|We hear many questions
each day and have gathered some of the most popular here:
How are measurements stated on the website?
The numbers are always in inches, unless specifically stated otherwise.
I ordered something and the order
went through but you didn't have it-why?
I want to be sure you have something
in stock, how can I check?
How do I navigate your website?
Be certain to allow popups when ordering from the website. The shopping cart cannot inform you that you have ordered more than available of a certain size, or other messages if you cannot see popups. This can result in the cart being unable to check you out. If you get stuck please call us.
For navigation of the site: Either click on the wood pictures on the left of your screen, or go to the bottom of the page and look for "Exotic Wood Chart". Click on that and you will see every type of wood currently available. On some pages you may have a button on the left that says "Exotic Wood". Clicking on that button will also take you to the master wood chart. Note that not all pages have all the individual woods listed on the left yet, so you may need to go to the wood chart to find your wood. You can now also click on the site map on the home page (very top of page on left) and on the wood chart page (bottom of page). This allows you to quickly go to any page on the site.
How dry is the wood? (this is the most commonly asked question)
The short answer: is that every piece is different as to how dry it is. If you need more information ask us about specific pieces and we will tell you our best guess.
The Long, complicated answer: Most woodturners turn wood that is anywhere from green (completely wet) to totally dry. If you have specific needs, let us know before ordering. Be aware that the term kiln-dried is being used by many suppliers now to mean anything that has been put in a kiln no matter how dry the wood is when they take it out. They may put it in the kiln at 30% moisture and take it out at 25% moisture and call it kiln-dried. We consider wood at 25% to be green (wet) wood and do not mark it as kiln-dried. Others do the same with air drying, and as long as they have put the wood in the air for a week or more, they sell it as air dried. In order to avoid the confusion, we sell all wood as partially air-dried (PAD) unless it is specifically marked otherwise. If it is marked kiln-dried, we believe the moisture level is below 12% (or we have indicated approximate percentage) but cannot guarantee the percentage because the only truly accurate way to find out moisture level is to dry the wood in the microwave and weigh the difference between the dry weight and the wet weight. This destroys the piece of wood, so it is not a viable alternative. Moisture meters give one a general idea of moisture level but the measurements given are only accurate in the area between two pins at the depth they are pushed into the wood (leaving holes). Even moisture meter readings are very inaccurate if you do not know the real density of the wood being measured (and wood densities within the same species vary a great deal). And finally dry in your area, may not be dry in my area (since average humidity levels vary and determine the point at which moisture stops coming out of a piece of wood.) 15% moisture may be fairly stable in wet areas of Vermont, but it takes about 5% to be stable here in the desert of Colorado.
Bottom line: To find out if you have reached a point of equilibrium in your environment, weigh the piece of wood with a gram scale and see when no more moisture is coming out (by virtue of seeing when the weight of the piece stops changing over weeks of measurements). The fact is, no one can guarantee a piece of wood is dry where you live unless it was dried where you live. See drying suggestions at the bottom of this page.
Is the wood exactly the size listed?
In a word, no. All sizes are in inches unless noted otherwise. Allow for the size of your finished piece to be up to 1/4" smaller than the listed size. Our company standard is that the wood must be not more than 1/8" undersized (rough cut), something most suppliers now adhere to (unless they are allowing 1/4" under, which many are). The length may be up to a maximum of 1/4" undersized, but rarely.
The long answer: Most of the wood is cut overseas by machinery that makes rough cuts and personnel that do not understand how to make precison cuts. It is virtually impossible to change this, and it is cheaper to just order the next largest size if necessary. For the most part (there are a few exceptions where people are highly skilled) people cutting exotic wood overseas do not care about this issue and refuse to change their practices. The exotic wood market is so huge worldwide, that these people would just sell somewhere else if we demanded higher quality. Currently there is no leverage to change this we are aware of. Buying logs and cutting in this country, would on average result in a price increase of 2 to 3 times what you now pay for wood. This is because labor and shipping are too expensive in developed countries and from 40% to 95% of the log on average is waste (cannot make a turning blank, including pens) .
Wouldn't it be better for the environment if we all stopped buying exotic woods?
In a perfect world yes, in the real world no.
The long answer: If you and I stopped buying exotic woods, they would become no more valuable than any other tree. Generally that means uses like firewood, or just complete devastation through slash and burn agriculture would be more lucrative for the locals. Teaching locals that trees have monetary value (only because you and I buy them) helps them become conservationists, or at a minimum keeps certain trees on an international watch list which can block export of certain species to try to prevent wholesale destruction. This is probably the only reason certain trees such as Brazilian Rosewood are not extinct today. Without a financial value, there is little or no motivation to protect trees. If you are concerned about the environment (as we are), we invite you to plant a tree where you live, and are able to watch over it. Or give to organizations such as the African Blackwood Conservation Project, which plants trees back in the native habitat.
To visit the Blackwood Conservation Website: click here
Suggested methods of drying wood:
The Scientific way for greatest accuracy: To find out how dry a piece of wood is, you have to measure the weight in grams, figure the exact volume of the piece to test, and then microwave it until there is no more moisture in it. You then reweigh the wood and calculate the difference in weight between wet and dry and figure the percentage of moisture in the wood. The problem with this method is that the piece of wood will be destroyed in order to test it.
The more practical way is to get a pinless moisture meter which can adjust to the approximate specific gravity of the wood. You enter in the specific gravity, hold it up to the wood and press the button to get the percentage of moisture in the wood. This is the easiest and most practical way, but a meter that is accurate currently costs about $300.00 (Note: meters that do not adjust for specific gravity are worthless for exotic woods over .45 specific gravity--which is most of them.)
The least expensive accurate way to measure dryness is to weigh it on a very accurate scale and wait until the weight of the piece stops dropping. That means the piece has reached its equalibrium moisture content. Equalibrium moisture content means that the piece has gotten as dry as it can given the humidity and temperature in its current environment. In most areas, the driest wood can get is 8 to 12% moisture. In some areas such as Vermont or Seattle Washington, the moisture may not go below 16%. In severely dry areas such as the deserts of Arizona, California, and Nevada, the moisture may go too low for the wood to tolerate. It should be sealed up to prevent it going lower than 6%. (Otherwise it might crack even if the drying process has been gentle).
(No drying method can be guaranteed to work every time to produce a straight, unwarped and uncracked piece of wood. This is because internal stresses in some woods may lead to twisting or cracking no matter what method is used). Use these methods at your own risk and with your best judgement as to which is best.
The paper bag method:
Turn or cut the wood as thin as possible (but thicker than the final size) and place it in a paper bag in a humid area like a basement or other area with humidity over 55% and temperature below 80 degrees . (For Gaboon Ebony, you need more like 70% humidity and very cool temp. like under 75 degrees). If you are cutting straight flat pieces (as opposed to bowls made on the lathe) they need to be stickered and stacked. A sticker is a piece of wood (like a popsicle stick which works well) that is dry and evenly cut and is placed between layers of flat pieces (about 1.5" apart, especially if the wood is delicate) like a sandwich with one layer resting on the one below it. The top is then covered with some flat object (such as 3/4" plywood, big book, etc.) and then that is covered with something heavy. You could use any heavy object which will stay in place. You can also use heavy rubber bands to hold everything in place when you are inspecting inside the bag. Then put the bag over everything and wait until dry. Remember: The end grain of wood must be sealed and left sealed completely with wax, paint, varnish, polyurethane, etc. or the piece will crack from loosing moisture too quickly. Do not place near a fan or heat source or the drying may occur too quickly.
Note: Don't use the above method for snakewood over 5/8" thick , or black and white ebony over 1/2" thick or they will crack.
The plastic bag method:
Prepare the wood as discussed
above under the paper bag method. This method is best for extremely
green (wet) or difficult to dry woods. You place your wood
in a completely sealed plastic bag and simply turn the bag inside out every
few days. This way the condensation that has built up inside the
bag is removed and the wood is slowly dried. This is a great method
for slow drying difficult woods since you can use it regardless of
the humidity where you live and the wood can't dry too fast.
The finish it wet method:
This is the fastest but also most risky method of drying and really only works for lathe turned items. You make your piece and finish it with oil (soaking a lot in) or wax or the product called Shellawax. We have tried this (Shellawax) with black and white ebony and even though it is one of the most difficult pieces to dry it worked. Turn the piece as thin as possible, fill any checks with superglue and sand and finish all in one sitting. This is the only easy method we know of for finishing snakewood too.
A final note that applies to
all three methods above: We use thin superglue to fill any checks
that might form while they are still very small (like hairline width).
That way you can stop some of the inevitable checks that will lead to big
cracks if left untreated. Inspect often for these as they can begin
to form from one day to the next. Also, make sure the superglue is
dry before putting the item back in the bag (we use activator to dry it
Can't do these methods?
You might want to consider buying dry wood. It is very limiting in
terms of the types you can get and the sizes, but it is the only way around
doing some method above unless you desire to construct a piece (such as
a burl) which would form natural cracks as part of the piece. Many thicker
or unusual woods simply can't be dried without cracking by commercial methods
which is why they are only available undried. One last possibility
is to have the wood resin impregnated, let us know if you want us to recommend
someone to do that for you (it is quite expensive and usually doubles the
final cost of the piece or more).
How long will the drying process
What is endgrain?
How do I stop the wood from changing
What is your return policy and
where are you located?
Note that everything on this page (photos too!)
are copyrighted and may not be used
without written permission. Copyright 2006, 2016 by James Griffin. If you are a customer
and desire to use some of our photos on your website, call us with your request.