milled to a thin sheet and brought in to a warm and dry house it will warp regardless if it has been air dried or kiln dried. Some wood like hard Maple or Beech are sensitive to rapid changes in temperature and humidity. It might take weeks for wood to become stable in an environment. Here in northern Ohio in the cool wet spring milling wood and sending it to a hot place like Yuma Arizona the wood cracks and splits from shock.
Some wood you can not kiln dry because it would shatter.

when reading properties of wood there is a category "stable in use" it also depends on the size of the wood for example a block of Beech 3 x 3 x 24 will not warp as bad as a sheet of Beech 3/16 thick by 3 x 24 the sheet will cup or twist.
In decking a ship you think of "planks" but actually they are not planks or boards they are more like small timbers like 2 1/2 x 5 more like a beam or post. Ship builders were well aware of wood shrinks and expands differently in different directions.
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
3,565
Points
578

GOOD EXPLANATION DAVE, I thought our tempertures was bad, yes here to we had lots of snow but warm up in the afternoon no more snow, CRAZY. Don
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

I have notice softer woods like Basswood, red Maple and Poplar are more stable also extremely hard woods like boxwood, rosewoods Pau Marfim Ebony are also stable from one environment to another.
It seems the middle of the road woods like cherry, hard Maple, Beech, Walnut, are more prone to be affected by rapid changes in temperature and humidity.
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

now is logging season so I spend more time out in the field processing logs and lumber

walking out to the field the logs to the left are Red Maple also called soft Maple and Brown Maple. The thing is the same wood has several different names depending on who your talking to.

WQ1.jpg

here is a pile of pearwood what i do here is trim out all the knots and bad spots keeping only the straight clean pieces then split them and let the logs age for a year or so.

WQ2.jpg

the very butt of the Maple tree where all the logs came from in the first photo was 33 inches in diameter a huge chunk of Maple. When I cut into it, it was a beautiful curly grain with streaks of blues and reds with pink. So I will block it out for the wood turners and carvers.
In these old trees I come across nails, eye bolts, wire and barb wire fencing. Hitting metal wrecks a chain really fast, i use a pro full chisel chain and they cut very fast and aggressive so when you hit something it destroys the chain.

WQ3.jpg

this is a first, look close I just missed it. It must of been in this tree for 80 years.

WQ4.jpg
 
Joined
Jul 9, 2019
Messages
426
Points
323

there are times you want parts of a model black. Ebony is the wood of choice for black parts, however ebony is not always black sometimes it has a figure to it that looks like dark brown and black marble. also Ebony is very brittle and difficult to work. Cost wise you can spend $90.00 a board foot for Ebony
There are builders who like using natural woods and using Ebony does not add a whole lot of value to the model so why not use another wood and make it look like Ebony.

There are times I wanted to color wood black and found myself having to buy a can of wood stain only to use a table spoon full and the rest never gets used. Well there are other ways and here are some videos on how to do it
Hey @Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)
I've been watching these videos with interest, but there is one question I have. When you use the iron acetate for ebonizing wood, how deeply does the blackening penetrate? I notice one video uses a brush on method, and one uses a soaking method. Is it possible to get the wood fully blackened throughout if you soaked it long enough for the tannin solution and iron acetate to penetrate deeply into the wood grain?
 

Dave Stevens (Lumberyard)

Sponsor: dlumberyard
Staff member
Sponsor
Joined
Dec 1, 2016
Messages
3,086
Points
578

I tried the method and it is not like paint on the surface it does sink in pretty deep. I also tried to first resaw planking stock about 3/32 thick and the method did blacken the wood all the way through. So I would say it depends on the thickness of the wood anything over 1/4 inch thick it will not blacken all the way through
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
Messages
343
Points
228

Location
Melbourne, Australia.
getting back to post #83 and those big logs of Poplar, I got out there and started cutting them up

View attachment 49452

starting with the big log with the hollow center I cut it in 30 inch lengths and then cut 3 x 4 x 30 billets

View attachment 49454

there is a big difference between the white sapwood and the heartwood. In this case it is the sapwood that I am cutting out and the heartwood ends up on the firewood pile.

View attachment 49455

here is a trimmed out billet of poplar

View attachment 49456

as the billets are trimmed they are stacked to dry. The bark on some edges are still there because when the wood is green the bark is difficult to remove. BUT once the wood begins to dry the bark will separate and pry off with ease. It is not a good idea to leave the bark on because bugs love to get under the bark and eat the wood, the bark also traps moisture so if it does not come off naturally I will go back and pry it off.

View attachment 49457

There is a group of model builders who promote certain types of wood for model ship building and if you do not using these woods then your model is not up to par. That is more a load of hype than anything else, yes I agree some types of wood are far better than others but if your not building at a high skill level or at a professional level than it does not matter all that much. Take decking for example this group says for decking you have to use Holly but give no reason why except because we say so. Take that billet of Poplar sitting on the log, it is defect free and a clean piece of wood if it were Holly you can expect to pay as much as $90.00 as Poplar expect to pay $5.00. Why the difference? because Holly is a small tree often with knots and defects. It is difficult to get a piece of Holly that size so it is expensive. As we now know Poplar is one of the largest hardwood trees on the planet so it is common and you can get clear clean pieces so big you could not lift it off the ground.
For you DIY builders you are far better off getting rough billets when the price is low and mill out your own planking.
Just because a wood is 10 times more expensive does not mean your model is 10 times more valuable. The value of a model ship is based on
(1) workmanship (2) subject (3) degree of detail (4) material
G'day Dave,
Thank you for the considerable effort you have put into this blog, you have expanded my limited knowledge of woods considerably.
Living in Australia as far as I am aware we don't have easy access to the species mentioned in Northern Hemisphere country's, and I for one was caught up in the belief you need this or that wood to make a great model. I had started looking more closly at the woods I have in my modest collection, considering using Jelutong for deck planking, Kauri pine for deck beams and the like, I still have a little Huon pine that I bought back from Tasmaina on my honeymoon in our suitcases, much to the bewilderment of my wife, it wasn't that expensive 27 years ago now it is extremely expensive. You have helped strengthen the idea that I probably don't need these other timbers.
Cheers,
Stephen.
 
Top