This week I was given some boxwood branches/trunks which a neighbor had removed from a garden here in Western NC. The wood is from 3" to 5" in diameter and 1' to 2' in length. I would estimate the age as about 75 years based on the age of the house. The wood is very fine grained and I have about a dozen pieces. I'd like to use it in carving and turning.
I need some advice on drying this wood. I have some other British boxwood from a hedge which has cured nicely for the last 20 years so I know that patience is required. While it was fresh I wrapped the pieces in that Saran-like bundling plastic wrap. The bark is still on and I made new clean end cuts.
Should I try to split the billets or square them up? Should I retain the bark? Any recommendation for end coatings? What about a simple light bulb kiln?
Mmmmmm... I think if I were you I'd take one of three approaches.
Approach #1 (which requires lots of patience) entails sealing the ends with wax, leaving the bark on, burying the chunks in sawdust, and waiting for about one year per inch of diameter. For the wax, you can shave up a bunch of paraffin with a cheese grater (NOT the KITCHEN ONE! :) ). While you're grating, you'd also be warming up a batch of mineral spirits in a glass jar or steel can - either of which would be in a double boiler sitting on an electric hotplate. The container would be about half-full of spirits. When the spirits are full warm (water not necessarily boiling, but spirits just about too hot to stick your finger in), start putting the wax shavings into it. Stir the whole time. Continue till you can't get any more to dissolve & a little lies on the bottom. Now you can paint the stuff onto your wood with a small paintbrush & it'll seal the heck out of your endgrain.
Approach #2 would be to carve the wood green, and seal up your work every day with PentaCryl or some other sealer.
Approach #3 would be to boil your debarked carving blanks (I don't know how long, but maybe an hour per inch of thickness), then paper-bag 'em and pack 'em in dry sawdust. Really shortens the drying time significantly. When they stop losing weight, they're about as dry as they'll get.
I usually just apply Thompson's Waterseal (the one you use on wood decks) on the ends of my logs. It is easy and works pretty well. You can buy it at Home Depot, Lowes or even WalMart.
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