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verhoevenc

Double dye stabilizing wood

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So apparently I'm in experiment and learn mode lately as I can't seem to pull myself from trying out new tools and techniques!

NOTE: any stabilized wood you see here is for sale. PM me if curious on pricing.

There's some information on the web about this process, but in my opinion it left a lot of unknowns out. So I figured I'd let ya'all follow along with my learning. I'll start by saying I stabilized stuff normally first. I followed the cactus juice website instructions to a T with one caveat: when kearningto just stabilize with clear juice I tried both oven-dried and "normal everyday woodworker dry" wood. Yes, drying in the oven helped. I will do this all the time moving forward.

But the goal wasn't really to stabilize wood, it was to do the multi-color dye process! I bought a HUGE vacuum chamber large enough to do guitar tops, so that's the ultimate goal. Let's start with the visual and talk from there:

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From top to bottom we have:

- Mildly curly Oregon myrtle (oven dried)

- two curly maple blanks from the same piece (oven dried)

- curly ash (normal dry)

- burled holly (normal dry)

- four pieces of buckeye burl thins from the same burl (oven dried)

All pieces (unless otherwise stated) went through a 30 minute vacuum pull in red cactus juice, then sat in it without vacuum for an hour. Once I did the by the book resin curing and sanding they went back in for a 1.5 hour vacuum pull in green juice and then sat in it without vacuum for about a day cause I got tired and went to bed and then work.

You'll notice, especially with the buckeye burl, a lot of variety. I'll start there. The two pieces on the left were totally submerged in the cactus juice for both colors. The piece on the top right had its round half dunked in the red for the non-vacuum soak only. The bottom right had its round half in the red soak for the whole process. As you can see, just soaking without vacuum didn't really add much red at all. I have to say the most visually stunning pieces were fully submerged for both colors. No question.

As for the pen blanks we'all start at the top:

The myrtle took on almost NO red?! Maybe cause it wasn't dried until after the red-resin curing process? Doesn't explain the holly... but it really took on no red and any red it did take on was only surface deep like standard dying.

The maples turned out nicely. The top one only had on end stick in the red process hence only red on one end. It did pull it up slightly higher than the juice level in spots though. Again, I think the fully submerged piece for both colors looks better.

The ash, although aesthetically not my favorite, really highlights how disparity in grain density and direction (curl) affects the color retention.

Lastly, the burled holly provides some contrast to the "it wasn't oven dried" issues on the myrtle. It took up both colors just fine! And came out pretty stunning.

From this first experiment I feel I learned a few nice things:

- I validated that, as everyone says, the more figured the wood the more color diversity you will get.

- a 30-minute vacuum pull appears to be plenty to set a primary color.

- wood density has a HUGE affect of color uptake! Just look at the grain of the ash and also how much faster the soft buckeye burl took on the red than the harder maple/Holly/myrtle! You definitely have to factor this in to get the results you're trying for.

More later as I continue to learn.

Chris

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Oh! And I used almost a 1/4 oz of alumilite dye red in under a half-quart of juice. I feel more red would have helped here. The green got a 1/4 oz in just over a half-quart of juice and I feel this could have done with a little less dye.

Chris

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I have never heard of cactus juice......unless it was in reference to tequila.:P

But I have often thought a red /green die job on some curly maple would make a cool tribute to the Gary Moore song "Blood of Emeralds" 

Red and green typically mix to make brown.....so a way to use them both and keep them separate is intriguing to the max.

I'll be staying tuned.

SR

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Yes sir! Pretty happy with the stuff so far!

I've read a bit more up on the process and it seems the one I let "sit and soak" and didn't love my results... I probably didn't let it soak for nearly long enough. Apparently the soak method works without vacuum but just takes a lot longer.

I'm oven-drying some buckeye scraps now to re-test this. Here's why: For each color that I have to completely submerge in a full vacuum... since the chamber is a cylinder... I have to have a lot of the juice in that color on hand. I fill empty space in the chamber with PVC pipes that I've capped at the bottom end, and then cheap marbles from the dollar store (cheapest place I've found,,, beats all of Amazon's options) for the even smaller waste space. However, even with these space/juice saving methods I'm still looking at having to keep 1-gallon+ for each color I want to pull vacuum on for a guitar top sized piece. That gets pricey over time! Especially since this stuff does have a shelf life!

Being able to do a soak on the first color (without vacuum) instead means I can keep a much lesser volume of that color since I don't have to fill anything but a flat rectangular tray that the top fits in.

Another thing to consider is that marbles have a large surface area... and you can try and drip-dry them... but they're still going to hold onto a decent amount of the juice in the end. Which means I need to keep a batch of the marbles (about $50 worth) per color as well! The PVC pipes I can spatula the juice off of and not waste as much, but again they don't fill voids quite as effectively as the PVC-pipe/marble combo.

When I have the results of a better soak trial I'll let ya'll know.

Chris

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So I actually had the results already when I last posted but I hadn't taken pictures or given them a wipe to see the color yet. I'm home sick today and this felt like something small I could do between bouts of self-pity so that I didn't feel completely useless.

I'm going to post 4 pictures. All 4 are buckeye burl pieces that, oven-dried, were soaked in green, stabilized, then vacuumed in red for 2 hours and stabilized. The only difference between the 4 pieces is how long each sat in the green soak bath. The answers are 1, 2, 3, and 4 hours. See if you can guess which is which:

IMG_9954.thumb.JPG.2359c4777aad713d00b32b4086385ef1.JPGIMG_9953.thumb.JPG.cdf99c40fcd5f48522cde1aac42c8991.JPGIMG_9952.thumb.JPG.55363b376fccc93ce30294d91acb9284.JPGIMG_9951.thumb.JPG.da8455ffdd9747b6ad9ce5444827104e.JPG

(This was actually one piece... I just broke it. If you flip them they fit back together into one big one)

Chris

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The answer, from top to bottom, is: 4, 3, 2, and 1 hours in the green soak bath. Which may seem odd since the top one doesn't have that much green, and the bottom two are so much cooler!?

Well here is what I believe I learned from this experiment:

1- yes, soaking does work to pull in some color (at least with buckeye)

2- no it will not take and be as vibrant and aggressive as a vacuum'd color

3- I don't see much impact on the length of time for these thin 1/8" pieces. It seems more like there was some threshold for penetration (under an hour here) and beyond that it was a wash

4- the biggest single determinant of how the two colors affected the wood was the wood itself. The two larger pieces had more grain diversity in terms of burl, eyes, natural color differences, etc. and therefore the result was more dramatic; not because of process differences, but because of the wood itself.

My take away here is that I still think the soak, although it does work, is a lesser-desired method for dual-dying than doing a short vacuum of one color followed by a full vacuum of another (stabilizing in between obviously).

Chris

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Does this affect the natural chatoyance adversely? I've never liked how dyes flatten the depth in figuring, and some method of stablisation/vacuum dyeing that maintains this would be a holy grail. Have you tried pulling a polymerising oil through wood using a vacuum? Oil highlights figuring (as you know Chris, just speaking out loud in general) and I'm wondering if this might be useful or even possible in combination?

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Nope, hadn't given it a try. At this point I'm taking one experiment at a time haha!

Look at californiawoods.com or the Alpher Instruments instagram channel for some ideas on the figure outcome.

Chris

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Now those are some top dollar prices. Is this all truly that expensive, whether in terms of general stock loss or intensive/expensive processing, etc?

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IMO, no. It's a bit labor intensive given you have to source the wood, cut to billet, dry in over at 200 for 24 hours, do first round of stabilizing, sand, do second round of stabilizing, sand, resaw. But $600-$700 intensive? Not as far as I'm concerned. I was able to gear up for about the cost of one of his tops. I'll spend about $40 per color choice on top of that to start off (I've come up with a trick to do the large pieces and minimize the amount of juice I have to stock at any one time) and that $40 will do numerous, numerous tops and then the leftovers will do tons of pen blanks and stuff from scraps (which also go for top $$$ on eBay).

Chris

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Yes, I've noticed a lot of Alumilite stablised turning blanks going for silly prices on eBay. Considering that they are generally the offcuts from usable boards and that recycling and reusing scraps are always good, it beggars belief that they go for such prices.

I've always liked the idea of taking two offcuts with live edges, bringing them into the centre and filling the mating void with Alumilite to make a wavy central line. I simply haven't got the time or affordability to experiment with such things at present. I certainly think that if you are able to do this economically with little product wastage, it will get a lot of people knocking on your doors Chris. I doubt you'd want to align yourself with that sort of work beyond personal usage, I take it.

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If/when I get this stuff down I'll likely be doing more tops with various colors, to learn, than I'll have use for. So I'm not opposed to the idea of some sales to recoup my investment. Yes they'd be cheaper than what we see online. But no I don't plan to become a manufacturer hahaha.

Chris

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17 hours ago, verhoevenc said:

PS: @Prostheta you will probably get a kick out of these tables then if you like the live-edge idea you discussed above: http://gregklassen.com/collection/river/

 

Yes, I've come across those before. Recently I completed a 3,0m x 1,2m solid Birch table for a client (weighing over 300kg....) with a central board with both cleaned/smoothed live edges, two adjacent boards with scribed edges to match and plain outer boards, all finished with Osmo white wax and sealed with Osmo hard wax oil. Very very impressive in the client's home and work that I'd be happy putting my name on.

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Incidentally, you'd have been better off cutting your inlay to shape, then using guide bushings and templates to copy that across to the wood....it gets it perfect and you can dial in say, 1/16" relief between the mating parts. I wonder if there's a reasonably-priced source for epoxy or polyester pouring resins here.....I've been looking at working in a vacuum pump to the PG budget for a veneering frame this week myself....I might ask a bit of advice on that one Chris.

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OK, so back to experimenting... this time on some larger pieces, including some for tops!

Everything you see below had a 45 minute vacuum in blue cactus juice, and then sitting in it without vacuum for the recommended 2x-vacuum time. Piece one is currently back in a second color bath of purple. Piece two will stay as-is.

1- This is a top that I will resaw to about 3/16". This piece was a purely white buckeye burl... so none of that typical swirl of blue/white that most buckeye has. This is important as you'll see the vast difference between a white buckeye piece and a normal one that have gone through the same process:

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2- This is a smaller piece that I'll be using for just accents and stuff. But this piece was your stereotipical buckeye burl. Notice how different it is from the first piece:

IMG_9957.thumb.JPG.d53e7dae19af2dca9bfe7a13462488a4.JPGIMG_9958.thumb.JPG.348d489a78898cd785d6aad2204ab522.JPG

Tomorrow I'll hopefully show you the finished piece #1 with blue/purple done as well as a spalted curly maple top that has blue/green.

Chris

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One other thing to note... with all the cleanup and gloves... this process is a PITA for large pieces! I'm starting to see why the folks that do this charge so dang much!

It also uses a lot more juice than I would have expected!!! These two buckeye pieces and the spalted maple together drank up 3 pints of blue juice! For your info the tops are ~1/2" thick before resawing and the small buckeye burl slice was only 1/8". So that's a decent amount drunk up and/or lost during the process. Not cheap.

Chris

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Here's the spalted maple after it's blue round has been cured. As you can see a normal board that's all face-grain doesn't absorb nearly as vividly (especially in a shorter 45-minute vacuum cycle) as the wild end-grain rich burl. However, this should leave a lot of cool real-estate for the green to fill in tomorrow! Also notice how the sections that have spalt are less inclined to absorb the color.

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Chris

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Buckeye is surprisingly junky, light and porous. I don't know if that many people who haven't handled it know that. Did you do a before and after weight on these?

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So I think there may be more to the "let soak for color round #1" business. As you can see here, the buckeye really didn't pick up that much of the purple color.

IMG_9961.thumb.JPG.e482c29e42a4e222d9a7dd41fbf4b8a3.JPGIMG_9962.thumb.JPG.184546235a941fbf7403676f0b85f4b3.JPG

Apparently to get what I wanted (purple highlights in a field of blue) I should have probably done a non-vacuum soak of purple, cured, and then done a full-vacuum pull on blue.

Next time!

Chris

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Another thing that I learned is to SQUEEGEE OFF AS MUCH JUICE FROM THE SURFACE BEFORE YOU PUT IT IN TO CURE! After my first curing rounds I had a lot of built up hardened juice on both surfaces that didn't leave me much flat surface to register off for the sander to clean off the faces before the next round. I ended up losing a decent amount of thickness due to this. When I squeegeed the stuff off after round too I ended up with significantly less sanding to deal with and a much better result.
Chris

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