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 Post subject: Brief Moments of Panic
PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:04 pm 
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I once had a flying friend, a former military pilot, tell me that flying missions was,

"Filled with hours and hours of boredom, punctuated by brief moments of panic."

While woodworking is fortunately not filled with hours of boredom, it can occasionally be fraught with brief moments of panic.  Some time ago, I had decided to artificially "age" the cherry in my privacy screen project, using a solution of lye in water.  I decided on this because I don't feel like I'm connecting with customers when I try to explain how the piece will age, and I don't have any good photographs for examples.  The piece will simply show better with an aged cherry look.  And also partly out of a desire for some instant gratification for myself.  I've used this procedure before on smaller projects with good results, so I thought nothing more about applying the lye to the parts that I've completed for the privacy screen.

The brief (and not so brief) moment of panic came after I applied the lye to the first two stiles (vertical pieces) of the screen.  Instead of the dark red I was expecting, I got a sickly, greenish yellow.  Mortified with the result, and not really knowing what to do next, I decided to call it a day, and sleep on it.  So today, the yellow had turned to a rusty orange color.  I applied a second coat of the lye solution, and the cherry started to turn the familiar dark red that I was looking for. A quick first coat of Daly's ProFin, a wipe on polyurethane, secured the look I was hoping for.

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The photo above shows the first two stiles after two applications of the lye solution, and the next two stiles shortly after one application.  In the foreground, is one of the remaining untreated stiles.  My best guess, is that because I like to work with an abundance of caution, I used a weaker solution than usual, so the reaction took longer and a second application was required.  In the end, things worked out fine; crisis averted.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 7:13 am 
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I'm so glad it was you and not me! :D

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:20 pm 
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Understand your panic, Tom. Glad it all worked out. Where did you find the information on using lye to age the cherry?

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Cheers - Dennis


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:17 pm 
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Thanks for sharing Tom.
Although I have not had one like that there have been others.
Glad it all turned in the end.

Duan

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 9:20 pm 
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Hey Dennis,

I've been doing it for so long, I really don't know when I learned. I do know when I first became intrigued with the chemical coloration of wood though.

When I was a youngster, Pop decided to show me how to steam bend oak for a landing net hoop, for trout fishing. We would ideally have used green oak, but all we had were some very dry white oak boards. But Pop had a fix for that, he first ripped the boards into thick strips, then we took a section of black iron pipe with a cap on one end, filled it with water, and inserted the oak rippings. We left them in the pipe for a week, then drained off most of the water. We then supported the pipe horizontally with the open end slightly elevated, and started heating it with a torch for about ten to fifteen minutes. Pop put on a pair of thick leather gloves, grabbed one of the strips and quickly pulled it out, and did a 180º free bend, bringing the ends side by side to be clamped together.

It was a very impressive demonstration, filled with science, drama, and a bit of adult language for emphasis. Pop was very pleased with the result, and with the opportunity to teach me something about woodworking. The problem was, I was far less impressed with his steam bending demonstration, than I was with the effect of the iron pipe on the oak. Of course, the oak went in blond, but came out with a wonderfully ebonized color from contact with the iron. I was hooked after that. :D

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 2:20 pm 
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The first time I saw a lye solution applied to cherry by jaw hit the floor.
It is an impressively rapid change ... when it goes as planned.

Once thing I did learn from that experience was that applying a weak solution of vinegar/water would halt (or restrict) the process of the lye ... i.e. stop the rapidly darkening color where you wanted it if your lye solution was stronger than you expected.

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I decided on this because I don't feel like I'm connecting with customers when I try to explain how the piece will age, and I don't have any good photographs for examples.


Here's a thought ... directly upon meeting with a customer, and in their view, take a piece of unfinished Cherry, place a piece of scrap across it and then place both into direct sunlight. Talk with the customer for an hour ... walk the customer back over to the Cherry and remove the scrap. You should be able to see the shadow created by UV "aging".

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:22 pm 
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Quote:
....then place both into direct sunlight.


Hey Dan,
That's a great idea, provided you live in Sacramento. In Seattle, sunlight is sometimes hard to come by.
Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2016 5:58 pm 
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Just out of curiosity -

Would a UV sun lamp work? Maybe a tanning bed would be a worthwhile addition to the shop?? (grin)

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 7:25 am 
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That is REALLY cool Tom. I've never heard of that method of using lye. What ratio did you use? I assume it was lye and water. And is there a particular brand of lye?

I'm currently milling a bunch of cherry logs into some rough lumber. I wonder what effects would come from trying it with other species of wood?

I'd love to see you do another step by step demo (like you did with the bamboo bow a few years ago) on this lye coloring technique.

Really impressive !!!

Skyrider


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 8:42 am 
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Dennis - Yes, a UV lamp will work (I've seen that) ... typical tanning beds will not as they remove the UV from the spectrum (I've not tried it).

When I did my experiments I used Red Devil Lye in a powder form.
I started with approximately 1 teaspoon per cup and slowly worked up from there until I achieved the reaction I was looking for.
BTW this is LYE ... it is HIGHLY caustic ... TAKE PRECAUTIONS!

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 8:04 pm 
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Hey Skyrider,

First, let me second Dan's cautions about proper protective gear when using lye.

Second, I don't think that it matters what lye you use. I once even used Draino™ drain cleaner when I couldn't get lye. The only difference is that the drain cleaner has aluminum bits in it to generate some fizz. BTW- the fizz is hydrogen gas and is highly flammable, even explosive, so I generally try to stick to straight lye. Other folks have used washing soda, which is a weaker base and less caustic, but leaves more solids behind. I've never used it myself.

I also use a white vinegar wash after the lye treatment in order to neutralize any remaining lye, and to remove any salted solids from the surface of the wood.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:59 pm 
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Thanks Tom, I understand the precautions that one needs to take when working with dangerous chemicals but it's always good to remind us. I won't be attempting it real soon because we've got a fresh 4" of snow on the ground today here in the NE Georgia mountains and it's still coming down. This type of work I would definitely do outside the shop and since I have a dump truck load of free cherry that I have yet to do anything with, I'll try a few test pieces to see how it turns out.

Thanks again,

Skyrider


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